Monica Lewinsky on Becoming a Fashion Campaign Star at 50


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style points

Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.

The other night, Monica Lewinsky was en route to a work dinner and realized she was going to have to do that very L.A. thing: turn her car into her own personal dressing room. As she puts it, “If you’re going past the 405, you’re going to stay there.” In deciding what to bring with her, she “totally gravitated” to a look she’d just worn in Reformation’s new campaign, out today. “I realized it was because I feel good about myself in it,” she says. “I felt strong, I felt confident.”

a brunette woman sitting in front of an office window

Zoey Grossman/Courtesy of Reformation

Lewinsky is someone many Gen X, millennial, and Gen Z women see as a personal hero. Lauren Cohan, Reformation’s chief creative officer, is one of them. One of the things she pointed to when pitching Lewinsky as a face of the brand was what she calls “the universal jaw drop of her name coming up.” Cohan has been an avowed fan for almost a decade, starting when she watched Lewinsky’s TED talk on public shaming, which has racked up over 21 million views. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this woman is incredibly funny and smart and also a Ref babe,’ and that was the bullseye.“ Six months ago, she says, “I started ruminating on how we could make a collaboration happen.” She felt that Lewinsky would be the perfect face of the brand’s voting-centric “You’ve Got the Power” workwear campaign, photographed by Zoey Grossman. What happened next was, she says, “a kismet story.” She continues, “I had been trying to find a way to connect with Monica and a mutual friend of ours said, ‘Oh, I actually just had dinner with her last week.’ She put us together, and Monica and I met, and I tried to convince her with cashmere—just smiles and Ref cashmere.”

a brunette woman sitting in a modernist chair

Zoey Grossman/Courtesy of Reformation

When Lewinsky signs on to our call, she’s radiant and red-lipsticked in a white button-down, joking about being a Gen Xer wrapping her head around technology. She instantly disarms everyone in the conversation. Lewinsky was involved in the inception of the campaign, and when she expressed trepidation about being in front of the camera, the brand hired a movement coach to help her feel comfortable (though, Cohan insists, “she was a natural.”) “I don’t know if this will sound corny,” Lewinsky says, “but I think a way that women can feel more empowered is by recognizing places that they may need more assistance and asking for that assistance.”

a brunette woman in profile

Zoey Grossman/Courtesy of Reformation

This is the third election in a row for which Reformation has done a project to encourage its customers to vote. This year, the brand is teaming up with on a landing page that aims to make voting more accessible for all, and will be donating to the organization as well. Lewinsky was motivated by the concept behind the campaign. “We’ve seen in polls that voter frustration is up and apathy is up,” she says. “We all have to be reminding each other that we can’t let that get in the way of needing to vote, that that’s how we use our voice. That’s where our power is.”

Lewinsky has been cultivating her voice, and her power, for years now, emerging as an anti-bullying advocate and somewhat of a Twitter star, with 1.1 million followers on the platform. When she first signed on a decade ago, she says, “I would not send a tweet unless I had three people sign off on it.” Since then, she’s spread her wings significantly, even as the app has been bought by Elon Musk and transformed into X. Surprisingly, she’s not planning on logging off. In fact, she has become somewhat of an expert at protecting her mental health on X. “I am a huge, huge proponent of blocking,” she says. “You want to say something, that’s your prerogative. I don’t have to listen to you.” She also avoids looking at negative comments. “I take myself out of conversations that people have included me in without my permission, which is fine. They’re allowed to do that. It’s just that most people don’t want to be brought into a conversation that is inappropriate to be a part of.”

a brunette woman in a black dress, standing in front of an office window

Zoey Grossman/Courtesy of Reformation

She has another hard-and-fast rule: “I may make all sorts of comments about policy or someone’s choice of behavior, but I will not repost a picture, even if I loathe that person, where they’re making fun of someone’s appearance, because I just think that it doesn’t contribute to me as a person. I try to be mindful. Now,” she laughs, “my drafts folder might be a whole other story. ”

She’s found that often, when someone attacks her, it turns out to be a textbook example of the old adage “hurt people hurt people.” She recalls when, years ago, “someone made a shitty comment to me.” Her followers rallied in her defense. “What unfolded, because one of those people had showed a little compassion towards this guy, was that his wife had recently passed away. I chimed in just like, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ some version of that,” she remembers, which quickly brought the situation down to a more human level.

a brunette woman in a cream suit sitting in a chair

Zoey Grossman/Courtesy of Reformation

Lewinsky is mindful of the online disinhibition effect, in which people turn into someone else, often someone far worse, behind the safety of a screen. Yes, the digital world has brought a sense of community that her generation never experienced. “If you didn’t fit in at school before, tough luck. Where were you supposed to find your people?” she says. And it has enabled her, as an adult, to reinvent herself and find champions. But she finds herself frustrated about the way bullying persists online. “I don’t know why our ability to connect with people all around the world hasn’t translated yet to more global kindness,” she laments.

Having turned 50 this past summer, Lewinsky seems more comfortable with herself than ever. “I was apprehensive about turning 49, because 39 was a really shitty year for me, and I struggled to turn 40. I ended up with a real gift: It was a year of acceptance. I was able to accept so much about myself and my life and where I am, and so that meant coming into 50 was great,” she says. “I’m excited about this new decade and I’m hopeful—which, for someone with a lot of trauma, even saying that feels scary.”

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