Hairstylist to Donald Trump's 2nd wife: No free services in exchange for Inauguration Day 'exposure'

Washington hair stylist Tricia Kelly.
Washington hair stylist Tricia Kelly.PHOTO: COURTESY OF TRICIA KELLY

WASHINGTON (Washington Post) - Though Mr Donald Trump and his family project an image of boundless wealth, a Washington-based hairstylist says the 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.

Freelance stylist Tricia Kelly says she was contacted by a longtime client with ties to the Trumps about a job coifing Ms Marla Maples and the younger Trump daughter for the big event.

Ms Kelly expressed her interest and she explained her rates - a US$150 (S$213) fee to travel in addition to the cost of her services - but Ms Maples, through her assistant, baulked. "I was told they had a 300-dollar budget for both of them for hair and make-up," Kelly says.

After some back and forth, Ms Kelly agreed to be paid US$200 total and a make-up artist US$150 to get the women camera-ready. That was when Ms Maples' assistant came up with another proposal: Would Ms Kelly and the make-up artist 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 told her.

Ms Kelly declined. "I was stunned," she said. "I told them... I work for a fee, not for free."

For starters, she typically shuns such exposure of her work with political types, so as not to appear partisan, since her clients include prominent Republicans and Democrats.

And Ms Kelly, who says she typically prides herself on her discretion, 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 said. "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.

And 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 spokesman for Ms Maples declined to comment on this story.

But after The Washington Post contacted the PR representative, Ms Kelly received ominous messages from her 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 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."