She was about 4 feet tall and dressed like an American Girl Doll, in a peacoat and newsboy hat. She was missing several teeth, and she smiled proudly as she held a sign in the air. It was hand-drawn, and it had taken her about an hour to make. It was decorated with glittery stars. In blue and red marker she wrote, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT! DONALD TRUMP.”
She said her name was Averie, she was in the second grade and her favorite subject in school was English. Her mom, who looked like a Real Housewife but claimed to be a magician’s assistant, stood nearby and introduced herself as Renee Paige of Saddle River, New Jersey. (She said she couldn’t say which magician she assisted, but that he was very well known).
“Yes, I took her out of school today for this special occasion,” she said. “She wants to meet Trump so badly.”
The mother and daughter had made the trip up to New York City with Renee’s best friend, Dawn Pugliese, a real estate agent who Renee referred to as her daughter’s “publicist,” to buy Trump’s new book, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, released Tuesday.
Their intention was to have the book signed by the man himself inside Trump Tower, but they were crushed when, having arrived too late for the scheduled event, they were not permitted to enter.
So they stood on the sidewalk, in front of Gucci, and hoped to get noticed among the hundreds of others in the same predicament. The line stretched around the block (though Trump said it stretched to Park Avenue).
“Puh…liss…ity,” Averie said when asked what she was hoping to get out of this experience, “pub…licity.”
Renee said she and her daughter were “Trumpkins” but that Averie’s obsession with the tinsel-haired Republican candidate was all her own. “She watches CNN, she watches the debate, and she likes what she sees,” she said. “You can ask her these questions.”
Held vertically, Averie’s sign would almost be as tall as she was, and she struggled to keep it steady in the air. “Yes,” she said when I asked if it was heavy. She said she’d been holding it “for almost an hour.”
She likes Trump because he would “make America great again,” in the words of his campaign slogan, and said that if it were up to her, she would made America great again by banning drugs and smoking.
“I like the kind of stuff he says,” she smiled.
“I want him to—what?” she looked up at Dawn, who was coaching her through the questions reporters asked her.
“I want him to fix the economy, right?” she asked.
Speaking slowly, careful not to get anything wrong, she continued, looking to Dawn for guidance all the while.
“And… illegal aliens… and only let people that I know into the country… other people into the country are bad, like ISIS… you cannot let them in.”
Meanwhile, Renee was on the phone with Bo Dietl, a former New York City detective and conservative media personality, who is a longtime friend of Trump’s and even attended his most recent wedding.
It’d be tempting to view this scene as a metaphor for Trump’s candidacy: a stage mom, a child repeating xenophobic rhetoric she can’t possibly yet believe, all to get that elusive puh-liss-ity. And, in a sense, there is no more perfect distillation of Trump’s candidacy, and the Republican primary in general, than an American like Renee seeking to turn a little girl like Averie into a reality TV star by latching onto the celebrity that Trump believes will vault him into the White House. If celebrity is now that powerful—powerful enough to win delegates and then to launch nukes—why wouldn’t every citizen want it?
A Google search reveals that although she isn’t one, Renee at least knows Real Housewives. In August, she attended a “White Party” thrown by Kim D. of Real Housewives of New Jersey. But, in the tradition of this great country, she seemed to want more for Averie.
“It’s Bo!” Renee shouted. “Dawn! Hold on one second—Bo, I’m being interviewed.” Renee complained that some “jerk” manning the door wouldn’t let them in but they really, really wanted to go in.
“She’s being interviewed,” she bragged of Averie. “I was just being interviewed…Can we get in? This little girl wants to meet Donald.”
It wasn’t clear, by that point, who she was talking about.
“Oh, Bo! This little girl wants to meet him! You should see her sign. She’s all over the news. I’m with Dawn. You won’t come here just to get us in? Can you call him and tell him to let these three ladies in?”
It could only happen in Donald Trump’s America. After minutes of hard work, the glass door of Trump Tower opened for Averie, Renee, and Dawn. They ran inside.
Trump sat at a brown leather chair, mechanically signing books with his gigantic, loopy script, press surrounding him.
The three of them lingered near the rope line, where Trump’s security detail worked to keep the riffraff out. I asked if they’d met him yet. “No!” Renee said, her eyes wide with rabid hopefulness. “She’s dying to. Can you get us to?”
Given the go-ahead by security, Renee charged forward past the crowd, “Come on, Ave!”
A Trump security guard watched them go, amused.
“That’ll be front page,” he said.