Posted by: maboulette | February 1, 2017

First Week Being First Lady


Melania Trump has finished her first week as First Lady – a title that inevitably makes her one of the most prominent women in the country. And yet she was hardly visible.


She cut an elegant figure at her husband’s swearing-in and at the Inaugural Balls. But two days later, she returned to New York, as she had said she would, to tend to her 10-year-old son, Barron, who remains in school there.


Meanwhile, she has given little indication of how much she intends to embrace the life of a public figure. She is said to be building her staff. But she has made no public appearances since a prayer service the morning after the inauguration, given no media interviews as first lady and has not indicated with any specificity what she has planned for her new role.


‘‘There’s a public expectation for communication, and she’s not providing it,’’ said Lauren Wright, a political scientist and author of ‘‘On Behalf of the President.’’ ‘‘It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a willingness to shape her public image, despite the public interest.’’


By any measure, Melania Trump’s East Wing has gotten off to an unusually slow start. Last week came word that the first lady had made her first hire: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a New York party planner, who will serve as a senior adviser, according to a person with knowledge of the appointment.

Still, several key positions on her staff have not yet been filled, including:

  • Chief of staff;
  • Communications director;
  • Press secretary.


That last job is so necessary that a volunteer has stepped in to take calls. The volunteer, Jessica Boulanger, is a former Capitol Hill staffer who is now the senior vice president for communications at the Business Roundtable.


Most striking, the Trump team has not yet named a social secretary, a position in charge of planning all White House events. Most previous administrations filled the job before Inauguration Day.


Amid the silence, some of the public have rushing to assumptions.

Internet intellects spent days discussing the First Lady’s body language and facial expressions during the inauguration,  painting numerous exchanges with her husband as rude – a moment when he left Melania several paces behind him as he met the Obamas on the White House steps, and another when she appeared to frown behind his back. The Twitter hashtag #FreeMelania caught fire.


But all seemed well on the couple’s official social-media accounts. Neither responded to the Twitter accounts, which came amid a fire hose of larger administration controversies. President Donald Trump’s @POTUSaccount tweeted a thank you to his family, with photo of his wife smiling. Melania, who has not tweeted from her personal account since Election Day, has sent only one message from her new @FLOTUS account, saying that she is ‘‘deeply honored’’ to serve as First Lady.


She enters the White House with the lowest ratings of any modern First Lady. Only 37% of the public had a favorable view of her in a Gallup poll released Jan. 16, while the same percentage gave her an unfavorable rating. Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton each had a favorability rating above 55% when becoming First Lady.


Americans are accustomed to seeing the First Family, said Myra Gutin, a communication professor at Rider University and author of ‘‘The President’s Partner.’’ And the Slovenia-born former model’s decision to live in New York for now may be compounding any negative perceptions of her. (She has said she intends to return to Washington on weekends to see the president.)


‘‘She could be giving the administration a little bit of a softer touch, because we do make certain decisions about a president based on his family,’’ Gutin said. ‘‘Ivanka and her family are there, but with Mrs. Trump and Mr. Trump’s younger son, it would be a different kind of feeling.’’


Melania Trump’s quiet first week may signal that she is reluctantly grappling with how to handle increased inspection. Or she could simply be taking her time to define how she will make an impact.

‘‘Each first lady takes on the role and makes it their own. That evolves over time,’’ said former White House social secretary Ann Stock. ‘‘First (priority) for every president and first lady is settling in their family.’’


Meanwhile, there are 228 years of tradition that surround the role, and Melania Trump will be measured against the women who came before her – whether or not she chooses to play along.

Michelle Obama, whom Melania Trump has said she admires, was also a reluctant first lady. She, too, worried about raising her children in the spotlight. But from the beginning, she positioned herself as a vital part of her husband’s administration. While billing herself as ‘‘mom-in-chief,’’ Michelle Obama nonetheless had a team building her agenda when she entered the White House; in her second week, she began a tour of federal agencies, thanking the employees for their work.



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