Who Is Vanessa Trump? All About the 'Hands-On Mom' and Donald Trump Jr.'s Soon-to-Be Ex

Donald Trump, Jr. and his wife Vanessa grabbed headlines on Thursday when they announced they were splitting after more than 12 years of marriage

Donald Trump Jr. and his wife, Vanessa, grabbed headlines on Thursday when they announced they were splitting after more than 12 years of marriage.

The eldest son of President Donald Trump — who married Vanessa in 2005 at his father’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida — has spent much of his life in the spotlight, serving as Donald’s “eyes and ears” during seasons of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice, and becoming one of the most outspoken political advocates for the president since the 2016 election.

But Donald Jr.’s wife Vanessa, 40, has stayed mostly behind the scenes.

Here are 5 things to know about her.

1. She grew up not far from Trump Tower:

Grant Lamos IV/Getty

A New York City native, Vanessa grew up in a townhouse in Manhattan’s affluent Upper West Side neighborhood, The New York Times reported in 2006.

She studied at the Dwight School — one of the Big Apple’s oldest independent schools (founded in 1872) that, according to its website, offers an International Baccalaureate curriculum to students from nursery school to twelfth grade.

Classmate and lifelong friend Shawn Modell told The Times Vanessa played tennis there, and unlike others, was more focused on her small circle of friends than social advancement.

In her yearbook, she was voted “Most Likely to Wind Up on Ricki Lake,” New York magazine reported.

2. She once worked as a model:

Vanessa TrumpCR: Jimmy Bruch
Jimmy Bruch

Vanessa (under her maiden named Vanessa Haydon) had her eyes set on stardom well after graduation, with a small credited role in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give, per her IMDB page.

Since her mother, Bonnie Haydon, ran the Kay Models agency, it was only natural that Vanessa got her start in that business. According to The Times, she signed to the Wilhelmina modeling agency — her modeling career was really taking off when she met and wed Donald, Jr.

3. President Donald Trump introduced them — awkwardly

Mychal Watts/WireImage

Donald Trump introduced his son to his future wife at a fashion show in 2003, but their initial meeting was a little “awkward.”

“I’m at this fashion show,” Vanessa told The Times. “Donald Trump comes up to me with his son: ‘Hi, I’m Donald Trump. I wanted to introduce you to my son Donald Trump, Jr.’ ”

After a conversation described as “brief” and “awkward,” they were introduced again.

The pair were introduced for a third time six weeks later by a mutual friend at a birthday party at a New York restaurant, where they ended up hitting it off. “We talked for an hour,” Vanessa recalled.

Although the two initially didn’t remember each other from their first meeting, Vanessa says she recalled blurting at one point, Wait, you’re “the one with the re—-ed dad!”

4. She was once linked to Leonardo DiCaprio:

Steve Wood/REX/Shutterstock; Peter Jordan - PA Images/Getty

Before there was Donald Jr., there was Leonardo DiCaprio.

The two were linked by gossip reports back in 1998 after she was seen “nuzzling Leo at that premiere party at Moomba for James Toback’s Two Girls and a Guy,” New York magazine reported in a feature on the actor that same year.

They were also seen at a Tony Shafrazi Gallery opening at Bond St., the outlet reported.

Publicist Cindy Guagenti denied the relationship to New York in the feature, telling them,“he never dated her” in the feature.

5. She’s a hands-on mom


Vanessa shares five children with his soon-to-be ex: Kai Madison, 10, Donald III, 9, Tristan, 6, Spencer, 5, and Chloe Sophia, 3.

A source close to the Trump family tells PEOPLE Vanessa is “crazy about her kids, and she prides herself on being an incredibly hands-on mom. She may not even have a nanny.”

In a 2016 interview with PEOPLE, Ivanka called Vanessa “wonder woman” for the way she deftly handles her five children.

“My sister-in-law Vanessa is a machine. She can take all of [my children] and not even notice. She has five children and she’s Wonder Woman to me,” Ivanka said at the time.

“She can be taking care of them all simultaneously, each pulling on her and have direct meaningful connections with each of them at one time. It’s remarkable,” she added.

The family has been living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side while Donald, Jr. took over managing the Trump Organization with younger brother Eric after their father was elected president. On the weekends, Donald, Jr. and Vanessa often retreated with their kids to their home in upstate Roscoe, New York, known as Trout Town, USA.

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Amid their divorce, Vanessa and Donald, Jr. both said they are putting their kids first.

“We will always have tremendous respect for each other and our families,” they said in a statement about their split obtained by PEOPLE. “We have five beautiful children together and they remain our top priority. We ask for your privacy during this time.”

Vanessa filed for divorce late Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court, PEOPLE confirmed. The New York Post‘s Page Six, which first reported the news, said she filed for an uncontested proceeding — meaning there are likely no disagreements between them over issues including finances or child custody.

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