Vanity Fair: 5 Things You Will Be Surprised to Know About Monica Lewsinsky


I’m a nerd and a journalist. Even if I were not the latter, I would still be the former, and that means even I was not writing this story for publication, I still would have cut my Wednesday night short to sitnot-so-patiently until midnight with my iPhone, waiting for Vanity Fair to digitally release the full (and exclusive) Monica Lewinsky essay, ”Shame and Survival”, the one it had been promoting since the beginning of the week. I bought a year-long Vanity Fair subscription and downloaded the app to my phone just for the occasion. See, I told you. Nerd.

16 years after an infamous and captivating White House scandal, Lewinsky’s name is still spoken of with derision and/or followed by laughter. And she’s still a fascinating… well, “character” in the way that people who are in the public eye morph from being human. (In the essay, Lewinsky points out, “I’m actually a person” because we do need a reminder.) The popularity of her return to the spotlight—and the inherent drama that comes with it—is a bit like your favorite show getting a reunion several years after it’s off the air. It’s not going to be the same and, it will probably cheesy, but you were so invested the first go round, you pay attention for nostalgia’s sake, to laugh at the inevitable bloopers and get some behind-the-scenes insight of what once really mattered to you.

Let me explain exactly what I mean by invested.

There was no escaping the scandal, if you were moderately tuned into the news or pop culture, but it was especially in your face if you were from DC, Maryland or Virginia as most of the students at my college, The University of Maryland, College Park, were. Most of our parents had government jobs, and even if they weren’t directly related to the White House, politics drives the DC-Metro area Inside and Outside of the Beltway the way film drives LA and finance, fashion and entertainment drivel New York. Even if you’re not involved in it, you just happen to know a lot about the inner workings by mere  proximity. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who works in, near or around the White House. Everyone was talking about it.

I was at the lobby of a car wash once at the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky, watching and waiting alongside a mom and daughter, maybe 3, as a team of men towel-dried my vehicle. The little Black girl pointed to a rack of newspapers at her eye-level. It doesn’t matter which paper it was because they all carried the same cover story and had for weeks. In her high-pitched three-year-old voice, she said to her Mom, “ That's Monica Lewinsky?” She pronounced the name perfectly.

As a senior in college, my roommate and I would regularly rush from the cafeteria in time to see the latest brawl on Springer, and that was usually followed by watching then-President Bill Clinton’s televised grand jury testimony over and over and over, listening to prosecutors  ask the Leader of the Free World if he ever touched Lewinsky's breast or genitalia, if  he ever used a cigar in a sexual manner (!) Clinton squirmed and blinked profusely (and hilariously), giving away his lie. This—and the Real World, which we probably would have watched if the dorms had cable— was the 1998 version of reality TV. And probably also because we didn’t have cable, we watched that VHS tape over and over and over, hanging on every salacious detail.

Vanity Fair’s Lewinsky essay doesn’t disappoint, even if she’s more candid than salacious. And for a woman that’s spent the better part of her adult life being derided and insulted, she’s surprisingly quite likable. She doesn’t ask for any sympathy and takes accountability for her actions, which she’s suffered greatly – and unfairly for. Lewinsky, now 40, screwed up royally beginning when  she was 21, and she’s paid for it daily since. It seems she’s tried very hard to move on—much like the Clintons have—but has still been, as she puts it, “stuck.” By the end of the essay, I had a lot of sympathy for her, surely the intended point.

Anyway, in case you’re not a nerd like me or just not willing to plunk down $20 for a Vanity Fair subscription, I offer you the 5 Most Fascinating Revelations from Lewinsky’s personal essay (that weren’t included in the previously released excerpts):


1. She Didn’t See A Scandal Coming

It seems an impossible perception that a woman could think she could have an affair with the President of the United States and it would never come to light, but we’re also skewed by the 20/20 perception of hindsight. Lewinsky didn’t have that luxury.

“In my early 20s, I was too young to understand the real-life consequences, and too young to see that I would be sacrificed for political expediency,” she writes.” I look back now, shake my head in disbelief, and wonder: what was I—what were we— thinking?”


2.   It Wasn’t Just Sex with Clinton

The Lewinsky-Clinton scandal took place 16 years ago. Other than a passing mention in Beyonce’s “Partition’ or the time R. Kelly and Lady Gaga decided to act out the Lewinsky and Clinton’s Oval Office shenanigans at the American Music Awards, I haven’t thought about her much. The details I recall are the scandalous ones, of course—the stained dress, the cigar. But Lewinsky says there was more to the relationship with Clinton.

“I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened,” she writes. “At the times—a least from my point of view— it was an authentic connection, with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged.”


3.    She Googles Herself

This counts as bravery, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve done one season of reality TV and even I don’t Google myself because of the horrible things people write on the Internet. You have no idea (or maybe you do, because sometimes they’re in the comments section here.) And I have no sex scandal to speak of. Still, she looks, usually when she gets a call from her doorman that the paparazzi have shown up at her building. She Googles to find out what she’s in the news for this time.

Lewinsky provides a “snapshot of a scenario she’s grown all too accustomed to”, most recently when a conservative website unearthed exchanges between Hillary Clinton and a close friend, that mentioned Lewinsky.

“My heart sinks,” she writes. “I know what this means. Whatever day I’ve planned has been jettisoned To leave the house – and risk a photo— only ensures that the story will stay alive.”


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Hustling Backwards 101: Trying to 'Fake It Til You Make It'

pretty woman Last week, designer, A-list socialite and girlfriend to Mick Jagger L’Wren Scott committed suicide, hanging herself inside a $5.6 million New York City apartment. “Within hours,” according to the New York Post, “Scott’s life was revealed to have become an elaborate facade.” Her lifestyle—at least the one she showcased on Instagram—included fancy vacations arrived at by private airplanes, plenty of leisure activities and high-end frocks, as well as a company that was $6 million in debt. The Post described her as “just one of countless New Yorkers who secretly fake their fabulous lives.”

But “fronting,” as any black person under the age of 40 would likely describe this phenomenon, isn’t limited to New York City, any more than it’s the sole domain of the upper-echelon (and mostly white) examples the New York Post writer used to back up her assertion. Every black person knows somebody—if you don’t, you might be that somebody—who moves with a “fake it till you make it” or “ride it till the wheels fall off” philosophy. It’s a pervasive mindset: According to a 2013 Prudential survey, African Americans are significantly more likely to have some type of debt (94 percent) than the general population (82 percent).

Writer Jennifer Sanchez captured this mindset in a (hilarious) article last year, “‘25 Sitting on 25 Mill’: Why Rap Culture Is Ruining Our Generation’s Perception of Money”:

Here I am: 25 and employed by a company that pays me pretty well. That’s all well and good, but where the hell is my Lamborghini?! ... This is bulls--t ...

Our generation has grown up thinking that we are young, we are talented, and we deserve boats and hoes …

We have rented limos to drive us around for nights of club hopping, planned weekend trips to Atlantic City to stay in presidential suites, and bought VIP tickets to events that were completely unnecessary. Why? Because Big Sean does it. A$AP Rocky does it. Because Tyga hasn’t had a hit since “Rack City,” and even he does it. So, why don’t we?”

Her story—and the Post’s story on Scott—reminded me of the wise words of an elder I met in Los Angeles. I was in town to promote my book and had stopped by a very fabulous—and free—party. I encountered a man whom I’d met at a prior event and who had identified himself as a veteran talent agent. After a quick round of small talk, he had an observation to share.

“You know what I call the people in here?” he asked rhetorically, looking around the room of very attractive people. “FAB,” he said, answering his own question. “Fabulous and Broke.”

He explained that fronting was more or less the L.A. way, and because he didn’t want to single out his own city, he added that he’d also lived in Washington, D.C., New York City and Atlanta over the past 20 years, and that was “the way” for a lot of people in those places, too. “The problem is, the vast majority of people don’t ever make it,” he explained. “The reality is, you make a show for people you don’t know, who don’t really care about you, and you end up bankrupt by 40.”

His story reminded me of a friend long ago who was trying to break into the New York nightlife business. He was convinced that in order to be taken seriously, he had to look like “the people” who already had what he wanted. It was a classic mistake of trying to have at the beginning what someone else had after years of hard work.

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Dear Dads: Beating Your Daughters Won't Make Them 'Good' Girls



Just in time for April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, there’s a new clip making the viral rounds of an angry black dad wailing on his child with a belt.

In a video partially titled "Father Whoops on His 13-Year-Old Daughter Dressed Like Beyoncé After Missing for 3 Days" a scantily clad black girl is being swung around by her long hair as her father mercilessly beats her in public. The girl, who never cries or makes any noise at all, holds on to her purse and tries to protect herself. There’s a woman in the background—hopefully not the child’s mother—calling her a “bitch” and a “ho.”

Some viewers were shocked to discover that the man doing the hitting was the girl’s father. “[This] video is disturbing,” wrote one commenter. “This is a bit far. I thought it was a pimp and one of his ladies.” If I had not seen the caption before I watched the video, I would have reached the same conclusion.

Comments declaring the dad’s actions “a bit too far”—or any negative criticism—were few and far between. I’m not surprised, because whenever we’ve seen these types of “discipline” videos before—most infamously with the angry father who caught his daughters twerking and the disgruntled uncle who discovered his nephew was posing as a thug on Facebook—it seemed the majority of viewers applauded the parents for taking action and not sparing the rod. Either that or folks just laughed and went on with life.

Those same folks who applauded, though? When this girl is 16 and pregnant by the first boy who offers “love” and a sense of security/safety—and if she was missing for three days, I’d bet money she’s already found that guy—they’ll wonder how it happened. Or better yet, they’ll blame the girl for being “fast” and “irresponsible.” And no one will look at this beating incident as a display of where it all went further wrong, when that’s exactly what it is.

I watched this most recent video and had the same thought I had the first time I watched the father going H.A.M. on his twerking daughters with an extension cord: This is how black girls get lost.

In both instances, you have young girls who are dressing too sexy and acting “too grown.” Part of that comes with the age—being “womanish” is a phase some teenage girls go through—and not fully understanding the consequences of presenting themselves that way. Part of it is desperation for attention, particularly male. And part of it is low self-esteem. The shocked and angry fathers address the issue by trying to beat some sense into the girls, but they never seem to get that they’re making the situation 10 times worse. No one’s self-esteem or confidence—two real issues here—ever got higher after being beaten.


In this most recent video, it’s a 13-year-old girl who hasn’t been home in three days. Something is already very wrong at home if the kid has run away. And given her stoic reaction to being beaten, it’s not a far leap of logic to guess this isn’t the first—and probably won’t be the last—time her father’s lost control and called it discipline. If you were getting beaten like that and tossed around like a rag doll—and also being called a “bitch” and “ho”—wouldn’t you want to run away from home, too? Or better yet, when you got beaten like that, did you want to be at home?


Running away is an issue that a beating doesn’t address. And by beating her like he did in public, the father has practically assured she won’t be in the house very long. Wherever she was for those three days, it was probably with someone who she feels treats her better—and she likely will be back there soon enough.


Read more: here

Everyone Is Asking the Wrong Questions About the Ray Rice Video

Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer

“PSA of the day ... If you spit in a man’s face, you deserve to get knocked out. Man, woman or child. Period!”

This was a friend’s Facebook status on the day the news broke that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, had both been charged with simple assault after they were involved in a domestic dispute while visiting an Atlantic City casino over Valentine’s Day weekend. Rumor had it that Palmer had spit on Rice, and Rice had reacted. To what degree he reacted was anyone’s guess, at that time. Rice’s lawyer initially—and in hindsight, bafflingly—described the event as a “very minor physical altercation,” as if there were some way for a couple to lay hands on each other that wasn’t bad.

Good ole TMZ came through with footage of the aftermath to that dispute. “Very minor”? Hardly. Grainy video showed Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee from the elevator and discarding her facedown on a carpeted hallway. He seems not to want to be bothered, and even more so when he is approached by hotel security. As the woman comes to, he drags her around some more, seemingly annoyed. The first thing I wondered is, what happened to her?

Police supposedly are in possession of a video that shows Rice allegedly delivering the blow that knocked his fiancee out cold.

I’ve been following this story for days to find out what happened to Palmer and how she’s doing. No one seems to care much about her, despite us all being under the impression that her man—and father of her child—played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on her and then dragged her across a dirty elevator floor and into a hallway as if she were trash. I mean, the man is a professional athlete. He cared so little that he couldn’t even pick her up. The only update came from a Ravens spokesman, who said the couple “returned home together after being detained.”

Really? Is that the best place for a woman who allegedly just got knocked out by her man? A woman doesn’t just bounce back from that like nothing happened. Who is going to nurse her back to health and make sure she’s OK? Him?!

In the aftermath, all the talk in the news was about whether Rice will get to keep his job with the Ravens and how much it will cost the team to let him go. Oh, and there were some who were minimizing the issue. The Baltimore Ravens’ general manager called the allegations “concerning” and said it “doesn’t look good.” You think?

On social media, there were plenty of statements like those from my Facebook friend justifying why it’s OK for a man to hit a woman or wondering what he said to get spit on, which in turn made him punch. Everyone was talking about this couple as though they were avatars, and someone else was in control of them and they were not responsible for their own actions.

It doesn’t matter what he said. She shouldn’t have spit on him. And while it’s profoundly disrespectful, it’s not an excuse to knock your fiancee out cold and drag her across a floor. What is this an excuse for, though? For this couple to part ways.


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The Root: Vanity Fair Just Doesn’t Understand Black Beauty (aka The Lightening of Lupita)

lupita nyong'o VOGUE  NOVEMBER 2013 There were only two topics that should have dominated any conversation about actress Lupita Nyong’o last Thursday. That morning (and after much hype), she was officially nominated for an Academy Award for her first film role as Patsey, an enslaved woman abused by her sadistic owner, in 12 Years a Slave. And that evening she gave an emotional speech that moved many to tears as she accepted an award for best supporting actress from the Critics’ Choice Awards.

But that day, there was a third topic swirling around Hollywood’s newest “it” girl. Like W and Dazed & Confused magazines, which recently featured Nyong’o on their covers, Vanity Fair was eager to capture her. Evidently, someone had seen folks fawning over her beauty, talent and grace, and the magazine wanted to add to the fervor.

From the Vanity Fair Twitter account came a picture of Nyong’o wearing white and surrounded by white balloons. Her complexion was noticeably off. Nothing as bad as the before-and-after images of the Nigerian pop star Dencia making the rounds. The entertainer had used Whitenicious, a “skin toning” product, to remove her melanin. But Nyong’o was a weird, much lighter shade than the deep-brown hue the public had grown accustomed to seeing on-screen and in Miu Miu ads. She looked ... off.


“Lupita has a very rich skin hue, which would translate in ANY light,” one woman wrote on my Facebook page after seeing side-by-side pictures of Nyong’o on the red carpet and her latest magazine photo. “Vanity Fair has lightened, brightened AND added some flawed undertones. Instagram on heroin.”

This isn’t the first time black women have complained or been outraged by black celebs’ complexions being toyed with by magazines and advertisers. L’Oréalinfamously caught hell for allegedly lightening Beyoncé’s complexion in advertisements. But oddly, it’s the first time I can recall anyone other than a black woman making a fuss about the issue. In a rarely seen act of white-woman solidarity, the Gloss’ Julia Sonenshein went off about what was either Vanity Fair’s bad lighting or its lightening of Lupita.

“In an industry where every single detail is manipulated to be perfect, it just isn’t possible that everyone fell down on the job and forgot that her skin tone was totally off,” wrote Sonenshein. “There’s just not a chance that this was an accident.

She added, “To perpetuate an idea that the most flattering picture of a black actress is one where her blackness is altered is straight up racist, and if you don’t see that, then you’re frankly part of the problem.”

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She Matters: Get Over Gabourey Sidibe's Weight

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 2.33.22 AMGabourey Sidibe attended the Golden Globes Awards Sunday night. And in what has become a time-honored (and vile) tradition anytime she appears anywhere and happens to be photographed, some viewers thought it would be a good idea to mock her weight. Again.

There was, of course, the flat-out name-calling, which was clear fat-shaming. And then there was the faux concern for her health—i.e., passive-aggressive fat-shaming under the guise of sympathy.

After the latest round of jeers about her size on Sunday night, Sidibe offered another reminder to let folks know that they’d been heard and unequivocally dismissed.

“To people making mean comments about my GG pics,” she tweeted. “I most definitely cried about it on that private jet on the way to my dream job last night #JK.”

Welp. You could practically hear the applause around the Internet.

I’d like to take a moment to point out what should be obvious, but seemingly isn’t: Sidibe knows she is overweight. She’s said as much in interviews. She’s been told to her face by her Hollywood idol that she needs to lose weight. Anytime she walks onto a Hollywood set, she is likely the largest person present. When she sees her magazine covers on the shelf next to others, it’s as obvious to her as it is to everyone else that one of these people is not like the others, as much for her size as for her color.

Gabourey Sidibe is not stupid or blind. And as evidenced, she does not give two damns what naysayers think of her weight. ”I was born to stand out,” she told Parade magazine last year. “I don’t care whether or not people will find me attractive on-screen. That’s not why I became an actor.”

If she wants to lose the weight, she has access to trainers who can work it off or plastic surgeons who can suck it out. And if the weight is tied to an emotional issue, she can hire a psychologist who can help her address it. Either she doesn’t want to lose it, is trying to lose it or maybe—though I know it may be unfathomable to some—she’s happy as is.

If all you are able to focus on is Sidibe’s size, widen your horizons. Despite her weight or perhaps even because of the opportunities her pounds have afforded her, she has an Oscar nod for her very first film role and has worked consistently as a black actress in Hollywood, a notable feat when there are countless stories from black actresses a third of Sidibe’s size who complain about not being able to find decent work. Oh, and she’s been co-signed by Oprah.

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The Root: 6 Things I Care About on 'Beyonce'' More Than Her Feminism

Bey-JayIf you’re reading this, you have an Internet connection. And because you have said connection, then you are undoubtedly aware that Beyoncé Knowles released an album out of nowhere last week on Friday. For the better part of the last 96 hours, the Internet has been going HAM about Beyoncé, the person and super-secret album of the same name.

Leading this discussion has been an intense (and circular) conversation about whether Beyoncé is or is not a feminist and whether bona fide black feminists should support her. This conversation happens every single time Beyoncé drops an album, an empowering (or male-ego-stroking) song or performs at any televised awards show. It’s perhaps more intense this round because Beyoncé featured the TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” by Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the single “Flawless.”

I remain unclear on why it matters if Beyoncé is a feminist or not. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a new visual of a feminist woman that replaces the inaccurate and widely held stereotype that feminists are unattractive, old, bitter and manless. But otherwise, I don’t get it.

There are at least six more things that I find entirely more interesting about Beyoncé’sBeyoncé. In no particular order they are:

1. The Gamble

Beyoncé the album was exclusively posted on iTunes in the wee hours of Friday morning. With no promotion whatsoever it was a gutsy move, one that has proven to be purely brilliant at three days hindsight. From Friday till close of business Sunday night, Beyoncé sold “an unprecedented 828,773 albums,” according to Billboard, and broke iTunes' first-week sales record in the United States. When speaking highly of Beyoncé, it’s usually her beauty and her work ethic that get the mentions. Add brains to that list.

2. Anna Mae

The first single from Beyoncé, “Drunk in Love,” features a verse by Beyoncé’s husband, Jay Z. He raps, “I'm Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don't play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae.” The allusion to the infamous line spoken by Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? has come under fire, although in context, it’s a reference to Jay Z’s sexual prowess, not condoning domestic violence.

Still, I’m amazed at the number of writers who either missed the reference entirely—Vice writer Kitty Pryde, who live-blogged the album, swore Jay Z said “anime” instead of Anna Mae. In a follow-up apology, she admitted she had never seen the film to know the reference, but at the time of her second writing she knew where the line came from and still called “Anna Mae” Annie Mae. A HuffPo article dressing down Beyoncé for going from “extraordinary to common” on her latest single gets it wrong, too, and the author saw the movie.

3. “Rocket”

For nearly 14 years, D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?” has topped my list of favorite sexy-time songs. And now, with the help of Miguel, who penned the lyrics for “Rocket,” Beyoncé has crafted an equally seductive tune that speaks for how the ladies feel. (I’ve had this on repeat for four days.)

Read more: here