I like people who break stereotypes. ~ZoomZoom
By Sarah Treleaven, National Post
Published: Friday, October 30, 2009
Ivanka Trump is better than you and you’re just going to have to get over it, OK? Her new book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, a mix of memoir and professional primer for young working women, will confirm most of the things you already suspect: She is smarter, richer, better looking, has more impressive friends and is the beneficiary of every possible kind of luck the universe offers. (Including ducking the curse of her father’s enigmatic hair.)
But perhaps the greatest trick of a book with so many admissions of grandeur and so much stock professional advice (don’t overpower your prospective employer with too much perfume, remember to show up on time, etc.) from a self-described princess is that Ivanka Trump, vice president of real estate development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, comes across as so darn likeable.
Of course, not everything in the book is completely relatable. Trump grew up in a giant shiny building emblazoned with her family’s name, and her neighbour was Michael Jackson. She was an internationally successful teen model, as she likes to remind the reader. (We get it! You’re hot!)
When she was a kid, she played after school in New York’s Plaza Hotel while waiting for her mother, Ivana, to finish micromanaging the employees. And she uses the phrase, “We’ve been friends ever since,” to refer to Kanye West.
Still, when I finished the book, I couldn’t wait to get her on the phone for our interview. I was sure we’d be BFFs. I’d convince her to tell me what Anna Wintour is really like, and then she’d offer to send me some pearl-drop earrings from her signature jewellery collection. “You sound like you’ve lost weight,” she would add. Oh, Ivanka! Always the charmer.
But I should have predicted that Trump would be all business. Speaking with her was like talking to a very carefully crafted press release. Far from an heiress gone wild, Ivanka has done a remarkable job of separating her personal and professional lives and implementing a tremendous amount of discipline and control. She allows access into her professional world to further both the family legacy and her independent business ventures, and restricts access into personal details to guard her interior life.
I was told explicitly before we spoke that any questions related to her conversion to Judaism or recent marriage to Jared Kushner, fellow real estate scion and publisher of the New York Observer, were verboten. She has nothing but praise and gratitude for her notorious parents. I tried to pry about the idiosyncrasies of her family. What’s it like working long days with your brothers and father? I was hoping for stories of Donald Jr. chasing her around a boardroom table with a six-pound lobster, or whatever it is that very wealthy siblings who toil daily in the family business do to torment each other. But, again, everything was spun masterfully into statements about “challenges” and “harnessing competition productively.” She came across more as polished than evasive, an enviable skill, and it appears that every statement that comes out of her mouth is in service to the professional aims she’s had her eye on since she could talk.
Ivanka Trump could rely on both her looks and her family money, but instead she has a real job. She works both late nights and Sundays and undoubtedly knows what it’s like to be alone in the office when the lights go out and your lower back starts to ache from being hunched over a desk for so long. She acknowledges that the power and responsibility she’s assumed at just 28 sometimes confuses people. In the book, she recounts the time she had to reassure a prospective management client who was certain that the only way a woman of her age and appearance could help him was through some sort of spokesmodel function. Those types of anecdotes are charming both because lots of women will identify with being patronized at work, and because not even Ivanka Trump is immune to it.
It’s tempting to compare Trump to her peers – born-rich colleagues like Paris Hilton – who have been content to show too much skin, drink too much Champagne and coast on accomplishments of generations past despite having every possible advantage in life. The book made me wonder who Trump is in her private life – is she funny? Clumsy? Boring? – but, frankly, that’s none of my business. The relatively scandal-free Ivanka Trump is an excellent reminder, in this blab-all culture of celebrities boasting about sex with daddy and bird-brain, wannabe celebrities making up stories about boys set adrift in balloons, that we have the right to withhold information – and that it might even make us look better in the long run.
Trump seems humbled by her upbringing. “I have had incredible opportunity and privilege, and I don’t think acknowledging that in any way undermines the fact that I’m extremely hard-working,” she says. “I seized my opportunities. I know plenty of people who were given every leg up in life, but never really seized the chance to turn that into success – whether it’s due to laziness or lack of ambition.” Trump acknowledges that some people are gunning for her to fail, and it’s no surprise that resentment is aimed at those perceived to have a greater advantage, but we should reserve most of our contempt for those who squander privilege.
Of course, like almost everyone else, Trump’s got something to sell; in the book and on the phone she was formidably on brand. She has a well-crafted image that furthers both the family business and solo jewellery venture that monopolize so much of her time. It must be exhausting to play Ivanka Trump. Good thing she’s taken to hard work, power and responsibility like a baby eagle takes to flight when it’s been nudged out of the nest.