'It was an avalanche of pain and humiliation': Monica Lewinsky opens up to John Oliver about 'public shaming' from the Clinton scandal, how she couldn't find a job for more than a decade, and why she decided not to change her name

It was the affair heard around the world, one that made her the butt of late-night jokes for years and changed her life forever. 
And now Monica Lewinsky has opened up to John Oliver about the 'avalanche of pain and humiliation' that she experienced after her relationship with Bill Clinton. 
Oliver's show Last Week Tonight hosted a special segment on public shaming,  and interviewed Lewinsky about the scandal that rocked the nineties. 
'You were on the receiving end of one of the worst internet-fueled public shamings of all time. How the f**k did you get through that?' Oliver asked her. 
'I don't actually know,' Lewinsky replied. 'It was a s**t storm.' 
'At 24 years old, it was really hard to hold onto a shred of dignity or self-esteem when you know, you're the butt of so many jokes.' 
Lewinsky revealed that it wasn't just the 'slut-shaming' that hurt her, but the many comments made about her appearance as well. 
'Part of my vanity now comes from the wounds of having been made fun of for my weight, people saying I was unattractive,' she continued. 
'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.'
'Not to say that I wasn't flawed and that I didn't make terrible mistakes or do stupid things or say stupid things, because of course I did,' she added. 
'You were 22!' Oliver interjected. 'Every 22-year-old is some version of an idiot.' 
'You just lost a lot of viewers!' Lewinsky joked. 'But, it's not like I was this perfect angel right? But I watched this sort of deconstruction of me, and rebuilding of me.' 

Lewinsky said it can still be tough sometimes to get through a typical day, but that she found it even more difficult to find a job after the scandal. 
'It was interesting because I went to graduate school in 2005 and I graduated in 2006 and I thought, "Okay, now I will begin my life, I will now put being Monica Lewinsky behind me and move on to be so and so's employee,'" she recalled. 
'And when I couldn't find a job, you know somebody either offered me a job for the wrong reasons like "Oh you'll be coming to our events, that's your job, and there's media there" or people saying to me like, "Well, could you get a letter of indemnification from the Clintons because we rely on government money and Hillary might be president."
'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.' 
Despite the difficulties, Lewinsky said she never considered changing her name. 
'There were several reasons I didn't,' she said. 'I mean, first of all, I don't think it really would've even worked. But I think it was also a principle in the sense that, Bill Clinton didn't have to change his name. Nobody's ever asked him, did he think he should change his name?' 
'And so, I think that that was an important statement. I'm not proud of all the choices I've made in my life, but I'm proud of the person I am. I'm not ashamed of who I am and I think that, as hard as it has been to have that last name sometimes and the pain I have felt of what it's meant for the other people in my family who have that last name, I'm glad I didn't change it.' 
In the same segment, Oliver took responsibility for his own role in the late-night machine that launched hundreds of jokes at Lewinsky's expense. 
'My hands are not clean here either,' he said. 'I wasn't in the US at the time, but 10 years after the fact, I was in a Daily Show piece marking the 10th anniversary of the scandal above a graphic reading "10 suckin' years", which is gross!' 
Oliver said many comedians have since expressed regret about the things they said about Lewinsky. 
'Although one who hasn't, and was among the most relentless, was Jay Leno,' he added, showing a montage of Leno making joke after joke about Lewinsky. 
'Those jokes have not dated well in any sense of the word, and they're pretty rough, especially coming from a guy who just this week complained about late-night TV, saying he would "like to see a bit of civility come back,"' Oliver continued. 
'You know, like that time he did a fake book about Lewinsky titled "The Slut In The Hat". And if that's what he means by civility, let me offer my new book "Oh, the places you can go f**k yourself Jay Leno!" 
Oliver said that Lewinsky was the 'perfect person to remind all of us what the consequences can be to a misdirected flood of public anger'. 
And Lewinsky revealed to the comedian that she believes shaming and bullying has only gotten worse in the 21st century. 
'I think with the advent of the internet and, of course, social media, we now have situations where it's exacerbated beyond what I think anyone could have imagined initially,' she said. 'And the anonymity that comes with that, that sort of unleashed these whole new personas for people.'  
But Lewinsky agreed with Oliver that there can be some positive effects to public shaming when the person being shamed has been hurting others with their behavior. 
'We tend to look at it as a binary question,' she added. 'Should we public shame or shouldn't we? I do think there's a spectrum of behavior on which we could kind of judge as a society, "Is this where shaming is effective to change social behavior, or is it damaging?"' 
After 20 years, Lewinsky said she has been able to joke about the experience a bit. She even wore a beret for a party that had a nineties theme. 
The beret had become synonymous with Lewinsky after she was photographed next to Clinton while wearing one.
'For the first time in 18 years, I donned a black beret and went to my friend's party. In part because I thought it was funny,' she said. 
'Berets, I can laugh at. Other clothing jokes, not so much,' she added, clearly referring to the infamous blue dress which became integral to the Clinton scandal.
Oliver then asked Lewinsky how her experience has been since joining Twitter, noting that he often sees a 'sewer' of terrible comments under her tweets.   
'I get a lot of empowerment out of blocking people,' she revealed. 'I wish people would not say s****y things, but they do. And, literally to me, when I block someone, I'm going,' she said before sticking up her middle finger as Oliver laughed. 
'That's literally what it feels like for me, is that I'm basically telling someone to f**k off, it feels great!' she continued. 'So I mean, I wish they hadn't said something that would make me want to block them to begin with, but blocking is unbelievably empowering. Actually I was lucky in some ways that social media wasn't around, I think that would have made it worse in some ways.' 
'Could it have made it worse?' Oliver asked. 'Have you not maxed out how bad it could be? Do you really think it could have gotten worse?' 
'You know, I don't know,' Lewinsky replied. 'It might have been worse in the sense that there certainly would have been a lot more opinions out there, but where it may have been better would have been that I would have heard some support from people'. 
Oliver then asked Lewinsky if it would have been meaningful at the time to just have a stranger tweet to her, "I think what you're going through is complete bulls**t'. 
'Yeah it would, absolutely,' she said. 'One of the things that happens with these kinds of experiences is that you start to disappear, you start to think you don't matter' 
'When someone sees you and just acknowledges your humanity in the smallest way, it really can make a world of difference and, you don't know, it could save someone's life. And I think that's important.' 
Lewinsky then revealed what her advice would be to anyone who is being publicly shamed or bullied online. 
'You can get through it,' she said. 'You can move past it. I know it feels like in this one moment that your life will be forever defined by this, but it won't.' 
'It may be hard, it may take more time than you ever could have imagined, but you can move past something like this.'  
Powered by Blogger.