With Donald Trump set to become president of the United States, his already famous wife, Melania, is about to take on a role that will be just as publicly scrutinized.
Few people will be able to relate to the pressures and perks of being a national leader’s spouse, save for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. While in some ways the two women are living in different worlds, they also seem to have much in common.
Just how the women’s relationships will unfold remains to be seen; but in the meantime, here’s a look at some of their similarities and differences.
Trump: Privacy and family
Grégoire-Trudeau: Family and openness
Trump may have lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech the parts about working hard, treating others with respect, and how “your word is your bond,” but there’s no denying the authenticity of her desire to prioritize her family, specifically her son, Barron.
“She has already laid down her marker of how she will be as First Lady,” says Anita McBride, Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC. “She has said ‘I’m focused on my family first. It’s the same thing Michelle Obama said in 2009; we know she contemplated not coming to Washington until her girls finished school that year as well as well. She [Trump] has put a line in the sand: ‘I’m a strong woman; I make my own decisions; I’m going to do what works for my family first. I will embrace this role as First Lady of the United States on my timing.
“I think that that’s fair, because this is a position that has no position description, and every person who comes into the job gets to rewrite how they want to do it, and she has set that tone right away,” adds McBride, former assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush. “Even though she’s’ been highly photographed in public eye, she really has led a very private life.”
Despite some criticism for hiring occasional nanny help for her three kids, Grégoire Trudeau, meanwhile, was a stay-at home mom for many years who had no qualms about breastfeeding her toddler and teaching her daughter life lessons through yoga. She has no problem trotting the children out for photographs — consider the family dressed up as “Star Wars” characters on Halloween — but also wants to give her kids as normal an upbringing as possible, walking them to school and making their lunches.
While Trump was routinely absent from her husband’s campaign stops, Grégoire Trudeau often shared the spotlight with her husband, posing for selfies and being Instagram-ready. She has described herself as an extrovert and uses her public platform to champion her belief in love, positivity and kindness as forces of change and the causes she believes in.
Trump: Cyber-bullying, the American Red Cross
Grégoire-Trudeau: Women’s rights, women’s health, children’s rights, mental health, self-esteem
During the election campaign, Trump pointed to cyberbullying as an area she wanted to devote her time and energy, a somewhat ironic stance, critics say, given her husband’s abusive use of social media. Other causes she has been involved in in the past, according to CBS News, include the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Police Athletic League, the Boys Club of New York, and Love Our Children USA, which focuses on bullying prevention. From 2005 to 2009, she served as a Good Will Ambassador for the American Red Cross.
“She wants to work on cyberbullying and the impact on children,” McBride says. “People will look at that and say ‘OK, how will you make that work given criticism to her husband and how he utilizes Twitter?’. But she will have an opportunity to use her platform to work on that if in fact she chooses to do that. She’s got a young child so she presumably understands the impact of the issue on children.
“The other thing we know is that she has been very engaged in charity work with the Red Cross,” McBride adds. “That’s something that is near and ear to her; she has talked about that; she would like to remain engaged with the Red Cross. Everybody can support that. We know the good work that the Red Cross does.”
Grégoire-Trudeau describes herself as an activist, regularly supporting organizations such as Plan Canada, Dove’s Pay Beauty Forward program, Girls for the Cure, and the Looking Glass Foundation, which helps people with eating disorders, among others. She is the official spokesperson for the FitSpirit Foundation, which encourages teenage girls to pursue an active, healthy lifestyle.
Trump: Sensuous and sexy
Grégoire-Trudeau: Modest and striking
While Trump favours European brands, Grégoire-Trudeau has made a point of promoting Canadian labels and designers. And while the prime minister’s wife dabbles in trends and is sometimes unpredictable (take the one-shoulder Aleks Susak jumpsuit she wore at the 2016 Vancouver Pride Parade), she’s not nearly as revealing as the Donald’s spouse.
Personal branding strategist Joanne Blake says Trump may want to tone things down in her new role.
“She’s been consistent about showing off her curvaceous body, which leaves very little to the imagination,” says Blake, certified image professional with Edmonton’s Style for Success. “When you think of a First Lady, you don’t want her bust to be the first thing to come to mind. If she’s going to show off an asset like her curvy shape, then I would suggest that she downplay her bust. In other words, [have] one focal point, and everything else should be subdued. I think she could pull the [Jackie O.] look off as I’ve seen her in a number of outfits where she actually looks quite elegant and smart.”
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