At just 26, Ivanka Trump reigns over her father Donald's real estate kingdom, runs her own jewelry company and may or may not be dating NYC's most eligible bachelor. Joshua David Stein meets the mogul-ette who is as cultivated and invincible as the diamonds she designs.
The lobby of Trump Park Avenue at 59th Street—just one of the 25 Trump buildings in New York City—is exactly what you would expect from the world’s most hyperbolic developer. The floors are black and white marble squares buffed to a sheen that causes a feeling of snow blindness. The walls are a burnished paneling inscribed with an intricate design. The ceilings are gold- and silver-leafed. A titanic crystal chandelier—the size of a baby elephant—hangs from the ceiling. There’s a Trump crest on the door that’s opened by a Trump doorman. His jacket is emblazoned with the word “Trump.” So are his white gloves. Walking into the building is like entering The Donald’s noisy id.
Thirty-two floors above this scene, the next generation of Donald’s dynasty isn’t nearly as showy. In fact, the word “understated” would be appropriate to describe his daughter Ivanka Trump, who is vice president of real estate development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization. Whereas her father fills a room with his ’80s power wear and that pale orange hair billowing smoke-like from his head, Ivanka is a study in repose. But that’s not to say there’s nothing to look at.
From somewhere inside the building’s penthouse (which is on the market and can be yours for a mere $200,000 a month), Ivanka is heard before she’s seen. She’s talking to her assistant, and even when giving orders, her voice is a sexy purr. Still clad in a flowing black gown from her Page Six Magazine cover shoot, she descends the staircase like a Duchamp painting in motion. The first thing you notice about the 26-year-old is how tall (5'11"), blonde (natural) and pretty (mostly natural) she is. Her skin is smooth and flawless and her slender neck is swanned forward, peering at her BlackBerry. Her fingers are a blur of text messaging. The double lariat necklace around Ivanka’s neck is from her jewelry line, aptly called the Ivanka Trump Collection, which launched in September 2007. According to Ivanka, the line is “designed off my personality and my aesthetic.” The diamond tassel she’s wearing today, for example, is “feminine but with a modern twist on old Hollywood.” It retails for $140,000 at Ivanka’s marquee store on Madison Avenue.
Diamonds are logical material for Ivanka: The jewel and the jeweler share many characteristics. Exclusive, expensive and rare, diamonds are formed through immense pressure that transforms chaotic carbon into a well-organized and usually flawless crystal lattice. Even then, a diamond must be cut, brushed and polished before it becomes the perfect multifaceted rock. One of the hardest minerals in the world, they are nearly impossible to scratch. The word diamond comes from the Greek word for invincible.
Whereas her father fills a room with his ’80s power wear and that pale orange hair billowing smoke-like from his head, Ivanka is a study in repose.
Ivanka, likewise, seems impossible to crack, which is funny since reserve doesn’t run in her family. Her father is famous for his very public feuds—with everyone from his ex-wives to Rosie O’Donnell to Ed Koch—and he trades on his pugnacious persona for brand-name recognition. There are Trump dolls, Trump vodka, a Trump University, Trump steaks and a line of office furniture for Staples called Trump Office. Rich as he is, dignity is not something Donald Trump stockpiles. Ivanka’s colorful mother, Ivana, a former ski champion and Page Six Magazine columnist, is notable for telling the media, “Don’t get mad, get everything!” before she did pretty much that to The Donald, walking away from their divorce with a reported $25 million settlement. “My parents are exactly who you think,” Ivanka says with a smile. “They’re very straightforward. They are highly blunt. They say exactly what they’re thinking. In terms of their public image versus the reality at home, I don’t think there is that much of a divide.
As a girl, Ivanka spent much of her time in a lilac-painted room on the top floor of the Trump Tower at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. “My room was quintessentially ‘little princess.’ I had a Madonna clock, 90210 pictures, Bon Jovi and Paula Abdul posters,” she remembers. “It was beautiful but not so precious.” In 1992, when her parents divorced, the split was acrimonious and well-publicized. Ivanka, then 11, saw it all. She and her brothers (Donald Jr., now 30, and Eric, 24) witnessed Donald and Ivana mocked on Saturday Night Live, hounded by paparazzi and dragged through the tabloids. The experience left Ivanka wary of the limelight and aware that a single fault or crack in the façade would end up splashed across newsstands.
At the uber-exclusive schools she attended—the Chapin school in Manhattan, Choate in Connecticut, Georgetown University in D.C. (for two years) and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania—she was, by accounts, a model student. “There were times in college when I loved to go out dancing,” Ivanka shrugs, but that’s about as wild and crazy as she got as a co-ed. More recently there have been sightings of her smoking cigarettes on the streets of Manhattan, but she also exhibits a prim air. “My pet peeves are snobby—chewing gum, talking with your mouth full,” Ivanka says. “My mother was a strict disciplinarian at the table."
Since graduating from Wharton in 2004 and entering the real estate business (before joining up with her dad, she worked for developer Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Enterprises as a tenant coordinator for a year), Ivanka has traveled largely unscathed through the gauntlet of tabloids—though she has been romantically linked to Topher Grace and Lance Armstrong in the past. “It’s very rarely that I open Us Weekly and see myself in it. And that’s the way I like it,” she says. She carefully calculates her public persona. In the early days of her career, Ivanka says, “I thought it was more appropriate to have a hardened demeanor [in the workplace]. But as I grew more comfortable in my own skin, my personality changed. I became more liberal in my expression of my feminine side. I’m not afraid to wear pink, even though I seldom interact with females during the work day,” she says. She’s also not afraid to wear not very much, as proven by the memorable 2007 Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot in which a bathing suit–clad Ivanka posed with a jackhammer between her legs.
Of all that Ivanka has to offer, her most commented on attribute might be her breasts—especially whether they’re real or not. Speculation first arose one night in January 2007, when she arrived at the NBC Golden Globes party in a white evening gown that made her chest look particularly bountiful. The Philadelphia Daily News wrote, “she looks to be enhanced.” NYC gossip Web site Gawker speculated that Ivanka “took her mini boobs into a surgeon’s hands and emerged with giant funbags.” Her brother Donald Jr., however, has said that his sister’s breasts are “100 percent real.” In any case, right now, they seem about to overthrow the oppressive bustier of her gown. But Ivanka still refuses to discuss the topic. And that’s the thing about Ivanka: Though she is, as defunct lad magazine Stuff once put it, “hot enough to liquefy your assets”—whatever that means—she’s smart enough to do it, too. “My passion is real estate,” she says. Discussing a new Trump property in the Dominican Republic, she says, “We sold 63 estate lots for $365 million, on a price per square acre standpoint which rivals homes in Greenwich, Conn. That was done in six hours a year ago with 20 percent hard deposits.” Even though much of this is incomprehensible, what’s clear is that Ivanka means business. “I rarely go out past midnight,” she says. “I get up between 5:45 and 6 a.m. and ride my beach cruiser bike around the loop in Central Park for exercise. It's cathartic."
Of all that Ivanka has to offer, her most commented on attribute might be her breasts—especially whether they’re real or not.
She’s usually in her Trump Tower office—hair done, heels high—by 7:30 a.m. After a full day at work, Ivanka says she usually heads to a dinner meeting or some other work event. She doesn’t go out often: “I’m kind of lame in that regard. I like to get a good night’s sleep.” An ideal night off for her is “getting a group of friends together and trying—trying is the operative word—to cook them dinner.” Like her father, whose pantry she describes as “an Andy Warhol painting: cans of Campbell’s soup, American cheese, Vlasic pickles,” Ivanka’s favorite foods are “burgers, pizza, pasta."
But when she does go out—to work events, fashion shows, even vacationing in St. Bart’s—Ivanka is often accompanied by her boyfriend, Jared Kushner. Tall, lean, with a wide smile and deep dimples, the 27-year-old is a young turk of the media world, who took charge of the New York Observer in 2006 while still a full-time graduate student at NYU. (Last year Ivanka told Harper’s Bazaar that she finds it sexy “when somebody I’m dating is at the office until 10 at night.”) And like Ivanka, Jared is a real-estate scion: His father, Charles Kushner, is one of New Jersey’s biggest developers. This attractive power couple has been together since April 2007, depending on who and when you ask.
Most recently, rumors that they had split—allegedly due to his Orthodox Jewish family frowning on a possible marriage to the ultimate shiksa—were chased by rumors that things were back on after Ivanka, as reported in “Page Six,” revealed that she might convert to Judaism. “I’m not looking to get married now,” she says. “I have a lot on my plate. I would love to have children but I am certainly in no rush.” Fair enough, but are there diamonds—as in engagement rings—in her future? “Yes,” Ivanka says, “I’m sure there are diamonds."
For now, career is her focus. Her work relationship with Donald is a warm one, Ivanka says, but also professional. “The way my father praises me is that he increasingly gives me more to do,” says Ivanka. “To me, that is the ultimate validation. She can also be trusted to give a perfect soundbite. Asked about the controversial and under construction Trump Soho building, which has been opposed by neighborhood activists and drummed up bad press after a worker fell to his death in January, Ivanka says, “Demand for units in this building has exceeded expectations. The accident was a great tragedy but not the result of rushed construction."
She is very much Donald’s daughter. “My dad and I both work in the office and his door is always open for me,” she says. “We spend more hours together than you can imagine.” In fact, Ivanka served as a boardroom adviser, a role akin to a judge, on the past two seasons of Donald’s NBC show, The Apprentice. (The celebrity version, with Ivanka, returns in January 2009.) She admits, though, that being on TV has disrupted her life. “The Apprentice has moved the needle. I used to have a veil of anonymity while I was walking around,” she says.
For Ivanka, the bright and shining diamond of the Trump family, fame isn’t about celebrity. It’s about business. “I’m very proud to be a Trump. I work as hard as I do because I feel like I can add to that,” she says. “But one of the advantages of having grown up in public is that I knew what I was signing up for. I do know the negatives of that kind of life.”