With its abundance of style icons—think Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor—the ’50s gave us plenty to be grateful for on the fashion front. From Christian Dior’s cinched waists, hyperfeminine elegance and a whole load of gingham prints, it’s safe to say the influence of the ’50s casts a fabulously long shadow. But while some key looks are immediately recognisable as hailing straight from the era that coined the word “teenager” and birthed rock ’n’ roll culture, others may come as a surprise.
Whether we’ve spotted them on the red carpet or the runway, there’s no denying the rise of the naked trend. In the part years, it’s largely taken on the form of anything from flesh-colored tones to barely-there sheer gowns that leave little to the imagination. Looking to the F/W 20 runways, though, there’s a new iteration of naked clothing that is about to take over. Get ready for the cutout clothing trend, everyone.
A trend that has been hugely embraced by designers on the runways from New York to Paris, cutouts are emerging as one of the standout trends from the F/W 20 collections. What is most interesting about the trend is the number of creative interpretations we’re seeing across the board. From side holes at Khaite to sliced tops at Brandon Maxwell to deconstructed blazers at Area, cutouts are being reimagined in inventive ways that will have celebs and fashion insiders alike rethinking sexy dressing for the year ahead. Here, see how fashion designers are embracing the cutout clothing trend on the runways and shop my picks to start wearing it now.
Jennifer Lopez will forever be synonymous with Versace’s jungle-print dress. Since she wore the infamous neck-to-navel-slashed gown to the 2000 Grammys (and consequently inspired the launch of Google Images), the maximalist print has continued to find its way into her wardrobe in novel ways. The latest? A top-to-toe palm-print look comprised of matching Versace trousers, shirt and handbag.
Read more: Ashley Graham Is Sharing The “Recovery, Healing Messy Parts” That New Mums Go Through
To enjoy a family brunch with her fiancé, Alex Rodriguez, at Soho Beach House in Miami Beach at the weekend, the Hustlers actor accentuated her coords with a pair of chunky white “J-Lo” trainers – part of her own collection with DSW.com – her signature gold hoops and shades. It’s a look that only Lopez, who closed Versace’s spring/summer 2020 show during Milan Fashion Week in September last year in a similarly plunging spin on her original Grammys dress, could own.
Read more: Kim Kourtney Take Balmain’s AW20 Latex Looks To Kanye’s Sunday Service
It’s no secret that J-Lo is having a very good year. Already this year, she’s headlined the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Shakira and taken part in Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision Tour. All of which follows her much talked-about return to the big screen in the critically-acclaimed Hustlers, which she produced as well as starred in. And there’s more to come, as Lopez recently noted when she presented Saturday Night Live: “What I really want to say to everyone watching out there is: the best is yet to come. People try to write you off. It’s all B.S. None of us has a shelf life. I mean, seriously, look at me. They tried to count me out so many times, but I’m still here.” The phrase 50 and fabulous was never more fitting.
As big of a pain as moving is, it does have it’s positive aspects—a shiny new place to decorate as you wish, a fresh start, and the opportunity to take inventory of what you own. When examining what you own, moving is the opportune time to separate the things you love from the things you may not use or have a need for anymore. All those items that just sit and collect dust in your cabinets can be boxed up and donated to both declutter your space and hopefully help out someone in your community. You can also take the Marie Kondo approach and rid yourself of anything that no longer “sparks joy” for you—whatever way you want to go is your choice.
This also applies to your wardrobe. Moving is the perfect time to take a good hard look at your closet and pull out the pieces that you don’t wear. For my most recent move, I took this task very seriously. I pulled out each piece in my wardrobe and not only considered how much I wear it but also the condition it’s in. Does it have holes in it? Is the sole of the shoe damaged? Am I holding onto pieces that no longer fit me properly? After taking all of these factors and more into consideration, I ended up donating three large bags of clothing to my local women’s shelter and was left with a wardrobe full of pieces I’m 100% in love with.
Since it’s the beginning of the year and we’re about to enter a new season, wardrobe purging is about to spike. So I thought this would be a great time to share the pieces I purged during my move last month and the reasoning behind each item I donated. Below are the four fashion items I purged from my closet and what I plan on adding in their place to fill the new gaps in my wardrobe.
At least several times a week, I say, Other Stories is so good right now. It’s basically always a true statement, no matter the season. And since spring is right around the corner (hallelujah), the affordable brand is quickly stocking warmer-weather dresses, tops, shoes, and basically all the things you could possibly need to see you through the season. Which brings me to my next point: You could literally buy your entire spring wardrobe at Other Stories and have so many complete outfits to choose from. Enter the Other Stories spring capsule wardrobe.
Since there are quite a few stylish pieces to choose from, I gamely took it upon myself to choose the chic, versatile ones that you’ll wear over and over and in so many different ways. Scroll to shop the pieces you need to complete your spring wardrobe and find out how to wear them. Prepare yourself—I found some gems, if I do say so myself.
TRIBUNE. Je vais commencer comme ça : soyez rassurés, les puissants, les boss, les chefs, les gros bonnets : ça fait mal. On a beau le savoir, on a beau vous connaître, on a beau l’avoir pris des dizaines de fois votre gros pouvoir en travers de la gueule, ça fait toujours aussi mal. Tout ce week-end à vous écouter geindre et chialer, vous plaindre de ce qu’on vous oblige à passer vos lois à coups de 49.3 et qu’on ne vous laisse pas célébrer Polanski tranquilles et que ça vous gâche la fête mais derrière vos jérémiades, ne vous en faites pas : on vous entend jouir de ce que vous êtes les vrais patrons, les gros caïds, et le message passe cinq sur cinq : cette notion de consentement, vous ne comptez pas la laisser passer. Où serait le fun d’appartenir au clan des puissants s’il fallait tenir compte du consentement des dominés ? Et je ne suis certainement pas la seule à avoir envie de chialer de rage et d’impuissance depuis votre belle démonstration de force, certainement pas la seule à me sentir salie par le spectacle de votre orgie d’impunité.
Il n’y a rien de surprenant à ce que l’académie des césars élise Roman Polanski meilleur réalisateur de l’année 2020. C’est grotesque, c’est insultant, c’est ignoble, mais ce n’est pas surprenant. Quand tu confies un budget de plus de 25 millions à un mec pour faire un téléfilm, le message est dans le budget. Si la lutte contre la montée de l’antisémitisme intéressait le cinéma français, ça se verrait. Par contre, la voix des opprimés qui prennent en charge le récit de leur calvaire, on a compris que ça vous soûlait. Alors quand vous avez entendu parler de cette subtile comparaison entre la problématique d’un cinéaste chahuté par une centaine de féministes devant trois salles de cinéma et Dreyfus, victime de l’antisémitisme français de la fin du siècle dernier, vous avez sauté sur l’occasion. Vingt-cinq millions pour ce parallèle. Superbe. On applaudit les investisseurs, puisque pour rassembler un tel budget il a fallu que tout le monde joue le jeu : Gaumont Distribution, les crédits d’impôts, France 2, France 3, OCS, Canal +, la RAI… la main à la poche, et généreux, pour une fois. Vous serrez les rangs, vous défendez l’un des vôtres. Les plus puissants entendent défendre leurs prérogatives : ça fait partie de votre élégance, le viol est même ce qui fonde votre style. La loi vous couvre, les tribunaux sont votre domaine, les médias vous appartiennent. Et c’est exactement à cela que ça sert, la puissance de vos grosses fortunes : avoir le contrôle des corps déclarés subalternes. Les corps qui se taisent, qui ne racontent pas l’histoire de leur point de vue. Le temps est venu pour les plus riches de faire passer ce beau message : le respect qu’on leur doit s’étendra désormais jusqu’à leurs bites tachées du sang et de la merde des enfants qu’ils violent. Que ça soit à l’Assemblée nationale ou dans la culture – marre de se cacher, de simuler la gêne. Vous exigez le respect entier et constant. Ça vaut pour le viol, ça vaut pour les exactions de votre police, ça vaut pour les césars, ça vaut pour votre réforme des retraites. C’est votre politique : exiger le silence des victimes. Ça fait partie du territoire, et s’il faut nous transmettre le message par la terreur vous ne voyez pas où est le problème. Votre jouissance morbide, avant tout. Et vous ne tolérez autour de vous que les valets les plus dociles. Il n’y a rien de surprenant à ce que vous ayez couronné Polanski : c’est toujours l’argent qu’on célèbre, dans ces cérémonies, le cinéma on s’en fout. Le public on s’en fout. C’est votre propre puissance de frappe monétaire que vous venez aduler. C’est le gros budget que vous lui avez octroyé en signe de soutien que vous saluez – à travers lui c’est votre puissance qu’on doit respecter.
A lire aussiL’ancienne académie en feu, par Paul B. Preciado
Il serait inutile et déplacé, dans un commentaire sur cette cérémonie, de séparer les corps de cis mecs aux corps de cis meufs. Je ne vois aucune différence de comportements. Il est entendu que les grands prix continuent d’être exclusivement le domaine des hommes, puisque le message de fond est : rien ne doit changer. Les choses sont très bien telles qu’elles sont. Quand Foresti se permet de quitter la fête et de se déclarer «écœurée», elle ne le fait pas en tant que meuf – elle le fait en tant qu’individu qui prend le risque de se mettre la profession à dos. Elle le fait en tant qu’individu qui n’est pas entièrement assujetti à l’industrie cinématographique, parce qu’elle sait que votre pouvoir n’ira pas jusqu’à vider ses salles. Elle est la seule à oser faire une blague sur l’éléphant au milieu de la pièce, tous les autres botteront en touche. Pas un mot sur Polanski, pas un mot sur Adèle Haenel. On dîne tous ensemble, dans ce milieu, on connaît les mots d’ordre : ça fait des mois que vous vous agacez de ce qu’une partie du public se fasse entendre et ça fait des mois que vous souffrez de ce qu’Adèle Haenel ait pris la parole pour raconter son histoire d’enfant actrice, de son point de vue.
A lire aussi Adèle Haenel, une parole qui change la donne
Alors tous les corps assis ce soir-là dans la salle sont convoqués dans un seul but : vérifier le pouvoir absolu des puissants. Et les puissants aiment les violeurs. Enfin, ceux qui leur ressemblent, ceux qui sont puissants. On ne les aime pas malgré le viol et parce qu’ils ont du talent. On leur trouve du talent et du style parce qu’ils sont des violeurs. On les aime pour ça. Pour le courage qu’ils ont de réclamer la morbidité de leur plaisir, leur pulsion débile et systématique de destruction de l’autre, de destruction de tout ce qu’ils touchent en vérité. Votre plaisir réside dans la prédation, c’est votre seule compréhension du style. Vous savez très bien ce que vous faites quand vous défendez Polanski : vous exigez qu’on vous admire jusque dans votre délinquance. C’est cette exigence qui fait que lors de la cérémonie tous les corps sont soumis à une même loi du silence. On accuse le politiquement correct et les réseaux sociaux, comme si cette omerta datait d’hier et que c’était la faute des féministes mais ça fait des décennies que ça se goupille comme ça : pendant les cérémonies de cinéma français, on ne blague jamais avec la susceptibilité des patrons. Alors tout le monde se tait, tout le monde sourit. Si le violeur d’enfant c’était l’homme de ménage alors là pas de quartier : police, prison, déclarations tonitruantes, défense de la victime et condamnation générale. Mais si le violeur est un puissant : respect et solidarité. Ne jamais parler en public de ce qui se passe pendant les castings ni pendant les prépas ni sur les tournages ni pendant les promos. Ça se raconte, ça se sait. Tout le monde sait. C’est toujours la loi du silence qui prévaut. C’est au respect de cette consigne qu’on sélectionne les employés.
Et bien qu’on sache tout ça depuis des années, la vérité c’est qu’on est toujours surpris par l’outrecuidance du pouvoir. C’est ça qui est beau, finalement, c’est que ça marche à tous les coups, vos saletés. Ça reste humiliant de voir les participants se succéder au pupitre, que ce soit pour annoncer ou pour recevoir un prix. On s’identifie forcément – pas seulement moi qui fais partie de ce sérail mais n’importe qui regardant la cérémonie, on s’identifie et on est humilié par procuration. Tant de silence, tant de soumission, tant d’empressement dans la servitude. On se reconnaît. On a envie de crever. Parce qu’à la fin de l’exercice, on sait qu’on est tous les employés de ce grand merdier. On est humilié par procuration quand on les regarde se taire alors qu’ils savent que si Portrait de la jeune fille en feu ne reçoit aucun des grands prix de la fin, c’est uniquement parce qu’Adèle Haenel a parlé et qu’il s’agit de bien faire comprendre aux victimes qui pourraient avoir envie de raconter leur histoire qu’elles feraient bien de réfléchir avant de rompre la loi du silence. Humilié par procuration que vous ayez osé convoquer deux réalisatrices qui n’ont jamais reçu et ne recevront probablement jamais le prix de la meilleure réalisation pour remettre le prix à Roman fucking Polanski. Himself. Dans nos gueules. Vous n’avez décidément honte de rien. Vingt-cinq millions, c’est-à-dire plus de quatorze fois le budget des Misérables, et le mec n’est même pas foutu de classer son film dans le box-office des cinq films les plus vus dans l’année. Et vous le récompensez. Et vous savez très bien ce que vous faites – que l’humiliation subie par toute une partie du public qui a très bien compris le message s’étendra jusqu’au prix d’après, celui des Misérables, quand vous convoquez sur la scène les corps les plus vulnérables de la salle, ceux dont on sait qu’ils risquent leur peau au moindre contrôle de police, et que si ça manque de meufs parmi eux, on voit bien que ça ne manque pas d’intelligence et on sait qu’ils savent à quel point le lien est direct entre l’impunité du violeur célébré ce soir-là et la situation du quartier où ils vivent. Les réalisatrices qui décernent le prix de votre impunité, les réalisateurs dont le prix est taché par votre ignominie – même combat. Les uns les autres savent qu’en tant qu’employés de l’industrie du cinéma, s’ils veulent bosser demain, ils doivent se taire. Même pas une blague, même pas une vanne. Ça, c’est le spectacle des césars. Et les hasards du calendrier font que le message vaut sur tous les tableaux : trois mois de grève pour protester contre une réforme des retraites dont on ne veut pas et que vous allez faire passer en force. C’est le même message venu des mêmes milieux adressé au même peuple : «Ta gueule, tu la fermes, ton consentement tu te le carres dans ton cul, et tu souris quand tu me croises parce que je suis puissant, parce que j’ai toute la thune, parce que c’est moi le boss.»
Alors quand Adèle Haenel s’est levée, c’était le sacrilège en marche. Une employée récidiviste, qui ne se force pas à sourire quand on l’éclabousse en public, qui ne se force pas à applaudir au spectacle de sa propre humiliation. Adèle se lève comme elle s’est déjà levée pour dire voilà comment je la vois votre histoire du réalisateur et son actrice adolescente, voilà comment je l’ai vécue, voilà comment je la porte, voilà comment ça me colle à la peau. Parce que vous pouvez nous la décliner sur tous les tons, votre imbécillité de séparation entre l’homme et l’artiste – toutes les victimes de viol d’artistes savent qu’il n’y a pas de division miraculeuse entre le corps violé et le corps créateur. On trimballe ce qu’on est et c’est tout. Venez m’expliquer comment je devrais m’y prendre pour laisser la fille violée devant la porte de mon bureau avant de me mettre à écrire, bande de bouffons.
A lire aussi Césars : le changement, c’est pas maintenant
Adèle se lève et elle se casse. Ce soir du 28 février on n’a pas appris grand-chose qu’on ignorait sur la belle industrie du cinéma français par contre on a appris comment ça se porte, la robe de soirée. A la guerrière. Comme on marche sur des talons hauts : comme si on allait démolir le bâtiment entier, comment on avance le dos droit et la nuque raidie de colère et les épaules ouvertes. La plus belle image en quarante-cinq ans de cérémonie – Adèle Haenel quand elle descend les escaliers pour sortir et qu’elle vous applaudit et désormais on sait comment ça marche, quelqu’un qui se casse et vous dit merde. Je donne 80% de ma bibliothèque féministe pour cette image-là. Cette leçon-là. Adèle je sais pas si je te male gaze ou si je te female gaze mais je te love gaze en boucle sur mon téléphone pour cette sortie-là. Ton corps, tes yeux, ton dos, ta voix, tes gestes tout disait : oui on est les connasses, on est les humiliées, oui on n’a qu’à fermer nos gueules et manger vos coups, vous êtes les boss, vous avez le pouvoir et l’arrogance qui va avec mais on ne restera pas assis sans rien dire. Vous n’aurez pas notre respect. On se casse. Faites vos conneries entre vous. Célébrez-vous, humiliez-vous les uns les autres tuez, violez, exploitez, défoncez tout ce qui vous passe sous la main. On se lève et on se casse. C’est probablement une image annonciatrice des jours à venir. La différence ne se situe pas entre les hommes et les femmes, mais entre dominés et dominants, entre ceux qui entendent confisquer la narration et imposer leurs décisions et ceux qui vont se lever et se casser en gueulant. C’est la seule réponse possible à vos politiques. Quand ça ne va pas, quand ça va trop loin ; on se lève on se casse et on gueule et on vous insulte et même si on est ceux d’en bas, même si on le prend pleine face votre pouvoir de merde, on vous méprise on vous dégueule. Nous n’avons aucun respect pour votre mascarade de respectabilité. Votre monde est dégueulasse. Votre amour du plus fort est morbide. Votre puissance est une puissance sinistre. Vous êtes une bande d’imbéciles funestes. Le monde que vous avez créé pour régner dessus comme des minables est irrespirable. On se lève et on se casse. C’est terminé. On se lève. On se casse. On gueule. On vous emmerde.
“Any chance you could grab us a bottle of wine or something? Lol,” former California congresswoman Katie Hill texted. We settled on rosé. Hill and I had never met, but she was in the midst of a professional and personal crisis. It was 4:30 in the afternoon, and she would be going live on air with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that night. “ROUGH day,” she wrote. I brought wine as well as a bag of pretzels to Hill’s Manhattan hotel room. Wearing leggings and a hoodie, she took the wine and glanced down at her phone. An editor at the New York Times had questions about an op-ed the 32-year-old Hill wrote about contemplating suicide, one that’s set to publish the next day; they’d been going back and forth for hours.
This was in early December as Hill scrambled to form a new life after photos of her — some of which she said were taken without her consent — were published online in mid-October. One shows Hill nude, brushing the hair of a junior female campaign staffer, Morgan (referred to here only by first name), in a hotel room. In others, there is Hill naked, holding a bong, with a tattoo of an iron cross — a Nazi-associated symbol used by white supremacists — near her groin; Hill and Morgan kissing. The articles accompanying them include private text messages among Hill, Morgan, and Hill’s estranged husband, Kenneth Heslep, detailing a three-way romantic relationship, as well as a claim by Heslep from a since-deleted Facebook post that Hill had had an affair with her male legislative director, Graham Kelly.
Hill released a statement denying the relationship with Kelly and accusing Heslep of spreading the rumor. The House Ethics Committee soon announced it would investigate the allegation related to Kelly (who also denied the relationship). If true, a relationship with Kelly would have violated a Me Too–era rule prohibiting members from having sexual relations with congressional staffers. Immediately after, Hill then released another statement admitting to an inappropriate relationship with Morgan. “I had to admit that, yes, I had this relationship with a campaign staffer,” Hill told me. “So, you know, I’ve admitted to that. And once you’ve admitted to that one thing, then it brings everything else into question.”
When Hill decided to run for office in early 2017, she was part of a surge of first-time candidates who felt a new and urgent pull toward politics. Her ascent in particular was a great American story: Daughter of a cop and a nurse wins long-shot congressional race, becoming unlikely star in Washington. But some of the same aspects of Hill’s personality that propelled her as a candidate — the risk-taking, the unfilteredness — were now at the center of a scandal that felt both ultramodern and like the oldest story ever told.
It was nine days from the publication of the first photos to Hill’s announcement of her resignation — she’d heard there was a Google drive with roughly 700 images being passed around by political operatives. She was afraid that the photos would be released drip by drip. “I knew so much was still coming,” she said. “The ethics thing, it was going to pull our office in, and specifically my staff in, in a really fucked-up way.” And then there was the political risk to other House Democrats; she was confident that the scandal would be used against vulnerable colleagues running for reelection.
Hill recognized from the beginning that her relationship with Morgan, which spanned the majority of the campaign and her first months in office, could be problematic in her new role. Yet she did little to protect herself, failing to tell her chief of staff about the indiscretion. The photos and what they revealed about her personal life would have been damning for any politician but had the potential to be especially harmful to someone like Hill — young, female, openly bisexual. Having no plan in place put her at an immediate disadvantage. “You know, honestly, it was one of those things where it was like, Well, I’ll just deny it,” Hill told me. “Morgan is not accusing me of anything. She doesn’t want it to come out any more than I do.” Plenty of politicians lie, but it’s rare for one to tell a reporter it was her game plan.
There is a story Hill’s mother, Rachel Stevenson, likes to tell about her daughter. When Hill was a toddler, “I would ask her if she wanted to do things the hard way or the easy way, and she would look straight at me and say, ‘The hard way,’ ” Stevenson says. Hill later told me the same story, not knowing I’d already heard it, and it became clear that this anecdote wasn’t simply family lore but a point of pride — a foundation on which she had constructed both her personal sense of self and her public image as an underdog.
Hill spent most of her childhood in Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, a mostly middle-class enclave just north of Los Angeles. She told me she had a happy childhood, one spent riding bikes with her younger sister and other kids in the neighborhood, who sometimes pushed one another down hills in barrels. Hill credited her parents with allowing her to be independent: “They really did foster in me … that confidence in knowing I was able to do anything I set my mind to and being willing to take a risk. The risk piece is a big element of this.”
She was seemingly always on the fast track. “As a freshman, I was like, High school is dumb, and my closest friends were older than me,” she continued. It pained her to think of being left behind, so she took extra courses in her sophomore and junior years in order to graduate by age 16. “I looked down on people who had to study,” she said.
Looking back, Hill said she was perhaps too eager to rush through childhood. “If I were to say I have regrets, it would be that I was trying to grow up so fast,” she told me. Behind the façade of the brilliant self-starter was a young woman with depression, a fractured family, and the aftermath of what she described as many sexual assaults. (The precise number changes. In two separate interviews in December, Hill recounted to me being sexually assaulted three times. In February, at the Makers Conference in Los Angeles, she told another reporter she’d been sexually assaulted four times “before I even graduated high school.”)
Hill told me the first assault happened when she was 8 years old. “It was child on child,” she explained, adding that she later found out the other girl, slightly older than she, had herself been molested. Hill didn’t tell her parents. “I thought I would be in trouble for having a sexual kind of thing too young,” she said. She can’t remember if that’s when the depression kicked in or if it was more around the time her parents divorced, a year later. Hill’s mother remarried relatively quickly — which meant moving an hour away and transferring schools. Hill cried at the wedding, sitting with a female friend whom she now thought of as her first love.
At 15, Hill said, she was assaulted during a trip to France, by a man more than ten years her senior, while she was camping in a park with a friend. “[He] started making out with me and stuff like that. I was drunk, I was kind of like, whatever. But then he got much more handsy, and the other girl who was with me pulled me out of that situation,” she said. “Later he came into the tent and got on top of me … We were able to unzip another zipper [on the tent] while I was fighting him off, and we ran.” A year later, Hill said, she was sexually assaulted at a party she attended with people she knew from an after-school job. At the time, she perceived it as a consensual encounter, even though she was 16 and she said her attacker was in his early 20s. “I was blackout drunk, and he was a lot older, too, and yeah. It’s funny because I say ‘we’ had sex, but I guess it’s not — ” Her voice trailed off. Hill told me that the fourth assault also occurred when she was 16, just months before the incident with her co-worker. She was taking an EMT class after school, and, she said, the 20-something-year-old teacher’s assistant touched and kissed her by the lockers. She ran away and said she was so shaken up that she got into a car accident afterward.
Later that same year, she went to Cancún with a friend, and they decided to get tattoos. Hill chose what she thought was a symbol of independence — a thick black cross that looked like the logo for the skater brand Independent Truck Company — and had the tattoo artist drill the symbol into her groin. “I was just stupid, drunk, and traumatized,” she said. “There was a self-harm element to it that was, you know, marking this as my space.”
Shortly after returning from the trip, she took a job at a Barnes Noble, where she met Heslep, who was then 20. Even though Hill was going off to college soon and Heslep’s future was more of a question mark, they fell in love. His dad was also a cop, and he and Hill bonded over their mutual love of books. (Heslep did not respond to multiple interview requests.)
At the end of the summer, she started college at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, where she had been accepted to study nursing. One night, she was volunteering at a hospital when a teen gunshot victim was rushed in. “I ended up holding his hand while he died and comforting his sister afterward,” said Hill. As she recalled it, the moment shook her into realizing that there were social problems she couldn’t tackle as a nurse; it’s a story she would eventually tell often on the campaign trail. Hill took a semester off to work, enrolled in a community college, and later transferred to nearby California State University, Northridge, where she earned a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in public administration.
In 2010, Hill and Heslep married. They’d already been active on websites for people seeking alternative relationships, and Hill said Heslep years before had introduced the idea of engaging in threesomes. “I was like, Well, if I’m in this committed relationship that I might be in for the rest of my life, like, how else am I going to be able to [be with a woman]? It never seemed like an option to me to have a separate relationship with a woman,” said Hill. Not long after exchanging vows, Hill and Heslep entered their first three-person, long-term relationship with a woman they’d met on OkCupid. Heslep had also been posting intimate photos of Hill on various websites, which Hill said she knew about at the time. Her face wasn’t visible, she said, and she wasn’t thinking about any future consequences. “I was a fucking college student, you know? And it was like, Okay, well, I’m down to try, right?”
Hill began a career in the nonprofit sector, first working at an organization that helps at-risk youth, then at People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), where she was employed for eight years. Hill worked her way up to executive director, managing a $50 million budget and earning $174,000 a year. Heslep briefly held a job as an EMT and also worked at PATH in a role Hill said wasn’t under her purview. But from 2014 on, he was unemployed. They bought the small ranch where Heslep grew up, and while Hill worked, Heslep tended to their dogs, goats, and chickens. The couple tried to have children, but Hill said she was diagnosed with endometriosis and had to have an ovary removed.
Hill never thought about a career in politics until President Trump’s win. But she did have relevant experience: At PATH, she’d worked on a $1.2 billion bond measure to provide homelessness relief in the Los Angeles area, which gave her a taste for legislating. She had management chops and genuine roots in the district. At the Women’s March, among pink hats and feminist signs, she saw an opportunity. “I knew there was going to be an advantage to being the first one in the race,” she said, “and generating excitement as the young woman running.”
To kick off her campaign for Congress, Hill, then 29, organized a meeting at a local Chili’s with family members and close friends to talk strategy. “I hate to say it, but I don’t think anyone thought that it was ever going to happen,” says Stevenson. Hill not only made it through the primary but went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, Steve Knight — in a district that had been represented by a Republican for more than two decades — by 9 percentage points.
Even in the earliest weeks of her campaign, Hill proved to be a charismatic natural, able to position herself as both progressive enough for the resistance and palatable enough for moderates and independents. She was openly bisexual but married to a man. She supported gun-safety legislation but owned a gun herself. Hill sold herself as a “pragmatic progressive,” the scrappy daughter of a Republican who would cut through the bullshit in Washington and work across the aisle.
To talk about the opioid crisis, she wrote a piece for a local paper about her 17-year-old half-brother’s drug use, detailing how she’d helped him recover. To address her views on health care, she wrote a story for BuzzFeed about how Heslep’s lung had collapsed on the day of her bridal shower, putting the couple $200,000 in debt. In reaction to Knight’s voting for a 20-week abortion ban, Hill posted a video to Facebook, detailing how she’d had an unplanned pregnancy at 18. In the video, Hill, who is pro-choice, says she contemplated having an abortion — only to suffer a miscarriage while deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. (It’s a narrative that also doesn’t alienate either side of the abortion debate.) When #WhyIDidntReport began trending on Twitter, Hill shared a video about surviving sexual assault. On World Suicide Prevention Day, she tweeted that it was the second anniversary of a friend’s death from suicide by gun.
“I guess it was a conscious decision in the beginning when I decided to run. I wanted to share the stories I felt like people needed,” Hill told me. “At some point, people were like, ‘She’s just got a story for everything,’ and it feels a little ridiculous, but this happened to me, and it just keeps adding up.”
Hill’s team was young and ambitious and had a tendency to run fast and loose, with messy results at times. Before the primary, a senior Hill staffer posted on Facebook that California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom (later the governor) had endorsed one of Hill’s primary opponents over her because “Hill won’t sleep with [Newsom]. I know this for a fact.” The staffer posted an apology about the false accusation the next day, writing, in part, “I’m an alcoholic and have a long and troubled history with addiction.”
But such missteps were overshadowed by the campaign’s strong fund-raising and ground game. Hill began building an army of volunteers and came close to matching both her (male) primary opponent and Knight in early fund-raising. From there, excitement around what she called the “most millennial campaign ever” snowballed. She earned endorsements from major groups like Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood as well as support from celebrities (Kristen Bell, Alyssa Milano) and politicians (from local lawmakers to President Obama). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, impressed more by the candidate than her team, sent resources and staff. She went on CNN and The Late Late Show With James Corden. Vice sent a documentary-film crew to follow her around as part of a series on women running for office. She appeared with other first-time female candidates on the cover of Time. Hill’s campaign eventually raised an impressive $8.4 million.
She went all in on women’s empowerment; after all, maybe for the first time ever, being a young, female candidate was an asset rather than a detriment. She denounced the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh and stood publicly with local GOP consultant Jennifer Van Laar, retweeting an interview in which Van Laar said she had been sexually harassed by a Republican assembly candidate who’d defeated Van Laar’s candidate in a primary. “Believe Women,” Hill tweeted. “#TimesUp.”
In defeating Knight, Hill became part of the historic group of women who flipped the House from red to blue in 2018, and only the second openly bisexual woman ever to serve in Congress. She seemed like the future, and quickly became a power player in Washington. Hill’s freshman House colleagues elected her to represent them at the Democratic-leadership table, a role that would groom her for even more prominent positions. She was also named vice-chair of the prestigious House Oversight Committee and had the ear of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Former members of Hill’s staff tell me they’d eagerly hitched their wagons to her star, figuring their career paths were set for the next ten, 20, maybe even 30 years. Hill might be a senator one day, they thought, or House Speaker.
Hill and Morgan first met at a community event early in the fall of 2017. As Hill tells it, they got into a conversation about politics, and she mentioned her campaign was looking to hire someone to manage her schedule and help with fund-raising.
Morgan (who declined to be interviewed) accepted the offer as the campaign’s third employee. “She was hired as my body person, my person who was literally with me all the time,” said Hill. “Part of it was talking. We both identified as bi, right? That was one of the things that drew her to the campaign. And she was also younger than me and hadn’t had as much experience being a bi woman. I ended up revealing that I’d had a [three-person] relationship before.”
“I can only account for my feelings, but we fell in love. I don’t think there’s any way for it not to come off as bad,” Hill said. “But whatever. We developed feelings for each other, and even from day one, it was like, ‘No, we shouldn’t do this; this is a bad idea.’ But [we] did anyway, and hoped that it was just not going to come out.”
Hill said she’d been unhappy in her marriage for a long time but didn’t recognize Heslep’s controlling behavior — like listening in on her phone calls — as abusive. Stevenson expressed concern but says Hill would pull away when she did. “It was devastating to watch our daughter fall into this pattern with him,” she says. The marriage wasn’t open, so a relationship with Morgan required bringing Heslep into the fold. The three of them hung out together rock-climbing, watching Breaking Bad, playing video games. They told their families about the relationship. They spent holidays together.
A tenet of the Me Too movement is that a person can’t fully consent, not really, anyway, to someone who wields power over him or her. During her campaign, Hill often tweeted about Me Too issues of harassment and abuse. As the candidate, she was inarguably at the top rung of her campaign team. Yet she said she didn’t feel like she was in charge, not when she was barely 30 and most staffers were in their 20s. “We joked about this a lot. Morgan was way more my boss than I was hers,” said Hill, “because she got me to places on time. So yes, I recognize that I had power, but also it just wasn’t like that at the time … I was a fucking person that was a few years older than her, and we got wrapped up in this movement of trying to do something, and I happened to be the face of it. But to me, she was just as responsible for it, you know?”
Early in their relationship, Hill, Heslep, and Morgan traveled to Alaska together, where Heslep took the photo of Hill nude, brushing Morgan’s hair. In the picture, Hill is staring down and Morgan is looking toward the lens. Hill said she didn’t know he was taking the shot, which appears to be candid. There is another photo of Hill and Morgan, also in the hotel, both clothed and smiling at the camera. She said she knew about that one but not another image that appears to have been taken just moments before or after, in which the two women are kissing. “I don’t think I would have been okay with that,” she said. “Well, I definitely wouldn’t have been okay with that.”
While only a few senior campaign staffers officially knew about the relationship, “it started to become more and more of an open secret,” according to one former team member. “People started to connect two and two together: [Morgan] is not a senior staff member; why is she at Katie’s house?”
As Hill became a viable candidate, there was a discussion about whether Morgan should step away. Hill said she doesn’t remember who initiated those talks, just that Morgan was invested in the campaign and didn’t want to leave. But Hill was also heavily leaning on their relationship, calling Morgan “a vital, vital support … There’s so much about having survived that last year and a half of my marriage and having survived through the campaign that I don’t know what I would have done if she weren’t in the picture,” she said.
During this time, Hill said, Heslep’s controlling behaviors escalated, a reaction to her not being around very much. While working at PATH, she’d been home most nights for dinner and rarely traveled. The campaign created a new reality — long hours, often seven days a week. The Vice series depicts a tight-knit group cranking out fund-raising calls, liquor bottles lined up on a shelf in the closet, and Hill joking with staffers. She suddenly had an entire life separate from her husband. “There were fights where Kenny was kind of like, ‘Choose me or the campaign,’ ” she said.
According to Hill, Morgan pointed out Heslep’s abusive behaviors. “One of the things I feel guiltiest about was, even then, I was like, ‘No, no, no, this is fine, this is normal,’ ” she said, adding that Heslep eventually began verbally berating Morgan, too. “Sometimes I told him, ‘You can’t fucking do that to her.’ ” By October 2018, Hill said, her relationship with Heslep had become unbearable. “For hours and hours and hours, he would just scream at me. He wouldn’t let me sleep.” The smallest trigger could set off an explosion — if Hill didn’t text Heslep enough throughout the day, if she forgot to bring him a fork at dinner. “It would turn into total belittling, like, ‘You are completely selfish, and you’ve got a God complex, and this whole campaign thing has completely gone to your head, and if anyone really knew you like I know you, there’s no way that you would be able to do this,’ ” she said. (Heslep’s lawyers released the following statement in response to Hill’s public remarks regarding the abuse: “Ms. Hill has made no allegations of abuse in her Petition for Dissolution. Mr. Heslep denies any allegations of abuse or wrongdoing outright.” Heslep, not Hill, filed for the divorce, and California is a no-fault state that does not require either partner to prove wrongdoing.)
The breaking point was a few weeks before the election. Hill was having suicidal thoughts. “I tried to talk to him about that, and he basically turned it around to be my fault and said to me, ‘Well, if you really feel that way about us and about everything, then you should go do it,’ ” she said. “He kept trying to hand me a gun and told me, ‘Well, if you go up in that corner, then no one will hear you.’ ”
The suggestion was even crueler because of a past incident: The friend whose suicide Hill talked about on the campaign trail had shot herself on Hill and Heslep’s property, where she’d been living in a yurt with her husband. Los Angeles County detective Marcelo Quintero says the 25-year-old woman was found near a car, next to a .22 rifle, with bullets in her pocket and a gunshot wound to her head, after she and her husband had gotten into a fight and she made an ominous phone call to her parents. County records show her body was not found for several hours after her death. “Sometimes in these areas, it’s feasible that you’re not going to hear a shot,” Quintero says.
The night of Hill’s confrontation with Heslep, she called a campaign staffer and asked him to pick her up at 6 a.m., before Heslep was awake. She loaded her belongings into his car, and Hill later drove to her mother’s house. Stevenson says Heslep called her that night. As she recalls, “He said, ‘I don’t give a fuck about her political career, I will destroy her. She needs help.’ ” (Hill’s stepdad overheard the threat, and a campaign staffer who was present also confirms it.)
Heslep sent flowers and cards, and a couple of weeks before the election, Hill went back to him. It was easier to pretend things were okay. “I knew at that point I was going to leave. It was just a matter of time,” she said.
Winning the election provided Hill with a clear exit: She moved to D.C. without Heslep or Morgan and got an apartment with fellow House freshman Lauren Underwood of Illinois. For the most part, she returned to California only on weekends for short trips packed with work events. By May, she had decided to end the relationship with both Heslep and Morgan. Now that she’d been elected, “I knew I can’t be in this relationship with Morgan,” she said. “And I also knew I needed to get out with Kenny. I think one of the things that Morgan is probably — in fact, I know one of the things she’s most upset by — is that by the end, Kenny was also taking out a lot on her, right? I left her in a really bad situation.”
By mid-2019, Hill was thriving in her new role in Congress. She’d begun a romantic relationship with Alex Thomas, a political writer she met in D.C. In August, they went on a beach vacation together. “There was this overwhelming sense then that, like, this is perfect,” she said. “I feel so happy and I feel like I’ve accomplished so much and I’m doing this important work. And, like, it can’t really get better than this, and maybe this is the point that I should just check out, right?” She said she stared at the ocean and thought of The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, a feminist novel from the turn of the 20th century in which a dissatisfied wife and mother commits suicide by drowning.
Hill said Morgan eventually broke up with Heslep but remained on the campaign team in California. “It’s not like I could fire Morgan,” Hill said. “That’s part of why it’s problematic, right? You can’t promote somebody without it being a problem. You can’t give them a raise. You can’t fire them.”
Heslep had filed for divorce in July, and tensions were heightening around the issue of alimony. “I knew he had everything he needed to ruin me,” said Hill. “The relationship with Morgan alone was enough.”
According to screen grabs of private Facebook messages sent to Santa Clarita news podcaster Stephen Daniels, Heslep had been shopping around what he called “the whole story” about Hill very early in the morning on September 27. Daniels, who had hosted Hill on his show, declined it. “I assumed he just wanted to air dirty laundry about the divorce,” he says.
Heslep sent Daniels a long response that ping-ponged between smiley-face and sobbing emoji, in which he accused Hill of “fighting even basic spousal support” and of draining their accounts. Next, Heslep posted on Facebook an accusation about Hill having a sexual relationship with her legislative director, Kelly. On October 10, a writer for the conservative political blog RedState, published a story based on Heslep’s claim. Local political operatives soon had their hands on information about Hill that they were sharing internally.
Seven days later, conservative radio host Joe Messina — a self-described “Right-wing, Bible-thumping, White guy” and former campaign adviser for Steve Knight — wrote on his blog that he’d received “over 700 images, pictures, texts, and notes on the escapades of one Katie Hill” and that he’d seen photos of her “in sexual situations” with a female campaign staffer. The next day, Van Laar — the GOP consultant Hill had supported in her Me Too accusations, now a writer for Red State — published the first article to include intimate photos of Hill as well as her private texts.
Hill and her staff used feminist messaging. “The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” she said in a statement. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain.” While Heslep has not talked to the press about the photos, his father, Fred, told BuzzFeed that his son says he was hacked and that he denies playing a role in disseminating the photos. Hill said Heslep also issued her a warning: “He was like, ‘You’re going to want to stop with this abusive-husband stuff, because that’s not going to age well.’ ”
Initially, Hill said she would cooperate with the Ethics Committee and forge ahead with her work in Congress. RedState was a right-wing blog with a relatively small readership. But on the morning of October 24, she woke up to news that the British tabloid the Daily Mail, one of the most-read news outlets in the world, had published a story featuring additional explicit photographs. Hill turned to Thomas and said, “It’s over.”
Hill went into crisis mode, calling her chief of staff, lawyers from the high-powered firm Perkins Coie, and consultants who’d worked on her campaign — including Lindsay Bubar, who’d been a senior adviser, and Bill Burton, a former deputy press secretary for President Obama.
Alone in her D.C. apartment, Hill opened a bottle of wine. She started reading articles about herself and “just got more and more depressed,” she told me. She ran a bath and lit candles. As she soaked in the water, she said, “I had this wave of I just want this to be done.” She got out of the tub to find a box cutter, then settled for a knife. Back in the tub, she held the knife up to her wrist but then thought about what it would mean for her family. “And then I thought about, well, what if I try and somebody stops it — [if Thomas] comes in and he’s worried and he has the super open [the apartment] for a wellness check, and then I get 5150-ed [involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility] and go to the fucking hospital and my family has to fly across the country?,” she said. “So I was just like, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. And I stopped and put the knife away.”
As Hill told it, shortly after, Thomas pounded on her apartment door. (He says the door was open and he walked in to find her in the bathtub. There are multiple inconsistencies in their details of the night.) He’d been out with friends, watching the Nationals play in the World Series. “I guess I’d been texting in a way that had him worried,” Hill told me. Thomas says he grabbed the knife from the edge of the tub; she’d scraped her wrists with it. After hiding the knife in a closet and putting on “some inane TV show,” he says he went out to get junk food. “I thought, What do you get someone to eat after they just tried to kill themselves?,” he says.
Thomas called a member of Hill’s staff, relayed the situation and said that Hill needed to step down. “My emotional bandwidth was fried,” he says. (Thomas later published information about the dissemination of the photos on his personal newsletter, unaffiliated with any of the outlets he writes for, and tweeted about his investigation on the matter. He didn’t reveal his relationship with Hill.) Hill soon started writing her resignation speech. She sent her finished draft to Bubar, who Hill said edited out the long list of apologies she planned to issue. Hill put them back in.
“I am leaving,” she said on the House floor, “but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and, worst of all, in the Oval Office.”
Afterward, Massachusetts Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley handed Hill a T-shirt that read, IF YOU’RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION. Pressley and Hill had become friends early on, when Hill — having learned that her office had once belonged to Shirley Chisholm and that Pressley wanted it — insisted they switch.
Many of Hill’s Democratic colleagues remained silent. But plenty of those who didn’t publicly stand by Hill did so privately, attending a farewell party Underwood threw on the roof of their apartment building. Until then, the silence on social media had been excruciating. “As a fellow politician, I understand why this is messy, and you can’t explain it in 280 characters, and everyone from your comms team is telling you, ‘Don’t touch this.’ But I’m here, and I feel so alone,” Hill said, tearing up. “When they showed up, I was like, Thank God.”
In a video posted online a few days before Hill left Congress, she vowed to “take up a new fight” against what’s commonly called revenge porn. She began talking with lawyers and came across an article about her case by Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer in Brooklyn who specializes in victims’-rights law and cyberexploitation and is often featured in the media. Hill called Goldberg, who came to D.C. the next day. The legal battle will likely be long and messy, and so far, the GoFundMe to help cover Hill’s fees has raised more than $29,000. In the meantime, the photos remain online.
Hill was the first member of Congress to be investigated under the House rule against relationships with staffers, approved in February 2018. She is also the first female member to resign amid allegations of her own misconduct. But since the dawn of the Me Too movement in October 2017, four men in Congress — including representatives John Conyers, Trent Franks, and Pat Meehan as well as Senator Al Franken — resigned after admitting to or being accused of various transgressions. In November, the Ethics Committee announced a second probe under its new rule, this time into an alleged longtime romantic relationship between Florida congressman Alcee Hastings and a congressional aide whom he’d reportedly paid more than his chief of staff for a decade.
Hill said there were rumors swirling around the halls of Congress about plenty of lawmakers that nobody was acting on. “You know that so-and-so is banging their staff … You know, it’s very common,” she said. “Look, it’s not confirmed, so I can’t say. Whatever.”
When I ask Pressley if she agrees with Hill that a double standard was at play, she emphatically says yes. There’s a long pause before she speaks again. “Are you kidding me?”
The apartment that Hill and Underwood shared until late January had the feel of a modern corporate rental or an Airbnb that nobody actually lives in — a place to sleep and shower on your way somewhere else. Hill’s congressional wardrobe still hung in her closet like a museum exhibit, reds and blues and tweeds from some other period. There was no rug, no photos on the wall. The closest thing to décor was Underwood’s framed poster of Chisholm leaning against the wall and a stack of books sent by Hill’s agent: And Then We Grew Up, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Rage Becomes Her, Unscrewed, and Why Does He Do That?
Hill said she was tens of thousands of dollars in debt from her divorce’s legal fees, and her last congressional paycheck was deposited on December 1. So she was wasting no time in launching her comeback. Hill is simultaneously writing a book, appearing regularly on TV, taking paid speaking gigs about women’s empowerment, and starting a political PAC with money from her war chest.
Some of her former staffers have distanced themselves, at least publicly — scrubbing Hill’s name from their social-media bios and, in the case of at least one senior staffer, removing their time with her from their LinkedIn page. In the immediate aftermath of the photos’ release, someone in Hill’s hometown put up posters of her in a Nazi uniform with the hashtag #WifeSwappenSS. Her mother received texts with those same images. A man with a camera began parking his car outside Stevenson’s house and trailing her and her husband when they walked out their door. A suspicious, but ultimately innocuous, white powder was sent to her district office.
Hill said she feared that what happened to her will deter other young women from running for office, and her experience has shaken some of her former colleagues. Underwood, at 33 the youngest black woman ever to serve in Congress, tells me, “There is extreme risk in me doing this interview with you right now.” (Multiple Democrats contacted for this article, either directly or through their press offices, declined or never responded to repeated requests to be interviewed.) “There is an entire political party armed with millions of dollars willing and ready to spend to clip these quotes that I’m giving you right now to be used for my political peril. And I didn’t even do anything.”
In December, Hill went home for the holidays. “There’s a lot I have to heal from,” she told me before leaving. “There’s also three years of lost time — like even phone calls I didn’t have time for, to talk to my friends.” But the trip wasn’t a respite. Her mother underwent surgery to relieve a buildup of fluid around her brain. Then, on the morning of January 18, Hill found her 20-year-old brother dead on her mother’s couch from what Hill describes as an apparent overdose (the toxicology report has not yet been completed). They were both at home because Stevenson was still in the hospital recovering. “I was with him the night before,” said Hill. “I saw him in the morning, like two hours, probably, before it happened.” She said she did CPR but to no avail. “The night before, we hung out. We talked about our plans for the future … I was recording our conversation, because I was, like, I just thought it was an interesting conversation. I was like, ‘Do you mind if I record this? I feel like I might use this for something someday.’ And it was from the fucking night before.”
Hill crowdfunded the funeral and shared a link to donate on Twitter, raising more than $15,000. (She deleted the tweet weeks later.) After her brother’s death, she couldn’t bear to be at her mother’s house and instead went to Malibu to stay at a home owned by one of her former donors.
“I hate pity more than anything else, and the last several months have led to a lot of pity,” said Hill. People ask if she’s okay, and her family worries about her mental health. “After my brother died, my mom and sister made me make a pact that I would never actually do something like that, and I was like, ‘Of course not,’ ” she said. “It was starkly clear to me once my brother died that that was totally off the table.”
Hill flew out to D.C. for the State of the Union address, just over two weeks after her brother’s death (members have lifetime invitations to attend). Wearing suffragette white, as she had the year before, as well as her congressional pin, she walked down the halls of the Capitol with her former colleagues, passing reporters on the way. This seemed to have been the point. Hill was highly aware that her new path hinged on remaining relevant. “The easier thing is definitely not showing up, right?,” she told me the next day. “For me, personally, it feels really fucking shitty. Going there and being the person where it’s like, you’re not a member anymore, what are you doing here?”
Hill’s book advance allowed her to move into a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. — for the first time in her life, she had a place of her own. She pointed out the balcony and the washer-dryer. She couldn’t wait to pick out a rug. Red is her favorite color, but she was thinking gray and white — a Scandinavian vibe, something calming. It had the feel of a fresh start. “Being out of office is so much easier than being in office,” she said. “This year, I’m going to make a lot more money. I’m going to have a bunch of vacations. I’m going to have a lot of downtime.”
There’s suddenly a lot of freedom in her life. She has a new girlfriend. “Let’s put it this way: I’m new at being single, and I’m seeing a few people,” she said. It mattered less what people say or who they see her with. And while she hadn’t ruled out a future run for office, “I’m not going to live my life planning to run.” In a year when she thought she’d be campaigning for her reelection, she has thrown her weight behind California assemblywoman Christy Smith. It’s shaping up to be a political circus, with 13 candidates seeking her seat, including Knight and former Trump campaign adviser and convicted felon George Papadopoulos.
Sometimes, as we were talking, I could see Hill calculating what she thought I’d respond to and how. She texted me a link to Joan Didion’s essay “On Self-Respect” and said there’s a line that stood out to her now: “People with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things.” But when the narrative shifted from the story she wanted to tell, so did her tone. After letting her know in person that a detail she’d omitted came up in my reporting, she sent me a series of increasingly agitated texts. On the phone, she choked up and yelled, saying that unless I promise her it won’t be included, anxiety would hang over her. “So you should know that,” she said. A week later, even though I told her I couldn’t promise not to include it, she texted to apologize for getting so emotional. She had a couple more TV spots lined up, she said. She was going to be on Good Morning America and The View.
Only hours after Hill appeared on The View on February 21, happily tweeting a photo of herself in a pink blazer outside the green room, news broke that the FBI had arrested a hacker connected to her campaign: Arthur Dam, who is married to Hill’s campaign fund-raiser and later district director, Kelsey O’Hara, was tied to a series of cyberattacks that had temporarily shut down the website of one of Hill’s Democratic opponents in the lead-up to the 2018 primary, just before the start of an important debate. The target was Bryan Caforio, a lawyer who had once been considered the Democratic favorite. He lost to Hill in the primary by a little under 2,700 votes. (A senior staffer for another primary opponent, Jess Phoenix, says hacking attempts were made on the campaign’s computer systems and staffers’ social-media accounts, but nothing was breached.)
Cafario tells me he’d had his suspicions when Hill’s website was never targeted. “Of course, after the 2016 election, everybody in the world is worried about Russia and interference. But I’m sitting there thinking, Would Russia really care about little old me in a primary against a congressional candidate?,” he says.
Daniels, the local-politics podcaster, who’d also moderated a 2018 primary debate, says many Democrats in her district had been forgiving about the relationship with Morgan and shown sympathy for the circumstances under which Hill resigned. Her continued popularity was so strong that Smith’s campaign had gladly and publicly accepted her endorsement and fund-raising help. But now, Daniels says, the tone among people he knows — many of whom knocked on doors for and donated to Hill’s campaign — has changed. “Honestly, it’s ‘Fuck her. Go away, Katie. You’ve disappointed us all,’ ” he says. “There are people who are just like, ‘I can’t believe we worked so hard to get her elected and all this crap is coming out about her.’ ” As one Democratic strategist said, “At the end of the day, the buck stops with the candidate,” he says. “If she didn’t know, she should have.”
There are rumblings that there’s more to come, and just over a week before the primary, Smith’s campaign appeared to be distancing itself from Hill in light of the FBI complaint. “Hacking, phishing, cyber-attacks, or any other illegal interference — foreign or domestic, from either side of the aisle — cannot be tolerated. I’ve read the latest reports, and they are deeply troubling,” Smith said in a written statement. Smith has, however, publicly been endorsed by Hill’s PAC. Endorsements come with a $2,000 donation and an email list, which Smith didn’t return.
Hill’s reinvention as full-time feminist champion has relied almost entirely on people both liking and trusting her. Her forthcoming book, She Will Rise, will be both a memoir and “about how women ultimately shift power,” Hill said. (It will be released on August 18, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.) And on the purple-and-pink website for Hill’s new PAC, HER Time, she pledged to help women running for office, making amends for what she called “this unreconciled dynamic around what happened with Morgan.” The possibility that Hill’s campaign had cheated does not fit well with the image she’d assembled, especially not when some voters are frustrated that Hill didn’t funnel her war chest back into the district. Bubar, the senior adviser who also handles Hill’s personal publicity and is helping with her book, was paid $10,000 in December from PAC funds. That same month, Morgan and at least two other campaign staffers were paid for “administrative services” related to the campaign closure, according to a Federal Election Commission report — and Morgan declined to comment for this article through Bubar.
Hill denied being involved in the hacking and said that the news of the FBI complaint came “as a total surprise to me.” While O’Hara was part of Hill’s tight-knit senior campaign team, Hill said she only met her husband a couple of times at events. “It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to ask someone to do this — even if I were nefarious — because it would have such a low impact,” she said of the hackings. Hill said her lawyers had advised her not to have contact with O’Hara. “I really feel like this is not something, like, in any way that would have been worth the risk,” she said. Hill paused. “Kelsey, I don’t even think she would have known … I think she would been the same way, like, ‘How would shutting down the website for any period of time help us when you are seen as interfering in an election?’ ” Hill issued a formal statement, but “the side reaction I had to it was like, Fuck,” she told me. “This is a scandal I had nothing to do with … you’re like, What the hell, does it ever stop?”
As news of the hacking arrest spread on Twitter, Hill posted, “Sometimes you think you’ve hit your lowest low are on the upswing, starting to feel ok, then something else happens you slide right back into the mud. You just want to sink all the way in instead of trying to fight your way back up. But you will rise again. #depression.”
Late that night, she shared a photo of herself and a friend out dancing, and soon she was back to tweeting about politics and wanting a pet squirrel. The next week, there were plugs for HER Time in national media outlets, with headlines such as “Katie Hill’s Next Chapter Starts Now” and “Katie Hill Is on a Mission to Get Young Women Elected to Office,” and a New York Times piece about her book that didn’t mention the hacking. Hill seemed to know the news cycle moves fast and that the interest in her, no matter what prompts it, is valuable. “She is an unbelievable political talent,” says the strategist, who watched her campaign closely. “Katie has that quality that people don’t believe negative things about her.”
*This article appears in the March 2, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
Fran Drescher. On Fran: Manolo Blahnik pumps, at manoloblahnik.com. Wolford stockings, at saks.com. Chopardearrings, at 709 Madison Ave. Arm, at left: David Yurman ring, at 5 E. 57th St. De Beers bracelet, at 716 Madison Ave. Arm, at right: Cartier ring, available by appointment at 653 Fifth Ave. Chopard bracelet. Foot, at right: Jimmy Choo shoe, at jimmychoo.com. Photo: Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari
What you first need to understand is that I learned joie de vivre from The Nanny. Literally, as in the phrase: It sneaked into the theme song to describe the stock-in-trade of the flashy girl from Flushing, as theNanny was, and as Fran Drescher, its star and creator, was. Ann Hampton Callaway wrote that song for her and did its jazzy performance, a stepping-stone on the way to writing hits for Barbra Streisand, which, if you’re a Jewish girl from the boroughs, as Drescher is, is a little like saying Callaway wrote for some little yeshiva Yentl before ascending, pen in hand, to work for G-d Herself.
The joy of Fran! The Jewish girl onscreen who wasn’t a meeskite but a bombshell, who turned what could have been a career-killer — a face that could launch a thousand ships paired with a voice that could sink them — and made it, through gale-force charm, a selling point, a calling card. Thirty years’ worth of journalists have struggled to describe her nasal whinny. I like Los Angeles magazine’s version: the voice of “a Bloomies perfume spritzer in heat.” Teachers told her to lose it, and she tried. But when she trained it out of herself, she lost her whole personality and spoke at a snail’s pace. She remembers drawling her way through an audition for a part in an epic television drama and losing out to Jane Seymour. “They said to my manager, ‘You know, she did fine, but she talked too slow, and it’s only an 18-hour miniseries,’ ” Drescher says. “So that was kind of the end of that.”
If you are of the generation that grew up on Drescher — those of us who were impressionable, and often latchkey, kids during her nannying days, from 1993 to 1999 — it is more than a little surreal to find yourself suddenly in communication with her, like meeting a former babysitter years later, each of you older, wiser, and a little wider, the dynamics of your relationship subtly changed. At 62, Drescher is both a whole new woman — a cancer survivor with a foundation to advocate for early detection, prevention, and policy; a marijuana evangelist; and a fiery political opinionator with a snappy anti-capitalist bent — and exactly the one you feel you know. Her text messages are spangled with kiss-print emoji. She loves an espresso martini, the height of ’90s elegance.
Back home on the Upper West Side after a stop at a Columbus Avenue bodega for $186 worth of fresh flowers, which she arranges and distributes across a number of vases, Drescher has quick-changed into a terrycloth robe and UGGs, a diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist, while her ever-present assistant, Jordan, lights a fire in the living-room hearth. Drescher’s company is called Uh-Oh Productions, and emails from Jordan, dispatches from and about Fran, have been popping up on my phone for days as simply “Uh-Oh.”
Drescher spends most of her time in Malibu, where she has a house on the ocean and a regular table at Nobu. But she keeps an apartment in New York in an Arts and Crafts–style building just off the park, where she once shared a wall with Madonna. Here, among rattan chairs and Asian antiques, most of which predate her in the apartment — she bought it furnished from a decorator — Drescher lives softly, a star in temporary residence. Framed photos of her with potentates — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden — grace a side table. (She hasn’t yet chosen a 2020 candidate, though fans who have been stoked by her anti-capitalist sallies may be surprised to hear that, while she’s Bernie-curious, “I do like Amy, and I do think that Joe has a lot of experience.”) In the kitchen is a framed cover of New York Dog magazine featuring Drescher with Esther, one of her late, beloved Pomeranians. Esther’s predecessor Chester was a guest star on The Nanny.
The line between her lives onscreen and off can feel blurry. When a phone call from her mother interrupts for a few minutes — a periodontal appointment is discussed — I have to remind myself that the person on the other end is Sylvia Drescher, whom I have never seen, not Sylvia Fine, her Nanny equivalent on the plastic-covered couch. Fran isn’t Fran Fine, the door-to-door makeup saleswoman turned nanny to three sad, spoiled, Anglo-American scamps and their blustery British father (“Mistuhhh Sheffield!”), but her characters tend to be avatars of their creator. Most of them, she points out, are called Fran. “I have the good fortune of being recognizable,” she says. “For people to roll out the red carpet for me wherever I go in the world, it’s such heaven. Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t like Paris. They’re not nice to me.’ And it’s like, ‘Really? I’m like Jerry Lewis there.’ ” She is Une Nounou d’Enfer — “A Nanny From Hell,” as the show was titled in France — and La Tata, as it was called in Italy. The Nanny has been syndicated and adapted around the world, both dubbed in its original version and recast in remakes. In more than 25 years, it has never not been showing somewhere.
The Fran Generation is now grown up, and its members have carried Drescher with them. “I watched a lot of TV as a kid, at night when my parents were working,” says Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, one of Drescher’s spiritual descendants. “Fran as the nanny was like my nanny.” Glazer cast and directed her on an episode of Broad City as her character’s aunt. “I have watched so many hours, every episode of the show,” says Glazer. “She makes up part of the structure of my brain.”
“The Nanny was very formative,” says Rachel Bloom, the Emmy-winning composer, lyricist, and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, who is working with Drescher on a Nanny musical headed to Broadway. Dan Levy, a producer and writer for the ABC show The Goldbergs, created a “Fran Drescher–type” mother figure in his new NBC sitcom, Indebted, which premiered last month; he told every development executive that he’d pictured Fran Drescher in the part and then, bowing to Occam’s razor, cast Fran Drescher. Indebted gives Drescher her first starring network role in years, and one, she says with relief, that her elderly parents in Florida and their friends can find in the newspaper TV listings. She is even working on a cabaret act that will take her to Café Carlyle in New York, the first in its history, said Carlyle’s Jennifer Cooke, that will not include singing.
It’s worth asking why, 21 years after the end of The Nanny, we’re still in her thrall. It’s not just that those who are overwhelmed by the chaos of the internet — which is to say, all of us — see the feel-good sitcoms of the ’90s as sort of a cultural balm, much of it accessible now, ironically enough, on the internet. (The Nanny remains confoundingly hard to stream, though it is a mark of digital glut that I discovered the first two seasons are available on something called the Roku Channel, which it turns out I have.) It’s also Drescher herself. The Nanny’s rags-to-riches story — which is also her rags-to-riches story — gave us a Borscht Belt Maria von Trapp with an exuberance, even a vulgarity, that wasn’t an obstacle to overcome. It was the whole point. She was gorgeous, she was clever, she was outer-borough middle class — she fairly honked. Drescher is not unapprised of the singularity of Fran. “I was never going to have Meryl Streep’s career,” she says. “I was going to have Fran Drescher’s career, and that’s what I did.”
She couldn’t have had anyone else’s. She made her film debut coming on to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. “Hey, are you as good in bed as you are on that dance floor?” is her adenoidal purr, and he leads her there, her proprietary hand on his polyester ass. She kicked around in some other movies; she did pilots for TV. But she realized early on that she’d have to make her own opportunities. You can still see a few episodes of the last sitcom she did before breaking out, the now-forgotten Princesses, on YouTube: She and Julie Hagerty and the ’60s model Twiggy shack up together as wacky roommates with wildly divergent styles. But the show failed to catch on. “On TV, a New York Flavor May Be Poison,” ran the headline in the New York Times.
After its cancellation, Drescher wound up on an international flight with Jeff Sagansky, then-president of entertainment at CBS. Seizing her chance, she buttonholed him. “I thought, Thank you, Lord, and I ran into the bathroom to put some makeup on,” she says. “I remember the movie was starting—back then, everybody watched the same movie — and it was The Prince of Tides with Barbra Streisand. And he said, ‘Oh, I want to watch this. It’s my favorite.’ And I thought to myself, Oh, this guy is so ripe for me.” She told him that, because of her voice, networks had always gotten her wrong. She wasn’t sitcom seasoning. She was the main course.
Sagansky agreed to a meeting and eventually to what would become The Nanny, the idea Drescher and her then-husband, now-out gay ex-husband, and now-and-forever writing partner, Peter Marc Jacobson, came up with for her. It was sparked by her experience schlepping Twiggy’s daughter, Carly, around London. They’d spent years working as frustrated actors in L.A. and suddenly had the chance to write their own ticket. The studio brought in Prudence Fraser and Robert Sternin to help guide the writing process, but Drescher “was doing stories every single day,” Jacobson says. “We were so young, I think we did things that if I was getting into it now I’d be afraid to do. Who brings Yiddish into a CBS eight-o’clock show in 1993?”
But the gamble worked. The Nanny was a major hit and, with it, Drescher, who had been a bit player for Miloš Forman and a standout as a brassy publicist in Spinal Tap, became not only a star but a durable icon. A New York flavor, no longer poison, was now a bragging right. The New York Times: “For Queens, a Place in the Sun; Hollywood Is Suddenly Zooming In, With a Vengeance.” Queens’s other most famous modern export, Donald J. Trump, was a frequent punch line and onetime guest star. They were once two comic actors, one playing a souped-up fantasy version of her younger self, the other playing a souped-up, fantasy version of his father. Now they are president and guru, sitting on the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. He bellows with inchoate rage. Drescher remains a foghorn of joy.
Drescher likes to point out that, until the show aired, there hadn’t been a Jewish actress playing a Jewish main character on an American comedy for decades — not since Molly Goldberg, the echt Jewish mama of early broadcasting, appeared on CBS in the late 1940s. (Rhoda, the canonical sassy Jewish gal of ’70s TV, was played by Valerie Harper, who wasn’t.) The Nanny was “the only show where someone being Jewish was a major part of the show,” Bloom says. “You’d think there’d be a lot more shows where people were overtly Jewish, considering the disproportionate amount of Jewish people writing and creating shows. But there’s this idea of ‘We don’t want to alienate Middle America.’ ”
Drescher and Jacobson based Fran Fine on the young Fran and insisted on her being Jewish even when a major conglomerate offered to sponsor the show provided Fran be rewritten as Italian. “We thought about it because we knew it was our big break,” Drescher says, “and we didn’t want to be difficult. But I thought of Neil Simon because he said, ‘Write what you know.’ I didn’t know Italian like I know Jewish. So I mustered up my chutzpah and told them Fran Fine must be Jewish. And they said, ‘Okay.’ ”
There were occasional complaints that Nanny Fine and her Queens clan — a domineering, guilt-tripping Jewish mother and a yenta grandmother, Yetta, named after Drescher’s grandmother — didn’t represent the best of Jewish womanhood. The L.A. Times published an opinion piece to this effect, then Drescher’s rebuttal. But the archetype she incarnated was both hyperspecific and hyperrelatable — if not in its details, then in its values — to women, and non-women, used to being told to turn it down. The shock of The Nanny was “not only the Judaism,” Bloom says. “It was being too much, being loud, being different. It was a lot of things that I hadn’t seen before.”
Since The Nanny, Drescher has never fallen out of the cultural mainstream, though she has, project by project, drifted toward the outer boroughs of the television landscape. There was Living With Fran, on the now-defunct WB, about a Fran who juggles family and a younger boyfriend (2005–6). Then Happily Divorced, on TV Land, about a Fran still living with her newly out, newly gay ex-husband (2011–13), another show she created with Jacobson. After their divorce, they didn’t speak for a year — he hadn’t wanted to get divorced and was angry. They’ve since come back together professionally and personally, and they’re both single again now. “I always used to joke and say if I do have a relationship, they’re going to have to be happy sitting, when we’re 70 watching The Nanny on television, between me and Fran,” he says.
Her life hasn’t all been sitcom rosy. “I’ve been very candid about my personal life,” she says. She has written two memoirs (fun fact: Fran loves Phish). The second, Cancer Schmancer, details her fight to correctly diagnose and ultimately beat uterine cancer. Drescher’s relationship after Jacobson, with a producer on The Nanny, ended following her cancer treatment, and a second marriage, to the tech entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, ended in divorce. Ayyadurai is internet infamous for his claim that he invented email, though he sued Gawker for its posts debunking the claim, a suit the company settled for $750,000; he also ran unsuccessfully against Elizabeth Warren for a Massachusetts Senate seat. “In my second marriage, we were together for three years. The first year was bliss, the second year was agony and ecstasy, and the third year was just agony, and I said, ‘Enough,’ ” Drescher has said. Some of her flowers go into vases they received as wedding gifts. She underwent a hysterectomy as part of her cancer treatment and never had kids. “I think I would have been a good mom,” she says, “and sometimes I think I kind of missed out on that.”
That makes Indebted’s Debbie, a doting grandmother and a frisky mate to a graying husband (Steven Weber), a different type of Drescher character and a slightly bittersweet one as well. On the show, Debbie hovers over Adam Pally and Abby Elliott, who play its central characters, a youngish married couple who are tending to both their own kids and their regressing, neo-adolescent parents. Drescher took care to insert enough Fran into the character to make it her own; early scripts, she said, made Debbie more of a traditional, hectoring mother-in-law type. “I’m not that actress. I cannot get away with that,” she says. “I’m a star. People are tuning in to see who they’re used to seeing. You want to get some heavy character actress, older woman, to be this pain in the ass in the house and have this, you know, antagonistic relationship with the daughter-in-law like they did in Everybody Loves Raymond, be my guest. But that’s not me.” Drescher turned out to be a bright spot in Indebted’s otherwise rough rollout. Reviews so far have been grim. The exception is Drescher, whom Variety singled out as “the only person who seems to be trying,” in a performance that is “a reminder of an old-fashioned sitcom sparkle.”
“Old-fashioned” may be a tell. The show is a sitcom in the kid-friendly, yuks-and-shticks mold (multi-camera, guffawing studio audience), which has not fared well critically in the age of single-cam auteurs and HBO gore. It is the safest of network TV. “I think we’re going to see them coming back,” Drescher says. Her characters are lovable and stylish; unlike most Emmy bait, she is proudly, unapologetically uncontroversial. (“You can’t sit down with your family and watch Game of Thrones,” Bloom says. “I mean, I’m sure some people do. I wouldn’t recommend it.”) Family-friendly fare syndicates, and it performs worldwide. Drescher is living proof. “From the studio standpoint, that’s where the money is,” she says. “Sony has done very well by The Nanny. I mean, something that is this popular a quarter of a century later, that’s pretty decent.”
Pretty decent has made Drescher a wealthy woman. She loves to work, she says, but she doesn’t have to. “I don’t need the money,” she says. “And if you don’t need the money, that takes a little bit of fire out of your belly.” But stardom agrees with her, and shows like Indebted offer, if they catch on, a pathway back to the televised mainstream. Drescher has already made her peace with whatever the show’s fate may be. “As a Buddhist — or a Bu-Jew, which is more to the point of what I am, really — balance is a big part of your daily practice,” she says. “And I try and find balance in everything. I never forget where I come from. And inside, I’m still a chubby girl from Queens, anyway.”
The commissary at The Wing does not offer espresso martinis, but for Drescher, they are inclined to make an exception. So it was that on a recent Tuesday night, a few empty glasses were on a side table, drained but for the telltale damp coffee beans. Drescher was on hand to screen the pilot episode of Indebted for a crowd of 200 and hold a QA after. She is one of The Wing’s presiding spirits; Fran Fine has a phone booth named in her honor there. (Fellow honorees include Ramona Quimby and Lisa Simpson.) Audrey Gelman, The Wing’s co-founder (smart, ambitious, Jewish) loves Fran Drescher (smart, ambitious, Jewish). “Im crying ok,” she wrote on Instagram when they met.
But the crowd at The Wing testified that Fran’s appeal is not limited to those most categorically similar to her. The too-muchness of The Nanny, from Fran’s wardrobe of leopard, sequins, and skintight to her clarion call, didn’t alienate Middle America: America, and the world, ate it up. Her appeal cut across age, race, and creed. Shanae Brown, who runs the Instagram account @WhatFranWore, which is dedicated to tracking down and identifying Fran Fine’s outfits for an audience of almost 300,000, isn’t a young, Jewish striver from the city. She’s a 30-year-old Jamaican patient-care technician living in Atlanta.
Brown doesn’t wear the sequined vests, the hourglass cocktail dresses, the Todd Oldham and Moschino and Ferré and, Lord have mercy, Allen Schwartz that Fran Fine did. But then neither does Fran Drescher. The show’s costumes were a fantasy creation, a TV-land exaggeration, by the costume designer Brenda Cooper, who won an Emmy for her efforts. The studio, Jacobson recalled, originally pushed for Fran to wear T-shirts and jeans in an effort to be relatable; he and Drescher doubled down on the brights, even making the sets a polite, neutral cream to make the costumes pop. What they telegraphed was an irrepressible presence. “She was such a strong person,” Brown said in an interview. “She was kind of this irreverent woman who didn’t care what people thought about her. I feel like that’s the energy we have now.” Brown has occasionally tried posting the outfits of another 1990s TV heroine, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but she didn’t get the response Fran has.
At The Wing, the crowd laughed politely through Indebted, then roared for Drescher’s onstage QA. Afterward, she took questions from the audience.
“I’m not going to stand, because I think if I stand, I’m going to pass out,” said a young woman up front when handed the microphone. “You’re such a hero of mine. I grew up watching you; I’ve seen every episode a million times. I can’t believe I’m in the same room as you. Thank you so much for all the work you’ve put out into the world.” She went on, “While I’m not Jewish, I’m Latina, to see a woman really use her ethnicity, especially in the ’90s, meant so much, and I really resonated with it so much.”
After her, a young man — rare for The Wing but never for Fran — with sunglasses perched on his close-cropped skull, was briefer. “I went through a lot of trauma in high school,” he said, quavering. “And watching you really got me through a lot.”
Before the event ended, Drescher led the room in a recitation of the mantra a spiritual adviser once taught her: “I love you, Fran,” she was to repeat to herself. “I know how wonderful you are. It’s Fran and Fran till the end of time.” She encouraged everyone to insert their own name to self-love their way to spiritual enlightenment, but the response that came back still echoed with Frans.
*This article appears in the March 2, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!