On May 17, 1996, in Las Vegas, Alicia Machado, a 19-year-old from Venezuela, was crowned Miss Universe, the beauty pageant that Donald Trump would buy later that same year.
Eight months later, in New York City, Trump, the contest’s new executive producer, stood next to Machado as she rode a stationary bike surrounded by a scrum of local cameramen and news reporters and flanked by a personal trainer.
“I went to the Miss Universe contest last year,” Trump told reporters. “I felt Alicia was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. It was incredible.”
But after winning the pageant, the real estate mogul said, Machado gained some weight.
“Alicia is like me and a lot of other people — I love to eat, we all love to eat,” Trump said, noting that Machado had been “under pressure” traveling around the world to promote the contest.
“Some people when they have pressure don’t eat,” he explained. “And some people when they have pressure eat too much.”
Machado, Trump said, was one of those people.
“This is somebody that likes to eat,” he said.
— Yahoo Beauty (@YahooBeauty) September 28, 2016
On Tuesday, CNN published footage from the press conference in which Trump and a trainer casually discussed the need for Machado’s weight to get back down to an acceptable number. Machado would later claim she was simply planning to work out at the gym that day and that she was caught off-guard by the reporters Trump invited to watch.
“What she’s going to do now, she’s got one of the great trainers in the world,” Trump said. “He’s been working with her in the last few days. And I think she’s going to show up at that contest actually probably being a little heavier than when she won it, but we think that’s actually a little better.”
Machado weighed 118 pounds when she won, Trump explained. And while 118 pounds was her weight when he was struck by her beauty, Trump and his trainer had a different goal for her ahead of the upcoming Miss Universe pageant.
“Our goal is to get her between 125 and 130,” the trainer, Edward Jackowski, said. “She will look 118 to you and to the camera, 118. So we want to keep that soft, feminine look. We don’t want to have any soft, bulging muscles — keep her away from the heavy weights. We want her to be feminine and soft, so when she walks down and hands over that crown, she is going to look her best.”
“We had a choice of termination or do this,” Trump added. “We wanted to do this.”
Machado was smiling as Trump and Jackowski gave reporters their assessment of her appearance. But last Tuesday night, Machado told CNN she was humiliated.
“I had my self-esteem on the floor,” she said. “It was the most horrible moment that some girl can [have].”
Near the end of Monday’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton invoked Machado’s name as a reminder of Trump’s history of crude commentary about women.
“One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest,” the Democratic nominee said. “He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name: Her name is Alicia Machado.”
Trump seemed to be caught off-guard.
“Where did you find this?” he asked. “Where did you find this?”
“She has become a U.S. citizen,” Clinton replied. “And you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”
In May, Machado, now a well-known actress in Latin America, told the New York Times she suffered from eating disorders — anorexia and bulimia — for five years as a result of Trump’s bullying.
“I was about to cry in that moment with all the cameras there,” she said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, Mr. Trump.’ He said, ‘I don’t care.’”
“Over the past 20 years,” Machado added, “I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this.”
On Tuesday, Trump defended his treatment of Machado.
“She was impossible,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends.” “She was the winner, and you know she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”
Clinton is hoping Machado becomes a real problem for the Trump campaign.
Hours after the debate, the Clinton campaign released a video featuring Machado recounting her experience with Trump.
“He’d yell at me all the time,” she says. “He’d tell me, ‘You look fat’ or ‘You look ugly.’ Sometimes he’d ‘play’ with me and say, ‘Hello, Miss Piggy,’ ‘Hello, Miss Housekeeping.’”
In a 1997 interview with Howard Stern, Trump called Machado “an eating machine.”
During a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Machado was asked what she thought about Trump’s reaction when Clinton mentioned her name at the debate.
“He always treated me as a lesser thing,” she said. “He always treated me like trash, and now his face was like ‘Now this trash is back again.’ And I don’t know — God’s timing is perfect.”