Blond and Beautiful? What Really Makes a 'Trophy Wife'

Jeri Kehn Thompson may be the latest woman to be branded a "trophy wife."

ByABC News
July 12, 2007, 6:00 PM

July 13, 2007 — -- "Stripper." "Bimbo." "Permanently tan."

These are just a few of the adjectives used in the media lately to describe Jeri Kehn Thompson.

She's the wife of likely Republican presidential candidate and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, and one of the latest women to have characteristics associated with "trophy wives."

Thompson joins the ranks of other notable women who have been referred to as trophy wives, like Donald Trump's ex-wife Marla Maples and the late Anna Nicole Smith.

But is she really a trophy wife? Though she's blond, beautiful and nearly 25 years younger than her husband, Kehn Thompson, a political media consultant who previously worked for the Senate Republican Conference and a prestigious Washington law firm, doesn't appear to fit the typical description.

Can a woman be so accomplished on her own and still be considered her husband's "trophy"? set out to figure out exactly what makes an ordinary wife into a trophy wife.

Some say it's youth and good looks, others argue smarts and success, and still others believe the formula for the ultimate trophy wife is a cocktail of beauty and intelligence.

Many believe the term is highly sexist and demeaning toward women, but others are certain some women would do just about anything to be crowned a trophy wife.

A 1989 article in Fortune magazine may have introduced the phrase, describing a trophy wife as a woman who is a "decade or two younger than her husband, sometimes several inches taller, beautiful, and very often accomplished."

A man who marries for the second and third time, the article explained, was likely looking for a partner who was a lot like his first wife -- just younger, more beautiful and successful enough to have her own career (but not so much so that she steals the spotlight).

But the meaning of the phrase has changed, some experts say, with more and more emphasis being placed on the success of the woman.

"The idea of the trophy wife has progressed so that men want a woman who has some social equality, and it's not a dominant-submissive relationship," said Anne Kingston, author of "The Meaning of Wife." "Increasingly, it's not simply the decoration that a truly accomplished man wants, but an equal."

But stereotypes still abound, and the superficial connotation associated with trophy wives is hard to avoid.

"When we talk about a trophy, it doesn't matter how successful a woman is. It comes down to the decorative aspect and the idea that she's a babe," said Kingston.