Ivana Trump leans over the gilded banister in her five-story If Manhattan townhouse and purrs to a pair of artisans below. "Oh, boys, you can come up to say goodbye," she tells the fully grown men who have spent two hours measuring her for matching likenesses to grace Madame Tussaud's wax museums planned for Las Vegas and New York City. "But no more poking," she teases. "My boyfriend, he is Italian, and he will be so jealous when he hears about ze poking."

It's clear that Ivana—just Ivana, she insists—knows what makes a man tick and what ticks a man off. As the survivor of the divorce that helped define the excessive '80s—from billionaire blowhard Donald Trump in 1990—Ivana refused to grow bitter. She took her comfy $20 million settlement and went cannily commercial: Her oeuvre includes a bodice-ripping bestseller, a self-help book and the multimillion-dollar House of Ivana fashion and cosmetics line that she peddles on shopping channels in several countries. Marvels pal and self-described imagist Brad Boles: "She was able to create her own empire and to stand on her own two feet—and in Manolo Blahnik shoes!"

Now, Ivana, who turned 50 in February, has launched her latest vanity venture—Ivana's Living in Style magazine. In it the Czechoslovakian-born former ski bunny offers her readers such gold-plated pragmatisms as "The Joy of Not Cooking" (order in, toss the cartons and pretend you made it) and "How to Get Out of a Car Elegantly" (in Ivana's case, usually a red Ferrari, a gift from current squeeze Count Roffredo Gaetani, a former boxer with two popes in his family tree who says things like, "Look at those legs—I never see legs like that!"). "Martha [Stewart] is for the ladies who are homemakers and have patience to hand paint a vase and make recipes with many steps," Ivana says of the haughty hostess whose realm she hopes to enter. "I'm for the modern woman, the woman who wants to juggle all the pieces of herself." And admire herself in the process. A Niagara of narcissism, Ivana's Living in Style, says The Boston Globe's Diane White, is "a photographic tribute to its creator," adding, "I counted 56 photos of her in 84 pages."

Though Ivana has three personal trainers, six homes and a 105-foot yacht, she is convinced that ordinary women will find her ideas "inspirational." "I know," Ivana says, "what women's concerns are." She has a point. In 1989, when her husband flaunted his affair with—and his later marriage to—Maria Maples, Ivana's don't-get-mad-get-everything response drew plaudits. "Women relate to Ivana because she suffered," says pal and New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. "If she is over the top with wardrobe, with jewelry or the things she says, it is forgiven because she has been beaten down and she has risen to the top. America loves an underdog."

In fact, Ivana can't walk down a street or jog in Central Park without strangers calling out to her. "Hel-lo, dahlink!" she trills back. "The women know I like them," she says. "A lot of girls are competitive. I'm not. When someone likes my hair I say, this is my hairdresser, or this is my designer. I don't hide information. I want to give it to the girls because I want them all to look great and feel good."

And do right. She doesn't mince words in the weekly advice column she began in 1996 for the Globe tabloid, publisher of Ivana's hiving in Style. To a woman who found a G-string in her man's tuxedo jacket and didn't know what to think, Ivana says she answered, "Dahlink Evelyn from Oklahoma: Get life! Your husband is cheating on you."

Intolerant too of bad table manners and back-talking children, Ivana insists she knows whereof she speaks. "There is nothing my housekeeper does which I cannot do and maybe better," she says. "I can press the shirts with the starch. I can cook." Asked if she ever longs to lounge between the sheets with a box of chocolates and her beau, she rolls her eyes: "I do not eat chocolates," she says. "I do not sit in bed. I do not have the patience for it, and it's too much calories, and I have to go and jog in the park. So it does not happen."

But, Ivana maintains, she is no stick-in-the-mud-bath. When the spirit moves her, she will sacrifice her manicure to pluck country tunes on her guitar. "One is a song about the sleepers and the pillow," she says. "And I sing." Her publicist Catherine Saxton warns that Ivana uses the term loosely, adding, "The children will beg, 'No, Mommy, please don't sing!' "

Torture by off-key crooning notwithstanding, Ivana, by all accounts, has reared three unspoiled children—Donald Jr., 21, is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania; Ivanka, 17, and Eric, 15, attend boarding schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania respectively. Says longtime pal Delia Rounick: "The kids respect her a lot. You don't see that often." Ivana acknowledges that she is of the tough-love school of parenting. "My ex, Donald, is great with the children," she says, "but maybe a little guilty because of the divorce, so I have to be the one who says 'Enough!' " Ivanka, who models part-time ("as long as it doesn't interfere with the school-work," says Ivana), seconds that: "My curfew was always like two hours before everyone else's."

Ivana embraced her inner drill sergeant early. Born in Zlin, a factory town in then-Communist Czechoslovakia, she was the only child of Marie, a telephone operator, and Milos, an engineer who died in 1990. Ivana skied competitively as a child and was a member of the national ski team. The sport provided the metaphor that rules her life. "When you are going down mountain at 80 miles an hour," she says, "you cannot count on Mama or Papa. You have to count only on Ivana."

She's still counting. After graduating from Charles University in Prague with a master's in physical education, she married Austrian skier Alfred Winklmayr to get a western passport. When they split two years later, Ivana moved to Montreal, where she modeled. She met Donald Trump in 1976 while on a shoot in New York City and married him nine months later. "They captured New York City in the '80s, when enough wasn't nearly enough and more was only a little bit," says friend Dennis Basso, a fur and clothing designer. "They were magic!"

Then they were over. "A lot of women, they know what their husband is doing and they say, 'As long as he doesn't embarrass me....' I could not do that," says Ivana, still sounding saddened by Trump's betrayal after 13 years of marriage. What she did do was get cosmetic surgery and soften her brassy, cotton-candy coif. Less than a year after the divorce, Ivana began dating wealthy Italian businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli. Though he signed a pre-nup prior to their 1995 wedding and trailed loyally behind her at conventions and shopping malls, the union fizzled 20 months later. "I'm very sad," Ivana said at the time. "I cry."

But she has survived. Before taking their leave, the earnest artisans from Madame Tussaud's tell Ivana that they will sculpt her head separately. Feigning alarm, she begs, "Please, boys, do not behead me! I cannot lose my head!" No chance of that. She's far too busy using it to lose it.

With reporting by Bob Meadows and Anne-Marie O'Neill in New York City and Liz Corcoran in London

  • Contributors:
  • Bob Meadows,
  • Anne-Marie O'Neill,
  • Liz Corcoran.