Monica Lewinsky could choose to do life differently. At 39, she could offer the world the gift of a successful woman who moved on from scandal to own a Fortune 500 company or run a fabulous global foundation. She could’ve worked that education from the London School of Economics. Her story wouldn’t carry that tabloid glare and instead could read like this:
"In public, Ms. Lewinsky refuses to answer questions about the White House scandal of the 1990s. She prefers to discuss her newest business ventures in this country and abroad. In private, close friends say, she once replied, ‘Bill who?’ when asked about President Clinton."
The reporter writing that piece would provide the salacious back story about the White House intern with the beret. This version of Monica Lewinsky, healed and whole, would have redefined herself long ago.
Alas, 14 years after the affair that triggered the impeachment of a president, Lewinsky apparently hasn’t chosen that route. She heads into her 40s offering the world yet another sex-scandal book. As She the People colleague Annie Groer wrote, personal morals aren’t the major theme of the $12 million book advance Lewinsky reportedly inked.
And, I suspect, so is the seduction of celebrity.
Elusive as ever, fame is the mist that dissipates between cable newscasts, let alone 14 years after the fact. Nevertheless, people keep running after it. In other words, it makes as much sense for Lewinsky to unearth political history as it does to resurrect the bog of the O. J. trial via Kato Kaelin.
Having once stood in its spotlight, Lewinsky may find it difficult to abandon celebrity and become known for something else or as someone else. Has she decided that reviving personal celebrity, laced with cash, is more essential than what the nation remembers her for? A New York Post story cites an anonymous source that says Lewinsky can’t get work because of the scandal. But is a tell-all book the only way to resolve that problem?
Celebrity is the whale swallowing America, and sensationalism the sea we’re drowning in. We can’t fix the economy or rescue a needed $969 billion farm bill from the purgatory of the U.S. House of Representatives. But Americans can, as stated in the Hollywood Reporter, seduce 3.6 million of us last Sunday into giving brain time to watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Or we number among those who have watched the Gangnam Style more than 227 million times on YouTube and helped set a Guinness World Record Friday for "likes" on the video. We’re driven by notoriety, even down to its small-fry versions in everyday life—like competing to be the first person in the office who gets an iPhone 5.
If the stories about Lewinsky's heartache and unemployment are accurate, they’ve pushed her back into the celebrity trap. I hate to hear it. Fame can be brutal. It’s brief, unforgivable and, when handled gracelessly, crushing. While Lewinsky’s objective for the book may be to say, “Look at what happened to me,” the likely result may be the pathos of lots of money and scant self-respect.
As a woman, I wish Lewinsky had learned more from the past. Getting older hasn’t schooled her enough on the exquisite freedom of an amazing comeback.
Judy Howard Ellis is a Dallas-based creative consultant for entrepreneurs and the author of “Fall of the Savior-King,” a fantasy novel inspired by the Book of Genesis. Follow her on Twitter: @JudyHowardEllis