Fabiola Santiago: Her name is Alicia Machado. Take that, Donald Trump
He called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Eating Machine” because she gained weight after winning the Miss Universe crown.
He called her “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Latina.
He ripped her off - never paid her 10 percent from sales on money her promotions made for his company, she claims — echoing the complaints of other contractors that Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills.
But Trump, master of spin and staging, was the one squirming Monday night during the first presidential debate when Hillary Clinton brought up her story.
“Donald, she has a name,” Clinton said at the Hofstra University debate in New York. “Her name is Alicia Machado.”
And Machado has plenty to say about what happened to a young Latin American woman’s dream after Trump turned it into the most humiliating experience of her life.
Flashback to 1996, when Trump bought the Miss Universe pageant, and Machado — Miss Venezuela — became the first young woman under his stewardship to win the Miss Universe crown.
“He started to use me, to expose me, to bully me,” she says in one of several video interviews making the rounds around the world now that Machado has become a Hispanic voice for the Clinton campaign. “I was too young. It was hard for me to understand why I was in that situation.”
The stress of it all made her eat. Trump publicly body-shamed her.
“She weighed 118, 117 and went up 160 or 70, so this is somebody that likes to eat,” he told reporters at the time.
And he demanded she work out at a gym in front of the media. She did, hiding her eating disorders and depression behind a smile. She was only 19.
“For sure, he’s not a good person,” Machado says now.
Trump has stiffed architects, contractors, and when Clinton suggested he doesn’t pay federal taxes, he said that was just good business — while the middle-class shoulders our fair share. He calls the practice of not paying his bills smart business and not paying Uncle Sam smart accounting — tough guy talents he’ll bring to the U.S. presidency.
Which makes the way Machado has turned the tables on him brilliant.
She’s not only starring in a powerful ad for Clinton, she recently became a citizen. She’ll cast her first vote for Clinton — and with gusto. No second thoughts for her, no holding her nose while voting, or thinking Clinton is the better of two evils. After the most-watched debate in the history of elections, she made almost every national news show Tuesday.
“Maybe my voice can change a few things about this Mr. Trump,” says the actress, singer, and entrepreneur, who has her own beauty products and fashion lines.
Back then, Trump thought he’d bought himself a mannequin with a crown. But Machado turned out to be so much more: She had opinions — and after the weight-shaming, almost a year into her reign, she wasn’t afraid to voice them.
Most of the beauty pageant contestants, she said, were anorexic or bulimic. She had stopped eating to be able to compete. The moment she started eating again, she gained weight. She was sick of hiding it all.
Trump, of course, is no take-the-high-road kind of guy. He doesn’t take any criticism without throwing a hissy fit. Not then, and not now. He fired back on Tuesday that Machado was “the worst person” to come out of the Miss Universe pageant.
Machado says she’s just standing up for her community.
“It’s not revenge for me,” she says, “It’s just I know very well this person. I know what he can do. This is not a reality show. He can’t be a president of the United States of America.”
Payback comes to mind — and who can blame Machado?
How sweet it is to watch a chauvinist sweat on television, in front of 80 million American viewers, at the mere mention of his victim’s name.
This commentary first appeared in the Miami Herald.