Alicia Machado is one of the many women who crossed paths with Donald Trump and emerged (figuratively) beaten and bruised. The beauty queen, who won the 1996 Miss Universe title when Trump owned the pageant, was bullied, publicly ridiculed, and taken advantage of by the real estate mogul. Machado's experience with Trump left her with a battered self-esteem and a years-long eating disorder. But two decades later, with that same man now within inches of the White House, Machado is bravely reliving the harrowing fat-shaming Trump put her through.
Machado's argument is simple yet compelling: since his days of insulting and humiliating her as a teenager, Trump hasn't changed a bit. In an interview with Today, the Venezuelan-born beauty queen recalled the names he called her when she gained weight after the competition.
"'Miss Piggy,' 'Miss Housekeeping,' 'eating machine,' " she told host Natalie Morales. "That was very normal for him in that moment. You know, with 18 years old, when you are growing up, that was horrible for me. ... My self-esteem [was] on the floor."
Her story was brought up by Clinton at the first presidential debate as an example of Trump's sexism. Shortly after the debate, the Clinton campaign released a brutal ad in Spanish detailing Trump's treatment of her.
"This is a man who doesn't realize the damage he causes," Machado says in the campaign video. "He bears many grudges and harbors a deep racism, and he is convinced that there are lesser human beings than him."
After 20 years of trying to put that experience behind her, Machado told Today that it was difficult to relive it, and so publicly, too.
"It's hard for me [to talk about it]. I don't want to remember that moment because I worked really hard to forget that moment," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "That experience, [at] 18 years old ... that hurt me, really deep inside."
But by doing so, by recalling her pain and making sure others hear about it, Machado is putting a face to the victims of some of Trump's most deplorable qualities: sexism, racism, callousness, and an inflated sense of self. And Machado's story is also ironically one that represents the kind of resilience that America likes to claim it values — decades after her harrowing experience, Machado is now a TV host, actress, singer, and most recently, an American citizen. And, yes, she plans on voting for Clinton.