A few days before the Democratic Convention in July of last year, Monica Lewinsky turned 43-years-old. But what happened to the young White House intern whose relationship with the then-president led to one of the biggest scandals in American politics?
Monica was only 22-years-old when, as White House intern, she had an affair with the president.
The details of the scandal are about as documented as any scandal has ever been, and were the foundation for just about every 90s comedian’s bits on politics.
You had the blue dress with the president’s DNA on it, the taped conversations with Linda Tripp, the president’s impeachment (making him only the second president to go through the process, after Andrew Jackson in 1868), the lengthy and detailed report from independent prosecutor Ken Starr, and Bill’s famous line, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Since the scandal, Lewinsky has dipped her toe into several different career pools – handbag designer and weight loss pitchwoman to name a couple – before vanishing from the public stage for a decade while she went to grad school.
In the last two years, however, Lewinsky has re-emerged into the public sphere. She has stayed out of political commentary, though, and did not voice her thoughts on the 2016 presidential elections, which probably makes her the only person in the world that didn’t.
However, that didn’t stop the current president Donald Trump saying during the campaign that talking about Monica Lewinsky was ‘fair game’.
According to The Today Show, “You look at whether it’s Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones [who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment before his impeachment] or many of them. That will certainly be fair game.”
When asked about this, Lewinsky said, according to The Today Show: “I’m not going to answer that. How’s this? I’m affected by what happens on the world stage, but I don’t let it deter me.”
Though Monica may have been out of the public eye for a while, but she certainly hasn’t been lazy. One way she has decided to use her time most effectively is by becoming an activist against cyber bullying.
If you go to her Twitter, you’d see that Monica calls herself, “social activist, public speaker, vanity fair contributor. ambassador @bystanderrev + @antibullyingpro. knitter of things without sleeves #clickwithcompassion.”
She has spoken candidly about her ordeal with online bullying.
Though Lewinsky still avoids granting many interviews, she did give a rare interview to The Guardian, which called her “a respected and perceptive anti-bullying advocate.
“She talks at Facebook, and at business conferences, on how to make the internet more compassionate. She helps out at anti-bullying organisations like Bystander Revolution.”
She told the Guardian that, “The shame sticks to you like tar.”
According to The Today Show, “Lewinsky is teaming up with Vodafone to create anti-bullying amojis and GIFs.”
And the New York Times says that she has appeared at New York benefits, participated in an anti-bullying workshop, and “joined a feminist networking group.”
She also spoke at a Forbes conference, and on the subject of online bullying, she said: “I lost my reputation…And I lost my sense of self.”
Lewinsky told Vanity Fair that she was moved to become an anti-bullying activist by her mother’s tearful reaction to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman who jumped off a bridge after being “secretly streamed via Webcam kissing another man.”
In the decade she spent out of the public eye, Monica also moved to London, where she studied social psychology at the London School of Economics. She graduated with a Master of Science in 2006, after writing a thesis called “In search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third-Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity,” according to Gazette Review.
Lewinsky obtained the now-infamous White House internship at the age of 22, after graduating from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, with a BA in psychology, said Gazette Review.
She told Vanity Fair, “I moved to England to study, to challenge myself, to escape scrutiny, and to reimaging my identity.”
She didn’t talk much about the Clinton scandal for a decade, but that all changed when she penned a major article for Vanity Fair magazine in 2014 that was a finalist for the 2015 National Magazine Awards. Entitled, “Shame and Survival,” the introduction starts, “After 10 years of self-imposed reticence, and now hoping to help victims of Internet shaming, she critiques the culture that put a 24-year-old through the wringer and calls out the feminists that joined the chorus.”
In the article, she criticised what she called the “‘culture of humiliation’ that not only encourages and revels in Schadenfreude [taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune] but also rewards those who humiliate others.” She wrote that it especially thrives online.
But for a time, Lewinsky also had brief careers in selling handbags and as a dieting company spokeswoman. She knitted, made handbags and was a pitchwoman for Jenny Craig. The website Celebrity Net Worth has says that Monica was paid $1 million for the Jenny Craig job and made another $500,000 for a tell-all book.
The site states that her current net worth is $500,000, but according to the site, Monica’s family is “well-to-do” and she “attended elementary school in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills High school.”
Those pursuits however didn’t come to much, and she told Vanity Fair in 2014 that, after leaving grad school in London, “I moved between London, Los Angeles, New York and Portland, Oregon, interviewing for a variety of jobs that fell under the umbrella of ‘creative communication’ and ‘branching’, with an emphasis on charity campaigns.” She unfortunately kept getting turned down for these job opportunities.
She also told Vanity Fair that while she does date, she has never married.
The Times said that she “splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she grew up, and London.” The times also said that she has a hard time finding employment, so instead, she meditates, does therapy, hangs out with friends and volunteers.
So while she hasn’t managed to find much in the way of actual work, she certainly made her presence felt when she gave a well received 18-minute TED talk in Vancouver called “The Price of Shame.”
In the talk, she spoke of the painful costs that she still endures because of the scandal all those years ago, and said that she believes she was one of the first victims of cyber bullying. During the talk, she said: “Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing. You can survive it. I know it’s hard,” Said the Hollywood Reporter.