Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe who Trump famously mocked after Democratic rival Hillary Clinton brought her up during the first presidential debate, says she’s been the target of vicious Trump supporters for this entire campaign. Some have even threatened her life, she claims.
Machado, a native of Venezuela, became Miss Universe in 1996 at the age of 19, and at the time, Trump owned the pageant company. She says she was consistently insulted and humiliated by Trump when she gained weight post-pageant.
She claims he called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” (in apparent mockery of her Venezuelan accent).
After Clinton brought up Trump’s treatment of Machado at the debate, the Republican candidate defended his comments, saying it was “a real problem” at the time.
WATCH BELOW: More on Alicia Machado’s relationship with Donald Trump
“She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem,” he said.
Machado, now 38, says that the resurfacing of her Miss Universe experience in the public eye triggered an onslaught of new harassment, especially online. She claims Trump’s comments in the past caused her to develop anorexia and bulimia, but she’s not letting words stop her from outwardly supporting Clinton and campaigning for her.
“To be in this position, they’re going to say that I’m a whore,” said Machado. “It’s already happening. They’re saying it again. That I look fat or old. Of all the things they can say to me in this moment, I already lived it.”
“They won’t intimidate me because I’m backed up by the truth,” she continued. “As long as I’m firm and strong in my convictions, I’m at peace and moving forward.”
(Trump was possibly referring to footage from a Spanish reality show in 2005 in which Machado was a contestant and appeared on camera in bed with a male contestant. The images are grainy and do not include nudity, though Machado later acknowledged in the Hispanic media that she was having sex in the video.)
Machado says she couldn’t even believe that Trump was a candidate for U.S. president, and she became an American citizen in August to vote against the business mogul.
“My daughter motivated me to share my story,” Machado said. “She’s a very happy girl, who was born in this country. I have to share that and maybe my story can make some people understand the magnitude of what it would mean to have Trump as the leader of the most important country in the world.”
With files from The Associated Press