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Melania Trump turned 49 years old on Friday, and to celebrate her birthday the official White House Twitter account shared a photo of the first lady that may have been more revealing than they intended.
Alongside the simple and underwhelming caption "Happy Birthday, @FLOTUS!" was a photo of Trump sitting alone on the far end of the couch in the Oval Office with her legs crossed and statement squint in full effect. She is surrounded by a swarm of photographers and reporters, but FLOTUS looks unbothered.
The photo appears to be a second angle of an image shared previously from her husband’s meeting with the Czech prime minister last month, as NBC points out.
The internet went to work immediately turning the birthday tribute into a meme, asking questions about where the rest of her family was, and why they went with the saddest photo ever to celebrate her birthday. “Can't figure out why this photo was posted,” one person wrote. “Is this the only one of her birthday? If so, it's really depressing. Sitting there, alone, with a big empty space and a bouquet prop. Weird, actually.”
Can't figure out why this photo was posted. Is this the only one of her birthday? If so, it's really depressing. Sitting there, alone, with a big empty space and a bouquet prop. Weird, actually.
— Kelly Rose (@KRosePDX) April 26, 2019
Regardless of what you think about the first lady, you have to admit posting a photo for her birthday of all occasions where she is pictured scowling and alone in a room full of strangers is pretty harsh — that is, if she had anything to with it, which appears to be the case.
Patti Wood, body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, tells Refinery29 that the photo was likely a White House selection, a telling point about what Trump is trying to communicate.
"From what I’ve read, this was their selection … That’s the most interesting [thing], because she’s communicating to the world that she’s all by herself on her birthday,” Wood says. “That’s the most dramatic aspect of this whole story. If you’ll look at her facial expression, with the tight lips, and the fact that she’s not looking directly at the camera, that is suppressed anger.”
She continues: “It’s the fact that she’s sitting on the corner of the couch, to make it clear she’s by herself. That’s the most significant part.”
In addition to being alone, Trump’s crossed arms and crossed legs — a double-cross, as Wood calls it — suggests she is closed off. Her finger placement under her raised knee says “she’s totally closed down on what is called the knee window and the pelvic window.”
Trump’s arm placement over her belly further indicates that she is protecting herself. “If you’ll look at where her arm is placed, it’s over her vulnerable belly. It’s very, very protected,” Wood said. “There’s nothing in there that she’s open to, the media, open to the others, joyous or happy — there’s no what I call ‘up’ body language that you’d typically see in celebratory photos.”
This is not the first time we’ve seen an alone, seemingly angry, and protective Trump, however. Last year amid anger over President Donald Trump’s family separations at the border, Melania Trump hosted Queen Letizia of Spain for tea at the White House, where she was also photographed alone on the couch with the same scowl and hand placement.
— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) June 19, 2018
During that time her office released a very middle-of-the-road statement on family separations, which ultimately left her alone.
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