Speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky discusses how she went viral before social media existed, and why it was so damaging to her reputation. (Forbes Under 30 Summit)

Monica Lewinsky joined Twitter on Monday morning, quickly amassing thousands of followers apparently eager to hear what the former White House intern — who now identifies as “social activist. public speaker. contributor to vanity fair. knitter of things without sleeves” — has to say.

She followed her debut into the land of 140 characters with a speech at a forum sponsored by Forbes magazine as part of its “30 Under 30” power list. Lewinsky seems to be positioning herself as a champion for the scandal-scarred, a class not just occupied by celebrities and politicians but everyday folks who might have been bullied online or had their private pictures passed around. As the teaser to the Forbes speech says, Lewinsky’s inability to move beyond the Clinton scandal is “a fate now realized, on various scales, by millions of people — from Jennifer Lawrence to random junior high schoolers — who find themselves tarred in public, permanent ways.” 

Though the medium is new, this isn’t the first time the former White House intern has “broken her silence.” There was the 1999 book “Monica’s Story” in which she cooperated with writer Andrew Morton, which was followed by the famous Barbara Walters sit-down in 2000 that was meant to clear the air.

After a decade under the radar, Lewinsky penned a 2014 Vanity Fair essay titled “Shame and Survival” in which she tallied the toll of the scandal that’s defined her public image, including suicidal thoughts and the inability to  find a regular job. “Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation,” she wrote.

But each time, her “silence-breaking” was followed by … more silence.

This time, though, it might actually take. Why? On Twitter, at least, the communication will be on her own terms. So she can spout off about the latest episode of “The Good Wife” (no, seriously, we’d love to get her take on that one) or cyber-bullying as she sees fit, without intermediaries.

Most importantly, says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-PR expert who literally wrote the book on surviving Internet scandal, she’s found a role that just might work for her. After all, when it comes to public thrashings, Lewinsky has been there, done that. “She has credibility in this narrow context,” he says. “This platform really works for her.”

In his new book, “Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal,” Dezenhall argues that scandal figures should focus on “achievable outcomes,” realistic goals for surviving a fracas. Lewinsky, it seems, has done just that. “If she tried a makeover in which she was trying to be a Supreme Court justice, we would be laughing,” he said.

But success as a voice for those who’ve been battered around in the public arena? Cable TV appearances, some speeches, maybe a book?

“Totally doable,” he says.

 

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