Thanks to the ongoing efforts of a president that decries facts as “fake news” while peddling conspiracy theories and lying more than 20,000 times since he took office, it has become increasingly more difficult to decipher the realities of the Trump administration from their carefully-curated-but-ultimately-shallow facade. And nothing embodies that difficulty like the mystery of “Fake Melania,” who some theorised re-surfaced after the First Lady (or someone meant to look like her) was pictured traveling to Nashville, TN with her husband (or fake-husband) to attend the last presidential debate of the 2020 election.
On Thursday, a Melania Trump was photographed boarding Marine One wearing a black sleeveless dress and oversized black glasses. In the now-highly scrutinised photograph, "Melania" is seen smiling and waving. (Theorists call this a dead giveaway that this person was not, in fact, the real First Lady because she was...smiling.) The person in the photo (above) arguably looks quite different than the Melania Trump we've come to know and tolerate. And just as quickly as Melania typically recoils from her husband's touch, the internet began theorising about Fake Melania.
“Good luck finding any photos of Melania smiling like that,” George Conway, husband of former counsellor to the president Kellyanne Conway and avid never-Trumper, tweeted. “Not even anywhere close to being convincing Melania doubles,” user Daniel Noriega tweeted, along with pictures of so-called past Melania body doubles.
On the scale of conspiracy theories shadowing this administration — be it the president promoting a doctor who believes sex with “tormenting spirits” causes gynaecological problems, or Trump suggesting that ingesting common household cleaning products could treat COVID-19 — the possible existence of Fake Melania traveling the country with the president is relatively innocuous.
It’s also not all that far-fetched: Melania Trump notoriously postponed moving into the White House after her husband won the 2016 election, citing Barron’s education as a reason to stay in New York City longer than what would have been considered normal. She was also noticeably missing from the campaign trail, both in 2016 and 2020, and has gone weeks without making a single public appearance — many times throughout her husband’s presidency.
But it’s Melania’s apparent disdain for her husband that gives this conspiracy theory legs. The First Lady has frequently been captured shooing her husband away multiple times throughout his four-year presidency. Most recently, Melania was caught pulling her hand away from her husband’s after his last presidential debate performance. But the idea that Mrs. Trump would rather spend her time renegotiating her prenuptial agreement and colour-coordinating her “I really don’t care, do you?” jackets from the safety and security of the White House residence while some poor Melania look-alike handles her public engagements is, at the very least, possible.
Yes, Melania Trump questioned the citizenship of the first Black president of the United States right along with her husband. And yes, she encouraged her husband to run for president, and stood proudly by him when he announced his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. But it has appeared, more than once, that the first lady doesn’t actually like her husband very much — she just likes the quality of life he has been able to provide her. Apparently.