Alicia Machado, the Venezuelan-American actor and former Miss Universe, became the unexpected star of Monday night's presidential debate when Hillary Clinton recounted the alleged verbal abuse the pageant winner endured from Donald Trump. Today, Machado got her own chance to respond to Trump.
Speaking mostly in Spanish, Machado told journalists on a phone call organized by the Clinton campaign how her experience serve as a warning to voters this fall. "I think that my history with [Trump] can open the eyes of a lot of people," she said. "Racism doesn’t go away and we can’t afford to risk having a person that’s so violent, untempered, machista and misogynistic like this guy" in the White House.
"I know very well of what he's capable of," Machado said. Speaking mostly in Spanish, she urged Latin Americans to mobilize against the former reality TV star turned GOP presidential nominee. "It is my struggle to make the community understand that, now more than ever, Latinos have to give back the good and marvelous things that the United States has given us by participating in this election."
Machado exploded into the national political discourse when, toward the end of Monday's debate, Clinton told the audience the actor's ordeal with Trump, foreshadowing Machado's call for the Latino community to get out and vote.
"He called this woman 'Miss Piggy,' then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping'—because she was Latina," Clinton told the audience before turning to Trump. "Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado. And she has become a U.S. citizen and you can bet she is going to vote this November."
Machado won the Miss Universe contest in 1996—the same year Trump bought his way into involvement with the pageant. During the following year, Trump complained publicly that Machado had put on weight while she still had publicity obligations to the pageant. Machado was "an eating machine," Trump told radio shock-jock Howard Stern at the time, in a clip unearthed by BuzzFeed. According to Machado, Trump made a spectacle of her efforts to lose weight, sending journalists to ambush her at the gym. "After that episode, I was sick, anorexia and bulimia for five years," she told The New York Times this year. "Over the past 20 years, I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this."
This morning, Trump doubled down on his criticisms of her weight during an interview on Fox News, saying that Machado "gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem."
During the Clinton campaign press call, Machado recounted how inspired she was to see Clinton take up her cause on the debate stage. "I started crying because I didn't ever imagine that such an important person like her would care about my story," Machado, who became an U.S. citizen this year, told reporters. "I'm very committed to this country."