“I don’t know much about Donald Trump, but Melania would be a great first lady," Diana Kosar, Melania’s childhood friend, told ABC News.
This fairy tale begins in the tiny factory town of Sevnica in then-communist Yugoslavia, where Melania was born Melanija Knavs in 1970. (Sevnica is now part of Slovenia.)
She grew up in a third-floor apartment of a typically spare, Tito-era building in the industrial part of town.
Mirjana Jelancic, Melania’s classmate and neighbor, recalled how she and Melania exchanged messages attached to woolen strings that stretched between their balconies. The two of them loved playing hide-and-seek in their backyards and listening to tapes of Duran Duran, Boy George and Erros Ramazotti. But sometimes Melania’s mind seemed elsewhere.
Said Kosar: “She always said she wanted to leave Sevnica for Ljubljana [Slovenia’s capital city], but she never said anything about America.”
From early childhood, Melania dreamed about design and fashion. “She was so creative," said Jelancic. "She would take old clothes and make them stylish or she would take an old basket and turn it into something new, useful and beautiful."
Jelancic added: “She was very innovative and creative, and had a drive to move forward. We all knew she would work in fashion and design, but she never said she would be a model."
Foreign travel, much less an international modeling career, would have seemed a distant dream for a girl whose mother who worked in one of the town's factories and whose father who was an auto mechanic and car parts salesman, as well as a member of the local communist party.
But Melania wasn’t afraid to dream big. Her first walk down a fashion show runway happened at the Hotel Yugoslavia in Belgrade, then the capital of Yugoslavia. The year was 1977 and Melania was just 7 years old. She was recruited to be a model of children’s clothing for Jutranjka, the company where her mother worked first a pattern-maker and later a junior designer.
Kosar, who had also gone to Belgrade with Melania to model, remembered being intimidated by the stage.
"I was 6 years old and I was perplexed and frightened by the lights,” Kosar said. “I started to cry and I could not move even one step. Melania came back from backstage, took my hand, walked back with me and helped me get control of my emotions.”
Melania was always a soothing presence for her friends. Said Jelancic, “Melania had an urge to make thing calmer and smoother. Whenever other friends had fights, she would calm them down…. She was an angel.”
Jelancic said it’s that attribute that makes Melania a perfect wife for Trump. She is a “good influence on him,” Jelancic said. “Donald, with his temper and energy … I think they found balance together.”
She added: “As a first lady, Melania is graceful, and has both her feet on the ground. She always knew right from wrong. She's the right choice for America."