Before she was Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president of the United States, she was Ivanka Trump, daughter of a real estate mogul.
The benefit of nepotism is likely to give you a pretty easy life. But being the child of a very famous rich person can also put you under a lot of pressure, as explored in the 2003 documentary Born Rich.
Directed by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson, the film explores the lives of the world’s wealthiest offspring, and the taboos of the 1 per cent.
It provided a window into privilege that may have been shocking then, but now feels normal at this point – just look at the Kardashians. If not particularly well made, the documentary benefits from unimaginable access to some of the most recognisable heirs including Georgina Bloomberg (daughter of Michael), Condé Nast heir SI Newhouse IV, and of course, Ivanka Trump.
Trump arguably comes off better than most of the fellow heirs interviewed in the documentary. Unlike the other rich kids who took part, she is reluctant to boast about her life – she almost weirdly seems humble.
Throughout the film, she gives some vague insights into what it’s like being a Trump and the expectations that come with her surname – nothing too incriminating. (Her dad is Donald Trump though so let’s not give her too much credit, the bar is on the floor.)
She must not have felt too concerned about what she said, as she even attended the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and presented the film at a promotional event after it was acquired by HBO.
But in the 17 years since the film first debuted, her segments in Born Rich are seen in a completely different light. Some parts have aged fine, some… not so much.
With so much in hindsight, we’ve taken a look back at Born Rich to see how 22-year-old Ivanka Trump fared.
1. On being a Trump
In her interviews, Ivanka Trump repeatedly talks about how proud she is to be a part of the family and "everything they've ever done". Back in 2003, Trump may not have had as many controversies as he does now.
But then again, he was also accused of sexual assault in 1997, and faced a plethora of lawsuits against him in the decades prior. Is she proud of those too?
I think no matter what I hear about my parents, about my family, no matter what I read, the fact is I’m absolutely proud to be a Trump and I’m proud of my family name and I’m proud of everything they’ve ever done and accomplished.
Considering everything else that has transpired, this is one of those soundbites that was questionable then, but is even worse now.
2. On living under her father’s shadow
While some kids may feel a pressure to live up to their parents, Trump didn’t share the same sentiment. But after everything, can you really still be happy to be living under that shadow?
There’s some sort of pride in the fact that people would even take an interest in me because I’m a part of them. For a while, I was worried for my whole life I’d be under my parents’ shadow but it’s not a bad shadow to be under, I guess, so it’s okay.
3. On her father’s finances
Possibly the most worrying thing Trump shares is a story from her childhood when her father tells her he’s poorer than a homeless person – even though they’re walking into a whole skyscraper with her name on it. You couldn’t make up a more on-the-nose metaphor.
She sort of attempts to play it off as some funny anecdote but it’s mostly disturbing. Plus, it really hits differently after the release of Trump’s taxes:
I remember once my father and I were walking down 5th Avenue, and there was a homeless person sitting right outside of Trump tower. And I think I was probably maybe 9-10, it was around the same time as the divorce.
And I remember my father pointing to him and saying “that guy has 8 billion dollars more than me” because he was in such extreme debt at that point. And [I remember] thinking “what are you talking about? He’s sitting outside of Trump Tower.”
I didn’t understand. I think I just thought about it a year or two ago and I find it interesting, it makes me all the more proud of my parents. They got through that.
4. On how people judge her for being rich
Throughout the film, Trump maintains a pretty calm temperament – but as she recalls one memorable encounter, she loses her cool just a little bit. At one point, she shares a story about a man who confronted her:
I remember once I was on a job in Australia and this guy just walks up to me. I was at some after party. And this man walks up who I’d never met and he says, “What does it feel like to be wealthy?” And I was like, “Excuse me?” And he goes, “What does it feel like to have never felt any pain?”
Then she seems almost hurt that someone would suggest her life is pretty easy because her dad is rich:
That really upset me, not because I was upset for myself, but because I was upset for him. I was bothered by the fact that he could be so ignorant.
There are people out there who could say such a blanketed thing and just be so downright stupid and not use the brain that they have. And that’s what bothered me. Not the fact that anything he said really wounded me deep down. Just the fact that there really people out there who think like that. They think that with money comes happiness.
She’s not wrong that money doesn’t always guarantee happiness, but can you really blame the guy for checking her privilege?
5. On her childhood ambitions
When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they might say an astronaut or a rock star, or any other aspirational career when the sky’s the limit. But not Trump. Even as a kid, she always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and dive into the thrilling world of real estate. All kids dream of investing in a skyscraper, right?
Rather than getting Barbie dolls, I always wanted Legos. So I love looking at the New York skyline and being able to figure out what I’m going to add to that and what patch of sky one of my buildings will be in. I’ve always wanted to go to real estate development. It’s in the blood, I guess.
6. On her childhood bedroom
At one point, Trump invites Johnson into her childhood bedroom, which she notes is a startling time capsule since she hasn’t stepped inside it in over 10 years. She gives a small tour around the room, and for a moment, she seems almost relatable.
Who didn’t transform their bedroom into a shrine to their favourite band? “You notice by the Madonna clock and my interesting attempt at colour painting,” she says, pointing out the decorations on her wall. “The homage to Poison and Motley Crew.”
And then Johnson immediately takes you out by turning around the camera to the New York City skyline and a direct view of Central Park. “What floor are we on?” he asks. “We are on the 68th floor,” she answers. “Not a bad view to wake up to.”
We wouldn’t know.