Ivana Trump, a skier-turned-businesswoman who formed half of a publicity power couple in the 1980s as the first wife of Donald Trump and mother of his oldest children, has died in New York City, her family announced Thursday. She was 73.
The former U.S. president posted on his social media site that she died at her Manhattan home.
"She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life," he wrote on Truth Social. The couple had 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!"
She was found unconscious near a staircase in her home, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Both said police are investigating whether she fell down the stairs and believe her death was accidental. The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The medical examiner's office will determine an official cause of death.
Tributes from her children
"It's been a very sad day, a very sad day," Eric Trump said as he left his mother's home near Central Park.
In a statement, he and his siblings called her "an incredible woman — a force in business, a world-class athlete, a radiant beauty, and caring mother and friend."
"She fled from communism and embraced this country," the statement continued. "She taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination."
Ivanka Trump posted childhood photos of herself laughing and smiling with her mother, who she described as "brilliant, charming, passionate and wickedly funny."
A Czech-born ski racer and sometime model, Ivana met the future president in the 1970s and quickly perceived him as "smart and funny — an all-America good guy," as she wrote in a 2017 book. The couple married in 1977.
She became an icon in her own right, dripping with '80s style and elegance, complete with her signature blond updo. She influenced the look of the over-the-top Patsy Stone in the classic British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, with the character extolling Ivana as "tremendous" in one episode.
Ivana herself eventually appeared in the 1996 hit film The First Wives Club, delivering the now-famous line, "Ladies, you have to be strong and independent, and remember, don't get mad, get everything."
The Trumps became partners in love and business. She managed one of his Atlantic City casinos and helped make Trump Tower an image of '80s success (or excess, to some).
She overruled the architects to get an 18-metre waterfall installed in the tower's atrium, and went to an Italian quarry to pick out the rosy-beige Breccia Pernice marble that famously lines its floors and walls, according to Donald Trump biographer Wayne Barrett.
Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who was in charge of the skyscraper's construction, recalled Ivana helping the decorator and taking a strong interest in such details as the doormen's uniforms.
"She did all that to impress Donald, to win his approval," Res said. "She was traveling back and forth all the time, and leaving her kids. She had a tremendous work ethic."
The two were fixtures of New York's see-and-be-seen scene before their equally public and messy 1992 divorce. Donald had by then met his next wife, Marla Maples.
"I couldn't turn on the television without hearing my name," Ivana wrote in her book.
During the split, Ivana accused him of rape in a sworn statement. She later said that she didn't mean it literally, but rather that she felt violated.
Donald would say at times that he regretted having Ivana join him in business and blamed it for the unravelling of their marriage.
"I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing," he told ABC News in the early '90s. "If you're in business for yourself, I really think it's a bad idea to put your wife working for you," he said, complaining that when she turned into a businessperson, "a softness disappeared."
Supported the White House run
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 that year that she was giving him suggestions on his campaign.
"We speak before and after the appearances and he asks me what I thought," she said. 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 her book, she told ABC's 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 too frequently because of Donald's current wife, Melania Trump.
"I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife, OK?" Ivana said with a laugh. "I'm first lady, OK?"