- The White House communications director, Hope Hicks, is one of the most powerful people in American politics.
- Hicks made headlines this week when Rob Porter, a White House staff secretary in a relationship with Hicks, resigned after allegations of domestic abuse.
- Hicks’ fashion evolution over the past year reveals her ability to evolve to maintain Trump’s support in a White House plagued by controversy, as she moves from echoing Ivanka Trump’s style to imitating Melania Trump.
Hope Hicks has become one of the most powerful figures in American politics – and, reportedly, treated as a member of President Donald Trump’s family in the White House.
Hicks made headlines this week when White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned after two of his ex-wives publicly accused him of physical and emotional abuse.Hicks’ rumoured relationship with Porter reportedly did not prevent her from helping craft an official statement supporting the staffer.
Unlike many in the often bombastic Trump administration, Hicks rarely speaks to the media on the record. That extends to the controversy surrounding Porter. While many in the Trump administration have chimed in on the topic, Hicks has remained silent.
However, as a former model with experience in fashion PR, Hicks knows how to make a statement with her appearance without saying a word.
Here’s a look at how Hicks’ public presentation has changed – and how it could reveal how the communications director has made herself invaluable to the White House.
Hope Hicks began working for Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand in 2014, four years after she graduated from Southern Methodist University.
“Hicks grew close to Ivanka and began dressing like the heiress, who seemed worthy of the emulation,” GQ reported. “Ivanka was that rare female corporate leader who is also kind to other women, and she affected an air of competence that seemed to temper the boorishness of the Trump brand.”
When Hicks began working on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, she mimicked Ivanka’s accessible style — lots of business-casual dresses in pale shades or florals, with heels and long, straight hair.
As Ivanka campaigned for her father, her role was to convince Americans — especially more progressive ones — that he was a worthwhile political pick.
As she continues to attempt to win over sceptics, Ivanka has donned primarily accessible styles that most Americans could buy or replicate, including her own line and fast-fashion brands like Zara.
Hicks seemed prepared to fulfil the same role behind the scenes. The president, early advisers like Corey Lewandowski and Roger Stone, and some supporters are known for their over-the-top antics.
Meanwhile, Hicks is private and has avoided making enemies. “I have always found Hope to be great to deal with, especially given the volume of requests she must be getting,” Maggie Haberman of The New York Times told GQ.
Source: Business Insider
Hicks is especially deferential to the president, calling him only “sir” or “Mr. Trump.”
Source: New York Times
The only public crack in Hicks’ facade was a public screaming match with Lewandowski in May 2016. However, even after being fired from the campaign, Lewandowski described Hicks as “smart and private, with a nearly photographic memory.”
While Hicks rarely gives interviews on the record, her polished, Ivanka-inspired fashion tells a story of its own. She fashioned herself as a reasonable outlier in the bombastic and scandal-prone Trump campaign and administration.
However, in recent months, Hicks seems to be undergoing a fashion pivot that could signify bigger factors at play behind the scenes.
While Ivanka was once a conservative darling, the first daughter has fallen out of favour with much of the right.
Ivanka’s brand popularity has dropped among Republicans as she has increasingly been seen as a moderating force. And similar dramas seem to be playing out inside the White House.
The president was reportedly frustrated in November when Ivanka criticised Roy Moore, the former US Senate candidate in Alabama whom multiple women have accused of sexual misconduct.
The first daughter and Kushner have also dealt with legal problems. Late last year, federal investigators began looking into Kushner’s meetings with foreign leaders, as well as whether he played a role in convincing the president to fire James Comey as FBI director.
Source: Business Insider
“As telling, with his daughter and son-in-law sidelined by their legal problems, Hope Hicks, Trump’s 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor,” Wolff wrote in a recent column based on reporting from his book.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Over the same period, Hicks has apparently stopped taking fashion cues from Ivanka — and moved on to Melania Trump.
Hicks debuted the new fashion strategy at a state dinner in November in Tokyo. Instead of the soft dresses that Ivanka is known for wearing, the communications director showed up in a sleek suit that could have come straight from Melania’s closet.
As Ivanka’s brand popularity has tanked, the public’s perception of Melania has only gotten better. A recent CNN poll found that the first lady had a 47% approval rating, compared with the president’s 40%.
So it shouldn’t be that surprising that Hicks’ new wardrobe is filled with Melania-inspired, high-fashion looks. The first lady’s fashion sense is sleeker than Ivanka’s, with more makeup and sharper angles.
Hicks seems to have picked up on the intricacies of each woman’s taste. The outfit she wore while waiting to board Air Force One in Beijing seems identical to some of the first lady’s favourite travel looks.
For reference, here’s a photo of the president and Melania arriving in Texas, soon after she faced backlash for wearing stilettos as she ventured into an area that had been devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
That isn’t necessarily to say that Hicks is clashing with Ivanka. Instead, she may have realised the importance of adjusting her public appearance to fit with what Trump and his supporters are looking for.
In fact, Ivanka recently spoke out to defend Hicks following the Porter controversy, telling The New York Times in an unsolicited interview that Hicks was a “team player.”
Source: The New York Times
“Most importantly,” Ivanka said, “the president has deep respect for her, cares about her greatly, and listens to her. That’s not true of everyone. She’s earned that.”
While many in the White House reportedly get swept up in power struggles within the administration, Hicks appears to have stayed in most staffers’ good graces. Most importantly, Trump continues to vocally support Hicks.
As other members of the Trump administration have fallen by the wayside, Hicks has risen through the ranks. She knows how to evolve to stay in the good graces of the president — and right now, that looks like trying to copy Melania, not Ivanka.
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