When it comes to family names as brand names, unless you’ve done something terrible or had the bad fortune of sharing a name with someone who did, it’s hard to do much worse than “Trump.” For most of the past four decades, the Donald has slapped his name on some of New York’s ugliest buildings, earned scads of bad press and generally behaved like an ass.
As a result, the Trump brand has become severely tarnished, defying the maxim that there is no such thing as bad PR. The name has become synonymous with scandalous affairs and divorces, obnoxious reality TV shows, blatant comb-overs, birther nonsense and general weirdness.
There are plenty of reasons that celebrity children try to stay out of the spotlight (and that their parents, at least the sensible ones, try to shield them from it, though I’m not sure that’s relevant here). For the Trump offspring, was that compounded by fears of being judged harshly for their name? Fairly or not, it must have been hard growing up Trump.
As adults, they’re now changing the family legacy. The most famous of the Trump scions (though given all her achievements, she might bristle at that term and its connotations of unearned privilege) is Ivanka. Although she hasn’t distanced herself from her father—she’s executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization and is a judge on his reality show “The Apprentice”—she has achieved several notable accomplishments on her own: a decade-plus-long modeling career (though she can thank her mother’s good genes for that), an economics degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (her dad’s alma mater), and a luxury line of jewelry, handbags, and footwear that fashion editors take seriously. Ivanka and her husband, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, are regularly profiled in high-end glossies, like Elle Decor,which recently celebrated the good taste in her New York City apartment.
Her brothers, both executive vice presidents with prominent roles in their father’s business ventures, have also used their fame to do good works. The elder, Donald Jr., who graduated from—you guessed it, the family education brand—the Wharton School, sits on the board of directors of Operation Smile. And seven years ago, the younger, Eric, then just 23 years old, started the Eric Trump Foundation with friends. The foundation’s guiding principle is that young adults should do more for their communities, and a particular focus is improving the lives of children battling life-threatening diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To date, it has raised nearly $6 million.
Their half sister, 19-year-old Tiffany Trump, who grew up in Los Angeles with her mother, Marla Maples, is still less well-known, although becoming more so after a recent profile on Yahoo’s Shine. She is studying hard at, yes, the University of Pennsylvania, and seems to be on a path to distinguishing herself as much as her siblings.
As the Donald’s kids show, sometimes being good (and being good in school) can be good for resuscitating a troubled family brand. By the time the youngest Trump child, Barron, who was born in 2006, comes of age, he might find the name a golden ticket instead of a blackened liability.