The Life of Ivanka Trump
Before Donald Trump was elected president, Ivanka Trump was perhaps best known as an occasional judge on “The Apprentice” and the namesake for a line of jewelry, shoe and apparel items. She’s considerably more high-profile now.
Let's take a closer look and her life and career:
Into the Spotlight
Some suggested Ivanka played a quasi-first lady role in the first months of Donald Trump’s administration when her step mother, Melania Trump, continued to live in New York while her half-brother Barron finished the school year. By March of 2017, however, Ivanka was pushed into the political spotlight when she was named a member of her father's administration. After advising her father during his first two months in office, she took this official, unpaid position in part because of ethics concerns about her access to certain classified materials without such an appointment.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, is also attracting media attention. He has served as senior advisor to the president since inauguration day.
Few members of the Trump Administration have escaped criticism during these past tumultuous months, and Ivanka certainly has drawn detractors. But she has been portrayed more often as a calming influence on her impulsive father. Others compared her to Julie Nixon Eisenhower, who ardently defended her father, Richard Nixon, and his embattled presidential administration. "Both daughters served as important validators for their fathers," Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg noted in her April column.
A Competitive Family
Ivanka was named after her mother, Ivana Trump, but has used the diminutive form of the name throughout her life. Ivana was Donald Trump's first wife and the couple had three children, of which Ivanka is the middle child.
Her parents divorced in 1991, when she was 10, and paparazzi famously followed her into her elementary school looking for her to comment on the high-profile split.
Off to Choate
She grew up in Manhattan before enrolling at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. when she was 15. Ivanka was not a fan of the school or her time there, calling Choate a "prison" that made her envious of "friends in New York (that) were having fun."
Graduating Cum Laude
After high school, Ivanka went to Georgetown for two years before transferring to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated cum laude in 2004 with a degree in economics and initially took a position with Forest City Enterprises before joining the family business in 2005.
The Ups and Downs of a Retail Brand
Ivanka partnered with Dynamic Diamond Corp. to create Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry in 2007 while still working as vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization.
In addition to a flagship retail store in the Trump Tower, she started a line of clothes, handbags, shoes, and accessories.
Ivanka shut down the brand in July 2018.
The political backlash against all things Trump led to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom dropping the line in February 2017 for "poor performance." That month, in an interview on Fox news, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway told viewers they should purchase Trump retail products, igniting yet another round of criticism of the administration.
PETA Protests and Other Troubles
As Ivanka's profile has increased, so has criticism of her company. In 2016, her company was accused of stealing designs from other designers. Meanwhile, PETA and other animals' rights activist groups have been critical of the company's use of rabbit fur in some of its products.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled scarves made by her company in 2016 because they did not meet federal flammability standards. Also in 2016, the brand was criticized for producing most of its line outside of the U.S., even as Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of protecting American jobs.
The Other Family Business
Like her mother and stepmother, Ivanka has modeled with some success. She started modeling "on weekends and holidays and absolutely not during the school year" while attending Choate, most notably being featured in advertisements for Tommy Hilfiger and Sasson Jeans and appearing on the cover of the May 1997 issue of Seventeen.
More recently, she has also appeared in advertisements promoting the Trump Organization and her line of products. As a subject of magazine profile articles, she has appeared on numerous covers, including Harper's Bazaar, Forbes Life, Golf Magazine, Town & Country, and Vogue.
Dabbling In Television
Ivanka Trump filled in as a substitute judge on the fifth season of her father's hit television show, “The Apprentice,” before taking on a regular spot in season six and on the follow-up spinoff, “Celebrity Apprentice.” She co-hosted the 1997 Teen Miss USA Pageant, which was owned by her father at the time, and was a guest judge on the third season of “Project Runway.” In 2003 she was featured in a documentary called Born Rich about growing up in a wealthy family.
That documentary led to her romantic relationship with James "Bingo" Gubelmann, co-producer of “Born Rich.” The couple dated for four years before she met Kushner. Gubelmann was arrested for cocaine a year after their 2005 breakup, which Ivanka Trump announced on the Jay Leno Show.
Bestselling Self-Help Author
At some point in the hectic 2016 presidential campaign, Ivanka Trump found time to write her second book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” which was released in May. Her first book, “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life,” was published in 2009. For both books she hired ghostwriters, researchers and fact checkers.
Many of the reviews of her most recent book were politically charged. The New Yorker simply called it "painfully oblivious."
Her First Book Fared Better
Her first book was better received. "Trump is straightforward and fully self-aware, realizing that readers will dismiss her achievements as simple nepotism; as such, she owns her privilege, acknowledges her advantages and then sets about disabusing readers of their presumptions with intelligent, well-conceived, positive advice; unbridled ambition; and a strong measure of graciousness and humility," according to the Publisher's Weekly review of “Trump Card.”
‘Complicated’ Feelings About The Campaign
When Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015, Ivanka was one of the first family members to endorse him and began making regular appearances with him at campaign stops. "As a citizen, I love what he's doing. As a daughter, it's obviously more complicated," she told Politico in December 2015.
She missed a deadline to choose a party affiliation, meaning she could not vote for her father in the New York primary. "Like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat," she said at the Republican National Convention.
Supporting Clinton and Booker?
It was also noted during the 2016 race that she had made campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential run and that she and her husband hosted a fundraiser for Democrat Cory Booker's Senate campaign in New Jersey in 2013.
She Doesn't Always Agree With Her Dad
Speaking at the Republican National Convention
Ivanka did, however, record radio commercials that ran ahead of primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa and spoke on her father’s behalf to thank voters that had participated in early voting in South Carolina. Her most high-profile campaign appearance was when she introduced Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. The Washington Post credited her with portraying her father in a warmer light.
An Unlikely Friendship
Ivanka Trump is friends with Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of her father's 2016 general election opponent.
"There's nothing skin-deep about Ivanka. And I think that's a real tribute to her because certainly anyone as gorgeous as she is could have probably gone quite far being skin-deep," Chelsea Clinton told Vogue in 2015.
Ivanka was childhood friends with Paris Hilton and is friends with Michael Bloomberg's daughter Georgina. (The former New York City mayor had also considered entering the presidential race against Trump).
Romantically, she dated Greg Hersch, an investment banker, throughout college. She and Kushner, a real estate developer, met through mutual friends in 2005.
Converting for a Cause
Kushner and Ivanka broke up in 2008 over the objections of his parents, who wanted their son to marry a Jewish woman. Ivanka, who was raised Presbyterian and shown wearing a cross necklace in the “Born Rich” documentary, began the rigorous conversion process to Orthodox Judaism in 2009. Her devotion reportedly won Kushner's parents over, and the couple married on October 25, 2009.
On Her Conversion to Judaism
The Kushner Family
Kushner has been called a devoted son, calling his parents every day while attending Harvard. In "The Price of Admission," Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Daniel Golden implied that Kushner's acceptance at Harvard may have been tied to a $2.5 million gift his parents gave to the school. His parents are also prominent Democratic Party fundraisers and were the biggest contributors to Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign.
Shifting to a Political Career
Ivanka Trump stepped down from her role in the Trump Organization in January 2017 and the company removed pictures of both father and daughter from its Website and marketing materials. That change first gave rise to speculation that she was moving to comply with federal ethics rules and would be named to an official post in her father's administration.
She takes no salary for her role as advisor to the president, but there have been suggestions she has benefited financially from her role in the administration. In April, China granted trademarks to her businesses on the same day she and Kushner sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at a state dinner. A video of a performance of a traditional Chinese song by her daughter for Xi was praised and rebroadcast by China's state-run media in the days following the visit.
The Price of Politics
As early as 2015, Trump said his daughter was his key adviser on women's issues, and she had changed his views on women. As his campaign gained credibility, criticism of his daughter spiked.
Things Get Cynical
“After my father declared his candidacy,” she told The New York Times, “it became clear that all the things that I was doing that I was praised for, the same people, the critics, viewed them through this different lens. Somehow, all the same things they applauded me for as a millennial, as a female entrepreneur, were now viewed very cynically as opportunistic.”
A Seat at the Table
Emerging Public Role
Perhaps the most pointed criticism of Ivanka Trump has been for her role promoting women and women's issues in an administration seen as unfriendly to those causes. When Ivanka spoke at the W20 women's summit in Germany in April she was booed for characterizing her father as a women's advocate.
She's No 'Half-Wit'
When President Trump announced that his daughter would lead a delegation to India in the fall, an Indian diplomat reportedly said, "We regard Ivanka Trump the way we do half-wit Saudi princes. It's in our national interest to flatter them,” according to The Independent.
An Eye To The Future
As Ivanka Trump gains experience in the political realm — her learning curve is undoubtedly steep — it will be interesting to see if she can win over some of her critics and overcome their assumptions about her skills and motives — or if they will even give her a chance to try.
What Does the Future Hold?