Ivana Trump, first wife of former president, dies at 73

JILL COLVIN and JENNIFER PELTZ
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Ivana Trump, a skier-turned-businesswoman who formed half of a publicity power couple in the 1980s as the first wife of former President Donald Trump and mother of his oldest children, has died in New York City, her family announced Thursday. She was 73.

"I am very saddened to inform all of those that loved her, of which there are many, that Ivana Trump has passed away at her home in New York City," Trump posted on Truth Social. "She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life. Her pride and joy were her three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her. Rest In Peace, Ivana!"

Their children also released a statement, calling her "an incredible woman — a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty and caring mother and friend. Ivana Trump was a survivor.

"She fled from communism and embraced this country," the statement continued. "She taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination. She will be dearly missed by her mother, her three children and ten grandchildren."

FILE - Ivana Trump announces the new "Italiano Diet" to stay healthy and fight obesity at the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel on June 13, 2018, in New York. Ivana Trump, the first wife of Donald Trump, has died in New York City, the former president announced on social media Thursday. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

A Czech-born ski racer and sometime model, Ivana Trump married the future president in 1977.

She became an icon in her own right, dripping with '80s style and elegance, complete with accent and her signature beehive hairdo. She would eventually appear in the 1996 hit film "The First Wives Club" with the now-famous line, "Ladies, you have to be strong and independent, and remember, don't get mad, get everything."

Partners in love and business — with her playing roles such as manager of one of his Atlantic City casinos — Ivana and Donald were fixtures of New York's see-and-be-seen scene before their equally public, and messy divorce. Donald Trump had met his next wife, Marla Maples.

During the split, Ivana Trump accused him of rape in a sworn statement in the early 1990s. She later said that she didn't mean it literally, but rather that she felt violated.

Nevertheless, she ultimately remained friendly with her ex-husband, whom she famously called "The Donald." She enthusiastically backed his 2016 White House run and told the New York Post in 2016 that she was both a supporter and an adviser.

"I suggest a few things," she told the newspaper. "We speak before and after the appearances and he asks me what I thought." She said she advised him to "be more calm."

"But Donald cannot be calm," she added. "He's very outspoken. He just says it as it is."

However supportive, she occasionally ruffled feathers.

In 2017, while promoting a book, she told "Good Morning America" that she spoke with the then-president about every two weeks and had his direct White House number, but didn't want to call to frequently "because Melania is there and I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife, OK?" she said with a laugh. "I'm first lady, OK?"

Melania Trump's spokesperson at the time responded, saying there was "clearly no substance to this statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise."

Ivana Trump was born Ivana Zelnickova in 1949 in the Czechoslovak city of Gottwaldov, formerly Zlin, which had just been renamed by the Communists who took over the country in 1948. She married Trump, her second husband, in 1977.

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