Melania gave ruthless reply when asked if she’d be with Trump if he wasn’t rich

Melania Trump gave a fiery response when asked if she'd still be with husband Donald if he wasn't rich.

The former model, who celebrates her 51st birthday today, was asked the question by a New York University student in 2005

She appeared to doubt whether the billionaire ex-president would be interested in her if she was ugly.

Asked whether she would still be with Trump if he wasn't rich, she replied: "If I weren't beautiful, do you think he'd be with me?"

And the brutally honest public outburst against her husband was very much a calculated response, according to a former friend and aide.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, whose tell-all book Melania and Me about her relationship with the former first lady last year attracted heavy criticism from the White House during Trump's presidency, claims the ex-first lady's public persona has been meticulously crafted.

"She is not an enigma. She is not mysterious," she told People magazine.

"That's why it's so important – the perception people have of her. That iron curtain around her, that slapping of [her husband's] hand, it's all part of the game. It's all part of keeping her mysterious."

In her book, Wolkoff opened up about Melania's unique approach to advocacy, including her work on the 'Be Best' campaign, which focused on youth well-being, cyberbullying and drug abuse.

According to Wolkoff, Melania doggedly ignored expert advice to forge her own path.

"She had the scientific evidence-based research in her hands and her office took it, ripped it up, turned it into – I don't know what they hell they turned it into," Wolkoff told People.

"When she stood there in the Rose Garden speaking [about 'Be Best'] and having people stand up of all the places that she visited … She could have been the voice about all these different programs as opposed to what it ends up being."

Wolkoff added Mrs Trump "knew that everyone was going to critique her for it [the anti-bullying]. She knew that people were going to say it starts at home."

"I said to her, 'Are you ready to take that on?' She's like, 'Yes. They're going to say it starts at home.' Just like with everything else, she didn't care because that's what she wanted to focus on."

However, despite continuing to support her husband on topics such as immigration and the #MeToo movement, Melania biographer Kate Bennett claims that, by the end of Trump's administration, his wife became "extremely detached".

On the Capitol riot in January, Bennett told People Melania was "very, very quiet, unaffected, sort of more aloof and more aligned with the president and the narrative."

Bennett added: "For a first lady, who for the past four years really didn't have a problem speaking out if her opinion was different from that of her husband, who was very vocal saying, 'I don't always agree with him, and I tell him so.'"

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"[For her to] chose those moments in American history and America's democracy to remain completely silent – I think that that will change the course of her legacy, to be quite honest.

"History will remember her silence."

But despite trading the White House for Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, another expert, Mary Jordan, believes Melania's future remains bright.

"She's young, she's 50. Donald Trump is 24 years older," Jordan says. "She has a big life ahead of her."

She added: "When I was in Slovenia, it kept coming up – also in Italy, when I was talking to people – she acts like a chess player.

"Several people would say that she's there, doesn't say anything and then comes out with her moves."

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