Monica Lewinsky can empathize with Britney Spears when it comes to questionable treatment under the public eye.
In a new Q&A with InStyle magazine, Lewinsky talks about revisiting part of her painful past and also getting to tell her own story by being a producer on Impeachment: American Crime Story. Ryan Murphy’s highly anticipated new series revisits her headline-making affair with Bill Clinton. In 1998, Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern during Clinton’s presidency, disclosed to her friend, former Defense Department employee Linda Tripp, that she had a relationship with the president that was sexual in nature. Tripp taped these conversations without Lewinsky’s knowledge, and brought to light Clinton’s infidelity. This led to the country’s first impeachment proceedings in over a century.
These days, people are revisiting the way Lewinsky was treated after the scandal hit, when she was often a punchline to late-night jokes. Lewinsky, now 48, is asked about people now apologizing to women like her and Spears for the way they were treated in the past, and while she welcomes it, she notes there is a key difference between her and Spears.
“I think it’s long overdue and wonderful to see it happening for different women in different arenas and scenarios,” she says. “I made a mistake. Britney didn’t. There were other young women this happened to, and there’s an enormous amount of collateral damage. So I think it’s not just an apology to a person; it’s an apology to how you’ve affected a culture. What is sexual agency? What does it mean? It’s not surprising that this de-objectifying of women is happening alongside the #MeToo movement. They braid together in a way that makes sense.”
Lewinsky says she actually met Spears in the early 2000s.
“She was with Justin Timberlake, and she was going into Henri Bendel just as I was leaving,” she recalls. “I had my handbag company at the time, and she said she thought the bags were cute. I was beside myself, so I got her some. But at that time I wasn’t able to have the perspective to recognize, ‘Oh, this is happening to other women.’ When the fat-shaming happened to Jessica Simpson [in 2009], I thought, ‘Oh, OK. This didn’t just happen to me. This is happening now to other people too.’ Not that that’s a good thing.”
Still, she does acknowledge that there’s beauty through resiliency.
“I think that it defies the odds. I have a friend I’ve known for 15 years, and every time I see her, she says, ‘I can’t believe you’re still alive,'” she says. “Just having survived those past traumas. I’ve had a lot of growth in the last year in ways that I never would have expected.”
Lewinsky also recently spoke to The New York Times about telling her story in Impeachment: American Crime Story, and said that although it was scary, it was necessary.
“When you have made a colossal mistake like I did so early in your life, and lost so much because of it, the idea of making a mistake is catastrophic,” she says. “And yet in order to move forward, I have to take risks. I have to try things. I have to continue to define who I am.”
She also revealed she voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and noted that reading news about the Clintons doesn’t affect her as much with the passage of time from the scandal.
“They don’t loom nearly as large as they did for two decades in my life,” she says.
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