Alicia Machado is opening up about her battle with anorexia and bulimia during her days as Miss Universe.
Then 19 years old, the Venezuela native says she was relentlessly teased by Miss Universe co-owner Donald Trump, who allegedly called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Eating Machine” after she gained weight in the year after she won her crown.
She is back in the news after Hillary Clinton brought her up in Monday night’s presidential debate, alleging that Machado’s experience is evidence of Trump’s sexism over the years.
On Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his comments about Machado in an interview on Fox & Friends, saying, “She was the worst we ever had. She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”
Now a United States citizen, the 39-year-old mother-of-one said Trump’s comments 20 years ago took away her confidence and contributed to a battle with eating discorders she struggled for years to overcome.
“I had a lot of problems,” she revealed to Good Morning America on Wednesday. “Anorexic, bulimic – that kind of problems.”
“You know, with 18 years old, when you are growing up, that was horrible for me,” she told Natalie Morales later on Today. “My self-esteem [was] on the floor.”
Just three months after earning the Miss Universe title, rumors about Machado’s weight started swirling – and Trump and pageant officials threatened to take away her crown unless she lost weight.
Trump was vocal about her appearance back then – telling PEOPLE in Feb. 1997, “We want her to stay as Miss Universe and she is working on her problem.”
“When you win a beauty pageant,” he continued, “people don’t think you’re going to go from 118 to 160 in less than a year, and you really have an obligation to stay in perfect physical shape.”
“She was like an eating machine – she ate a lot of everything,” Trump told Howard Stern in Feb. 1997. “She gained about 55-pounds in 9 months.”
Machado told Today she only gained a total of 18 lbs. In the years after her pageant win.
Trump hired a trainer for Machado to help her lose the weight before she would have to make appearances and crown the next winner in May 1997. He also once held a press conference to show her working out.
Reflecting back on the experience, Machado told GMA, “He used me to make publicity.”
Now, Machado is owning her own experience. After becoming a U.S. citizen in August, she’s registered to vote and is pledging her support to Hillary Clinton.
She tells her side of the story in a new campaign video – released minutes after brought up Machado at the presidential debate Monday night in an effort to show Trump’s disdain for women.
Despite the harsh names – which Machado said also included “Miss Housekeeping” – she says she’s unfazed by his words now.
“Maybe he will be saying bad things about me, but it’s okay,” she told GMA. “I’m strong.”
As for who she’s voting for – Machado’s with Clinton, worried of the impact Trump would have on her daughter if he wins.
“That same person I knew, I see in each of his speeches and I see it getting worse and I see it even more harmful and even more damaging,” she told Today.