This Woman Was Once Slut-Shamed For Posing In Maxim, And Now She’s Running For Congress

Discrimination in the workplace isn’t outside of the ordinary for women, particularly when they participate in the notoriously male-dominated world of politics.

Alejandra Campoverdi is currently running for Congress in California, and it seems that the media is only concerned about one thing: the fact that, at one point in her life, Campoverdi posed for Maxim.

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Though this information shouldn’t be vilifying, the fact has followed Campoverdi around her entire political career, and she’s utterly sick of it. So, she decided to pen an essay for Cosmopolitan in which she speaks frankly about how the Maxim experience effected her career and influenced her perception of sexism in politics and the workplace.

In the essay, Campoverdi describes how difficult it was for her and her single mom to make ends meet while growing up. Campoverdi says that she held a variety of odd jobs since she was a teenager.

Like many, I’ve had to work since my early teens and have had a lot of jobs. As a waitress. As a live mannequin on Venice Beach Boardwalk. As a retail employee at a clothing store. And almost 15 years ago, I worked as a model. My time as a model was short and it helped me pay some bills.

Campoverdi eventually went on to graduate from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, before moving to Chicago to work unpaid on then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. After Obama was elected to office, Campverdi worked in the White House in the chief of staff’s office, and later worked as the first ever White House deputy director of Hispanic media.

However, people were quick to jump to unsavory conclusions about Campoverdi once news broke that she once posed for photos in Maxim when she was working as a model.

One week into the job, photos from an old shoot for Maxim surfaced and spread like an arsonist’s fire. Right behind the photos followed the hotter, more humiliating blaze of unveiled snark that pointedly implied that I didn’t deserve what I’d accomplished and had been overambitious for even trying in the first place. And it was everywhere — from Gawker to the Daily Mail to Perez Hilton to the front page of a random newspaper in India. I was now stamped as the “White House Maxim Model.” I had been reduced to a stereotype.

Campoverdi was devastated about the casual and sexist way in which everyone dismissed her, purely based on the fact that she once posed in a sexy magazine spread. However, she wasn’t going to let the vicious news cycle keep her from doing her job.

After crying for a week, I put my head down and worked even harder. The only thing that ever got me anywhere was working hard, showing up when I said I would or earlier, and doing more than just the job I was hired to do. And that’s what I did for my next four years at the White House.

Now, Campoverdi is running for Congress in the current special election for California’s 34th District, and she wants other young women to feel encouraged to pursue positions of power, regardless of how “palatable” their background is deemed by others. Even now, many years later, publications still refuse to refer to her without mentioning the Maxim “scandal.”

Now, eight years later, as I run for Congress, I understand a lot more about the systemic sexism in politics than the young woman who beat herself up and took all the shaming so personally. Yet when I recently found myself forced to answer questions about Maxim by a reputable newspaper in my official announcement for Congress, I knew I had to speak out about this double standard. Enough already.

She writes that people (read: men) often feel the need to shove women into restrictive categories, refusing to view them as complex, complicated individuals.

Men get to be broad and complicated and contradictory. Yet as women, we aren’t granted the whole person. We get typecast as the Sexy One, the Brainy One, the Girl Next Door. We don’t create these boxes for ourselves and usually don’t agree to them, so why should we have to live within them? Women shouldn’t need to choose between being intelligent and being feminine. Female sexuality and intelligence are not inversely related.

Campoverdi urges other young women to buck the notion that they need to fit into certain stereotypes in order to run for office, or that they must conform to the public’s restrictive (and often sexist) ideas about how a woman should behave.

Right now, there are young women all across the country who are exactly who we need to run for office. They are passionate, they are fighters, and they are real, with backgrounds that aren’t cookie-cutter. It’s urgent we send a message to these women that they will not be kept out of the political process by the mere fact of being human, of being their wonderfully nuanced, complicated, sometimes contradictory selves.

She says that modern technology is likely to loom over everyone’s head when they attempt to make a name for themselves in the public eye.

From this generation forward, every woman will have grown up in the digital age where, unless she sat in a turtleneck at home for all her teens, she will have pictures readily available online that can be used to shame her. And if these women decide to sit this one out because of that, we will miss out on talented, transformational women leaders in every public-facing field, especially politics. This will be a loss for our country and our future.

Campoverdi ends by humbly suggesting that people accept women’s complexity, and encouraging other women to step into roles of authority, regardless of what others may say.

Now more than ever, we must recognize and accept the complexity of real women, and celebrate them in their quest for leadership roles. Whole, multidimensional women. Please throw your name in the arena, whichever one you’re in — because it only gets better every time one of us tries.

So, whenever you talk about Alejandra Campoverdi in the future, you may talk about her impressive and inspiring political career — but for fuck’s sake, please drop the Maxim thing. Stop reducing a woman to a photoshoot that she did fifteen years ago, and accept that fact that, perhaps, she is more than a mere photograph of herself.

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