The body politic: Decoding the Trumps’ demeanor in their official holiday photo

December 20, 2018

Say what? On December 15 the president and first lady stood proudly side-by-side—and even holding hands–for their impeccable, official 2018 White House Christmas portrait, which was snapped by FLOTUS’s photographer Andrea Hanks, InStyle magazine reports. But what is their body language really telling us?

InStyle asked body language expert Patti Wood for her opinion—and she pointed out that the photo exposed some truths about the first couple’s relationship.

“If you look at that photo and don’t move in on it tightly at all, you can feel the tension in it,” Wood explained to InStyle. “There’s so many things that [can] show affection, care, a desire to merge—[but] that aren’t present.”

One thing that the expert finds “quite striking,” according to the report, is how straight up and down each of them is. They’re not leaning towards each other, or curled or curved toward each other, which would be standard in a couple’s  photo, to show relationship and attachment or endearment.

Instead, Wood believes, Melania’s posture betrayed anxiety. “Her feet are very tight together, facing out. Some people say that’s to look feminine, but the feminine posture is actually that foot-ankle pose, what I call the model pose, with one foot in front of the other,” the body language expert noted. “That used to be her standard pose in pictures. Here, she’s not doing the posture that would be more flattering—instead, she has the feet together, and that’s protective.”

That posture is evident in all of her limbs: “The whole curve of the inner arm, and her left hand in a loose fist—just the closeness together of limbs and the tightness in the hand—all indicate tension and fear,” Wood told the magazine.

And neither spouse’s smile looks natural to the pro. “What is interesting,” she says, “is that her baseline many times when she’s photographed with him, is to have the mouth closed in more of a thin line, especially when she’s caught spontaneously with him. You see her mouth closed and the lips tight together. Here you actually do see that they’re both smiling, but they’re tight, the lips are pulled back in a tight grin—a tight, forced grin.”

She elaborates, “One of the ways you can tell [it’s forced] is the way you feel when you look at their smiles. You actually feel the tension in your body when you look at their smiles—it’s more of a grin than a smile.”

What’s more, although the POTUS and FLOTUS are holding hands—an unusual move for the couple, Woods interprets the pose as “a loose handhold. “If you look at her hand,” the expert tells InStyle, “it is bent around his and slightly lifting his up. But you can see where he’s not fully joining in by the way that his thumb is awkwardly out. It’s very odd. If you look at it closely, you see that the thumb is straight and pointing at him as opposed to resting or curling around her, and doing what would be normal to show a return of affection.”

Finally, the body language professional admits, “It’s so funny because this was the [photo] they chose to publish …. This is the one that they were happy about showing to the world. It’s surprising the photographer didn’t say, “Why don’t you put your arm around her?  Why don’t you hold his hand a little bit tighter?” So this must’ve been the best of them.”

Research contact: @HereReedThis

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