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January 29, 2007

Trump Power

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Born to Build

A few weeks later, Ivanka is racing around her two-bedroom apartment in Trump Park Avenue, not far from her office. Luxurious but far from extravagant for an heiress, it cost $1.5 million, and she paid for it herself — sort of (with "a little nest egg," compliments of her grandparents, and a mortgage). On her shelves are a half-dozen books written by her father, the same number about her father, finance and real-estate textbooks, and a well-thumbed copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Tucked in halfway is a faded photograph of Ivanka being kissed by an ex on a yacht in the Mediterranean.

When Ivanka was growing up, her lavender bedroom on the 68th floor of Trump Tower had panoramic views of Central Park. Besides their 50-room triplex, there was the 45-room oceanfront country house in Greenwich, CT, and the 118-room Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, where Ivanka's bathroom — one of 33 — was decorated with tiles hand-painted by Walt Disney. She says she wanted to be a builder from "my first cognitive thought."

Ivanka used to love to play in her father's office and listen to him negotiate. "I'd sit on the floor and hear him bid out contracts. I just liked it. I mean, I was always a feminine tomboy, like I always dressed like a girl and acted like a boy, ha ha!"

Ivana Trump, a model from Czechoslovakia whom Donald met at a popular singles hangout called Maxwell's Plum, instilled a certain worldliness in her daughter. "She was very much my cultural influence," Ivanka says, adding that Mom was also the disciplinarian, spanking her in public on a few occasions. "I guess it was for the typical stuff: I once broke a chandelier with a beach ball. That didn't go over well," she recalls. "And then I blamed it on my brother."

Donald and Ivana encouraged the competition. "It's in our blood — we're highly competitive," Ivanka says, but the idea was always "to harness that competition and use it to propel us forward together, collectively, as a team." Once, during a family ski trip in Aspen, 7-year-old Ivanka and her father were racing down a mountain when all of a sudden she felt something on her back. "I was thinking, What the heck?" she recalls. "Then I realized he had taken his ski pole, hooked the back of my jumpsuit, and was pulling me backward so he could basically slingshot himself over the finish line. It was all in good fun, but we're very much like that."

The worst issue Ivanka has ever faced actually germinated on those very slopes, when her mother famously confronted her father's mistress, Marla Maples, during Christmas vacation in 1989. "You bitch! Leave my husband alone!" Mrs. Trump supposedly told the Georgia peach. Two months later, on the morning she found out her parents were separating, Ivanka was exiting the elite Chapin School when a horde of paparazzi started chasing her down the street, asking her to comment on her father's affair. After a local tabloid famously blared, "Best Sex I Ever Had" on the front page, a reporter asked Ivanka to confirm that Marla really had said that about her dad.

"Did I want to hear that?" Ivanka asks. "No. It was a terribly unpleasant experience. It gave me a glimpse into how ugly the world can be. And I think it made me a little bit more resilient. The school of hard knocks, right? There will be more situations like that, I'm sure, but that was a big one for me, at a difficult time, because adolescence is never easy to begin with."

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