With a glamorous modeling career and marriages to two very famous men, Alana Stewart seems like she's always had the charmed life of a Hollywood elite. But in "Rearview Mirror," the model reveals that abandonment, insecurity and even violence plagued her past. Here’s an excerpt.
A Rude Awakening
I felt the cold, steel blade of a knife pressed against my throat. In the blackness of the night I could barely make out a shadowy figure leaning over me. I jumped up and opened my mouth to scream, but it was like one of those nightmares in which you try to scream but nothing comes out.
The intruder hit me so hard with his fist that I flew backward across the room, slamming the back of my head onto the chest of drawers as I fell to the floor. He pounced on me, holding me down, the knife tight against my throat.
“Don’t make another move or I’ll kill you,” he threatened.
He mounted me and forced himself inside me. “Please, God,” I prayed to myself, “Don’t let him kill me.” I kept praying silently, over and over, trying to astral-project myself away from what was happening to my body. When he was done, he held the knife against my throat again.
“Don’t move.” He ripped the sheet off the bed and tore it into pieces. He blindfolded me, put a gag in my mouth, and tied my hands and feet together. I could feel him standing over me in the dark. Then he did a strange thing—he turned on the light.
“Oh my God,” I heard him gasp, and he quickly turned it off again. Then there was only silence.
I lay there, afraid to move, afraid he might still be in my small apartment and make good on his threat. I waited another minute or two, maybe more, as I listened for any sign of his presence. It was dead quiet. I managed to turn myself over and inch my way toward the bathroom. I struggled to free my hands and pulled myself up on the sink, my feet still bound by the torn sheet.
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As I removed my blindfold and gag, I too gasped at what I saw in the mirror. My face was swollen and bloody; my hair was caked with blood. I untied my feet and shakily walked back to the bedroom. A three-foot radius of the carpet was soaked with blood. I reached for the back of my head and felt the sticky, gaping gash that was still bleeding profusely.
I called a friend of mine who lived in the next apartment building. “We have to call the police,” he told me.
“No, please!” I protested. I felt horrified and disgusted that I’d been raped. It was such a stigma in those days in Texas. He insisted, however, and two policemen arrived within half an hour.
“I don’t think it was anyone I know,” I said, “but I can’t be completely sure. It was so dark. . .”
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I told them I had chain-locked the door when my date had left earlier, and I showed them the open window over the sink where the screen had been pulled off and was still lying outside on the ground. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where the guy had broken in. They continued to question me, but there was a suspicious, almost accusatory element to their questioning. I started to feel like I was the one who had committed the crime.
Finally, they took me to the emergency room. The doctor examined my head and said I needed a number of stitches. He did a vaginal examination and took a specimen of the semen. That disgusted me more than anything, to think I had this creepy rapist’s sperm inside me—what if I got pregnant?
“What did you do tonight?” one of the officers asked, a suspicious tone still in his voice.
I told them I had been on a date with a pilot from Trans Texas Airlines, for whom I was working as a stewardess. I told them it had been our first date and I didn’t really know him that well. I guessed he was probably about thirty, which to me, eighteen at the time, was an “older man.”
Over dinner we had shared one of those giant Scorpions in a bowl with two straws, and I was pretty smashed by the time we got back to my apartment. We were kissing passionately on my sofa when his hands started wandering down my body. Drunk or not, I knew I wasn’t about to go any further.
“I think maybe you should go now,” I told him. He argued with me, but I was insistent. He left in a huff, slamming the door behind him. After that, I chain-locked the door and went to bed. I fell into a deep sleep, and the next thing I knew I felt the knife at my throat.
The police asked if I’d take a lie detector test. Thinking back, I’m not even sure why it would have mattered if I’d let him in, which I didn’t. He still beat me up, raped me, and left me tied up and gagged, lying in a pool of blood.
“Yes, of course!” I tried to act confident, but I was so nervous I was shaking badly.
Afterward, the policemen smugly informed me that the test showed I had lied about letting him in. I felt like I was being gaslighted. I clearly remember chain-locking the door after my date and I knew without a doubt that I hadn’t let anyone in. I didn’t hear from the police again, and my rapist was never caught.
I felt terrible shame about being raped and I never told a soul. I knew I needed to get as far away from Texas as possible—away from the unhappy memories of my childhood, my drug-addicted mother, and this humiliating experience. What I didn’t know is that you can’t run forever. . .
This is not a story of rape, of surviving and coping with rape. I chose to open my memoir with this because in many ways it marked a beginning for me. Because of it, I made the decision to leave Texas and start over again in New York, and that’s when my life changed.
For me, leaving home not only meant creating distance between myself and this event but also creating distance between myself and a painful childhood—a young girl struggling with abandonment, neglect, and parental alcoholism and addiction, a girl who grew into a young woman poised to become a model, actress, and wife and mother.
They say into every life a little rain must fall. Some of us get a trickle, others a deluge. In the end it’s the shelter we build within that keeps us safe and dry. It’s the way we put together what we’ve experienced and learned from our experiences that decides if we weather the storm or crumble into rubble.
I spent roughly the first forty years of my life hiding the pain, pretending it didn’t exist, running as far away from it as I could get. After my second marriage failed, I fell to pieces. It was only after I discovered how to rebuild myself, my soul, through a deep sense of spirituality that I have been able to stand strong. I owe the peace I have in my life to the structure I have built within.
I resisted writing a book for a long time because I didn’t want to invade anyone else’s privacy or hurt anyone or anger anyone. I never wanted to write a “Hollywood tell-all,” and I’ve tried to avoid doing that here. I only wanted to tell the truth.
One of the commitments I made to myself when I decided to write a book was to be brutally honest, particularly about myself. Writing about a lot of what happened in my life and in my children’s lives has been hard for me because I don’t want to hurt anyone by bringing up the past, but if I’m going to tell the truth, I really feel I have to be completely open and honest.
Everything I’ve written here has been taken directly from the diaries that I have been keeping since I was nine years old, not from selective or vague memories. I’m not proud of a lot of the things I did or didn’t do before I worked on myself, but I am proud of my transformation from a young woman who may have looked like she had it all but was desperately trying to find some kind of magic “glue” to hold her life together to the woman I am today. Through a long and painful process I’ve learned that happiness is an inside job—not based on anything or anyone in the outer material world. I’ve become a different and better person—not perfect, but still a work in progress.
On the surface my life seems as if out of a storybook. A Texas girl who grew up in terrible poverty, I ended up leading a pretty glamorous life. I have rubbed elbows with luminaries. I was married to two very famous men. But I have also endured plenty of heartache under that sheen of glamour people generally see when they look at me—darkness, fear, and deep, horrible pain.
Just because you “live a fairytale” doesn’t mean “happily ever after” is a given; “happy” is something you have to make.
Which leads me to the most important reason I’m writing this book. As I explained earlier, I used to deal with pain by running away, ignoring it, or burying it deep within. Those tendencies of mine nearly caused me to self-destruct. It was only when I was actually able to stand and face the pain, to really deal with my demons, that I was able to find peace.
Finding peace and a sense of well-being from the strength that comes from within is my hope for anyone who reads this book.
Reprinted by arrangement with Vanguard Press,a member of the Perseus Books Group, from “Rearview Mirror" by Alana Stewart. Copyright © 2012 by Alana Stewart.
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