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Melania Trump waxwork unveiled at Madame Tussauds by Sean Spicer

Adam Gabbatt in New York

First lady joins Donald Trump at Tussauds in New York – and Spicer says US public ‘haven’t appreciated her political savviness’

The waxwork of Melania Trump with her husband Donald at the Times Square Tussauds in New York. The real Sean Spicer looks on. Photograph: Erik Pendzich/Rex/Shutterstock

Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, has unveiled a waxwork of Melania Trump at Madame Tussauds in New York, praising the model as “unbelievably lifelike”.

The figurine of the first lady was unveiled on Wednesday, and stands next to a waxwork of her husband, Donald Trump. The Trumps are positioned behind a wooden presidential desk in a section devoted to world and religious leaders. It is located across from Pope Francis, Gandhi and Fidel Castro.

It’s the first time Melania Trump has been displayed at Tussauds. She joins a pantheon of wax celebrities at the Times Square location, including Angelina Jolie, Queen Elizabeth II and the boyband ‘NSync.

Asked what Trump was like away from the cameras, Spicer said: “She’s a very gracious and fashionable woman. I don’t think the American people have fully appreciated the level of intellect she has and her political savviness.”

In a brief Q&A with a Tussauds representative, Spicer, who resigned in July, described Melania as “a great spouse” who is “always supportive” of Donald Trump “in public and private”.

Asked by the Guardian if Melania Trump was supportive when news broke of her husband’s alleged affair with a pornographic actor, Spicer said: “I haven’t had any conversations on that.”

Ready for her close-up: the Melania figurine. Photograph: Erik Pendzich/Rex/Shutterstock

There is an interactive element, too: Tussauds have invited visitors to “Give Melania a voice” by tweeting from a social media station next to her waxwork. The tweets will appear on a live stream, and those deemed suitable will be tweeted out to the world.

The option to “Give Melania a voice” seemed a curious decision by Tussauds, given the inevitable comparisons to the #FreeMelania movement that trended after the 2016 presidential inauguration. That hashtag was sparked by footage of her looking less than pleased as her husband was inaugurated.

A spokeswoman acknowledged that people might make that comparison, but said “Give Melania a voice” was not intended as a comment on Melania’s taciturn image or her role in the White House.