Byline: Marc Peyser
For someone who survived Linda Tripp, Ken Starr and Barbara Walters, Monica Lewinsky is still charmingly skittish about interviews. She's got two PR minders monitoring our conversation, and she pauses and sighs more than Al Gore in a debate. "I really treasure my privacy," she says. "I'm trying to recognize that I'm a public person and draw the boundaries of what I'm allowed to keep private." Fair enough. Except that Lewinsky, 29, just signed on for the most public of public jobs--host of a reality-TV show. It's called "Mr. Personality" (Fox, April 21), and believe it or not, it's one of those dating games for people unlucky in love. Delicious, right? So delicious that you can't help but ask Lewinsky if she considered being a contestant rather than the emcee. She pauses. You can almost hear her cursing herself for doing an exclusive interview with the magazine that stirred up trouble for her back in the day. Then she picks herself up and gets in the game. "I've come to realize that I've already had my own reality show," she says. Did you win that one, Monica? "Well," she says, "I don't know."
We do--and she did. After all, Lewinsky got her own show; Bill Clinton got a dull date with Bob Dole on "60 Minutes." Still, you can sense how difficult this has been, how ambivalent Lewinsky is about stepping into the limelight. Ask her what kind of makeover she's had for the show, and she jumps to all the wrong conclusions. "Oh, come on now. I've never had a makeover. I feel like you're asking me how vain I am," she says. Ask her about becoming a public person again, and she gets flustered. "It's such an awkward thing to discuss," she says between sighs. "It really is." So why is Lewinsky doing this to herself? "I feel like it is better to try and possibly fail at something than to not try at all," she says. "I've realized that my life is public. I walk down the street and people recognize me. That happened before I decided to do this show, and it will happen after. …