WASHINGTON • Though Mr Donald Trump and his family project an image of boundless wealth, a hairstylist says the United States President-elect's second wife tried to get out of paying her to style her tresses and those of her 23-year-old daughter, Ms Tiffany Trump, for Inauguration Day.
Washington-based freelance stylist Tricia Kelly says she was contacted by a long-time client with ties to the Trumps about a job coiffing Ms Marla Maples and the younger Trump daughter for the big event.
Kelly expressed her interest and she explained her rates - a US$150 (S$210) travel fee in addition to the cost of her services - but Ms Maples, through her assistant, baulked. "I was told they had a US$300 budget for both of them for hair and make-up," Kelly says.
After some back and forth, she agreed to be paid US$200 in total and US$150 for a make-up artist to get the women camera-ready.
Then Ms Maples' assistant asked if Kelly and the make-up artist would be willing to provide their services for free. In exchange, they would get "exposure" and Ms Maples would mention them on her social-media feeds, the assistant said.
Kelly said no. "I was stunned," she says. "I told them... I work for a fee, not for free."
She typically shuns exposure of her work with political types to not appear partisan, since her clients include prominent Republicans and Democrats.
She was reluctant to speak out about the booking gone south. But in the end, disgusted at what she called "entitled" behaviour, she decided to share her story publicly.
"There are people who make far less than they do who pay full price," she says. "People on staff - the incoming White House and the outgoing one - pay full price. It seemed like they were trying to see how much they could get for free based on their names."
Accepting freebies is not illegal for Ms Maples and Ms Trump, ethics experts say. The President must report any "gifts" over US$300 to him, his spouse and his minor children. But neither Ms Maples nor Ms Trump are bound by those rules, says Mr Jan Baran, an attorney who served on Mr George H.W. Bush's ethics commission.
It is typical for Hollywood stars to accept loaned gowns and jewellery and even gifts and free services by people eager to be associated with celebrities (and seen by their millions of Instagram followers).
But in official Washington, where lawmakers and other government officials are banned from accepting most giveaways, such arrangements are relatively rare. A Maples spokesman declined to comment.
But after The Washington Post contacted the public relations representative, Kelly received ominous messages from the client who had first put her in touch with Ms Maples' camp.
"You are messing with the President of the United States," the Maples contact wrote to her, adding that Ms Maples was worried about her financial situation with Tiffany out of college, ending child-support payments from the President-elect.
"She is used to a certain lifestyle and you don't understand that."