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Why Won’t Ivanka Just Let Herself Be a Trump?

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This Sunday, Ivanka Trump, 27, will marry Jared Kushner, 28. They seem to be the perfect match: Both are tall, with unblemished skin that appears to be lit from within by wealth and privilege. Both are the progeny of real-estate moguls who have known the taint of disrepute. Both have taken pains to cultivate sober, hardworking, and more refined reputations for themselves within their family businesses as well as without (he owns the New York Observer; she runs her own jewelry line). Their wedding will, by all accounts, be a sedate and tasteful affair: The bride will be wearing a Vera Wang inspired by Grace Kelly. Afterward, according to “Page Six,” the couple will release a single photo, “as John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette did.” They registered for a $34 Bundt-cake pan at Williams-Sonoma.

Contrast this with her father’s wedding to his third wife, Melania. The bride wore a $100,000 Christian Dior gown with a thirteen-foot train and a sixteen-foot veil that spiraled off her head like a tulle tornado. The cake was five feet tall. The couple registered for an $1,800 Palladium Platinum Edge china set from Tiffany.

Ivanka’s restraint is not just a sign of the times. Rather, it’s characteristic of “the next generation of Trump,” a slogan that appears in her just-released self-help book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life. Ivanka made the media rounds last week, appearing in pearl-drop earrings on Nightline and in a low-cut power suit on Good Morning America. The confluence of wedding—the couple became engaged only in July—and book-publishing dates turned out to be, as Ivanka would put it, an “angle of opportunity.” The ensuing publicity blitz has also allowed her to try to shift the public perception of the Trump brand.

In her book, Ivanka praises her parents’ creation of the Trump brand, which has “come to represent the highest caliber of luxury and excellence.” But it’s clear that aspects of the family’s image make her squirm. She writes of being mortified by her parents’ tabloid divorce and, later, of her father’s 2005 Emmy Awards skit, in which he sang the Green Acres theme song while wearing a straw hat and overalls. Watching him strut around onstage, “I caught myself wondering how I might describe it to any of our overseas associates, who might not have such a nuanced appreciation for how my father had positioned himself here at home at the intersection of business and popular culture.”

Ivanka, with her pearls and perfect posture, wants to be taken seriously, and much of the book centers on the many ways in which she has avoided being treated like the child of clowns. Her personal desire to surpass expectations is understandable, even admirable. But she flies in the face of the most valuable aspects of the Trump brand: that luxury doesn’t have to be stuffy, and that being rich is fun.

Ivanka’s interview tips (“You don’t want your perfume … to overwhelm the person across the table”) betray little sense that she understands why the brand is so compelling. Unlike her mother, Ivana, whose last marriage, to a much-younger Italian playboy, featured performances by Neil Sedaka, a twelve-foot-high cake, and Ivanka’s brother Donald Jr. toasting his mother’s “great boobs.” No one would have mistaken the affair for one held by the Kennedys. It was Trump all the way.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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