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Comment: Ivanka Trump: The ‘Anti-Donald’ works to protect the billion-dollar brand

The Washington Post The Washington Post 28/03/2016 Mary Jordan, Jonathan O'Connell

While her 69-year-old father bashes Chinese leaders for “ripping us off” and “sucking us dry,” Ivanka Trump shares a video on Instagram of her 4-year-old daughter singing a Chinese New Year song in Mandarin.

With the elder Trump off running an increasingly polarising campaign for president, Ivanka Trump has been stepping up her profile in the family’s real estate empire, where she is seen as the “anti-Donald” protecting the family’s billion-dollar brand.

Last week, while Donald Trump was retweeting an unflattering picture of the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz, escalating their feud in the Republican presidential race, Ivanka was tweeting tasty recipes — spiced cauliflower and stuffed artichokes with peas and dill.

And Sunday evening Ivanka Trump, 34, brought her family more feel-good headlines and social media buzz when she gave birth to her third child, a son named Theodore James Kushner.

Just as consistently as her father spews inflammatory statements — “torture works” and “Islam hates us” — Ivanka offers her 1.8 million Twitter followers tips on such noncontroversial topics as sleeping better and dressing “chic” for #WomenWhoWork.

It’s not, however, easy to keep politics separate from business. This month, Ivanka Trump’s own line of shoes, clothes and accessories was removed from the Trump Organization’s main site as critics pointed out that much of her merchandise is made in China or other foreign countries even as her father bashes U.S. companies for moving work overseas.

Usually, though, it’s Ivanka Trump’s burden — as executive vice president of development and acquisitions — to deal with trouble her father stirred up. She lost two acclaimed chefs at the family’s $200 million Washington hotel project after Donald Trump described some Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”

New York Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he would no longer do business with the Trump company. Elected officials in Vancouver and Toronto asked the owners of the family’s buildings there to strip the Trump name from them.

Carefully scripted, Ivanka shies from the TV news shows her father thrives on, but she is increasingly appearing in Vogue, Elle Decor and other glossy magazines primarily aimed at women. She talks about balancing parenting and work and wears designer outfits and looks picture-perfect. No floppy suits, no flyaway hair. And never an off-the-cuff, outrageous statement.

This year, she has also crisscrossed the country, standing beside her father “playing a valuable role in softening his image,” as former Trump adviser Roger Stone said.

At Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, N.H., she greeted diners and posed with waitresses, urging them to vote for her father but ducking questions from reporters, saying, “I am just a daughter supporting her father.”

Her approach — being the balm to her father’s sharp stings — appears to have paid some dividends. Although Macy’s dropped her father’s lines of ties and suits after his remarks about Mexicans, the retailer continues to sell Ivanka’s products. She found a new restaurant for the D.C. hotel project, construction has continued on pace and owners of the Canadian projects ultimately stuck with the Trump name.

Ivanka Trump declined to be interviewed for this article, and she has hired public-relations experts to field her calls and try to spread the word that she is focused on her family and business — not politics. Many see her unerring focus on agreeable subjects like food and parenting as a calculated move to protect the business.

When asked why Ivanka avoids political comment, a person who works for her said, “Both Republicans and Democrats buy Ivanka Trump.”

While her father is being pilloried throughout Latin America, Ivanka Trump was just given the celebrity treatment on the cover of the Spanish-language Jetset magazine in Colombia. The article called her father “the outrageous candidate” but described Ivanka as “glamorous” and the “power” behind the business.

Still, one branding expert believes that the businesses remain vulnerable — particularly in countries where her products are popular yet where his comments have caused outrage.

“That’s where I think the campaign could really hurt her,” said Carol Spieckerman, a branding and retail consultant. “So I think she has to be even more careful and more deliberative in managing her image and brand abroad.”

Rob Frankel, a national brand specialist, said it takes a lot to commit brand suicide: “Remember: Martha Stewart was thrown in jail, and that was not the end of Martha Stewart. She established a healthy brand.”

But it is a smart move to add in the safer “Ivanka elements” — a millennial and working mum not engaging in divisive politics -— to the “master Trump brand,” Frankel said.

“She carefully considers her words when she speaks; she’s measured and thoughtful,” said Suzanne Hill, an environmental planner who has been in meetings with Ivanka as she has taken the lead on the Trump hotel project a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. “She is very different from her father.”

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, addresses supporters of her father’s campaign as he watches on. © AP Photo/Alex Sanz Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, addresses supporters of her father’s campaign as he watches on. One of the few times she comes close to making a partisan statement is when she repeats her father’s signature slogan — “Make America Great Again!” — in videos, like the ones widely shared in Iowa last month and Utah this month where she urges people to vote for her father. More typically, she tells voters in YouTube videos, digital ads and appearances that her father is a great dad who told her “I could do anything I set my mind to.”

A former model who has appeared as a judge on the “Apprentice” reality TV show that made her father famous, Ivanka has shown a Trumpian knack for attracting media attention.

Last month, she was on the cover of Town & Country magazine and used the feature to responded to claims that her father has made sexist remarks. “He 100 percent believes in equality of gender,” she said.

This month, Ivanka is in Cosmopolitan magazine, saying she is “wholly focused on the growth of my own company — my lifestyle brand and IvankaTrump.com, a digital destination for women who work.” She said she is working with her brothers “to expand the global footprint of the Trump Organization.”

Ivanka’s lifestyle is also distinct from her father’s. She is married to Jared Kushner, a real-estate mogul and publisher of the weekly New York Observer, who comes from a well-known Democratic family. She is friendly with Chelsea Clinton, who is also expecting a baby and campaigning for her mother. The two daughters have not been seen together recently, since their parents have begun to publicly shred each other.

Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before she married into Kushner’s Orthodox Jewish family in 2009. She has spoken about how she, her husband and two children observe the Jewish sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday — keeping away from phones for 25 hours and using it as a time to concentrate on family.

Donald Trump has told Jewish groups that he can’t call his daughter during that time. And, last week, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., Trump make a point of saying that any day now “my daughter Ivanka is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby.”

“Priorities are more important — you can’t plan to balance,” Ivanka Trump said in a Washington Post interview in 2013. “Something comes up . . . either a deal or . . . an emergency at home. . . . So anyone tries to strive for balance normally winds up at a loss. . . . I try and ask myself the question at the end of every day, ‘Were my priorities in order?’ ”

Until the last days of her pregnancy, Ivanka had been more visible on this campaign trail than her stepmother, Melania Knauss, Trump’s third wife, who was born in Slovenia. In fact, it was Ivanka who went to the microphone in the Trump Tower in Manhattan to introduce her father when he announced his candidacy last year.

Ivanka’s mother is Ivana Trump, the athlete and fashion model from the former Czechoslovakia and Donald Trump’s first wife. Famously, Ivana advised women who were divorcing: “Don’t get mad. Get everything!”

Ivana and Donald Trump also have two sons who work in the family business and have hit the campaign trail. Trump has another daughter with his second wife, Marla Maples, and a young son with Knauss. But it is Ivanka who is best known of the next generation of Trumps and who is developing a growing following of her own.

Lately, she has been spending a lot of time designing and building the luxury hotel in Washington, scheduled to open in September a few blocks from the White House.

Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, was one of those who met regularly for months with Ivanka and her team to hammer out the reuse of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion, often in a cramped government office room. “She’s young, so some of this stuff would be new. You could see her trying to figure it out — the wheels turning for her.” He said that Ivanka was always “very well prepared and very professional.”

She didn’t get everything she wanted and showed a willing to compromise, others said. The Trumps would have preferred to own the building, not lease it for 60 years, as they agreed to. The D.C. Preservation League raised a number of concerns about how the former post office would be redeveloped, such as when Ivanka proposed “something a little glam, a little baroque” for the interior courtyard, according to the group’s executive director, Rebecca Miller. She said that Ivanka listened and that the glitz was scaled back.

“She was very knowledgeable about the process, obviously very involved, not just a face piece,” Miller said.

Ivanka, after studying two years at Georgetown University, transferred to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, her father’s alma mater. And, like her father, she appeared on “The Apprentice,” wrote a best-selling book (“The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life”) and has offered tips on the art of negotiation.

Now many wonder if she will one day follow her father’s footsteps in politics.

“I just don’t know if she has any interest in it,” said Stone, the former Trump adviser, adding that she is now focused on raising her children and running her business.

Then again, he added: “There was also a time when that was true for Donald Trump.

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