Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Mark Seliger’s name.
I think it’s time to talk about the Monica Lewinsky picture in Vanity Fair, and offer a piece of advice: Monica, if you’re trying to “take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past,” it would be better if you did it sitting up straight.
Vanity Fair has released a Lewinsky photo to accompany her essay. The first thing to say about the photograph, by Mark Seliger, is that Lewinsky looks lovely, and younger than her 40 years. The second thing to say is that it was very ill-advised. If I were Monica’s friend—or her mother—I would never have allowed it.
Here is Monica, sprawled sideways on a velvet couch. Her feet are bare. Her arm is behind her head. She smiles at something off-camera. Her dress — here is the part where I venture into trouble, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored — is tight, straining at the chest.
To look at it is to think: Oh my, this poor woman has allowed herself to be used again. I understand that there is a contrary narrative here—that Lewinsky has profited in the past from her sordid celebrity and is positioning herself (literally, I suppose) to profit once more. Maybe, but I find Lewinsky’s saga sadder than that account of cunning and manipulation. She is forever trapped by being Monica, the Monica of the flashed thong and the stained blue dress. And she has been seduced again, this time by the photographer and the stylist and whoever else is involved in setting up such a shoot, into displaying her sexuality.
Which is the last thing, I’d suggest, that Lewinsky needed then, or needs now.