Free Fake Melania

Why we can’t resist—or dismiss—the week’s most delirious meme.

Real or Fake Melania?

NBC News

Melania Trump, with her big sunglasses, belted ensembles, and face-framing brown mane, has what you might call a signature look, one that wouldn’t be all that hard to re-create on another woman of similar height and build if, for some reason, another Melania were required. At least, that’s the rationale online sleuths and jokesters are using to argue that the first lady is using a body double.

After President Trump made an appearance with his wife on Friday in Maryland, speculation started bubbling up that actually the woman by his side wasn’t Melania, but some kind of stand-in. Paper magazine pointed to a Facebook post by Andrea Wagner Barton as the originator of the theory: “Is it me or during his speech today a decoy ‘stood in’ for Melania?? And…. Why would the moron say ‘my wife, Melania, who happens to be right here…’ ” That post has gathered more than 100,000 shares, which on Facebook makes it roughly as credible as the Encyclopedia Britannica was considered in the before times.* In the images from Friday, “Melania” has her face hidden by her usual big sunglasses, and a strange outline appears around her nose that makes it look, if you squint, like one of those fake noses on a pair of Groucho glasses with the eyebrows and mustache attached. Plus, the weather rendered Melania’s blowout a little less perfect than usual, revealing layers that usually aren’t visible, which is to say rare cracks in the smooth-surfaced exterior she usually boasts.

It took a few days, but in that wacky way social media mobs have of seizing on something and fixating on it regardless of evidence or reason, “fake Melania” became a Twitter obsession on Wednesday. Why are otherwise levelheaded people willing to make this leap? First of all, it’s pretty funny, and we all could use a little laughter. Where do these fake Melanias come from? What does that NDA look like? Nice to have a controversy that doesn’t involve people being kicked out of their countries or having their rights taken away. As far as we know!

But there’s also the Trump administration’s long record of ridiculous antics, which have conditioned us to believe that just about anything is possible. The man uses Scotch tape on his ties and owns a fake Renoir. A fake Time magazine with him on the cover as well as a plaque for a Civil War battle that never took place adorn his golf clubs. At this point, we don’t trust anything these people do. The idea of pulling a stunt like having a body double for the first lady and then ostentatiously lying about is just about as Trumpian as it gets.

And if anybody in the Trump administration had a body double, it would be Melania. The first lady didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic to move to Washington, to accompany her husband as his presidency was beginning, and her slowness to fill out her staff could also indicate a reluctance to participate in official White House activities. On social media, critics of Donald Trump have taken special glee in dissecting the moments when Melania seems to reject her husband’s hand or forget to hide the despair on her face. So the thought that maybe, just maybe, the real Melania is lying in a spa somewhere with cucumbers on her eyes, Barron by her side, binge-watching The Real Housewives of Ljubljana, waiting for 2021? It’s simply too delicious to resist.

*Correction, Oct. 18, 2017: This post originally misspelled Encyclopedia Britannica. (Return.)