Rose McGowan Says Her Famous Naked VMA's Dress Was a Response to Sexual Assault

"It was my first public appearance after being raped," McGowan tells actress and activist Jameela Jamil in an emotional new interview

Rose McGowan sparked a fashion frenzy that left an indelible mark on pop culture when she hit the red carpet at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards in a completely sheer black beaded dress with a visible thong. Now, more than two decades later, the actress is opening up about the powerful meaning behind her provocative look.

"I did that for a reason. It was my first public appearance after being raped," McGowan, 45, said in a conversation with actress and activist Jameela Jamil for her I Weigh interview series. "And I thought, it was kind of like Russell Crowe and Gladiator when it comes out in the ring and he's like, 'Are you not entertained?' And that was why I did that. That was my response to being assaulted."

McGowan accused disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein of raping her in 1997 years before the Time's Up and #MeToo movement put women's rights and harassment at the forefront of cultural conversation. She was one of the first women to speak out in The New York Times and The New Yorker in October when news broke about Weinstein's decades of alleged sexual misconduct and assault. The former Hollywood producer has since been accused by over 60 women of various forms of sexual assault and misconduct.

McGowan also detailed her motivation for showing so much skin at the MTV VMA's during an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show last year.

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"I've never worn something like that before or since," she explained. "That was a political statement. … Of course, there was no Twitter at the time or Instagram, no way to speak for yourself."

1998 MTV Video Music Awards
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In October, the NYT reported that McGowan was part of a settlement with Weinstein in 1997 following the alleged encounter. The $100,000 payout was "not to be construed as an admission" by Weinstein, but intended to "avoid litigation and buy peace," according to a legal document reportedly reviewed by the NYT.

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Harvey Weinstein with Rose McGowan in 2007. Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Weinstein's lawyer Ben Brafman responded to McGowan's allegations in a statement to PEOPLE.

"Mr. Weinstein denies Rose McGowan's allegations of non-consensual sexual contact and it is erroneous and irresponsible to conflate claims of inappropriate behavior and consensual sexual contact later regretted, with an untrue claim of rape." His spokesperson also said that McGowan "chose to demand money" from Weinstein and worked and appeared with him later in her career."

A spokesperson for Weinstein also previously told PEOPLE in a statement that "any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances."

Years before the alleged rape, McGowan also claims she was sexually assaulted by a "very famous" man when she was just 15.

"This man picked me up when I was 15 years old," McGowan said. "He took me home after he met me and he showed me a soft porn movie he had made for Showtime, under a different name. And then he had sex with me."

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