Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is a long-time friend of Melania Trump and fashion scene icon whose firm was paid millions of dollars to help plan the presidential inauguration, payments that sparked a flurry of news coverage.
The New York Times reported that Melania Trump had severed a contract with Wolkoff after her firm took in $26 million in payment for planning the inauguration. Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Graham, told The New York Times that the First Lady had “severed the gratuitous services contract with Mr. Wolkoff. We thank her for her hard work and wish her all the best.” The news of the payments first broke in the Times.
Winston Wolkoff, 47, has a long history in the New York fashion industry, including for Vogue Magazine.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Winston Wolkoff Was Working as an Unpaid Senior Adviser to Melania Trump
Wolkoff “had been working on a contract basis as an unpaid senior adviser” to Melania Trump, according to The Times, which reported that Wolkoff and Melania Trump are long-time friends.
Graham told the Times that Melania “had no involvement” and “had no knowledge of how funds were spent.” The spending involves the non profit group, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee. According to the Times, the firm of an associate of Wolkoff named David Monn was paid $3.7 million. You can see the tax returns for the non-profit group here.
The inauguration cost more than $100 million.
Refinery29 once described Wolkoff as “become something of an industry icon, always dressed to the nines, always ready for any crazy situation.” According to UK Daily Mail, “Wolkoff provided the whole look and feel – the creative vision’ for 18 or 20 inaugural events.”
The New York Times reported that Winston Wolkoff personally received about $1.6 million but used it to pay other workers.
2. Wolkoff Expects to ‘Remain a Trusted Source of Advice’ to Melania Trump & Has Lunched With Melania for Years
Wolkoff told the Times she expects “to remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis” and claimed the White House counsel told her “that all gratuitous volunteer contracts were ended.” She claimed her firm, WIS Media Partners, spent most of the money on subcontract services, such as “satellite feeds to be provided to broadcasters worldwide.”
Dujour Magazine reported that Wolkoff and Melania were “close friends, having lunch together once a month and even traveling to the Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.”
Wolkoff gave an interview to the magazine to extol the virtues of Melania, saying, “Don’t underestimate her just because she is quiet and reserved. There is virtue in the fact that she appears to be quiet and isn’t on the front lines constantly saying, Hear me, see me. But she’s very confident in her viewpoint. She does not agree with everything that [Donald] says or everything that’s being done, but she believes in the greater good. They are a power couple. They are each other’s teammate.”
3. Winston Wolkoff Was Raised in the Catskills & Her Mother Married into the Famed Winston Family
Winston Wolkoff has ties to the famed Winston family but not by birth. According to Marie Claire, she grew up in the Catskills with her mother, Barbara, and her biological father, a photographer named Barry Batinkoff. Her mother then married Bruce Winston, the son of Harry Winston, the famed jeweler.
According to Marie Claire, Bruce Winston legally adopted Wolkoff, which is why she bore the last name Winston. Barry Batinkoff comes from a family of chicken farmers. Many stories described her as a Winston family heiress, obscuring her real biological roots.
She then graduated with a communications degree from Loyola University in New Orleans and worked for Sotheby’s Auction House.
4. She Worked Closely With Anna Wintour, Who Called Her ‘General Winston’
The Times once defined Wolkoff as “Anna Wintour’s former right hand on the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” saying she once described attendance to that event as “no money, no come-y.” She is 6 foot 1 inches tall, and was hired as a public relations manager at Vogue Magazine, which is how she became close to Wintour.
The Hollywood Reporter described her as “former Vogue special events director who helped plan the Met Gala.” She was also the founding fashion director at Lincoln Center, and she left that job to create her own firm. “SWW Creative will provide personal and professional relationships across global power industries; advising brands, companies and individuals as they seek to build advantageous ventures and superlative initiatives,” the press release for the new company, SWW Creative, read.
She spent 11 years at Vogue Magazine. According to The Wall Street Journal, Wintour once dubbed Stephanie “General Winston” because of her ability to “draw up a plan, marshal her forces…until she’d seen the project through and completed it to her satisfaction.”
5. She Is Married to a Real Estate Developer
Winston Wolkoff’s husband, David Wolkoff, is a real estate developer, and she has three children with him, Zachary, Tyler, and Alexi, according to The Times. They married in the luxurious ballroom of a New York hotel.
Marie Claire reports that the couple met in 1996 and married in 2000 and says that David Wolkoff once caused controversy “for tearing down a landmark of graffiti art in Queens called 5 Pointz and turning it into luxury apartments.”
In 2010, the couple lived in a $9 million Park Avenue apartment, had two nannies, and closets full of Prada and Versace, The Wall Street Journal reported.