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How Monica Lewinsky Found Her Calling as an Anti-Bullying Advocate

For Variety’s latest issue, we asked Alan Cumming to write a tribute to Monica Lewinsky, one of 50 people to make our New Power of New York list. Here’s why Lewinsky, an advocate for anti-bullying efforts, represents a new generation of movers and shakers that capture the best of Manhattan. For the full list, click here.

I first met Monica at a party in 2000. It was at the height of the prurient madness that had recently enveloped her. People were clambering over from the neighboring banquette just to touch her hair. Nowadays when we go out to dinner people come over to thank her and say how moving and important her TED Talk was to them.

To say she is a survivor is, unfortunately, quite literally true. She has been subject to more scrutiny, more unjust worldwide public rancor and humiliation, than any other human being in our lifetimes. But if anyone was going to survive all that, it was Monica.

If the incidents that shot her from wide-eyed obscurity to worldwide notoriety were a Greek tragedy, it would be obvious which character brought destruction and torpor to our kingdom because of his unfettered hubris. Also apparent would be those who have continued to blindly follow this false god even as, in later life, the spheres have realigned and his legacy crumbles in light of a modern-day uprising of some Trojan-like women. Monica though, would be her own life’s deus ex machina. She has intervened late in this story and fostered her own hard-won redemption.

Her comeback, if you will, is one of the most hopeful and heartening things I have ever witnessed. She had many years in the wilderness (as Los Angeles is often thought of) and like the melancholy Jaques in “As You Like It,” she gained her experience. Imagine the fortitude, the backbone, the compassion, the sheer chutzpah required to not only return to public life and redefine a reputation but immediately use that newfound platform to help others. Monica understands what it is like to be bullied and shamed to a degree that none of us will ever imagine, and now she harnesses that unique experience to ensure no one else ever will.

To continue my Greek tragedy theme, Monica is no less than a modern-day Achelois, a moon goddess whose very name means “she who washes away pain” — hers and our own. We are so lucky she is among us.

Alan Cumming can be seen on the CBS series “Instinct” and at his East Village bar, Club Cumming.

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