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.”


Read more on The Root 


Monica Lewinsky: Waiting On A Redemption That Will Never Come



Blame Beyonce.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time lately thinking about Monica Lewinsky. Okay, not inordinate — just every time I hear Partition, which is played an inordinate amount of times on the radio. But I digress.

I think of Lewinsky every time I hear that part in Partition where ‘Yonce sings of how her husband “Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown.” I laugh and wonder something like, “Geez, can you imagine what it must be like to have your name be synonymous with performing a blow job … forever?” That is, until yesterday.

Lewinsky, a woman still best known publicly for those occasions nearly two decades ago where she, ahem, serviced then-President Bill Clinton, is back.

In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, she breaks her 17-year silence, writing, “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” allusions, respectively, to the hideous hat she wore in a widely circulated picture and the dress she saved after her lover, Clinton, um, sullied it.

The full article, “Shame and Survival” won’t be released until Thursday, but Vanity Fair’s excerpts promise a story that’s pretty by-the-book as far as ‘Where Are They Now?” stories go. Lewinsky’s admissions are predictable in that, surprise, surprise, she “deeply regrets” her presidential affair and considers “what happened” to be “consensual,” though she does feel “my boss took advantage of me.”

She also believes she was made a “scapegoat” in order to protect the President. Perhaps the most striking admission thus far is that Lewinsky contemplated suicide multiple times — but never attempted it — which isn’t so shocking given her worldwide ridicule but still alarming to read how her mother sat by her bed at night afraid that her daughter “would be literally humiliated to death.”

It was an unexpectedly sad read. Lewinsky made a profoundly bad decision at 23, and at 40, she still pays the price for it. She’s never held a real job, despite her master’s degree from the London School of Economics, she’s recognized daily, and after all this time, she’s still a pop culture punch line. (Lewinsky goes on record correcting Beyonce’ for that “Monica Lewinsky-ed” line in “Partition.” Apparently “Bill Clinton-d” would be more accurate.) She’s never been permitted the chance to move on from the scandal.

As I was reading, I kept wondering, “Why is she telling us this now?” especially after I got to the part about Lewinsky not being paid to be silent all this time. In the Vanity Fair excerpts, she explains her motives a few different ways.


Read more on The Grio

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.”

Read more: here