The president and first lady, Donald and Melania Trump, released their official White House Christmas portrait, and body language experts see that all is not well with them as the holiday season kicks into full gear. The photo was taken on December 15 by Andrea Hanks ahead of the Congressional Ball where Melania wore a Celine gown with white sequins, and Donald wore a tuxedo.
InStyle had body language expert Patti Wood examine the photograph and interpret the meaning of the president and first lady’s body language in the official portrait. Wood authored Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma.
“If you look at that photo and don’t move in on it tightly at all, you can feel the tension in it. There’s so many things that show affection, care, a desire to merge — that aren’t present.”
At first glance, they actually look somewhat similar to the iconic picture of the man and woman in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Of course, the president and first lady have smiles in the image, but they’re quite clearly fake forced smiles.
Wood said, “One of the ways you can tell [it’s forced] is the way you feel when you look at their smiles. You actually feel the tension in your body when you look at their smiles — it’s more of a grin than a smile.”
Merry Christmas from President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. @POTUS & @FLOTUS are seen Saturday, December 15, in their official 2018 Christmas portrait, in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks) pic.twitter.com/nIuplZSDBe— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) December 18, 2018
Additionally, their body language isn’t curved into each other the way typical couples do when they pose for pictures. The curving towards each other indicates attachment to each other. Melania is instead pulled in on herself, and Wood believes the first lady is trying to be protective of herself. Plus, the first lady’s fist in the hand that President Trump isn’t holding shows both tension and fear.
Many Twitter users responded to the image, which the first lady posted on her social media account. In fact, the post received over 134,000 likes in its first 24 hours on the site. Plenty of people had only positive and lovely things to say, wishing the first couple a merry Christmas. However, others pointed out the same awkwardness that the body language expert noticed.
One user summed it up with, “Such a disingenuous photo. Poor thing. The things women have to do to put a good face on it. There is NO WAY, with the public humiliation that is her marriage, that there is any sincere joy here. I wouldn’t have the energy to fake it.”
One thing that Wood pointed out is that this picture is the one they chose to publish despite the apparent tension, so it must have been the best of the batch.