As Melania blossomed into a stunning young lady, she realized that another asset, besides the mind, could be utilized to succeed. Knauss had developed a curvaceous body to match her beautiful face. Out of high school and in the process of becoming a quadrilingual — she learned English on top of Eastern Europe dialects — she tried her hand at modeling in her homeland.

After Melania put in a lot of hard work and received little in terms of pay or job opportunities in return, she decided to travel to the United States to see how things would work out. She was bent on establishing herself as a successful and unique model, confident she could woo designers and magazines with both her body and wit.

In the late 1990s, work began to finally roll in. Melania did ads for a small watch-company, found work with Panasonic in a television commercial and strolled the catwalks of New York City a few times for local lingerie designers. Sill, it wasn’t the big break she had been hoping for. Life was still giving her the cold shoulder.

Her luck would change in 1999, however. At a red-carpet fashion event, Knauss met billionaire developer Donald Trump. He was just coming off his well-documented divorce from Marla Maples and was on the rebound. Despite their age difference, the two hit it off. The relationship bloomed slowly, partly because Trump wished to give the media some time to stop gabbing about his most recent failed marriage.

Just when news was breaking that “The Donald” was dating a stunning Slovenian, Knauss shot a pictorial for Allure magazine. She then became a frequent newsmaker after her developer boyfriend announced his interests in running for the Reform Party presidential nomination. As Trump toured the country spreading his political mandate, Knauss, naturally, received most of the attention while at his side.

Together, they were interviewed on The Howard Stern Radio Show during Trump’s campaign and announced to the world they were happy and, to the delight of gossip columnists, quite naughty. After the interview, news spread quickly of Knauss’s penchant for sexual wickedness. British GQ picked up on this and had her pose nude in Trump’s private jet for their January 2000 cover.

Though the attention over Trump’s presidential bid died down, Knauss continued to get attention. Between features in Celebrity Sleuth (as the 9th Sexiest Woman of 2001), Ocean Drive and Country Living, she was recognized as a true New York socialite, appearing at the city’s most popular fashion shows, celebrity parties and five-star restaurants. Though it was reported that in 2000, Trump and Knauss had broken up, both now contend the rocky period in their relationship was short-lived.

Soon, with her rich boyfriend still firmly in the picture, magazines FHM and Front came calling for small, but very memorable, spreads. Knauss also worked for jeweler Charles & Covard, appearing in print ads in Vogue and Vanity Fair. In 2003, having now moved into the multi-million dollar penthouse atop Trump Tower, Melania became a celebrity judge for the Miss USA Pageant, which Donald Trump owns. Speaking of Trump, he proposed to Melania in April of 2004.

Melania has done less and less modeling work, concentrating instead on simply living the high life. She continues to be a constant in the New York social scene, appearing at the 2004 Academy Awards and on The Apprentice, Trump’s reality TV series. melanie-brown