True Fiction: Melania Says Basta! The Former First Lady’s Secret In Milan

True Fiction: Melania Says Basta! The Former First Lady’s Secret In Milan
Bertrand Hauger/Worldcrunch Montage
Cynthia Martens

Two months into Donald Trump's presidency, we already know more — real or fake — than many care to know. But as far as Slovenian-born First Lady Melania Trump, remarkably little has been said or seen. Will the closed doors stay closed forever? Will Mr. Trump's third marriage survive the White House? Here's how it might all just go down...

Sept. 25, 2018*

It had been more than six months since she'd last appeared in public. But when Melania Knauss — she'd secretly reclaimed her maiden name two days earlier by New York City court petition — finally dared to face the photographers and cameramen, she would do it on once familiar turf. Closer to home.

The video clip circulating on network television and Instagram showed Ms. Knauss neatly crossing her legs and smiling an almost genuine smile. Donald Trump's newest ex-wife had chosen to make her grand return from the front row of Milan's Spring-Summer 2019 fashion week.

It had been the most public-averse First Ladyship since Bess Truman's, with Melania sensitive to the rivers of quips about her foreign accent — and her husband's naughty behavior. Now, following her post-divorce exile, the 48-year-old Slovenian-born former model was ready to embrace her newfound freedom in a way few could have anticipated. And there was no better place to do it than among the fashion folk of Milan, where she had long ago signed with an agency as a teenager in the late 1980s. Melania had always made a point to keep up her contacts there, and Donald had never bothered to ask why she spoke Italian so often on the phone.

Now, in any case, she was sure this was where she should be. Milan knew her. Milan would understand, and would never judge.

Melania's mind had been made up the moment the invitations arrived. Who could say no to the gala dinner Miuccia was holding at the sprawling Fondazione Prada art complex, the former distillery that was now a must-see exhibition space for the glitterati? Why turn down an invitation to Donatella's lavish bash at the former Milan digs of her late brother Gianni?

Dressed in a sparkling, backless number from Versace's latest lineup that emphasized her svelte curves, Melania was nothing short of ravishing when she entered, striding straight toward Donatella. Reporters hustled in vain to try to identify the man on her arm, though he would later be described as "dark and handsome," "charming," "maybe a Saudi," and "not a day over thirty-five." Melania quietly relished the knowledge that the other invitees were posting pictures of the couple on their Instagram accounts, and was sure that some of the pithy comments landing on Twitter would reach Donald.

Donald. Melania frowned at the thought of her ex-husband. All those parties at Mar-a-Lago, those beauty pageant girls — some sickeningly young, only 16 or 17 — throwing themselves at him. And the actual confirmations of his trysts from the one Secret Service agent whose confidence she had gained. It was finally all just too much. He had gone too far. Even if Congress refused to impeach him, she would be humiliated no longer.

Less than 20 minutes after her arrival, someone was tapping Melania's arm.The guest of honor stiffened: Something about this aging man's portly shape in a tailored blue suit, the artificial tan and artificial hair, was upsetting in its familiarity.

"Melania, bellissima come sempre!" Silvio Berlusconi announced with a wide grin, his eyes moving up and down over her figure. Instantly recognized by all, he gestured to the crowd by way of explanation. "We Italians appreciate beauty, and we will always welcome Melania here, especially since, as Donald once pointed out to me, she always looks great in a bikini."

Guests tittered, though a tad nervously. Melania could not conceal her irritation. She picked up a champagne glass and began walking away from this awful man. But Italy's former prime minister, who would turn 82 three days later in the midst of a Renaissance of sorts in Rome power politics, wasn't finished.

"Cara," he insisted. "A sense of humor is important in life. Otherwise, you know, the life, it is ‘sad!" and ‘terrible!"" he paused, and winked knowingly at the rest of the party. "My experience has taught me that the only way to handle the dishonest media is to own it!" He laughed loudly, and this time, the rest of the party joined in.

Back in the comfort of her hotel room (a suite at the Four Seasons), Melania was still fuming as she reached for a nail file and stepped into her powdery white slippers. How did Donald still manage to ruin everything? Even thousands of miles away, he was like un unwelcome kitchen smell, wafting in from the servants' quarters.

She opened her laptop and noticed an email from the PR firm handling the launch of her first fragrance, which was slated to be the climactic event of the entire Fashion Week. There were some suggestions for product placement on fashion blogs, and someone thought of reaching out to Kim Kardashian for a supportive tweet.

"This is going to be a perfume for the woman of today — a woman who is traditionally feminine, yet unafraid of pursuing fabulous wealth," the person wrote. "That's something Kim can totally get behind."

Melania would give it some thought. By now, she knew the social media calculus all too well; but first, a phone call was in order. She needed to speak with her secret business partners on the perfume venture: Ivana Trump and Marla Maples. The trio of Trump ex-wives had been orchestrating the launch for months now by way of encrypted phones. And every detail mattered. Anna Wintour had promised a Vogue cover, with an exclusive interview and a glossy photo spread by Annie Leibovitz. Each of the women was to wear nothing but dollar bills and hold a stack of Donald's tax returns to her chest.

But final agreement was needed on the name of the new brand. Ivana picked up breathlessly on the first ring, bracelets clacking, with that middle European accent of her own. Melania was eager to share her latest idea. "I was thinking, for the name, we would keep it simple. How do you like: ‘Revenge?""

"Ohhhhh, dahlink," Ivana purred. "This is going to be delicious."

*True Fiction: A narrative experiment for an era of fake news and hard-to-believe reality. (This piece was published on March 22, 2017)

*Cynthia Martens is a trilingual writer and translator based in New York. She worked in fashion in Milan for eight years and covered the industry for WWD, and is currently JD candidate at Fordham University School of Law.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]


Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.


Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.



China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.


7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

➡️


"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.


​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.

Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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