Immigration

The secrets of Trump's housekeepers

Two Hispanic women who worked undocumented for Trump, reveal the hardships they endured to meet the demands of their supervisor in the Trump family's homes at his New Jersey golf club.
Lea esta historia en español
6 May 2019 – 9:54 PM EDT

Sandra Díaz says that one of the first instructions she received from her supervisor when she started working without legal immigration documents in 2010 at the Trump golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, left her astounded.

"My supervisor personally told me that Trump did not like black people, or fat, or ugly ones," recalls Díaz.

The Costa Rican immigrant slipped into the private life of Trump before he became the most powerful man in the world, and in the process was introduced to his likes and dislikes.

Due to her skills and swiftness, she explained, she was chosen to be part of the elite group of employees who cleaned the house where Trump resided with his wife Melania and other member of his family during part of the summer.

Díaz learned the meticulous order and cleaning instructions of the tycoon. She recounted to Univison how she learned to arrange the tic-tac boxes on his bedside table alongside dollar bills for tips; how to symetrically folded his underpants, sew his stockings and often clean his golf shirts, stained with the generous doses of makeup he uses.

"Mr. Trump likes to use makeup, so the shirts always had makeup on them, I washed them, on one occasion I used a liquid, I tried everything and it wouldn't come out," says Díaz. "On many occasions Melania sent us special liquids from New York to see if we could remove the makeup from her collars," she added.

When Díaz left the club in 2013, her position was taken by her friend Victorina Sanán, a Guatemalan woman who said she warned her supervisors on the very first day that she didn’t speak English and had no documents.

"Don't worry, we need is English, now forget about the papers," Sanán recalls she was told. She was hired on the spot.


Breaking point

Díaz and Sanán continued to be friends. They say that what they saw and suffered in the club, they would have left discreetly stored away in their memories. But on June 2015, when they listened to the first campaign speech in which Trump called the majority of Hispanic immigrants criminals, everything changed, they said.

Convinced that people should know why Trump could not live without the Hispanics, they decided to tell Univision their experiences with the presidential family, and the strict watch of a female supervisor who, they said, constantly humiliated them.

"He [Trump] treats us like criminals and we entered his house, as if like thieves, like rapists, and we have been with his wife, with his children, with his grandchildren," says Díaz, recalling Trump's famous speech in June 2015.

For them, they said, it was very difficult to assimilate that the same man who give away $50 to $200 tips to club employees and congratulated his cleaning staff on the great work they performed, overnight placed them in the same category as an immigrant plague invading the United States.

The experiences of Sanán and Díaz at Trump's club were reported by them to the New Jersey attorney's office, according to the women's lawyer, Aníbal Romero.

"It makes me very sad because we know that these people were the most trusted employees of the president's household and the family," Romero said. "They practically became his family. And now for political reasons they simply turn their backs on them. It's really something that’s very sad," Romero added.

Díaz and Sanán confirmed that they gave statements to the state attorneys office regarding the work conditions and the abuses to which they were subjected by their supervisor, Agnieszka Kluska, a Polish immigrant who boasted of previously having worked as a policewoman in her home country. They knew her as 'Agnes.'

Kluska declined to be interviewed by Univision.

Univision has not received an official response from the Trump Organization or the White House to a request for comment to a series of questions regarding the testimonies of the two housekeepers.

Díaz and Sanán said that of all the Trumps, the president's daughter, Ivanka, was the most distant with them. She was more strict with the maids than she was on her own tidiness, they said.

"She is too demanding and apart from that she's someone who is very intolerant, and doesn't even greet you," says Díaz.


During a long conversation last March at her home in New Jersey, Univision asked Díaz that people hearing her story might accuse her of being ungrateful for not appreciating the opportunity she got to work for Trump.

"I would ask them to look at everything I did for him," Díaz responded before describing the grueling cleaning routine in the Trump family homes and the club where they had to work, often more than 10 hours a day, earning less money than employees with legal papers, she said.

Flies, makeup and orderliness

During the interviews at the maids’ homes in New Jersey, they described their routine in two houses, Number One and Number Three, at the 525-acre Bedminster Club that Trump bought in 2002 for $35 million. Trump has declared a special fondness for the place, about an hour's drive from Manhattan, saying he wants to be buried there.

Díaz, who was born in Costa Rica, arrived in the United States in 2009 with a tourist visa and decided to overstay after a compatriot who worked at the club offered her a job.

"He told us that because I like cleaning so much and that he knew that the supervisor [of the club] was ‘tico’ (as Costa Ricans call themselves). So, we decided to stay,” said Diaz

She was hired in March 2010, and like many Hispanics who worked at the club she was told she didn’t have to worry about her lack of legal work papers. All she had to provide supervisors was an envelope with four photos. They were responsible for filling out the employment forms, she added. That was something that she would not have been able to do anyway because she didn’t speak English.

She made $10 dollars an hour and was trained to clean the two Trump houses. An early warning from the Costa Rican supervisor who trained her, left her astonished, she says.

"He personally told me that Trump did not like black people, or fat, or ugly ones," recalls Díaz.

Rafael, her Costa Rican boss, had been working without documents for five years as a supervisor and direct assistant to Trump at the club. He spoke fluent English and thanks to his good job performance had earned the confidence of Trump, she explained.

During the first two weeks at the club, Díaz gradually became aware of Trump's various “obsessions’’, she said. The first one, was flies.

"It was terrible if I found a fly," says Díaz. "Many times he got very upset because he was having dinner on the patio and the flies came, but he detests them, it's a phobia."

In the rural setting in which the club is located, surrounded by cattle farms, the war against insects was hard to win despite a legion of maintenance workers, almost all undocumented, who showed up armed with fly traps that were hung around the dining room before Trump arrived.

"About 15 to 20 minutes before he made his entrance, they picked up and remove all the stuff with the flies," she added.


Neck stains

During his stays at the club, according to Díaz, Trump wore four sets of clothes, each one identical: beige pants, white t-shirt, black socks and red baseball caps. But keeping the sets of clothing in his closet clean was not easy, recalls Diaz, because almost all the shirts were stained on the collar with Trump’s distinctive orange-colored facial makeup.

Trump's facial skin tone has been virtually a state secret for years. Newspapers such as The New York Times and Vanity Fair magazine have devoted entire articles to the subject. The Times quoted a source saying that the president uses a tanning bed aboard Air Force One and wears an eye protector which explains the contrast with the rest of his face.


An unnamed senior official told the Times that Trump's color was the product of "good genes."

It has also been a source of jokes. The famous Baby Trump balloon is painted an intense orange color and in demonstrations in Europe some protesters have worn similar-colored makeup.

Now, thanks to Trump's former housekeepers, there is a simpler explanation: the color comes from a makeup that he applies himself and that part of their job was to make sure that there was a plentiful supply.

"There always had to be at least two bottles of the same makeup and even if one had been opened there always had to be two new ones," she explained. If it was past the expiration date, the maids had to inform Melania Trump’s personal assistant, Noemi Daradics, in order for it to be replaced, said Diaz.

Daradics had also worked previously as the nanny to the Trump’s son, Barron. According to Diaz and Sanan, Daradics knew they were undocumented. Univision tried to get an interview with her at the club and left a business card in her home at Bedminster but she didn’t respond.

According to Díaz, who worked at the club until 2013, the makeup came in a liquid form. She doesn’t remember the commercial brand. Sanán maintains that Trump later changed to a powder makeup.


Tic Tacs and tips

When detergents sent by Melania Trump to remove the makeup stains on the collars didn’t work, recalls Díaz, the supervisors replaced the shirts with new ones acquired at the club's store. This was done discreetly, without Trump knowing, because staff were not permitted to throw out any of Trump’s garments or personal belongings, including socks.


That was something Diaz learned the day her supervisor gave her one of Trump’s sock with a hole.

"He told me: ‘You can’t throw it away. Sandra, do me a favor, darn it. If he says let's throw it out, we do it,’'' Diaz recalls the supervisor telling her.

"Only when he [Trump] threw something on the floor, near the bed … did we know that it had to be thrown away, otherwise never," she added.

The same rule applied to his soap.

"He has a special bath soap that he uses, but you never could throw it away even if only the smallest sliver remained", says Díaz.

On the bedside table, the maids had to make sure that there were always three boxes of Tic Tac, Trump's favorite mint. The mints are part of his ritual prior to kissing a woman, he famously told journalist Billy Bush in a now notorious tape.

Next to the Tic Tacs, Trump expected his housekeepers to keep neat stacks of $20, $50 and $100 bills which he regularly hands out as tips at his clubs, a habit confirmed by several of the fired immigrants who benefited from his generosity.

The house cleaning routine began at nine in the morning. The maids would be given disposable shoe protectors, and were told to wear no makeup or perfume.

"I suppose [the use of protectors] is because she [Melania] worries about bacteria," explained Díaz.

The First Lady’s clothes had to be washed with a special detergent, different from the rest of the family.

"Melania is very strict and she likes it to be completely clean, neat, white, no stains, nothing," says Díaz.

Beyond keeping strawberry and chocolat ice cream in the refrigerator, Trump's favorites, the maids had no kitchen-related chores. Trump ate at the club’s restaurant while meals for his wife and son, Barron, were the responsibility of Amalija Knavs, the First Lady’s mother.

"They did not even let us touch the dishes to wash them," says Díaz. "The mother is responsible for washing everything, cleaning everything, the kitchen, everything, only the mother," she adds.

Melania Trump’s mother cooked meals for her daughter and grandson using scales and exact measures, they said.


Kind and generous

Both Díaz and Sanán agreed that Knavs was kind and personable, but the relationship between mother and daughter seemed distant to them.

Díaz remembers that if Knavs wanted to ask Melania a question while she was on the computer, she should approach and make her presence evident without speaking, until her daughter addressed her.

"I never observed a relationship between them as mother and daughter," the maid concluded. “She treated her like an employee.”

According to Díaz, Melania Trump’s interactions with them were always kind. Trump too, was a generous boss. In fact, one day when Sanán was cleaning the stained glass windows of a club room but couldn’t reach the highest ones, she recalls that Trump approached her from the back, took the cloth, cleaned the windows and gave her a tip.

"What’s your name?” he asked her. She replied; “I told him, Victoria.” Trump asked her what country she was from before congratulating on for her hard work and giving her $50.

Everything changed, according to the women on the day Trump launched his campaign by smearing Mexican immigrants as drug traffickers and rapists.

Díaz says that she became aware of Trump's political ambitions long before he became a candidate. It was the day that the businessman attended a meeting at the Bedminster to celebrate good financial results with employees.

"He said that everything he had wanted had been achieved, that the only thing he had not achieved was to be president because he wanted to see his name on a dollar bill," Díaz recalls. "To that I would say, if he can’t see the name on a bill, he can see it on the [border] wall. He has used us, he used us to serve him at his home and now to encourage racism in this country."

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