This week, all eyes have been on the French state visit in Washington, D.C., and on Melania Trump, the private first lady who has vaulted over the low bar previously set for her by wearing a huge white hat and watching her husband dig a hole. But on Wednesday morning, for a brief period of time, 20 to 25 pairs of eyes turned toward Melania Trump’s wax alter ego as it was ceremoniously unveiled by Madame Tussauds New York and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Spring may have sprung in New York City, but the former press secretary picked a rainy, dreary day to visit the Times Square wax museum. In a busy lobby stuffed with tourists and wax celebrities, a large group of reporters assembled for the launch of “Give Melania a Voice.” It quickly became apparent that the only thing less pleasant than visiting Times Square in the rain is visiting Times Square in the rain to watch former press secretary Sean Spicer unveil a wax sculpture of first lady Melania Trump.
In addition to reuniting Melania with her husband in the wax “Oval Office” for sitting wax presidents, Madame Tussauds also unveiled a new “experiential activation,” where “visitors are encouraged to tweet on behalf of the FLOTUS at a social media station with tweets appearing on a live feed in the attraction’s Oval Office set.”
Of course, the assembled reporters had been lured not by the promise of staring into the wax first lady’s blank, lifeless eyes, but by the announcement that Melania would be unveiled by the one and only Sean Spicer, who would also be participating in “a special Q&A about his time in the White House and experience with the FLOTUS.”
Representatives from some of the country’s most prestigious press outlets packed into a Madame Tussauds elevator and were led to the World Leaders Gallery. In keeping with Spicer’s infamously acrimonious relationship with the press, reporters were corralled into a corner of the room as visitors were encouraged to go about their sightseeing. A table of snacks was flyered with handouts advertising The Briefing, Spicer’s upcoming memoir (coming July 24, 2018). The flyers promised a tell-all that would “take readers on a roller coaster ride through [Spicer’s] tenure as President Trump’s spokesman.” A blurb from President Trump read, “[Sean Spicer is] a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media.”
Logically, a person abused by “the Fake News Media” would not voluntarily subject themselves to a media opportunity at the Madame Tussauds wax museum. And yet, eventually, members of the press were ushered by a sunglasses-wearing security guard into a small curtained-off area—the Oval Office, now featuring the “Give Melania A Voice” experimental activation box. The space quickly filled with reporters, snaking their camera cords around the waxen feet of a nearby Maya Angelou. Malcolm X stood a few feet away in silent judgment as human Sean Spicer and wax Melania Trump were introduced by Merlin Entertainment’s Christine Haughney with equal enthusiasm.
“This is the first Melania Trump figure that we’ve ever launched,” Haughney announced, adding, “She’s fantastic! We know that she’s a fashion icon, we saw her earlier style this week, and she’ll be here actually through May 31.” Haughney continued, “In the vein of firsts today, we have a very special guest that we are thrilled to be welcoming, he has been kind enough to join us and help us unveil this great opportunity, so with that, and if you’d all join me, we’d like to welcome Mr. Sean Spicer.”
Asked about his life after the White House, Spicer, a Madame Tussauds virgin, said that’s he’s “had a great, much less stressful time traveling the country speaking to groups, doing a bunch of consulting on the side, and I have a book coming out July 24 that we launched the cover for this morning called The Briefing.”
“It’s available for pre-order on Amazon dot com and Barnes and Noble dot com so we’re excited about that.”
Pressed on what he had learned about the first family during his time in D.C., Spicer proceeded to list every member of said family: “You’ve got Don and Eric, Ivanka, Barron, Tiffany, you’ve got the president and the first lady. Each of them is unique in their own way.”
He continued, “We’re obviously here today to talk about the first lady, and what an opportunity it is, because last night I think the world got to see what a great first lady she is, what impeccable taste she has, with the state visit. And it’s just another example of her putting on amazing events to highlight the White House and our country for the world to see. She’s a very caring and gracious woman, and our country is grateful to have her.”
Most reporters’ questions attempted to glean personal information about Melania Trump, and seemed to prove that the first lady is as much of a cypher to people who have actually met her as she is to the rest of us. Spicer called Trump “a very gracious and fashionable woman,” noting, “I don’t think the American people have fully appreciated the level of intellect that she has and her political savviness.”
“She really has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on politically and what’s going on in the media and is able to really offer sage advice, not just about what her husband should or should not do as president, but also as individuals. She was always there to offer a helping, supportive hand, and as I mentioned, I think she is just a great first lady and does so much on behalf of our country to showcase it, in such a great phenomenal way.”
At one point, clearly grasping at straws/adjectives, Spicer described Melania as “very well-read,” “impeccable with her judgment,” and “always interested in what’s happening.” Asked to articulate one thing that everyone should know about the first lady, he offered, “I think you’ve seen it with some of the interactions she’s had with students in particular, she’s really concerned about the issues that young people face these days, and obviously she has an 11-year-old son, but she really loves interacting with students and wants to make America the best country it can be for these young kids to grow up in.”
As signaled by the nearby flat screen TV showcasing the cover of Spicer’s upcoming memoir, the former press secretary was making a wax museum appearance for the sole purpose of plugging his book. He described the writing process as “therapeutic” and an opportunity for reflection.
“I’ve said it before, but I’m the kind of person that at the end of every day I sit back and try to think about, was I the best person I could be?” Spicer confided. “I try to live by the golden rule, treat others as the way you want to be treated, and there are some days that I didn’t live up to those standards, and there’s some days when I thought, wow, that was a really good day and I hope to sustain it.
“As you write the book you think about who you are as a person, and those relationships that you have both professionally and personally,” he continued. He disclosed that the memoir will span from his childhood through the election, the transition period, and “those first eight months in the White House and what they were like.”
“There are a lot of moments that got a lot of coverage, and what it was like to be behind the scenes in them, what it felt like in a lot of these ways for me to go through them,” he said.
Spicer also alluded to “some other entertainment projects” on his horizon, teasing, “hopefully as we get closer to book launch there’ll be more to announce.”
While reporters were told prior to the event that ** This event will not permit questions from media ** (emphasis Madame Tussauds’), some outlets attempted to shout out questions, with mixed results. One such outburst finally got Spicer to share a concrete anecdote about Melania Trump—the time she met with him to say goodbye at the end of his tenure, and asked him how he was. “Those are the kinds of interactions that mean a lot,” a touched Spicer recalled, “to know that there is a deep concern for how you’re doing and what you’re up to next.”
He insisted that he’s never seen the first lady mad at the president. “She was always supportive in public,” he said, continuing after a pause, “and in private.” Asked if he’d seen the couples’ most recent hand-holding snafu, he responded, “I did. As a spouse of 14 years, I’ve had my own awkward moments. But I think there’s a genuine love and concern and that’s what’s the most important.” Questions about the president’s affairs and the Comey memos went largely unanswered, with Spicer announcing that, “I spend a lot less time paying attention to the news now.”
After once again urging the crowd to pre-order his book, the event ended with Sean Spicer posing next to the wax president and first lady, whom he declared to be remarkably lifelike.