• Melania Trump, 45, was born and raised in Sevnica, Slovenia to parents Viktor and Amalija Knavs 
  • Document from the Slovenian State Archives that her father was a listed member of the League of Communists
  • Melania and her sister Ines took part in fashion shows alongside the children of their parents' fellow factory workers
  • 'She would talk about becoming a model. It was her only dream,' said a former friend and classmate
  • Melania met renowned fashion photographer Stane Jerko in 1987 at a modeling contest
  • Married Donald Trump in 2005 and they share one son, Barron, who is nine, and is Trump's fifth child
  • Seen at Wednesday night's presidential debate as her husband remains front-runner in Republican polls
  • See our full coverage on Donald Trump, his wife Melania and his Presidential campaign 
She is the wife of a billionaire who is still top of the polls among Republican contenders for the White House. 
Last night Melania Trump went center stage as she accompanied her husband Donald at the party's debate in Colorado - and where despite a muted performance, he remained front-runner in the polls.
To be in such a position would be unusual of itself. But, Daily Mail Online can disclose, it is extraordinary. For Melania Trump is also the daughter of a card-carrying Communist and was brought up in a Soviet-era apartment in a country which fell apart in a bloody frenzy of inter-ethnic violence.
Until last night the potential first lady had hardly been seen on the campaign trail with her husband.
But she wasn't always one to shy away from the cameras. In fact, exclusive photos paint a different portrait - a young Melania shining in front of the lens, trying to launch her modeling career. 
Melania, who could become the first foreign-born First Lady in almost 200 years, was born in 1970 in south-eastern Slovenia, near the border with Croatia.
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Strike a pose: Melania Trump's first modeling photos unveiled. A then 17-year-old posed for famed fashion photographer Stane Jerko
Strike a pose: Melania Trump's first modeling photos unveiled. A then 17-year-old posed for famed fashion photographer Stane Jerko
Strike a pose: Melania Trump's first modeling photos unveiled. A then 17-year-old posed for famed fashion photographer Stane Jerko
Family ties: Donald Trump was joined by his wife Melania, his three eldest children, and their spouses, at the Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday night
Family ties: Donald Trump was joined by his wife Melania, his three eldest children, and their spouses, at the Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday night
Humble beginnings: Melania grew up initially in this apartment with her father, mother and sister in Sevnica.
Melania's father was an active Communist, state records obtained by Daily Mail Online  show.
Humble beginnings: Melania grew up initially in this apartment (left) with her father, mother and sister in Sevnica. Her father was an active Communist, state records obtained by Daily Mail Online (right) show.
The way she was:  A picture taken during a child fashion show shows Melania Knavs in the center with her friend Nena Bedek and sister Ines. The two, and other children, would take part in fashion shows organized by their parents
The way she was:  A picture taken during a child fashion show shows Melania Knavs in the center with her friend Nena Bedek and sister Ines. The two, and other children, would take part in fashion shows organized by their parents
Treasured memories: Melania (right) and her friend Nena Bedek featured in a local newspaper (right) as taking part in a young fashion show. 'Melania was transfixed by the idea of becoming a model and loved sketching designs for clothes,' Bedek tells Daily Mail Online
Treasured memories: Melania (right) and her friend Nena Bedek featured in a local newspaper (right) as taking part in a young fashion show. 'Melania was transfixed by the idea of becoming a model and loved sketching designs for clothes,' Bedek tells Daily Mail Online
Treasured memories: Melania (right) her sister, Ines and friend Nena Bedek featured in a local newspaper (right) as taking part in a young fashion show. 'Melania was transfixed by the idea of becoming a model and loved sketching designs for clothes,' Bedek tells Daily Mail Online
School days: Sevnica elementary school is where Melania attended class from age seven to fifteen. Her father also arranged for her to attend a technical high school before she went on to the University of Ljubljana
School days: Sevnica elementary school is where Melania attended class from age seven to fifteen. Her father also arranged for her to attend a technical high school before she went on to the University of Ljubljana
Among friends: Melania's class in 1984 at the local high school. She is third from the left of the front row. 'She always had higher goals than the rest of us and more ambition. Her goal was to leave Sevnica for Ljubljana and to go abroad,' her friend Nena Bedek says
Among friends: Melania's class in 1984 at the local high school. She is third from the left of the front row. 'She always had higher goals than the rest of us and more ambition. Her goal was to leave Sevnica for Ljubljana and to go abroad,' her friend Nena Bedek says
Before the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Slovenia was just one part of the Communist country, a dictatorship under Marshall Tito, and a satellite state of Soviet Russia.
And, as a document from the Slovenian State Archives shows, her father Viktor Knavs was a listed member of the League of Communists. Her mother Amalija Ulcnik was not listed as a member.
Melania, who is Trump's third wife, has been tipped as Donald's 'Trump card' in the race to the White House. And while the campaign is based on his record as an entrepreneur, his free-market capitalism is dramatically out of kilter with the socialist values his wife was raised with.
Her luxurious lifestyle is also a far cry from her upbringing in the small industrial town of Sevnica, an hour through the mountains from the regional capital Ljubljana.
Sevnica sits in a forested valley, strung along the banks of the river Sava and its defining feature is a 12th century castle, worthy of Melania's fairytale life story.