Monica Lewinsky was suddenly thrown under the spotlight after her affair in the late ’90s with then-United States President Bill Clinton, and she has only recently decided to speak out about what it was like to go through such severe “public shaming” at a young age.
During a segment for John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, Lewinsky told the late-night host that the “avalanche of pain and humiliation” she went through after her relationship with Clinton ended up affecting her own self-esteem and changing the way she thought of herself for years to come.
According to the Daily Mail, when asked how she managed to survive “one of the worst internet-fueled public shamings of all time,” the former White House intern replied that it was a “s**t storm,” and that it was hard to have any self-esteem or dignity whatsoever as the “butt of so many jokes.”
She explained that while she was heavily “slut-shamed,” it was the comments made about her appearance that also took a serious toll on her mental health.
“Part of my vanity now comes from the wounds of having been made fun of for my weight, people saying I was unattractive.”
“It was terrifying not only because I was watching myself, or this version of myself, running away from me, but my identity — my identity was stolen in a different way,” she said.
And when Oliver pointed out that every 22-year-old is bound to make some mistakes, Lewinsky joked that she wasn’t a “perfect angel” and admitted that she had made mistakes, as well as said or done “stupid things” in the past.
“But I watched this sort of deconstruction of me, and rebuilding of me,” she added.
She also explained that one of the worst side effects of her much-publicized relationship with the U.S. president was that it became extremely hard to find a regular job after her face was splattered all over the newspapers. She recalled trying to apply for jobs and having employers offer her positions because of the media attention she could bring to them, or even ask her if she could ask the Clintons for favors such as letters of indemnification.
“So there was this wide range of not being able to support myself and also have a purpose, which is equally important to feel that you matter in some way,” she revealed.
And still, despite everything she went through, Lewinsky said she opted against changing her name, in part as a statement because she didn’t think she should be the only one carrying the weight of the scandal, as Bill Clinton would never change his because of it.