Byline: VANESSA GRIGORIADIS
MONICA Lewinsky has lived in Manhattan f o r 15 months, and she likes it very much, thank you. She enjoys yoga, shopping in SoHo, the museums, watching Sex and the City, though her cable service was recently shut off because she forgot to pay the bill ("Oops, "she titters), and hanging out with her mother and stepdad in their penthouse off Fifth Avenue.
Monica may still be Monica, just like it says on her apartment door, but today she runs her own handbag company, The Real Monica Inc. She 's also a sought-after guest at fashion shows, trendy restaurants, club openings, and VIP-list-only events. After spending so long as a virtual pariah, Lewinsky pretty much goes where she 's asked, from a "100 Hottest Bachelors "party to Vanity Fair 's A-list Oscar party last week (where she sat on the same table as Kevin Spacey and DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, both, ironically, big Clinton supporters).
Last month, Lewinsky signed up to appear in an TV documentary that will chronicle her role in the Clinton scandal. Now that she 's no longer bound by her immunity agreement, Lewinsky says, she will finally set the record straight about the year leading to the impeachment of the president a series of events she refers to as "that whole thing ".
"The other night, I was thinking about that whole thing, "says Lewinsky, now 27. "I couldn 't leave my house. Outside were reporters and camera vans.
I was like this prisoner. Then, my mother let me go out on the balcony. I started crying. She said, 'Don 't you see, Monica, this is a big victory!Today you 're on the balcony, in a month you might walk to the corner, and someday, in a couple of years, your life will almost be normal.
'" Her life may not exactly be normal, but she loves New York. "Sometimes, "Lewinsky says, her famous mouth curling into a toothy grin, "I feel like the whole city is giving me a big hug. "
People stop to introduce her to their dogs, she gets extra whipped cream on her hot chocolate, maitre d 's kiss her on both cheeks and give her the best table;customers often send over a bottle of champagne or, perhaps, a piece of pie ("Well, if I have to ..."she jokes, digging in).
She hangs out with a group that includes Victoria Leacock, best known as the author of a book of drawings by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
(The National Enquirer described Victoria as Lewinsky 's lesbian lover, to their amusement. )These new pals accompany Lewin-sky to hip new places. The New York Post has traded in its favourite Lewinsky sobriquet, "Portly Pepperpot ", for the more affectionate "It Girl ".
Lewinsky 's past, however, still lives on in kneeling-Monica mousepads, Monica cigars, Monica stain remover, Monica 's Guide to Dating, and even an internet guide to the "Top 100 Monica Sites ". In February, David Letterman 's Top 10 on "How boring was George W Bush 's speech?"had as its No 1 answer:"It was so boring, Monica got up from under the podium and left. "
But being Lewinsky has its benefits, among them her new range of eponymous bags. The business is based in her one-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village. In a corner is a treadmill which she says she uses three times a week. There are roses everywhere . About two dozen paintings of roses hang on her walls; she 's got rose tea sets, rose mugs, rose doormats. "I love roses ..." says Monica. "I always have, the way they smell ..." Her tastes run to TS Eliot 's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and Shakespeare, whose plays grace her coffee table, to Bridget Jones 's Diary, which she considers "a culturally revolutionising "book. Her CD collection features Jewel, Alanis Morissette and a copy of Bill Clinton Jam Sessions: The Pres Blows, given to her by a friend as a joke and immediately thrown away when I noticed it.
There is something in Lewinsky that seems …