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The unusual, traditional First Lady



The First Lady has largely steered clear of the political fray

Melania Trump addressed the second night of the 2020 Republican National Convention on Tuesday, calling on the US to think to reflect on “racial unrest in our country”. It was a rare – and possibly reluctant – step into the spotlight for the First Lady.

In 1998, Donald Trump, already fabulously wealthy and charismatic but possessed of a still ordinary-looking head of hair, was probably used to getting a phone number when he asked.

But when the property mogul tried it on that year with a young model, at a party in New York, he couldn’t quite close the deal. “I am not giving you my number,” countered 28-year-old Melania Knavs. “You give me yours, and I will call you.”

Fast-forward seven years and the pair tied the knot in a star-studded bash at his Florida estate. Fast-forward again and Mrs Trump is now the First Lady of the United States. But who is she?

A ‘traditional’ First Lady

Glamorous and entirely devoted to her husband and his success, Mrs Trump, 50, has been cast as a kind of retro presidential spouse, a modern-day Jackie Kennedy.

When Mr Trump first hinted at tilting for the top office, in 1999, she told reporters: “I would be very traditional, like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy.”

But there are ways in which she has been a less-than-traditional First Lady: she is the first to have previously posed nude for a magazine.

During the last presidential race, supporters of Ted Cruz – Mr Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination in 2016 – seized on her work as a model, overlaying an image of her posing naked with the warning: “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or you could vote for Ted Cruz”.

Early in 2016, a lewd phone interview with Mr and Mrs Trump by shock-jock radio presenter Howard Stern resurfaced, in which Mr Stern quizzed Mrs Trump about what she was wearing (“almost nothing”) and how often she had sex with Mr Trump (“every night, sometimes more”), and described her to Mr Trump as “that broad in your bed”. The interview prompted accusations of misogyny.

Mrs Trump has also sued the Daily Mail over an article she claims implies that she was a sex worker in the 1990s. The newspaper agreed to pay damages and apologised to the First Lady in April 2017.

Her treatment has been compared by some commentators to “slut-shaming” – the practice of attacking women over certain ways of dressing or acting.

From Slovenia to New York

Mrs Trump was born Melanija Knavs in Sevnica, a small town about an hour’s drive from Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, to a relatively well-off family. Her father Viktor worked for the mayor of nearby Hrastnik before becoming a successful car salesman. Her mother, Amalija, designed prints for a fashion brand.

Melania studied design and architecture in Ljubljana. It was claimed on her professional website that she held a degree, but it later emerged that she dropped out during her first year. The website was eventually scrubbed entirely and redirected to Mr Trump’s business site.

What was Melania Trump like in Slovenia?

At 18, she signed with a modelling agency in Milan and began flying around Europe and the US, appearing in high-profile ad campaigns. It was at a party at New York Fashion week that she met Mr Trump.

Like her husband, she never drinks, according to reports, and shies away from late-night parties. She had her own branded jewellery business and was reportedly involved in the design process.

The pair married in 2005 and had a son, Barron, in 2006.

She did not initially move in to the White House with her husband after his election victory, remaining in New York until the end of Barron’s school term before joining the president in Washington in 2017.

Since moving in she has helped out with the annual White House Christmas decorations.

First Lady Melania Trump reveals White House Christmas decorations

Mrs Trump has apparently squared her background with her husband’s attacks on immigration – declaring that she did everything by the book.

“It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers,” she told Harpers Bazaar. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa.”

In July 2020, a statue of the First Lady in her native Slovenia – which some compared to a character from The Smurfs – was set alight, prompting a police investigation.

‘Policies are my husband’s job’

Mrs Trump has largely steered clear of the political fray, confining her appearances to standing by her husband’s side. “I chose not to go into politics and policy,” she said in a 2016 interview with GQ. “Those policies are my husband’s job.”

Her one big moment of the 2016 campaign came when she took centre stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention in July for the traditional spousal speech, and it did not go well.

Commentators quickly noticed remarkable similarities with Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008, and the ensuing plagiarism scandal overshadowed what she had to say.

In 2018 she generated huge controversy after wearing a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do you?” written on the back on a trip to a migrant child detention centre.

There was intense media speculation about why Melania Trump chose to wear the jacket after her trip

“It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticising me,” she later told ABC news. “I want to show them I don’t care.”

Despite these incidents she remains something of an unknown quantity compared with her predecessors. According to GQ, she does advise her husband, but is tight-lipped about what that consists in.

“Nobody knows and nobody will ever know,” she said. “Because that’s between me and my husband.”–BBC

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Foreign News

The marathon Indian wedding turning heads around the world




After months of festivities, the Ambani wedding is finally coming to an end [BBC]

How much is too much?

That’s the question many in India are asking as the months-long wedding festivities for the youngest son of Asia’s richest man enter their final phase.

The celebrations are expected to culminate this weekend when Anant Ambani, the youngest son of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, ties the knot with Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons Viren and Shaila Merchant.

There have been four months of lavish events leading up to the wedding itself. All the glamourous outfits, stunning jewellery, fairytale-like decor and rare performances by Indian and global stars have been the focus of much public attention.

“It is nothing short of a royal wedding,” says writer and columnist Shobhaa De. “Our billionaires are the new Indian maharajahs. Their shareholders expect nothing less than a mega extravaganza.”

Indians “have always loved pomp and pageantry – just like the British”, she says, adding that “the scale [of the wedding] is in keeping with the Ambani wealth”.

But the hullabaloo around the wedding has drawn as much ire as public fascination. Many have criticised the opulence and the sheer magnitude of wealth on display in a country where tens of millions live below the poverty line and where income equality is extreme.

The wedding can easily be seen as a kind of a mockery, a sort of blindness to the reality of the country at one level. At another level, however ridiculous this might be, it is still in keeping with the grossly distorted, almost grotesque bloating of Indian weddings in the last decade or so,” writer and commentator Santosh Desai tells the BBC.

“It is part of a larger shift that is taking place. A generation or two ago, wealth was spoken of in whispers. Today, wealth must speak as loudly as possible. Even then, the scale of this wedding makes it an outlier.”

Getty Images The Ambani house in Mumbai
The main wedding is set to take place at the family residence in Mumbai [BBC]
EPA Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani (R) and his wife Neeta Ambani gesture during a mass wedding ceremony for underprivileged couples at Reliance Corporate Park, in Navi Mumbai, India, 02 July 2024
Parents Neeta and Mukesh Ambani are leaving no stone unturned to make the celebrations memorable [BBC]

With a sprawling business empire – ranging from oil, telecoms, chemicals, technology and fashion to food – the Ambanis are a ubiquitous presence in India and their lives are the subject of intense public fascination.

Mr Ambani’s personal fortune is estimated at a staggering $115bn (£90bn). Anant, 29, holds a position on the Reliance Industries board of directors.

Ambani senior, along with fellow Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani, is reported to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, with opposition parties accusing the authorities of unduly favouring the two business houses – accusations both the government and the businessmen deny.

While the Ambani family’s enormous wealth and clout are well known in India, many outside the country may not have realised the extent of their riches until now.

That changed in March, when Mr Ambani hosted a three-day pre-wedding party for his son.

Reuters Indian actress Janhvi Kapoor poses on the red carpet during the sangeet ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant at Jio World Centre, Mumbai, India, July 5, 2024.
Some of Bollywood’s biggest stars, like Janhvi Kapoor, have attended the pre-wedding events [BBC]
Reuters A band plays drums during the pre-wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant outside the residence of Mukesh Ambani, in Mumbai, India, July 3, 2024.
The festivities have included musicians, parties, luxury cruises and several traditional ceremonies [BBC]

The festivities were held in the family’s hometown Jamnagar in the western state of Gujarat, which is also the location of Mr Ambani’s oil refinery – the largest in the world. Some 1,200 guests attended, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The party began with a dinner held inside a glasshouse especially built for the occasion. The stunning structure reportedly resembles Palm House, a crystalline Victorian-style building located in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which was a favourite of Ms Merchant when she was a college student in New York City.

The feast was followed by a performance by Rihanna and viral videos showed the Ambani family grooving with the popstar on stage. If people hadn’t been paying attention, they definitely were now.

Reuters Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses with Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, during their pre-wedding celebrations in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was among the guests at the pre-wedding celebrations in March [BBC]
Reuters Rihanna performs in Jamnagar for the Ambani pre-wedding party
Popstar Rihanna performed for the family in March [BBC]

Through it all, dozens of speciality chefs served some 2,000 dishes, carefully curated from around the world, to guests lodged in luxury tents, with personal makeup artists and stylists at their service.

There was also a 10-page manual on the dress code for the events, which included a “jungle fever” theme for a visit to a family-owned animal sanctuary, followed by a Moulin Rouge-themed “house party” held at the sprawling grounds of their palatial residence.

The bride-to-be wore a number of specially crafted outfits, including two lehngas (long bridal silk skirts) – one studded with 20,000 Swarovski crystals and another that reportedly took 5,700 hours to make – and a pink version of a Versace dress that actor Blake Lively wore to the 2022 Met Gala.

The groom mostly wore Dolce & Gabbana outfits and flaunted a Richard Mille wristwatch, worth an estimated $1.5m. A viral video of Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan gawking at the watch went viral in India.

Newspapers and websites perfectly captured the opulence of these dazzling events, attended by the glitterati from around the world. “It was almost like the time of maharajahs 100 years down the line,” the New York Times reported.

Reuters Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani, sons of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, pose with Shloka Mehta Ambani, wife of Akash, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, during pre-wedding celebrations of Anant and Radhika in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024. Reliance
Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani with Shloka Mehta Ambani, wife of Akash, and bride-to-be Radhika Merchant [BBC]

There was also backlash after India’s government overnight designated the city’s small airport into an international airport, expanded its staff and deployed military and air force personnel in service of the family.

The final night of the three-day jamboree, which ended with a shower of confetti, fireworks and a lightshow, set the tone for what was to come next.

In June, the couple and their guests took their pre-wedding celebrations overseas, literally. The party, which included top Bollywood stars, embarked on a luxury cruise along the stunning azure coastline of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy, to the French Mediterranean.

They stopped in Rome, Portofino, Genoa and Cannes for late-night revelry that reportedly brought complaints from local people.

This time, the celebrations had performances by 90s teen heartthrobs The Backstreet Boys, singer Katy Perry and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

This week, yet another set of wedding celebrations kicked off on the family’s home turf, Mumbai, with a performance by Justin Bieber.

A video of him singing at the edge of the stage as the bride and her friends sing along has been viewed 38 million times. It shows ecstatic women in sequined gowns and saris as they punch their fists skyward in glee. The crowd doesn’t miss a beat to Bieber’s verse: You should go and love yourself.

Instagram Justin Bieber performing at party for the Ambanis
Justin Bieber’s performance captured attention around the world [BBC]

Reuters Anant Ambani, son of businessman Mukesh Ambani, arrives with his fiance Radhika Merchant on the red carpet during the sangeet ceremony at Jio World Centre, Mumbai, India, July 5, 2024.
Groom and bride have made public appearances throughout the celebrations [BBC]

The scale of the celebrations show that nothing is out of reach for the family. And there is speculation that Adele could be performing at the actual wedding this weekend – the family, however, are tight-lipped.

Of course, India isn’t a stranger to the concept of big fat weddings – the country is the largest spender on marriage ceremonies after the US.

Tina Tharwani, co-founder of the Shaadi Squad, says in recent years, there’s been a noticeable trend where weddings have become larger-than-life events that veer towards excessiveness, driven by societal expectations, competitive displays of status, and a desire to create memorable moments.

So, we’ve seen expensive weddings routinely make headlines in recent years, such as this $74mwedding in 2016.

Other Ambani children have also had lavish pre-wedding festivities. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among attendees at Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding bash in 2018, which featured a performance by Beyoncé. A year later, Akash Ambani’s pre-wedding bash featured a performance by Coldplay.

Reuters Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, shares a moment with Ivanka Trump during pre-wedding celebrations of Ambani's son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 1, 2024
Ivanka Trump (left) met Nita Ambani at the pre-wedding celebrations in March [BBC]
Reuters Actor Shah Rukh Khan, his wife Gauri and their son AbRam pose during the pre-wedding celebrations of Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India
Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan has attended the pre-wedding events [BBC]

When it comes to scale, though, this is the mother of all weddings, says Ashwini Arya, owner of an event management company that has managed weddings in 14 countries.

“It’s like the bible for the industry with the best of logistics, tech, design and grandeur.

“You’re talking about preparations of a minimum of two years, multiple recce trips, approvals and permissions from several countries, along with the logistics of arranging security and transport for some of the biggest personalities of the world,” he says.

EPA Ambani family hosts mass wedding for underprivileged couples in Mumbai, India - 02 Jul 2024
As part of celebrations, the family hosted a mass wedding for underprivileged couples [BBC]

The Ambanis have not revealed how much this wedding is costing them but Mr Arya estimates that they have already spent nywhere between 11bn and 13bn rupees [$132m-$156m]. It was rumoured Rihanna had been paid $7m (£5.5m) for her performance, while the figure suggested for Bieber is $10m.

Money was also lavished on constructing 14 temples inside a sprawling complex in Jamnagar to showcase India’s cultural heritage and provide a backdrop for the wedding. As part of the celebrations, the Ambanis hosted a mass wedding for 50 underprivileged couples too.

It’s being said the family pulled out all the stops because with all the Ambani children married, this would be their last wedding for the foreseeable future.

But with each event, public criticism of the celebration in India has grown – from people aghast at the massive jewels worn by Nita Ambani to exasperation and anger among Mumbai residents over traffic restrictions in a city already struggling with traffic jams and monsoon flooding.

Reuters Decorations seen outside the Ambani residence, Antilia during the pre-wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Mumbai, India, July 3, 2024.
The celebrations have caused anger and exasperation among Mumbai residents [BBC]
Reuters Actors Salman Khan, Ram Charan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan perform during the pre-wedding celebrations of Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024
But for Bollywood’s biggest names, this is the place to be [BBC]

For India’s wedding industry though, it’s still an exciting marketing opportunity.

This is an excellent chance for designers to showcase the more refined side of India’s couture, artistry and craftsmanship, says Anand Bhushan, a fashion designer. That said, the frequency, with celebrities changing five-six outfits per event can sometimes feel a “little saturating”, he admits.

Ms Tharwani says the wedding serves as “an exemplary case” of orchestrating a multi-event, multi-location celebration “that combines tradition, modernity, and unmatched hospitality standards”.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, Varindar Chawla, one of Bollywood’s best-known paparazzi, is sifting through the photographs of the celebrations.

There are a few of celebrities posing at the entrance as they arrive to attend the various events.

Each one of these pictures – even the unflattering ones, such as of a star looking stunned as the glare of a camera-flash hits them in the face – has been fetching millions of views and shares.

“Usually it’s hard to penetrate events of this scale. But this family has gone out of the way to ensure we are there to cover every little detail,” he says.

“It’s a royal wedding and we are getting a royal treatment.”


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Lilamani celebrates birthday with style



Gracious charm and hospitality at its best was enjoyed by the many friends and relations who gathered to wish Lilamani, popularly called “Lala,” all the best on her birthday, celebrated at the Victorian Room of the Kingsbury Hotel.

The guests enjoyed sparkling conversation, and cake and wine. There was a gourmet spread and music from a live band.Of course style was right on top of the ring and many women gave the impression of having stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine.

With Lilamani and her sisters and nieces among the best dressed, her friends, too, joined the brigade of style. Some doned exquisite sarees and glamorous gowns while others kept it minimal, yet stylish, in smart casuals.

By Zanita Careem

Dr. Lilamani Wijayaratna was a general Physician who worked in UK, having qualified from the Colombo Medical Faculty, she served as a medical officer for many years in Sri Lanka before she moved to UK.

While medicine and fashion are for apart Dr. Lilamani, or “Lala” as friends called her was the exception to the rule.””

“My first love was medicine” she says recalling her desire to be a doctor which was my childhood dream’’ While this desire was within her throughout, style and fashion was part of her life. Hailing from a creative family, her father,Donald Wijayaratna, owner of the then popular Donald Studios and her artistic and creative mother who she adores, had a strong influence on her life and career.Lilamani affirms that her parents creative genes influenced her in many ways than one . ‘I feel my mother’s fashion vibes were felt within me from childhood. From the time time we were kids my mother made sure we were impeccably dressed and fashion was always part of our dressing sense’ she says.Having broken into the fashion world while being a doctor, Lilamani had many fashion shows in UK as well as in Sri Lanka showcasing her clothes designed by her.

Now back home on a permanent basis after a lucrative career in UK, Lilamani is now very much involved in sustainable welfare and social work.She is not just adored by her friends for success in her medical career, but also her style mantra. Whenever and wherever she attends an event , Lilamani emerges as a mesmerising embodiment of elegance leaving an indelible imprint on the tapestry of fashion,effortlessly embodying a harmonious blend of grace,style and timeless allure.

Her birthday soiree was nothing short of a glamorous affair. For this grand occasion, Lilamani wore a stunning ensemble which was both classic and stunning. Some of Lilamani’s batchmates from the Medical College were in attendance. Will Lilamani with her talent and creativity take up to designing clothes?

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Joey Clothing opens flagship store



Joey Clothing, celebrated for infusing joy and happiness into women’s wardrobes across the island recently opened its flagship store at 109 Isipathana Mawatha, Colombo 05. The grand opening event featured an exclusive high-tea and a runway show highlighting Joey’s latest clothing collection.

The beautifully designed flagship store offers shoppers a unique experience with racks of Joey’s signature ‘Happinesswear’. Each piece is crafted from the finest, lightweight fabrics in pleasing colours and patterns, designed to uplift spirits and ensure comfort and style. Joey Clothing’s designs are tailored to fit the Sri Lankan body structure and shape, providing unique styles, cuts, and fits.

This brand was founded by Rashmi Wijekoon, inspired by her personal journey. Reflecting on her postpartum experience, Rashmi shared, “After giving birth to my son, I struggled to find clothes that were comfortable, stylish, and made me feel confident. This challenge led to the creation of Joey Clothing, transforming a mere idea into a reality.”

Launched online over half a decade ago, Joey Clothing quickly grew as women across Sri Lanka resonated with the brand’s promise of stylish, comfortable clothing. The organic growth of the brand highlights the happiness Joey Clothing brings to its customers. Rashmi’s authentic connection with the brand, combined with minimally styled lifestyle shots, has helped Joey Clothing stand out in the market. The increasing number of new and returning customers highlights Joey as one of Sri Lanka’s premier and emerging local female fashion stores.

“All I aimed to do was create something for all women—designs that were on-trend, stylish, and allowed them to feel comfortable throughout their day,” Rashmi explained. “The overwhelming response and the growth of our customer base confirmed the real need for such clothing. This led to the establishment of our online store and now the opening of our flagship store.”

The concept of ‘Happinesswear’ is embedded in every aspect of Joey Clothing. Each design is crafted for ease of movement, using premium lightweight fabrics ideal for Sri Lanka’s tropical climate. The bright patterns and colours are designed to evoke the essence of island life. Joey Clothing ensures that women feel comfortable and confident through all stages of life.

Joey Clothing is also dedicated to uplifting local communities by employing individuals in the production and manufacturing processes. The brand is 100% homegrown, empowering local men and women and providing livelihoods that enhance their lives and the lives of their families.

The flagship store’s vibrant yet minimal design sets it apart from other retail spaces in Sri Lanka, offering an inviting atmosphere to experience the joy of Joey Clothing in person. Customers can explore a wide selection of the brand’s collections available for purchase.

From excelling at Colombo University to running one of Sri Lanka’s upcoming clothing e-commerce stores, Rashmi Wijekoon continues to lead Joey Clothing’s organic growth both online at and now in-store. Shoppers can visit Joey Clothing’s store in Battaramulla or the new flagship store in Colombo 05.

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