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This week marks 20 years since investigators began looking into the affair between former President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky, ultimately leading to Clinton’s impeachment in December 1998, changing American politics forever.
But while many Americans today only associate Lewinsky with her role in the high-profile scandal, she has made an impressive career for herself in retail, advertising, and most recently social advocacy. Last year, she joined hundreds of other women in the #MeToo campaign on Twitter.
Here’s how Lewinsky went from reluctant celebrity to public activist, twenty years after she was thrust into the public spotlight:
The events that would eventually lead to Clinton’s impeachment took place while Lewinsky was an unpaid White House intern between 1995 and 1996. Lewinsky reportedly had almost a dozen sexual encounters with the former president during this time.
Source: History Channel
After Lewinsky came forward to investigators in the summer of 1997, the story broke in January 1998. Responding to allegations made against him in the media, Clinton made his now-famous denial: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Clinton was eventually impeached in December 1998, but was not found guilty for perjury. Meanwhile, Lewinsky’s celebrity status was only just beginning to grow.
Lewinsky’s stardom exploded in 1999. She cooperated on a book telling her side of the affair, got interviewed by ABC’s Barbara Walters on “20/20,” and was the focus of intense media scrutiny.
In September 1999 she also launched a line of handbags, and in 2000 she began appearing in commercials for weight loss company Jenny Craig that required her to lose 40 pounds. She had been bullied in the media for her weight on numerous occasions.
In the years after the scandal, Lewinsky moved to the West Village in New York City and was a vibrant part of the Manhattan social scene. She reportedly attended galas, schmoozed with celebrities, and went on shopping trips in SoHo.
She also briefly hosted a reality dating show on Fox called “Mr. Personality,” for which she initially received high marks from critics. The show soon slid in ratings, however.
In 2005 though, Lewinsky decided to leave the public spotlight to pursue a master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics. She remained absent from the public eye for years afterward.
But in 2014, ten years after her self-imposed exile from public life, Lewinsky came back with a bang. She wrote a piece in Vanity Fair about the Clinton affair, and began a campaign to combat the kind of cyberbullying she went through during and after the scandal went public.
In 2017, she broadened her cyberbullying campaign and took part in the #MeToo movement that sheds light on sexual assault and harassment. Her tweet referenced the Women’s March that took place in January 2017.
Despite the negative light in which she was initially portrayed after the Clinton scandal, Lewinsky has transformed herself into an advocate for women as well as an advocate for her own legacy. Her activism and impact continues to grow, but now it’s on her own terms.