Melanija Knavs was born in Novo Mesto in the southeast of Slovenia, which was then part of Yugoslavia, on April 26, 1970.She is a daughter of Amalija (née Ulčnik) and Viktor Knavs, who managed car and motorcycle dealerships for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer.Her father was from the nearby town of Radeče. Her mother came from the village of Raka, and was a pattern maker at the children’s clothing manufacturer “Jutranjka” in Sevnica. When later working as a model, she changed the Slovene form of her last name Knavs to the German Knauss.
She grew up in a modest apartment in a housing block in Sevnica, in Slovenia’s Lower Sava Valley. She has a sister, Ines, and an elder half-brother Denis, whom she reportedly has never met, from her father’s previous relationship.
When she was a teenager, the family moved to a two-story house in Sevnica, and as a high school student, she lived in a high-rise apartment in Ljubljana. Melanija attended the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, and studied at the University of Ljubljana for one year before dropping out. It has been reported that she speaks six languages: English, French, Italian, German, Serbo-Croatian and her native Slovene