A Body Language Expert Breaks Down *That* Photo of Melania Trump and Justin Trudeau
Noted Twitter fanatic Donald Trump was probably not pleased when he opened the app this morning.
The hashtag #MelaniaLovesTrudeau began trending on Monday morning after an image of First Lady Melania Trump greeting Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau with a double cheek kiss at the G7 summit began making the rounds. Melania, clad in a red sheath dress, appeared to be gazing lovingly at Trudeau (who's become something of a nerdy sex symbol in the realm of international politics), while clutching her husband's hand.
The gesture itself is innocent enough — anyone who's ever met a European has probably been subjected to this forced intimacy at one time or another — but there was just something about the image that got people talking.
In order to figure out just what about the picture was making the internet feel some type of way, we spoke with body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma. Here, Wood breaks down the photo point by point — from the hand hold to *that look*.
The hand hold:
Wood: Let’s talk about something that other people might not notice, which is part of what makes it such a dramatic photo, and that’s the hand hold.
[Donald and Melania] as a couple often hold hands, and one of the things I find interesting about that is typically, in a hand hold, you think it’s a reflection of the tenderness and affection in a relationship. But over time, after analyzing photos of the two of them since he became president, I often see that hand hold as a requirement; he is often leading her, pulling her, and walking ahead of her while holding her hand.
So what we’ve seen over time is that that hand hold doesn’t mean the affection that it does in most couples. And this position is more typical of their hand hold. He is gripping just a few of her fingers and pulling them upwards. The fingers are not interlaced, they’re not intertwined, and it’s not full. If you look at it, you’ll see it’s just the last bottom of his fingers he’s using to hold and pull her up. And if you look at the end of her fingers, that last digit of hers, you can see that there’s tension in that last digit. It’s not curled around him. You’re seeing in that hand hold him pulling and manipulating and her having tension in the hand.
I think that’s important to note because I think some people might read this and say, "Oh but they’re holding hands, they’re showing that they’re a couple." It’s important to note how their hand hold has changed over time, and how their hand hold is a little different [than other couples’.]
Melania’s position relative to Trump:
The next thing is their body position as a couple. She’s hinged away from [Donald]. She’s the screen door and he’s the doorway, and she’s opened up; she’s not standing on the same plane, she’s hinged off and away from him. And you can see that by both her body position and the position of her arm. It’s also interesting that he has his arm dominant over hers.
Melania’s position relative to Trudeau:
So she’s hinged away, and if you’ll look at her body position she’s less than I would say 8 inches from Trudeau’s body. She’s out and close up, way inside the intimate zone of space, which is 12 to 14 inches. It’s unusual that she’s not separating out from him to do that kiss. Usually what happens [in a double kiss greeting] is that the woman would arch her pelvis and her chest slightly away. I call it the social arc, because if you’re going to do the kiss you arc the sexual parts of your body away. In a formal setting like this, that is what you would do.
The way she looks at him:
The most significant is the way she’s looking at [Trudeau]. Again, the other thing you usually do in this greeting is you aim, you kiss, but you shut your eyes, and her eyes are not shut. And if you look at his lashes, his eyes are not shut either.
She’s looking with pleasure — It’s a delight to kiss you. I desire it. Her offering up, the way her neck is arched up, the way her mouth is placed up, the lips are partially pursed for the kiss, plus the look — there’s a reason that some people have made this into a romantic novel cover, because if that was just from the shoulders up, it would look like a romantic. The body language is that of a romantic kiss.
There’s nothing offhand or spontaneous [given that they were at a photo op]. This is something she’s doing purposefully.
Trump’s facial expression:
[Melania's] making a decision to do what we are seeing. She’s making a decision to do a seductive kiss while holding hands with her husband, and that choice is affecting her husband. We don’t know whether it’s motivated to make him do that, but we can say she’s choosing to do that while holding his hand in this very public setting. This choice in that moment is making him look down in petulance and anger.
If you look at how the chin is brought in, he’s looking down. Look at the lips, you’ll see that they’re closed and turning down at the ends. If you look all around the eyes you’ll see the tension on his brow as he looks down. The brow has what I call the “wicked look.” The muffles over the eyes have that V, and so it ends up on the face as very angular, and that’s one of the signals of anger.
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