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January 29, 2007

Trump Power

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Ivanka, the Apprentice

For our final visit, Ivanka wears a black Brioni suit and carries a red Chanel bag. When she strides into the restaurant, she offers me a social kiss. Don't mind if I do!

She's just returned from a vacation in Argentina, where she rode horses, shot skeet and trap, and tried not to think about work. She looks refreshed — early this morning she did some boxing in her building's gym. She gives me the basics on the "extremely high-end" jewelry company she hopes to start: She wants the first store to open on Madison Avenue, possibly by spring.

"It's exciting for me, particularly because it would be the first thing I've done under my own name," she says. Ivanka has had offers from the jewelry industry before, but like so many other lame or inappropriate proposals tossed her way (reality shows, movies, product promotions), she turned them all down.

"I obviously have a great love and appreciation of jewelry, thanks to my mother, much to the dismay of both my father and my boyfriends," she says, chuckling. "But it doesn't matter how much I love jewelry; I wouldn't do it if it weren't going to be successful." She swallows a forkful of foie gras. "I know people assume I could coast on what other generations have done before me," she says. "But I know I have to prove myself within the company, to my father and everyone we work with." I ask her if she is ever bothered by having to seek Daddy's approval."No, I strive for it," she says. "I'd like to say I was bigger than needing it, but I'm not. Ultimately, he is my boss, and his approval validates everything I'm working on. He is a great real-estate genius. There's no doubt in my mind."

She assures me that her father wouldn't hesitate to fire her. "It could be for anything. Why do people get fired? You mess up. But ultimately, worse than being fired would be to be demoted. To be diminished — him slowly taking control away because he didn't want to hurt my feelings. Like, I didn't do anything bad, but I didn't do anything good, either. That would be a nightmare for me," she concludes. "To have this existence of mediocrity. Everything about mediocrity kills me."

Any chance, I ask, that she'd give up working for the Trump Organization, maybe move to Tibet and take a vow of poverty? "No, no, no," she says. "But I don't do this for the money. If I weren't making money, I'd still do this."

Ivanka checks the time. "Gotta go!" she says, getting up. She offers her cheek again and is out the door in seconds. Dazed, I sit back down and ask for the check, but the waiter shakes his head. Why am I not surprised that Ivanka has already picked it up?

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