News Top

Monica Lewinsky speaks out about survival

University of Illinois event poster. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A. – University of Illinois students heard Monica Lewinsky speak Monday about her regrets of the past and hope of societal change in the future. With no standing room allowed, students arrived an hour early to wait in line to be one of the 300 to listen to Lewinsky.

A former White House intern, Lewinsky became famous for the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s.

President Bill Clinton’s admission to having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky from 1995 to 1997 contributed to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

Lewinsky fell silent and went into personal hiding in hopes of letting the storm of the affair blow over.

It has taken 27 years for the storm to cease. Now, Lewinsky is explaining from a new perspective her regrets and advice to those experiencing trauma and PTSD.

Lewinsky began her speech recalling that at 22 years old, she landed a dream opportunity working as a White House intern.

President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. (Photo from the Clinton Digital Library)

She enjoyed what she was doing until she “fell in love with a married man.”

Reflecting on her decision, Lewinsky explained that she “deeply regrets what had happened” between herself and President Clinton.

Lewinsky did not foresee the consequences. 

“I went to bed one night known by a few thousand people and woke up the next day known by a whole nation.”

Lewinsky “did not choose the celebrity life.” She is ashamed to have been made famous by her actions.

Lewinsky acknowledged how different her experience would have been if social media existed in the ‘90s. Without a doubt, she knows that her rise to fame would have been much worse.

Lewinksy claims that she was the “first internet sensation” in 1998.

“News was accessible all at once on the internet,” she said, and everyone around the world found out about the scandal immediately.

“I was publicly humiliated.”

Lewinsky then entered into her “decade of darkness.” No one wanted to hire her. Lewinsky was suicidal.

Her parents would make her shower with the door open, she said, to make sure that she would not physically harm herself. 

“I was the undertone of jokes, entendres and innuendos.”

Lewinsky explained that after Jay Leno retired as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” research was done to see which celebrity figure was referenced the most in jokes.

Out of Leno’s 17 years hosting, she made the top 10 list of people referenced.

“I was the only one who did not choose celebrity life.”

It wasn’t until 2014 when Lewinsky opened up into public life again. 

The 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutger Univeristy student whose roommate filmed him being intimate with another man and posted it on Twitter, led Lewinsky to sympathize with his situation of public humiliation. The only difference between her and Clementi is that Lewinsky is still alive.

In June 2014, Lewinsky opened up to Vanity Fair with her article “Shame and Survival.” 

She had chosen to come out of her “decade of darkness.”

Lewinsky explained her own therapy experience and how it saved her life. It is “best to fix the open wound of trauma soon than to let it infect your life,” Lewinsky said her therapist tells her.

“The voices of trauma will get quieter overtime,” she said.

Lewinsky has set out to be a public activist. She described how the world needs a “cultural revolution” where everyone gains more “empathy in understanding each other’s situations.”

Lewinsky also hopes that in her lifetime, more trauma therapy resources will become available, comparing it to a fast food drive-up window accessible to all. 

“I want to be remembered as someone who is living proof of surviving trauma.”

Norah Springborn is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

Leave a Comment