Inside Ivanka's Dreamworld

You could tell by his eyes, the way they popped and gleamed and fixed on someone behind me. Only one person gets that kind of look from Donald Trump. “Oh!” the president said. “Ivanka!”Ivanka Trump lifted her hands, astonished. “I forgot you guys were meeting—I was just coming by!” she said. “Uh-oh!”The first daughter (though not the only daughter), wearing a fitted black mockneck and black pants, her golden hair fastened in a low twist, glided across the Oval Office. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and it was apparently vital to inform Trump, at that very moment, that Siemens had pledged to expand its education and training opportunities to more workers as part of Ivanka’s workforce-development initiative. She also wanted to remind him that tomorrow would be the inaugural session of the program’s advisory board, and that Tim Cook would be joining the meeting.“She loves doing it,” Trump said, presumably to me but while looking at Ivanka. “And she wants no credit. Just like me, she wants no credit.” They both started laughing.For months, I had tried to secure an on-the-record interview with Ivanka to talk about her White House role and her life in Washington, D.C., but she had repeatedly declined. So I was surprised to receive a call one morning from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, telling me that the president himself was available to talk about his daughter. We had spent 20 minutes, until Ivanka walked in, doing just that.In our conversation, the president wanted to be clear: He was very proud of all his children. “Barron is young, but he’s got wonderful potential,” he said. “And Tiffany’s doing extremely well. Don is, uh, he’s enjoying politics; actually, it’s very good. And Eric is running the business along with Don, and also very much into politics. I mean, the children—the children have been very, very good.”But Ivanka, whom he sometimes calls “Baby” in official meetings, is “unique.” If Trump sees any of his children as his heir apparent, it’s Ivanka. “If she ever wanted to run for president,” he said, “I think she’d be very, very hard to beat.” At 37, she is old enough. But Ivanka has never talked with her friends about running for office, and the president said she has never expressed any interest about that to him. Still, while Don Jr. might be a hit at political rallies, Ivanka is the only child the president ever considered for an administration post. “She went into the whole helping-people-with-jobs, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be the best use of her time, but I didn’t know how successful she’d be,” the president said. “She’s created millions of jobs, and I had no idea she’d be that successful.”The “millions of jobs” claim is not true. (Through Ivanka’s work as an adviser to the president, companies such as Walmart and IBM have pledged to provide re-skilling opportunities over the next five years, mainly to people with jobs already.) But it’s true that when jobs open up in the Trump administration—a frequent occurrence—Ivanka is at the top of her father’s mind. “She’s a natural diplomat,” Trump said. “She would’ve been great at the United Nations, as an example.” I asked why he didn’t nominate her. “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.” Warming to the subject, he said, “I even thought of Ivanka for the World Bank … She would’ve been great at that because she’s very good with numbers.”The president went on: “She’s got a great calmness … I’ve seen her under tremendous stress and pressure. She reacts very well—that’s usually a genetic thing, but it’s one of those things, nevertheless.” He added: “She’s got a tremendous presence when she walks into the room.”The Oval Office drop-in did not come as much of a surprise. The world may have gone off script, but Ivanka still follows the teleprompter. When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”One evening earlier this year, the former deputy national-security adviser Dina Powell, on behalf of Ivanka, invited lawmakers, donors, and ambassadors to Washington’s Metropolitan Club to celebrate the passage of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, an effort Ivanka had led to promote gender equality in the developing world. “People say Washington doesn’t work,” Ivanka told the gathering, according to an attendee who paraphrased her remarks. “But this room tells you bipartisanship is possible.” She made no mention of the fact that, outside, thanks to her father’s insistence on building a border wall despite bipartisan opposition, the U.S. government was mired in the longest shutdown in its history.There were two competing reads on Ivanka that evening. Some of those present praised her to me as a serious adviser pushing positive change amid unending chaos. Others condemned her as a dutiful daughter content to pretend that the chaos doesn’t exist. (“Then why did you go?” I asked one of her critics. “As a favor to Dina,” this person insisted.) Ivanka has always been subject to unsavory interpretations—the price of being a Trump. But she has also been adept at defining herself apart from her father. There is an advantage to being surrounded by men people don’t like. So when she moved to Washington, Ivanka deployed a version of her signature approach—planning “impromptu” visits at the White House instead of at Trump Tower; posing for “candid” Instagrams at international summits rather than at the Met Gala. What her friends say she couldn’t understand was why, this time, many people weren’t buying it—why it was no longer the authenticity they saw, but the cultivation.Ivanka Trump begins most mornings at about 5:30 a.m., when Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood is still dark. She shares a 6,870-square-foot white colonial home there with her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, and their three children. Jared, who calls his wife “Ivanks,” makes her coffee and breakfast, often crackers with cottage cheese and sliced fruit. Depending on the day, Ivanka might lead a hair stylist to her office, where the desk has been cleared so he can arrange his tools. Her request is almost always the same: sleek and straight, parted down the middle.The branding education of Ivanka began in Aspen, Colorado, in 1989, just after Christmas. Donald Trump had taken his wife, Ivana, and their three children—11-year-old Don, 8-year-old Ivanka, and 5-year-old Eric—for a week-long stay at the Little Nell hotel. He had also brought along his 26-year-old mistress, Marla Maples, dispatching his airplane to pick her up in Tennessee and stashing her in a penthouse not far from his family. A few days into the trip, they all collided at a restaurant on the mountain. During the screaming match that ensued between her and Ivana, Maples let out a triumphant cry: “It’s out! It’s finally out!” The kids didn’t say a word.Talk of divorce was immediate back in New York. The tabloids were ravening. Reporters accosted Ivanka as she walked to school. In The Trump Card, the memoir she published at 27, Ivanka recalled one “idiot” asking, in the aftermath of the “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” New York Post headline, whether Maples’s claims were true.Ivanka did not view her father’s philandering as a personal betrayal. Her grievances were more cosmic. She mourned the breakdown of the order and routines she’d cherished. She dwelled less on the divorce itself than on the fact that she hadn’t seen it coming. Traumatic as it was, Ivanka wrote in her memoir, she chose to use the experience as a way of giving her life “shape and meaning.” The divorce might have educated her on all the things she couldn’t control, but it also affirmed for her the one thing she could control, at least up to a point: her image.Read: A crack in the Ivanka Trump brandAccording to her mother, Ivanka was destined to be disciplined, polished, and tactful—she made sure of it. “I did not spoil my kids,” Ivana told me on the phone from Miami, where she spends the winter months. “They had no choice … I kept them busy, busy, busy.” She signed her daughter up for skiing, ice-skating, and tennis lessons, as well as singing classes (“She was okay”). There were several years of ballet, including a role in The Nutcracker at Christmastime, which Ivana’s “old friend Michael Jackson” came to watch. Ivana was careful never to give her children “too much money,” because when “girls get too much money, they buy the drugs, they go to nightclubs—none of that Ivanka ever did.” The craziest things ever got was probably the day a 14-year-old Ivanka came home with blue hair. “I freaked out,” Ivana said. “I bought the Nice ’n Easy in the palest blond and put it all over.”In a Seventeen -magazine feature in 1998, Ivanka showed off her dorm room at Choate Rosemary Hall, posing amid decor such as a sparkly Urban Outfitters lamp, a travel-size hair brush, algebra and trigonometry textbooks, and a Robert Doisneau poster she’d gotten “on a street in France for about a buck.” Around the same time Paris Hilton was emerging as the vacuous and club-happy heiress, Ivanka was blooming as her straitlaced foil.It has been said that Donald Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person—the hot blondes, the private jets and wine bottles and steaks bearing his name in big block letters. Ivanka presented herself as something closer to a rich person’s idea of a rich person—a young Jackie Kennedy, whispery voice and all, who just happened to be trapped in a tacky gilded cage. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with an economics degree, she went on to enjoy success as an entrepreneur with a jewelry line and, later, a full fashion label. In interviews, she came across as a woman whose wealth never blinded her to the plight of others or the importance of hard work.That Ivanka defied expectations was, at first, no more than a curiosity. Whether keeping her distance from the Trump brand was just a media-savvy calculation—a veneer masking deeper alignment—would matter more in the years to come. In 2011 , Trump became the nation’s most high-profile “birther.” Over the next three years, he would question Barack Obama’s citizenship on television and tweet that he’d been told by an “extremely credible source” that the president’s birth certificate was a “fraud.” There's no record of Ivanka ever commenting on Trump’s conduct during those years, nor was she pressed, because of course she didn’t agree with him. There was no need to even ask.For all that, people close to the family understood Ivanka’s devotion to her father. In the thick of his birther phase, Trump revisited the idea of running for office, either governor of New York or president of the United S ...Read more

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