Melania and Me by Stephanie Winston Wolcoff

Back to my 2020 sociopolitical reading list—though, admittedly, a title chosen with the full expectation that it would be more lightweight than the others I’ve read.* It was the kind of book I expected to be a gossipy, tell-all: the kind where you half expect to be shaking sand out of your iPad case after reading the Library’s e-book copy.

A vintage drawing of two women in 1950s style. One is whispering into the other's ear: "No, no...this isn't gossip. It's the truth."

It was not a book I expected to be such an ever-loving slog.

Stephanie Winston Wolcoff is one of the myriad Tr&mp loyalists who have been used and discarded during this messiest of presidential terms. (She also refers to herself pretty regularly as “SWW,” a coinage I’m going to follow here.) Headlines when she was fired suggested financial malfeasance regarding the Tr&mp inauguration: SWW’s memoir is, in large part, intended as a way to clear her name and rebuild her reputation in the fashion and entertainment world.**

A closeup of the e-book cover for Melania and Me, showing the main title and a photo of Melania Trump and Stephanie Winston Wolcoff smiling at each other.

SWW wants us to know that she was set up as a fall-gal to cover up the financial wrongdoings of others involved in the Inauguration. She wants us to know that she is now cooperating in multiple investigations to bring justice to the actual embezzlers and money-handlers. She also wants us to know that she resigned from her position before any of these stories of malfeasance broke—Melania never bothered to respond to that letter of resignation, leaving SWW open for firing a couple weeks down the line.

Okay, fine.

I think what I want you to know is that I found SWW to be profoundly unlikable. The best way I can put it is she has that super-expert-level of naivete that is only available to the uber-richest and lily-whitest of Americans. Early in the book, SWW talks about how she’d never voted in a presidential election until 2016, chalking that up to her ignorance of policy and to the fact that her own convictions were so nuanced that they couldn’t be represented by either party’s platform. You see, her own moral standards were so high that she just couldn’t bring herself to vote for either party.

Well, it must be nice to live such a privileged and sheltered existence that you don’t have to be aware of policy platform and their ramifications on the average American life. But for someone who claims that your apolitical activism wasn’t about party platform but was instead “about right vs. wrong,” I gotta say that SWW’s choice to ignore policy’s impacts on the rest of her fellow citizens is about as wrong a moral choice as wrong can be.

(Excuse me while I go vomit.)

So, you can see how that piece of things drove me around the bend. The other main theme that irritated me to no end is how super-expert-level naive SWW was about Melania’s loyalty to her. I mean, seriously, y’all: there are red flags from the first chapter onwards about Melania’s fundamental shallowness and her unreliability as a friend. I am mystified at how SWW, by her own account, ignored the warnings of pretty much everyone she knew not to get involved in the Tr&mp White House, all on the basis of this incredibly superficial relationship she had with Melania.

My best—and most cynical—guess is that SWW may have known all along exactly how shallow Melania is, and was hoping to leverage that. I kinda think she—SWW—expected to be able to have a disproportionate level of influence and power by being Melania’s special advisor. I wonder if the main reason SWW has so many hurt feelings here is because the wannabe player got played.

Anyhow, no need for anyone else to read this one. Let it be a literary bullet I took for the team.


* Which is kind of saying a lot, considering this year’s list also included Toddler In Chief.

** SWW ran the Met Gala and Fashion Week for Vogue for some number of years, so she legit had big credibility. I don’t think this book is gonna bring it back….


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