Katie Hill Lost Her Job in a Flurry of Leaked Nudes and Tabloid Headlines. Now She’s Telling Her Story

by 24USATVAug. 10, 2020, 8 p.m. 30
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If you know about Katie Hill, you know about her nude photos.

You wouldn’t say, “Oh, Katie Hill, she’s the one who’s openly bisexual and was the first woman and the youngest person to hold her congressional seat, right?”

You wouldn’t say, “I remember Katie Hill! She flipped a deep-red Republican district in California in her first ever race.” Or even, “Katie Hill—she’s probably the only person to hold political office who can quote both Susan B. Anthony and Xena: Warrior Princess.”

You would say, “Yes, Katie Hill—the one who resigned after her pictures were leaked.”

If you know of Hill, you know a handful of the most traumatic and personal facts about her life. You don’t know that she identifies with a Tamora Pierce protagonist (Sir Alanna of Trebond, of course) or that she has endometriosis or that in a freshman class which included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, it was she who was elected to represent the group to leadership. You don’t know that she reports feeling terrified to leave her husband, whom she’s said was abusive (through lawyers, Heslep has denied any abuse), that she was suicidal after her scandal, and that a few months after she resigned, her brother, who had struggled with opioid addiction, died.

Hill had a meteoric rise and an even faster fall: She was a former community college student who became the leader of a major nonprofit, then launched and won a seemingly impossible run for Congress in a deep-red district by the time she was 31. In Congress she shone for exactly one year. Then a right-wing site published the photos, which promptly spread as only nude photos of a 29-year-old congresswoman can. Hill says the photos, some of which were taken without her knowledge, could have only come from her then husband, who she says threatened to “ruin” her if she left him. He reportedly said that he was hacked. The pictures showed that Hill and her then husband were involved in a relationship with a younger woman, an employee of Hill’s campaign. She resigned, with a resounding last stand of a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The fact that Hill’s private photos were published is a tremendous act of violation. But the injustice was complicated by the fact that Hill did have a relationship that she knows was outside the bounds of appropriate behavior. It didn’t break congressional rules, but the relationship tainted Hill’s image as a champion of the #MeToo movement. She apologized, but there was no taking it back. She was the boss. The relationship had been with a staffer. There should have been boundaries. There weren’t. That whole whirlwind—the allegedly abusive partner, the violating pictures, the uneven power dynamic, the perceived sordidness of a non-monogamous relationship—was compressed into one world for the public: scandal.

Hill was shamed, blamed, and presumed to be out of politics forever. Not so fast, Hill says. The 31-year-old has a political PAC, called HER Time, that’s dedicated to electing women. She has a new book, She Will Rise, that reads like the best possible combination of Seventeen Magazine and feminist manifesto. She has a new podcast, cheekily named Naked Politics. And she has a plan to set women free—a legislative project to aid women and girls in demanding a kind of freedom she has never enjoyed. Glamour asked Hill about life after public shame.

In so many ways, your story and your narrative have been controlled by other people. What does it feel like to get the opportunity, with your book, to tell your story yourself?

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