Contest Essay Fair Vanity

Monica Lewinsky wrote another essay in Vanity Fair Thursday, and it was pretty much about everything except Bill Clinton. After her May bombshell in Vanity Fair about surviving the scandal, is this the second step in Lewinsky’s long road to internet redemption since the 1998 scandal.

If the essay is any indicator, that road may have a lot of twists and turns. She started off by discussing how she watches Orange Is the New Black, then stopped when she heard a nasty joke about her affair with the President. She goes on to discuss something she heard on NPR, then New Jersey teen who was body-shamed, then a Haruki Murakami short story about a monkey who is an identity thief. She was basically all over the place.

The piece was supposed to be about how to regain control of your public persona after your reputation has been smeared. And that’s pretty interesting from Lewinsky’s perspective. Here was a cogent moment:

The example she chose was Carleigh O’Connell, a 14-year old girl who posted a selfie in a bathing suit to get back at social media haters who were making fun of her butt and calling her fat. O’Connell took a stand against body-shaming and has now become an ambassador for a few body-postive organizations, so Lewinsky is using her as a symbol of an otherwise non-famous person who was publicly shamed, and then had to regain a public standing she never had in the first place. That’s a narrative that should sound familiar to Lewinsky, now 41, who was just a 22-year old intern didn’t have a public reputation to defend until the Clinton scandal launched her to global infamy.

MORE: The Shaming of Monica: Why We Owe Her an Apology

But then the essay takes a weird turn when she talks about Murakami’s freaky monkey character who steals identities. She’s trying to use it as a parable for the Internet, which she calls a “shadowy medium that exists outside the physical world—that has allowed us, as Carleigh’s story proves, to begin to have the means of reclamation.”

Lewinsky ends the essay with another coy reference to Carleigh and internet redemption, calling her butt selfie “an online rebuttal . . . in all meanings. Sounds good to me.”

So does this mean we can expect some Lewinsky butt selfies coming soon? Probably not, but it likely means we may be hearing a lot more from her as Hillary Clinton prepares for a (possible) presidential run.


Monica Lewinsky wants to make it clear that her re-emergence after years out of the spotlight is not about a personal war between "Me versus The Clintons."

However, she also doesn't hold back her criticism of Hillary Clinton or her husband, President Bill Clinton, with whom Lewinsky had an affair that led to the biggest political scandal of the 1990s.

Vanity Fair posted a preview of Lewinsky's essay on Tuesday, which marked the first time Lewinsky has publicly and openly discussed the affair in more than a decade. The expanded digital edition of the magazine was released on Thursday. We've pulled out five interesting things from the full essay.

1. Lewinsky has one beef with Hillary Clinton.

Documents released from the Clinton Presidential Library in February revealed Hillary Clinton told one of her closest friends, Diane Blair, that Lewinsky was a "narcissistic loony toon." Lewinsky said she "gets" why Hillary was publicly "lashing out at her husband's mistress." But Lewinsky also said she found Clinton's "impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling." According to Lewinsky, the woman takes the blame in too many scandals involving marital indiscretion while the man is able to repair his life after a brief time away.

2. She is not a Feminist (with a Capital 'F').

Lewinsky does not consider herself a Feminist because of how many champions of feminism treated her in the aftermath of the revelations:

Lewinsky referred specifically to a conversation that took place among 10 powerful Manhattan women in the days after the scandal broke. Parts of it, she said, made her "speechless."

3. Lewinsky Googles herself.

When the Clinton documents first surfaced earlier this year, the doorman at Lewinsky's apartment building notified her a crowd of reporters and photographers had formed outside. She then Googled herself. Lewinsky described the website that first published the documents, the Washington Free Beacon, as "a conservative website" that had "gone poking around."

"Oh, dear reader, please do not judge," she wrote in the Vanity Fair piece of her self-Googling.

Her Vanity Fair piece went into further detail about Lewinsky's view of the internet, specifically her understanding her story could have exploded even more significantly in today's era of social media. As an example, she cited her participation in the 2002 HBO documentary, "Monica in Black and White," in which she got a question about what it felt like to "be the B.J. queen." Lewinsky argued her response, if given a few years later, would've "gone viral on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, TMZ, Gawker."

"It would have become a meme of its own on Tumblr. The viralness itself would have merited mention on the Daily Beast and Huffington Post," explained Lewinsky.

4. She moved to London to study, and graduated with a master's in social psychology.

She studied at the London School of Economics, and she moved there, she admitted, to "escape scrutiny" and reimagine her identify as well as to challenge herself. In 2006, she graduated with a master's in social psychology.

"I liked to joke that I was trading the blue dress for blue stockings, and the degree provided new scaffolding to hang my life experiences on," she wrote.

She also hoped her studies would lead to a more normal life.

However, even the degree couldn't make her life normal. After her graduation, Lewinsky said she experienced some cringeworthy moments in some of her job interviews across the U.S.

"So here's the thing, Monica," she said one prospective employer told her after an interview in the run-up to the 2008 primary season. "You're clearly a bright young woman and affable, but for us — and probably any other organization that relies on grants and other government funding — it's risky. We would first need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons. After all, there is a 25% chance that Mrs. Clinton will be the next president."

5. She worries about the next Clinton candidacy.

Lewinsky said she worries about facing the "next wave" of paparazzi and the "'Where is she now?' stories" if Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016.

"I've begun to find it debilitating to plot out the cycle of my life based, to some degree, on the political calendar. For me, it's a scenario in which the personal and the political are impossible to separate."

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