The Mercury News
New York magazine has revealed that it enlisted a then-unknown model named Melania Knauss to kiss a New York City firefighter for the cover of its special 2002 Valentine’s Day issue.
That unknown model has, of course, since transformed into the globally famous and sometimes controversial U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, who is married to the always controversial President Donald Trump.
Four months after the 9/11 attacks, New York magazine said it wanted to do something to pay tribute to first responders, especially members of the FDNY, after more than 300 firefirefighters died rescuing people from the World Trade Center. The magazine said its editors had the last-minute idea of recreating Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famed 1945 photograph of a sailor and nurse kissing in Times Square on V-J Day. The photo would be for its “Love After 9/11” cover.
For the image, photographer Firooz Zahedi enlisted a real New York City firefighter, Daniel T. Keane, and a young woman from a modeling agency. The photo would show the model grabbing the firefighter and kissing him.
Back in 2002, Melania Trump was just a struggling Slovenian-born model, who was living in the United States on the so-called “Einstein visa.” The 31-year-old had been dating Trump on and off since 1998. Trump was not yet a reality TV star with “The Apprentice,” but he was still a celebrity — a tabloid magnet for his elaborate lifestyle, his scandalous divorces and romances, his hotel and casino bankruptcies, his Miss Universe pageants, his friendships with questionable types like Jeffrey Epstein, and his regular appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show.
New York magazine said it never expected to feature a future first lady on its cover, and had forgotten the 2002 photo shoot until journalist Matt Haber reminded editors of the fact.
New York said Haber contacted Keane this week. Keane, now an FDNY battalion chief, told Haber he remembers the shoot well.
“The person who was doing my hair and makeup, they said, ‘Do you know who that is?’” he recalled. “I don’t know any models, I really wasn’t into the scene. And they said, ‘That’s Melania Knauss… That’s Donald Trump’s girlfriend.’ And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’”
But the real celebrities in New York after 9/11 were not glitzy, self-promoting real estate developers, but its first responders, according to former New York editor Caroline Miller. “After 9/11 firefighters were the heroes of New York—they were the rock stars,” she said.
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