October 1, 2015
BY LIZ MCNEIL @lizmcneil
Monica Lewinsky says laughter helped her heal after she was the target for nationwide bullying. And now, as she launches the Month of Action for anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, she's hoping it can help others, too.
Ever since joining Bystander Revolution as an ambassador and strategic advisor in June, Lewinsky, 42 – who was publicly shamed after her affair with President Bill Clinton was made public in 1998 – has focused on ways to help others who have been humiliated online.
Monica Lewinsky: 'Do I Wish My Past Were Different? Absolutely' – But Her Anti-Bullying Campaign Gives Her Pain Purpose| Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky
"Do I wish my past were different? Absolutely," she tells PEOPLE this week. "But given all things not changing, I've been grateful to see that surviving what I did has resonated for others."
Lewinsky gave a rare interview over the weekend to launch Bystander Revolution's #Month of Action. "October is Bullying Prevention Month," she says. "We're rolling out a new challenge every day from our social media channels and website. Each of the challenges is designed to inspire people to act and form habits of action which move to shift the culture DASH which is really one of our goals."
The anti bullying activist, who described herself "Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously" in her popular TED Talk, was inspired to use humor as her challenge when she remembered how laughter got her through a rough time in 2012.
"There had been a false media story about me that had gone viral," she recalls. A friend sent her an email with links to ten bloopers. "My first reaction was, I was in a bad mood and upset and a little annoyed but I clicked on one of the links and within seconds, was laughing."
Looking back, she says, "I realized the value of humor and laughter is that is can shift the moment, like a lighting bolt, and remind you things can be different. So my challenge is for people to make a funny video or find one and post it so we are flooding the internet with funny and also to send someone who is going through a hard time."
"It took me a long time to heal and be ready but I've finally been able to take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past," she says. "I want other people to know they can do this, too."
And laughter has turned out to be a powerful antidote. She once joked that those under 30 might only know her from the 40 hip-hop songs that mention her name. But, she says, "turns out I was wrong at TED, it wasn't 40, it was 120 or something!"
Asked if any of the singers have apologized she says: "They were not all derogatory so they may not all owe me apologies but I wouldn't mind royalties."
Lewinsky also spoke out about her new life with ABC News' Amy Robach on Monday.
"Imagine that you've gone through this horrific, life-changing experience and you were traumatized and humiliated," she said of rejoining the public eye. "And all of the sudden you realized one day that you could actually help other people because you had survived it. It would just be really hard to sit back and remain silent."
Despite it all, she said she's "grateful" to be Monica Lewinsky.
"Even though I have suffered from shame, I'm not ashamed of who I am," she said.
Do you support Monica Lewinsky's anti-bullying campaign?