When Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, called Donald J. Trump shortly after the Nov. 8 election, they talked about domestic policy and infrastructure. But when Ms. Pelosi raised the specific subject of women’s issues, the president-elect did something unexpected: He handed the phone over to another person in the room — his 35-year-old daughter, Ivanka.
Ivanka Marie Trump is an American businesswoman and former fashion model. She is the daughter of real estate developer and President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump and former model Ivana Trump. She is the Executive Vice President of Development & Acquisitions at her father’s company, the Trump Organization, where her work is focused on the company’s real estate and hotel management initiatives.
Around the same time, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of the best-selling women’s empowerment book “Lean In,” reached out to Ms. Trump, hoping to begin what aides from both sides described as “a dialogue.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a policy adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department and the author of “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family,” had met Ms. Trump about a year ago at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. She also sent word to the incoming first daughter a week after the election, saying that she hoped to be in touch with her after her father took office.
“She is really serious about the ‘care agenda’ and can be a strong inside force,” Ms. Slaughter said in an interview.
Perhaps most important, she said, “I don’t know anyone else.”
A month and a half before Mr. Trump is scheduled to be inaugurated, Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, 35, are key advisers to the president-elect, with Ms. Trump poised to be perhaps the most influential first daughter since Alice Roosevelt Longworth. They have attended meetings with political advisers, job seekers, foreign leaders and real estate developers eager to sell $2 million apartments as “president-elect branded.”
They are also triaging calls and emails from their own left-leaning high-powered friends and acquaintances who hope to influence the young consiglieri in chief, believing that if there is a voice for their causes in a Trump administration, it is likely to be that of the first daughter’s.
Even Leonardo DiCaprio has weighed in. The Oscar-winning actor recently met with Ms. Trump privately and gave her a copy of his climate change documentary, “Before the Flood,” according to aides to both people.
But as Ms. Trump’s platform gets bigger, she is also coming in for scrutiny over perhaps the central question now surrounding her: How will her father’s presidency shape — for profit or not — the Ivanka Trump brand she carefully built over the last decade.
In that time, Ms. Trump has published a New York Times best-selling self-help memoir (with another book scheduled for next spring), started a fashion and jewelry brand, co-starred with her father on “The Apprentice” and become a fixture at fashion shows and at charity balls. Messages about empowering women have been woven into her sales pitch, which blends inspirational mottos with “shop this look” appeals on her website, ivankatrump.com.
On Tuesday, for instance, her company sent out a newsletter presenting a giving-back feature to ivankatrump.com — philanthropy tips for millennials. Beneath the “Get Inspired” rubric was a different message: “Give Warmth.” But it wasn’t a coat drive. Instead it was a link to buy Ivanka Trump winter apparel on sale at Nordstrom’s (a $325 faux Toscana shearling coat knocked down to $199.90).
Ms. Trump said on “60 Minutes” last month that when her father becomes president, she will just be a “daughter.” She has said she will use her “heightened visibility” to champion working women. (After the show, Ms. Trump was criticized for her company’s attempt to market the Ivanka Trump $10,800 diamond and gold bracelet she wore during the interview. She later apologized and said her brand was due for a “readjustment.”)
On Friday, Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump line, said, “As a brand, we are taking steps to distinguish the commercial enterprise from Ivanka’s personal advocacy.”
Some prominent figures remain skeptical of Ms. Trump’s commitment to their causes.
“I don’t think it’s useful to denigrate the image she projects as a working woman and as a mother and a wife, but there are limits to it,” said Faye Wattleton, the former president of Planned Parenthood. “It’s easy to talk about self-help when you have access to the best medical care in the world by virtue of your birth. It’s not so easy when you can’t earn a living wage and you have children to support. And we have not heard her speak out on those hard survival issues.”
Last month, artists like Dan Colen and Nate Lowman, both of whose works Ms. Trump has collected, lent their names in support of a “Dear Ivanka” open letter, one that included statements like “I’m black and I’m afraid of Jeff Sessions” and “My mom is going to be deported,” but that also said, “We wanted to appeal to your rationality and your commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans, especially women and children.” The two were among the 200 or so attendees Monday night at a protest outside the Puck Building, which Mr. Kushner owns and where the couple has an apartment.
Also there was the artist Marilyn Minter, expressing puzzlement that Ms. Trump would be associated with an ideology that Ms. Minter says she found personally troubling. “She’s supposed to be a feminist,” Ms. Minter said.
Stella Schnabel, the actress and daughter of the artist and director Julian Schnabel, seemed personally affronted by what she saw as Ms. Trump’s support of her father’s positions. “I had a playdate with Ivanka. I went to Mar-a-Lago!” Ms. Schnabel said of Ms. Trump, as she stood beside the shoe designer Arden Wohl, an acquaintance of the future first daughter for two decades and who counts Ms. Trump among her 33,000 Instagram followers.
“I always thought her father was tacky. But she’s elegant and classy and strong. She had a great group of friends when she was at Trinity,” Ms. Wohl said, referring to the Upper West Side private school Ms. Trump attended. “So I can’t understand this. She is not a hateful, racist person. She’s just not.”
Tell that to the mogul Barry Diller, a social acquaintance for many years, and one who in 2009 did a business deal with Mr. Kushner.
“I think it’s delusional to believe there’s any difference between Mr. Trump and his children on any of his extreme positions,” Mr. Diller, a Clinton donor in the 2016 campaign, wrote in a recent email. “They’ve had every opportunity to publicly modify them and have not done so.”
There has even been some dissension within family ranks.
The supermodel Karlie Kloss has recently been involved with Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Joshua, a New York entrepreneur, yet spent the fall making her strong opposition to a Trump presidency known to near-total strangers. Shortly before the election, she posted an Instagram shot of herself filling out an absentee ballot and put the hashtag #Imwithher below it.
Joshua Kushner in July and August began “liking” a number of vociferously anti-Trump tweets from his Twitter account.
Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue, was a mentor to Ms. Trump, a person who ran two profiles of her in the Condé Nast magazine and at one point, offered her a job there. (Ms. Trump wrote in her memoir, “Trump Rules,” that she turned it down.) But as the election drew near a close, as Ms. Wintour bundled millions of dollars for Mrs. Clinton, the two fell out of touch.
After the election, Ms. Wintour wept as she talked to her staff members about the need to move forward in the face of a stinging defeat. Asked to comment about her relationship with Ms. Trump, Ms. Wintour politely declined through a spokeswoman.
For a long time, Ms. Trump’s popularity owed (at least in part) to her ability to smooth out her father’s rough edges.
Where Donald Trump was brusque, Ms. Trump was tactful. Where Mr. Trump came off self-centered and easily distracted, she was self-effacing and sharply focused, traits she displayed from her earliest days growing up on the Upper East Side.
Ms. Trump worked briefly as a model as a teenager, before entering Georgetown University. Two years later, she transferred to her father’s alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
After graduation, Ms. Trump began to get photographed around town, at parties like the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival and the annual Frick Gala, where she stood out as a refreshing change from a generation of hard-partying heiresses like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Casey Johnson.
By then, she was working for her father at the Trump Organization, but she built a social life that in many ways eclipsed her famous father.
Mr. Trump and his older sons are not fixtures of the New York power scene, but Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, who bought The New York Observer in 2006, are more socially nimble.
She was seated front row at Carolina Herrera shows at New York Fashion Week, walked the red carpet at the Glamour Woman of the Year gala at Carnegie Hall and was a guest at dinners with the movie star Hugh Jackman and the media heir James Murdoch.
When Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner broke up during their courtship, a reconciliation took place on Rupert Murdoch’s yacht – a rapprochement that was brokered by Ms. Trump’s good friend Wendi Murdoch, who at the time was still married to Mr. Murdoch.
Soon, Ms. Trump converted to Judaism and got married to Mr. Kushner at Bedminster, her father’s private golf club in New Jersey, wearing a Vera Wang dress, as a Getty photographer snapped away. They have since had three children.
Occasionally, there were naysayers: gossip items in Gawker and Page Six. But slights about the couple were few.
“They’re ideal politicians,” said Peter Davis, the society journalist Mr. Kushner hired in 2011 at his wife’s suggestion to edit a magazine called Scene. “Because you come away from any interaction thinking they’re great and nice and don’t have any deeper feeling about them.”
As with many people eager to move up the New York social ladder, the couple engaged in philanthropic endeavors. But they didn’t leave strong footprints. Indeed, to look at Ms. Trump’s charitable deeds is to find echoes of her father’s much-chronicled pattern of claiming a lot while giving just a little.
In 2010, Ms. Trump became a founding partner of the UN Foundation Girl Up initiative and then showcased her involvement on the Trump Organization’s website, where it remains today as the first of just three outside causes the family supports, along with the New York City Police Foundation and the Police Athletic League.
Ms. Trump’s main contribution was to post a promotional link to her fine-jewelry collection, where she sold a Girl Up bracelet, with part of the sales going to the initiative.
Once the election began, the UN Foundation, which is nonpartisan, officially parted ways with Ms. Trump. “We cut all ties with her, but there weren’t any, anyway,” said Beth Nervig, a spokeswoman for the organization.
Ms. Trump did even less for the “blood diamond” cause.
In 2011, she announced she was starting a sustainable bridal jewelry line using ethically sourced Canadian diamonds. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Ms. Trump talked about the “multitude of ways” she was planning on building her brand into “a truly socially engaged and responsible company.”
But using Canadian diamonds cost more, the line did not get traction, and it was soon abandoned, although Ms. Trump did manage in 2012 to accept a “Good” award from the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a nonprofit co-founded by Russell Simmons.
Along with Mr. Kushner, Ms. Trump made inroads on the benefit circuit, popping up at galas for New Yorkers for Children and the New York Public Library, where they were guests at other people’s tables. Last year, Ms. Trump attended an amfAR gala, where she was seated with Anthony Weiner and Ms. Wintour. Ms. Trump was also a fixture at the Glamour Women of the Year awards.
Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump also hosted a 2013 fund-raiser for Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, at their Park Avenue apartment.
Ms. Trump was inclined to leverage her celebrity and give products that bore her name, as she did more than once with her acquaintance Mary Alice Stephenson’s charity Glam4good.
“There were a couple of times I called on Ivanka to send shoes and product, whether it was battling breast cancer or dressing girls from homeless shelters,” Ms. Stephenson said. “They always sent. I think she’s a lovely person.”
During the Republican National Convention, at which her father officially accepted the party’s presidential nomination, scrutiny of Ms. Trump began to take a more negative turn.
Though her own speech was widely praised, friends were taken aback by the coarseness of some of the other speakers (like those who encouraged chants of “Lock her up”) and wondered when Ms. Trump would speak up to denounce them.
In September, Ms. Trump got testy with a reporter from Cosmopolitan who grilled her about what were apparently inconsistencies between her professions of feminism and the campaign she defended so ardently. “So I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions,” she said, according the transcript.
The next week, Ms. Trump got another signal that her father’s race for the presidency was not doing great things for her reputation or her own global brand.
It took place in what was supposed to be her safe space: a closed-door gathering of her fellow plutocrats.
In Aspen, Colo., at the annual Weekend With Charlie Rose conference in September, Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, her husband, joined the likes of Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Ari Emanuel and Jeffrey Katzenberg at a dinner in the dining room of the Hotel Jerome.
Hasan Minhaj, 31, the popular “Daily Show” comedian, was the entertainer at a Thursday night dinner and gently ribbed some of the more exalted guests about their wealth and power.
But his digs went deeper when Mr. Minhaj, whose parents emigrated from India to the United States shortly before he was born, turned to Ms. Trump.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked, his tone suggesting others in the room were asking the same question. Listing Mr. Trump’s attacks on Muslims, like suggesting that they should be barred from entering the country, Mr. Minhaj implored Ms. Trump to stop abetting her father, and then closed with a sharp-edged joke.
“At the end of the day, your dad wants to deport my dad,” he said.
Ms. Trump sat there, Mr. Minhaj said, “looking uncomfortable.”
When a now-infamous tape of Mr. Trump and Billy Bush came out a few weeks later, Shannon Coulter started a boycott of Ms. Trump’s brand over social media, with a #GrabYourWallet hashtag that went viral.
“People think that because she’s polished and well spoken, that she isn’t like him,” Ms. Coulter said. “I think she is more dangerous because she is more polished.”
Then came “Vicuña” at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, Calif., the latest work from the Tony-nominated playwright Jon Robin Baitz. His satire centered on a Trump-like presidential candidate and his lovely, loyal daughter, Srilanka, who struggles to stand by her monstrous father and power-hungry husband, and ends up a social and professional pariah as a result. (Mr. Trump’s surprise victory was a plot twist the playwright didn’t see coming.)
“Everyone who knows Ivanka says, ‘How could she support her dad like this?’” said Mr. Davis, the society journalist. “But she works for her father. The Trump motto is: Win at all costs.”
According to old friends, Ms. Trump — who, along with her husband, declined repeated requests for an interview for this article — is keeping a stiff upper lip.
“She doesn’t complain about anything, and she rarely expresses weakness,” said Maggie Cordish, a friend since college who met her husband, a Baltimore real estate developer, through Ms. Trump. Ms. Cordish says Ms. Trump’s interest in the cause of working women is heartfelt: “She elevated issues that weren’t part of the Republican agenda because she cares about them.”
The Hollywood mogul David Geffen, a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates, said he has a fondness for Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, even though he did not vote for her father in the election.
“I’ve known Ivanka and Jared for years,” he said. “She’s a lovely, intelligent woman, and Jared has been a loyal son-in-law. Trump depends on him. He’s a very smart guy. Is he a genius? No, but guess what: The geniuses all lost.”