Profile: Ivana Trump

Say what you like about Ivana Trump, says The Mail on Sunday, but the “patron saint of women scorned” certainly knows how to reinvent herself.

Say what you like about Ivana Trump, says The Mail on Sunday, but the "patron saint of women scorned" certainly knows how to reinvent herself.

After wresting $25m from Donald Trump in their 1992 divorce settlement, she "might have chosen to become another chunk of jewelled jetsam". But the woman who famously declared "don't get mad, get everything" has been true to her word. Over the past decade, she's been on a mission to out-trump Trump at every available opportunity. And she's doing a very good job indeed (see below).

Trump versus Trump

As "relentlessly self-promoting" as her ex-husband, Ivana started by writing glitzy novels chronicling the adventures of a beautiful Czech skier turned model who marries an "American gazillionaire", says Stella magazine. Later, she penned a self-help book for divorcees and launched a web business selling scents, costume jewellery and make-up under the umbrella of Ivana Haute Couture.

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But with her latest project, Ivana moves right onto Donald's territory: an 80-storey, lipstick-shaped skyscraper in Las Vegas that will tower over the paltry 64-storey building he's constructing nearby. Ivana denies starting a turf war, yet she knows how to ram home her advantage. Scheduled to open in 2008, the Ivana building is being marketed under the cheeky slogan, "In Vegas, Size Matters". Touch.

Iron maiden

Ivana first met "the Donald" in 1976 at a fashionable Manhattan restaurant, says the Daily Mail. "He offered us a table. I told my girlfriend I had good news and bad news the good news was that we could get a table fast, the bad news was that Donald was going to sit with us."

But it says something about Ivana's drive and confidence that she was in New York at all. Born in Communist Czechoslovakia in the factory town of Zlin, Ivana Zelnickova hardly had a glamorous upbringing. Her parents (engineer father; telephone operator mother) encouraged Ivana's talent as a skier as a means of getting to the West. She narrowly missed being selected for the 1972 Olympics, but still credits the sport for her "incredible discipline". It also opened doors. Ivana met, and swiftly married, the Austrian industrialist Freddie Winklmayr, emigrated to Canada, divorced him and began a lucrative modelling career.

The bounced Czech

After meeting and marrying Donald Trump, the pair swiftly became "the ultimate 1980s power couple", says Stella. Ivana's "famous salary" was $1 a year, plus all the couture dresses she wanted. She first heard of her husband's affair with Marla Maples while skiing in Aspen in 1990. "First there was the shock and then I got angry": she set out to prove she was more than "the bounced Czech".

Soon after, she was posing for the cover of Vanity Fair with a $1m book contract; a spate of lucrative commercials and voice-overs followed. At 56, the mother of three still "looks buff enough to crack walnuts between her thighs" and is "as rigorously maintained as the marble faade of her Regency mansion". Having dispatched her third husband, Italian businessman Riccard Mazzucchelli (1995-1997), "La Trumpette's" current beau is a 34-year-old model turned actor, Rossano Rubicondi. An older man wouldn't be able to cope with her "tremendous energy", she says.

"No one is using me for anything. I'm not the sort of person who gets used"

Ivana is certainly taking a risk in Las Vegas, says the LA Times: the city's "torrid" real-estate market has been ramped to new heights by a renewed wave of speculation and analysts predict a Vegas-sized "hangover" should the bubble burst.

That said, her actual exposure is difficult to gauge, says The National Post. "It's not known if she is putting any of her own cash into the Las Vegas development, or simply her name." But that in itself is enough to rile Trump, who says the project is a "bad deal". The location is wrong, he says, and "I'm afraid she is just being used by people who want her name to get something built".

Ivana does not take such slurs lying down: "No one is using me for anything. I'm not the type of person who gets used.'' As for using the Trump name, well, that's no more than her due. In 1999, she even claimed "proprietary rights" to the name "the Donald" when a New York bar made a cocktail of the same name, says The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Although the Ivana Tower is her most high-profile property project, she has long been quietly building a portfolio abroad. There's a luxury residential project, Ivana Great Barrier Reef, underway in Australia, with further projects in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Shanghai. In this particular skirmish with Trump, Ivana appears to be winning the PR battle, says The New York Times: allies claim that most of the apartments in the proposed Las Vegas tower have already been sold.

She's even stealing her ex's thunder when it comes to promotions. Announcing that "the Ivana standard of procuring only the best" will also apply to the tower's builders, she's just launched a competition to find America's 12 "hottest construction men".

Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.

She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.

Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.

She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.