Melania Trump Nationality: What Is The First Lady's Heritage & Family History?

Melania Trump is just the second foreign-born first lady in U.S. history and the first to become a naturalized citizen, as her official White House biography states. She is also the first whose native language isn't English.

Born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia on April 26, 1970, in a small town called Sevnica, an hour outside of the nation's capital of Ljubljana. Her father, Viktor Knavs, was a car dealer and chauffeur, and her mother, Amalija Knavs, was a clothing designer and pattern maker for children. The first lady has one sister, Ines, and a reported half-brother named Denis Cigelnjak.


Both Of Her Parents Hail From Slovenia

Melania Knauss arrives for an event in New York City.
Getty Images | Diane Freed

Both of Melania's parents are from Slovenia, formerly known as Yugoslavia. Melania's mom was born in 1945 in the village of Raka, while her father was born in the town of Radece in 1941.

When Melania was young, Viktor was a card-carrying member of the communist party and collected pricey cars, Town & Country Magazine reported.

"In contrast to the privations that so many suffered in Communist times, the Knavses lived well," they wrote.

At the age of 16, Melania began a modeling career and later won runner-up in a Slovenian magazine's photo competition at the age of 22. Initially, she was studying design and architecture at the University of Ljubljana but dropped out to focus on her fashion career.


She Moved To The U.S. In 1996

U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump walk across the South Lawn before leaving the White House on board Marine One November 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla

While in the U.S., she appeared in magazines like GQ in the United Kingdom, Harper's Bazaar in Bulgaria, and Vanity Fair in Italy. After meeting and getting engaged to her now-husband, she also posed for Vogue.

In 1996, she met her husband Donald Trump, and the two married in 2005. She became a U.S. citizen in 2006 after entering the country on an Einstein visa, which is reserved for people with "extraordinary ability."

"While Melania Trump became a household name in modeling and a contributing member of her community, she is first and foremost a mother and wife, and in 2017, Melania Trump made the White House and Washington home for her family," the White House notes.

After Melania came to the U.S., her parents eventually moved there as well and were living as permanent residents in the country with green cards. In August 2018, they took the oath of citizenship and became official American citizens.

They can regularly be seen accompanying Trump on both official and personal business, and they reportedly live part-time at the White House in order to spend time with their grandson Barron.

Viktor and Amalija "split their time among an apartment in Trump Tower, Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and the suite in the White House once used by Mrs. Obama's mother," according to Town & Country.

The Knavses, who changed their last name to the German spelling Knauss, still maintain a residence in Slovenia and visit there several times a year.

As first lady, Melania is often criticized -- yet also lauded -- for her attempts to step outside of the norm.

Trump is slated to headline the second night of the Republican National Convention. According to reports, it will be her last prominent public show of support for her husband's campaign.