Lewinsky battles to shed pounds and past

What a difference a year makes - for Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp.

What a difference a year makes - for Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp.

This time last year Monica was being hauled before the US Senate to give evidence in the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. The juicy details of her relationship with the President were detailed in the Starr report and sniggered about across the nation.

Now it is Linda's turn to be in court as she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine if she is convicted of illegally tape-recording her telephone conversations with Monica. When Linda passed these tapes over to Ken Starr two years ago this month, Bill Clinton's world began to fall apart and Monica became the best-known White House intern in history.

But now all is changed. Bill Clinton is acting as peacemaker for Northern Ireland and the Middle East. Monica and Linda are physically transformed, especially Linda who after skilful plastic surgery is unrecognisable from the hefty, bushy-haired woman who once told startled Americans "I am you".


The cruel jokes about her appearance on the late-night shows became more than she could take.

With her trial in Maryland coming up later this month she was faced with a second round of jibes and look-alike contests in gay bars. But last summer an unnamed donor paid for her to have head-to-toe surgery and liposuction in California, so no more jokes.

Monica at this time was battling with her weight problem and has found the answer in the Jenny Craig diet, which has helped her to shed 31 lb. Now she is being paid to promote the Jenny Craig system, and TV ads are showing her "before" bloated appearance and the slimmed-down "after" Monica. She will not confirm reports that she will get $1 million if she can shed 60 lb.

Not all the Jenny Craig franchises want the Monica adverts, however. One franchise-owner in the mid-west, David Lahey, says Monica has done great on their programme, "but as a person to look up to, there are certainly issues there. I wouldn't be pleased if my daughter came home and said `I want to be just like Monica Lewinsky'."

The tabloid National Enquirer has got "before and after" pictures of Linda, which show an amazing transformation thanks to three hours of surgery by Dr Geoffrey Keyes of Beverly Hills, plus a major diet and exercise programme. The paper says she has "dropped 40 lb, changed her hair colour, ditched her glasses for contact lens and learned how to use flattering make-up."

The plastic surgery details sound awful, but it seems to have worked. It involved "liposuction, removal of bags from under the eyes, resculpturing of her nose and removal of the fat from underneath her chin and neck".

Lucianne Goldberg, the literary agent who advised Linda to tape Monica, told the New York Post: "It looks like she's had a head transplant."

Linda's spokesman, Bob Angelotti, told Associated Press that "she just didn't feel good about herself and felt she could feel a lot better and this is what she went and did".

The columnist Maureen Dowd who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Lewinsky saga, can't conceal her cynicism. Recalling that Paula Jones - whose accusations against Bill Clinton started the whole thing - also has had plastic surgery on her nose, Ms Dowd writes: "How weird. A scandal that investigated whether the President was treating women as sex objects has ended with most of the women involved getting makeovers to look sexier."

It is has even been rumoured that Hillary Clinton has had plastic surgery by a named doctor in New York, who is coy when asked about it.

Bill Clinton himself has lost weight and looks better now than any time since he became President.

So is there a moral somewhere? Is it only in America that people in sex scandals feel the urge to become sexier?

Monica said in an interview this week with USA Today: "I feel like I'm on the right path now. I may not be where I want to end up, but at least I'm sort of on the right path and that feels really good to me."

She looked great in her 45-minute interview on Larry King Live, but revealed little of her feelings about the "affair" or about Linda, who betrayed her. She is having therapy for various "issues" but so are lots of Americans. And she is dating - a test for a boyfriend is how he reacts when a photographer suddenly irrupts on the scene to disturb intimate moments.

At 26 she also has her Internet handbag business, which was a sellout for Christmas, but she needs the money to pay off legal bills.

What about her feelings for Bill Clinton? She wants to put increasing distance between her and that phase of her life. Each day "I get a step further and further emotionally and mentally from everything that's happened".

She has had to give evidence against Linda over the phone-tapping charges but denies that she wanted revenge. "Not at all. It's the past. There's nothing I can do to change it."

Except her weight, of course.

Linda, who is divorced and turned 50 last November, works at her $90,000 job for the Department of Defence when she is not conferring with her six lawyers and raising money to pay them. If she goes to prison that make-over will be a kind of a waste.