Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky has broken a long silence about her 1990s affair with US president Bill Clinton, saying she wants to reclaim the narrative of events that brought her global humiliation.
Lewinsky, now 40, was in her early 20s when she became the infamous beret-wearing muse who engaged in sexual relations with the president and then endured a colossal backlash that she said nearly drove her to suicide.
After years of being turned away by potential employers, ridiculed online and confronted by accusers as "that woman" who performed oral sex on Clinton in the Oval Office, she decided to write her version of events in this month's Vanity Fair magazine. It was published on Tuesday.
"It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress," Lewinsky wrote in a lengthy essay in the magazine. The "blue dress" refers to a garment that was infamously stained by Clinton's bodily fluids.
"I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I've decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," she insisted.
It is time to stop "tiptoeing around my past - and other people's futures," she said, in a likely reference to former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton's expected White House run in 2016.
But these aren't her first public words on the scandal. In 1999, Lewinsky gave a blockbuster interview to Barbara Walters, as well as several subsequent interviews, and co-operated with author Andrew Morton on his book the same year, entitled Monica's Story.
News of the Lewinsky affair broke in 1998 and the story became an all-consuming scandal that nearly crashed the Clinton presidency. He was impeached by the House of Representatives that December but was acquitted by the Senate.
"Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship," she wrote.
"Any 'abuse' came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position," she added.
In the scandal's wake, Lewinsky said, she "turned down offers that would have earned me more than [US]$10 million, because they didn't feel like the right thing to do".
Instead she went back to school, lived in Britain and then applied to various communications and marketing positions. But the employers baulked, claiming her "history" made her the wrong person for the job.
The anxiety made her suicidal at times, she said, noting that the shame and scorn thrown at her caused her mother to "fear that I would be literally humiliated to death".
As one of the first major figures to endure global online humiliation, Lewinsky said she wanted to work with victims of cyberbullying and harassment. "Perhaps by sharing my story... I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation," she said.
In recent months, Lewinsky said, she had grown "fearful of 'becoming an issue' should [Hillary Clinton] decide to ramp up her campaign" for the White House in 2016.
And while the former intern said she would "give anything" to undo what happened, she recalled how publicly confronting her past on the Walters' TV special only ensured that "shame would once again be hung around my neck like a Scarlet-A albatross".
"Believe me, once it's on, it is a bitch to take off," she said.
Additional reporting by Associated Press