Melania Quietly Emerges From the Shadows—at a Sparse Event for Log Cabin Republicans

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Melania Trump’s soft launch back onto the campaign trail—or at least the fundraising circuit—began in earnest over the weekend, with the former first lady making an appearance for Log Cabin Republicans at a quiet Mar-a-Lago event.

Although she was with former President Donald Trump for a high-dollar soirée in Palm Beach earlier this month, Melania’s Saturday evening cameo for gay Republicans was her first solo appearance this election cycle. And as far as headliners for LGBT conservatives, the former first lady was a major get, as the Log Cabin Republicans group officially kicks off its 2024 election season.

Melania—wearing a black Michael Kors pantsuit with a taut black belt and a pair of Christian Louboutin heels to match—was introduced by gay Republican Ric Grenell, who served in the Trump administration and is now a “shadow secretary of state” for Trump. (Grenell was Trump’s U.S. ambassador to Germany before becoming acting Director of National Intelligence for three months, making him the first openly gay person to serve in a presidential Cabinet.)

In a brief video clip of the event, Melania is seen making her entrance to polite—but notably light—applause. She then stands about six feet from a lectern as Grenell awkwardly fumbles with the microphone before introducing her. The gathering was large enough that they used a microphone, but small enough that they didn’t really seem to need one.

Throughout the entire clip, the crowd is so quiet that you can hear some version of hotel lobby muzak.

While the event didn’t draw many people, it did get some notable names. In attendance was Trump attorney Alina Habba, Trump campaign senior adviser Lynne Patton, and Caitlyn Jenner, as well as Jenner’s manager, Sophia Hutchins, who’s a Trump 2024 surrogate and convention delegate.

Hutchins told The Daily Beast the former first lady was “electric” in her solo return.

“Melania is a very private figure, and her public appearances never disappoint,” said Hutchins, a Log Cabin Republicans board member.

But the former first lady’s much-anticipated return to the trail was only for a select few.

According to a source familiar with the planning, there were only about 60 people in attendance—including staff. The event was so small that the gathering was held in the resort’s tea room, right off the main living room at Mar-a-Lago. (A pair of weddings occupied the main ballrooms at Mar-a-Lago Saturday night, leaving the Log Cabin group with limited options, the source said.)

Also notable about the crowd was the gender breakdown. It was roughly 60 percent women in attendance, the source said.

That brief video from the event indeed shows a scant crowd, with only 28 people appearing in a clip that an attendee posted to Instagram. Democratic influencer and former Florida attorney Ron Filipkowksi later posted that video to X.

‘Where’s Melania?’: She’s Not Standing by Her Man at Trial

For those who ponied up to see Melania, they not only helped the LGBT members in ramping up their political activities for the cycle; they also showed who’s in the former first lady’s corner, as she remains one of the biggest enigmas in Trumpworld.

It’s still unclear how often Melania will be appearing on the campaign trail—either with her husband or on her own—but it’s now obvious Melania won’t entirely sit out the 2024 campaign.

The former first lady also showed she can still get a decent bang for her buck with a short appearance, something the cash-strapped Trump campaign desperately needs.

The source familiar with the planning said the Log Cabin Republicans took in over $1 million in pledged donations within 24 hours of the event. Each attendee, this person said, gave between $10,000 and $250,000, with the proceeds going to a get-out-the-vote effort for the gay GOP group.

Mar-a-Lago members also covered costs for putting on the event, the source added.

While Melania’s appearance is certainly notable for the 2024 campaign, perhaps more notable is that the former first lady has recently staffed up. Republicans familiar with her moves told The Daily Beast that Melania has now hired her own campaign aides, an outside public relations team, and another set of staff separate from her husband’s post-presidency office.

The Trumps Aren’t Style Icons. That Title Belongs to This Pair

The combination of the former first lady and the Log Cabin Republicans was an interesting one, given Melania’s general aversion to political appearances and the LGBTQ community’s complicated relationship with the GOP.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, then-RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel faced a call for her resignation over the RNC hosting an event for the Log Cabin Republicans back in 2021, later leading to an RNC spokesperson issuing a statement declaring that McDaniel “made it abundantly clear that this does not mean we are advocating for any policy or RNC platform change.”

Although the event Saturday wasn’t anywhere close to as packed as other events at Mar-a-Lago, those who did show up signaled their loyalty to the former first lady.

Hutchins, who invited Habba and Patton as her guests, said she wanted them there to demonstrate how the former president’s most loyal “right hands” will also be there for his wife during a tough election year.

“I’ve been around Melania for over a decade, socially, and obviously since her husband entered politics,” Hutchins said. “She’s always had that mystique about her. But whenever she gets into a room with people… she is electric, and we saw that on Saturday night.”

“She was truly electric,” Hutchins continued. “Happy. Energetic. And, I think, quite frankly, thrilled to be there with a group of people there to support her.”

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