In the final push towards Election Day, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been on the campaign trail trying to rally her supporters and pulling out all of the stops when it comes to attacking Republican nominee Donald Trump about his alleged disparaging behavior towards women. To drive this point home, Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe winner whom Trump reportedly called "Miss Piggy" was on the campaign trail with Clinton Tuesday in Florida. During her speech, Alicia Machado said that Trump's bullying led to her developing eating disorders and other self-esteem issues.
"Trump called me ‘Miss Piggy,' ‘Miss Housekeeping,' ‘Miss Eating Machine," she said. "Soon it became a joke. Alicia Machado was a fat Miss Universe. It was really painful for me.”
She continued, “He was cruel. For years afterwards, I was sick, fighting back eating disorders." She said that Trump doesn't "respect women." Afterwards, Clinton took the stage and backed up the Venezuelan native's story. “He said she put on some weight and it made him angry so he called her ‘Miss Piggy.' [He] called her ‘Miss Housekeeping’ because she’s a beautiful Latina."
For Clinton, Machado has been a useful symbol of everything her campaign finds wrong with Trump when it comes to how he views women. And the candidate doesn't even have to bring up the lewd leaked audio from a 2005 Access Hollywood interview. In that sense, for Machado and Clinton, it's a win-win when it comes to pummeling Trump, a week out from Election Day.
Back in 1996, Machado was Miss Universe, but in the year after her victory, she did gain some weight. Reportedly, though, Trump was not happy about that. In fact, even after the first debate, when Machado's working relationship was brought to the public's attention, Trump took to Twitter to defend calling a woman "Miss Piggy," telling Fox and Friends just days after the debate, "She was the worst we ever had. She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”
Yikes, right? It's no secret that Machado's eating disorders sprang up when they did, because even back then, Trump seems to have had no qualms about airing his grievances about her body in public. “We want her to stay as Miss Universe and she is working on her problem," he told People in 1997. “When you win a beauty pageant people don’t think you’re going to go from 118 to 160 in less than a year, and you really have an obligation to stay in perfect physical shape," he said. Trump also told Howard Stern that year that Miss Universe had gained "55 pounds in 9 months," but Machado says that she gained just 18 during that time.
Seriously though, how much weight she gained is not the issue — although back in 1997, People, which has since begun carrying the banner against Trump's alleged sexual misconduct and misogynistic behavior toward women, gleefully documented the pageant winner's struggle with her body image, noting in an interview from the time that Machado had "lost her perfection" but "gained poise" by gracefully handling the media coverage of her possibly losing her title because she gained a few pounds. (Because if a woman can't be perfect, she should be poised, at the very least, right? Cue the groans.)
Machado's claim that it was Trump's bullying that led to her eating disorders is worth believing, given the public scrutiny she was under in the year after her victory. Trump's public statements about her body back then and again this fall are a testament to that hardship. But anyone who gave Trump an outlet to mock or criticize a woman's appearance, yes, even a Miss Universe, was likely also part of the problem.
Maybe it's sign of the times that news outlets (some of the same ones that perpetuated the critique of Machado back in 1996 and 1997) are now holding Trump accountable for his behavior towards women in the past. If anything good comes out of this election, it might be that Machado, now a mother of one and an American citizen, can speak publicly about her struggle with body image and with Donald Trump on behalf of a female presidential candidate who has also been disparaged by him. It's not a whole lot, but it might be a tiny indicator of some small progress.