“Mystery of Trump’s Orange Skin” Leads Writer to Indiana

Mother Jones staff writer Stephanie Mencimer set out to uncover the origins of Donald Trump’s famously bronzy complexion—and the journey led her to a well-known executive in Central Indiana.

Posted today, Mencimer’s article, “We May Have Unlocked the Mystery of Trump’s Orange Skin,” speculates that the GOP presidential candidate’s apparent affinity for “bad spray tans or the tanning booth” was at least helped along by his longtime friendship with businessman Steve Hilbert of Carmel, Indiana.

As chronicled in the 2016 IM article “Dumpster Fire of the Vanities: John Menard, Steve Hilbert, and the Midwestern Nouveau Riche” (which got a link in the Mother Jones piece), Hilbert founded Conseco insurance and, more recently, was the CEO of Indianapolis-based New Sunshine, which owns multiple tanning-related enterprises. In 2007, the Indianapolis Business Journal hailed Hilbert as “tanning’s new king” and trumpeted Indianapolis as the “world’s tanning-bed capital.”

Hilbert and his wife, Tomisue Hilbert, once touted New Sunshine’s products on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, and would-be first lady Melania Trump had a product deal with the company that ended in a legal dispute a few years ago.

The Hilberts have been enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, appearing at campaign events in Indianapolis ahead of Indiana’s May primary election, and the Mother Jones article includes a grinning photo of the couple holding up Trump signs (courtesy of local outlet Current in Carmel).

(Used with permission from Current Publishing LLC. Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.)


Trump photo by Darryl Smith; Hilberts portrait courtesy Steve Hilbert


Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.