A former Miss Universe winner from Venezuela became an overnight sensation when Hillary Clinton mentioned her by name in an impassioned moment during the first presidential debate on Monday evening, calling out the GOP nominee for his bullying.
And it just got worse. Trump said the morning after the debate that he doesn’t regret publicly criticizing Alicia Machado’s body.
“She was the worst we ever had,” he told Fox and Friends. “She was a winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and we had a real problem. We had a real problem with her.”
“He called her Miss Piggy,” Clinton announced at the end of the debate, referencing accusations made during an interview Machado gave to Inside Edition earlier this year. “Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina,” Clinton continued. After the debate, Clinton’s team posted a video to the Democratic presidential candidate’s official Twitter, offering further information about Machado, now 39:
Donald Trump called her "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping."
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 27, 2016
But who is Alicia Machado? Machado is more than just a beauty queen: She is a woman who claims to have suffered anorexia and bulimia for years after she says Trump attacked her publicly for gaining 60 pounds following her pageant win in 1996 at age 19.
“I was the first Miss Universe after Trump bought the pageant,” Machado, says in the video. “He was overwhelming. I was very scared of him. He’d tell me ‘You look ugly’ or ‘You look fat.’ Sometimes he’d play with me and say, ‘Hello, Miss Piggy. Hello, Miss Housekeeping,'” Machado recalls. Although she gamely participated in many ad campaigns and “earned the company a lot of money,” she claims she was never compensated the 10 percent of the profits she was contractually obligated to receive for her promotional work.
Then came the weight gain. According to the video and Machado’s testimony, Trump — producer of the Miss Universe pageant at the time — not only threatened to take her crown away but also cruelly invited members of the media to witness and document her workout routine. According to the New York Times, Machado said, “I told the president of Miss Universe, a very sweet woman, I said I need some time to recuperate, to rest, to exercise, to eat right. I asked them to bring me a doctor to help me — to have a special diet and get exercise, and they said yes. They took me to New York, installed me in a hotel. The next day, they took me to the gym, and I’m exposed to 90 media outlets. Donald Trump was there. I had no idea that would happen.” Machado claims she was humiliated and felt “like a lab rat,” she recalls in the Twitter video. “It had turned into a circus, the joke of Miss Fat Universe.”
Trump, took outright verbal jabs at her too, shaming her for her weight gain and telling reporters, while on camera, “So this is somebody that likes to eat.” According to CNN, he added at the time, “Some people when they have pressure eat too much. Like me. Like Alicia.” Machado claims that his passive-aggressive, piercing words changed the course of her life and led to her life-threatening eating disorders. “I wouldn’t eat, and I would still see myself as fat, because a powerful man said so,” she says in the video voice-over.
The New York Times cleared up any confusion about whether or not Trump’s stunts were calculated and Machado’s title was at stake if she did not slim down. “Mr. Trump said he had pushed her to lose weight. ‘To that, I will plead guilty,’ he said, expressing no regret for his tactics,” the publication states.
Two decades out from the incident, Machado seems much more confident, though what she says was prolonged public shaming left emotional scars. “Over the past 20 years, I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this,” she says of the abuse, according to CNN. “This is a man who doesn’t realize the damage he causes,” she says on video. “He bears many grudges and harbors a deep racism, and he is convinced there are lesser human beings than him.”
And after all these years, Machado has formed a strong alliance with her biggest public supporter — Hillary Clinton. She has even actively campaigned for Clinton, according to CNN. Grateful for the candidate’s support, she tweeted at Clinton in Spanish after Monday’s debate: “Thank you, Mrs. Hillary Clinton — your respect for women and our differences make you great! I’m with you!”
Gracias señora @HillaryClinton su respeto a las mujeres y nuestras diferencias la hacen grande! Estoy con usted!
— Alicia Machado (@machadooficial) September 27, 2016
Machado has also obtained her U.S. citizenship in recent months. She may not ever be able to go back in time to defend herself against Trump’s bullying, but she can now make a strong statement — and hopefully a difference. “Now I’m strong. I am an American citizen, and I’m going to vote,” she’s said.
“Her name is Alicia Machado, and she has become a U.S. citizen,” Clinton echoed at the debate, to a chorus of applause, as Trump continued to talk over her. “And you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”