Melania and Me, the new tell-all out today by Melania’s former BFF and unpaid advisor Stephanie Winston Wolfkoff, is many things—a legal defense masquerading as a book, a memoir of humiliation and debasement, an attempt at a mea culpa, and at the end of the day, a not all that interesting book that will likely sell very well.
But at its heart, it’s the story of the strange, extremely imbalanced friendship between two rich white society women, one that was, as Winston Wolkoff puts it in her book, “lunch based,” and how it all predictably devolved once the two entered the White House and Melania realized she and the rest of the Trumps could set up Winston Wolkoff to be the fall guy (or gal) for the widening scandal into the workings of Trump’s inauguration committee. If that all reads like the Real Housewives of the White House, well, you wouldn’t be wrong!
And much like the Real Housewives, everyone’s a villain and no one comes out smelling like anything but a shit-smeared rose in Melania and Me. Winston Wolkoff has already squealed to the feds about the inner workings of the Trump inauguration, but in her memoir, she gives herself free rein to spill some juicy, strange, extremely telling stories about her former “best friend and sister.”
After the waiter left, I was looking right at her, listening to every word she said about how busy she was, what Barron was up to, details about her upcoming plans and travel. It was surreal, too normal. I started laughing at the weirdness and then, out of the blue, said, “Don’t kill me, but I have to ask!”
“Oh boy!” she said. “What is it?
“How many times have the words ‘pussy’ and ‘president’ been in the same sentence?”
She looked at me, her blue eyes sparkling, and then she started laughing—laughing to the point where she needed to blot the tears from her eyes with her napkin.
One day, Melania emailed that she’d dropped off Barron and spotted my middle child there. “I saw Taylor today,” she wrote. “I called his name, but I don’t think he recognized me.”
Maybe because his name is Tyler, not Taylor. She spelled and pronounced his name incorrectly for ten years, and I never corrected her and neither did Tyler. She saw it spelled the right way in my texts, emails, and party invites but stuck with her variation.
As for how her name would appear on the program, Melania said, “I want to be listed as First Lady Melania Trump.”
“That’s your official title but not until after the swearing-in ceremony,” I said.
“Then call me First Lady-Elect.”
“We can’t do that because you weren’t elected.”
“That’s what I want.”
“Karen Pence is using Mrs. Karen Pence.”
She didn’t care. “First Lady-Elect!” became her mantra whenever programs and invites came up.
Fighting over a photo op:
Melania and I launched Operation Block Ivanka to keep her face out of that iconic “special moment.” To plan this, I needed to know exactly where the family would be seated and the camera angles... Using Brandon’s sketch, we were able to figure out whose face would be visible when Donald and Melania sat in their seats, and then when the family stood with Chief Justice John Roberts for Donald to take the oath of office. If Ivanka was not on the aisle, her face would be hidden while she was seated. For the standing part, we put Barron between Donald and Melania and made sure that Don Jr. stood next to Melania, not Ivanka.
We were all exhausted and stressed out. Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty. Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn’t have made herself the center of attention in her father’s inauguration.
Rachel Roy was watching on TV from her hotel room in Washington. She texted a photo she’d taken of the screen showing Melania’s head completely blocking Ivanka’s. “Happy MT blocked IT!”
I started laughing so hard, David [Winston Wolkoff’s husband] thought something was wrong with me.
From lunch with Ivanka, I headed for the high-security Situation Room to attend a meeting about the president’s first address to the joint session of Congress, which the staff was calling the State of the Union address (although technically, it wasn’t.)
At the meeting, I finally understood that we knew nothing. The West Wing press people in charge of organizing the event and the seating at the address informed me that there were no available seats left in the First Lady’s box.
I said, “How can that be? We haven’t invited anyone yet.”
“They’re already taken,” said one of the bureaucrats.
“Cabinet members and other guests of Ivanka Trump.”
There it was. Ivanka had set up her seats in Melania’s section. It occurred to me: Had she scheduled our lunch for the same day as this meeting because she hoped I’d miss it and be none the wiser about her appropriating Melania’s seats?
I called [Kayleigh] McEnany to ask, “What happened?”
She said, “I met with the family and they wanted me to be their spokesperson.”
“The family.” Ivanka’s phrase. They were meeting with her behind our backs after we sent her name to the West Wing to be vetted. Melania and I were livid.
“Did you ask Ivanka if it was the same position or a different position than the East Wing was looking into for you?”
“No, she said, “I just assumed ‘the family’ meant all of them.”
“The family” was Ivanka, the only Trump given the power of the purse, and she had offered Kayleigh a job.
I explained to Melania what happened and how the West Wing had thwarted us again. She texted, “You know how they are snakes.”
Ivanka was a serial poacher. She’d diverted McEnany and hired Mercedes Schlapp out from under us. And she’d installed Stephanie Grisham in the East Wing to keep an eye on things and isolate Melania. The pattern had clearly emerged: Princess wanted to render Melania irrelevant.
Lindsay, Tim, and I were preparing Melania’s schedule for the week ahead. We had everything under control. She’d be leaving Trump Tower on Friday with her father to meet Donald in Palm Beach. I read the flight manifest—a description of the trip that included specific warnings about food and beverage preferences. The manifest had a warning: “As an FYI, Muse [Melania’s Secret Service name] has an Almond Allergy to which we do not know the extent yet. The approved meal on the flight today has nuts and wanted to make you aware for future flight meal plan review.”
Wait, WHAT? Melania was allergic to nuts?
She knew what we’d been through over the years with [Winston Wolkoff’s son] Zach. She’d heard me sobbing over his scares and cheered him on during his desensitizing therapy and had given me sympathy and emotional support. All this time, she’d had a nut allergy and never once mentioned it to me? It seemed unthinkable, considering how many dozens of hours we’d spent talking about Zach. She knew I had put SWW Creative on the shelf for two years to enroll Zach in a life-changing oral immunotherapy (OIT) food trial, under the oversight of Dr. Karl Nadeau, the director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research at Stanford University. I’d invited Melania to every fundraiser I’d organized for this cause over the years, but she’d always said she was unavailable for those particular events. To the best of my recollection, she’d never once written a check for them, either.
The initiative was now known as Be Best. Melania had come up with that. I warned her that the phrase sounded illiterate. What about changing it to Be the Best or Be Your Best? No. Melania, lover of Sharpies, drew the two-word logo with block letters and said, “I drew it myself, so no one can say I plagiarized it.”
She was in a groove now, hating on the media. “I’ve been getting visa questions again,” she said, exasperated. “I did everything legal and perfect! They went all crazy about the zero-tolerance policy at the border. But they don’t know what’s going on. The kids I met were brought in by coyotes, the bad people who are trafficking, and that’s why the kids were put in shelters. They’re not with their parents, and it’s sad. But the patrols told me the kids say, ‘Wow, I get a bed? I will have a cabinet for my clothes?’ It’s more than they have in their own country where they sleep on the floor. They are taking care nicely there. And the mothers, they teach their kids to say, ‘I’m going to be killed by gangs!’ so they are allowed to stay. They are using that line and it’s not true. They don’t want to stay in Mexico because Mexico doesn’t take care of them the same as America does.”
“What about taking care of our people?” she said. “Many children in the United States are hungry. And now we’re taking care of someone else’s children? It’s crazy!”
Melania knew that my grandparents were Holocaust survivors... At the Hall of Remembrance’s eternal flame memorial, Melania paused to light a candle at the starkly beautiful prayer wall. I thought of Bobie and Papa and missed them so viscerally, my throat and stomach tightened.
Did Melania notice my emotion and call me over to light a candle with her for my grandparents? Nope.
She was my friend, someone I loved, remembering people I’d loved before, acknowledging their survival and their suffering. Any normal person with a human heart would have understood why that was important to me. But I was coming to realize what was really important to her. She just wanted a picture to post on social media.
As we rode back to the White House, I said, “That was hard for me. I miss my grandparents.” Melania looked at me sympathetically. I said, “Thank you for bringing me with you today.”
And then she went back to looking at the images.
Ultimately, Winston Wolkoff concludes: “It was the worst mistake of my life to get involved with Melania and the Trumps: emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, socially, professionally. I thought I had an amazing friend. But when it really counted, Melania wasn’t there for me. It suddenly became painfully clear to me that she wasn’t really my friend, in the true sense of the word.”
Congrats to Winston Wolkoff for seeing the light.