To the duties of a Miss USA, Tara Conner has added one item: making amends.
In an interview Tuesday with Matt Lauer on TODAY, she said that earlier this week she met with the 51 young women currently competing for her crown and told them how sorry she is for what she’s done.
“I apologized to all of them for everything they had to go through. It was something everyone had to deal with,” she said, referring to the fallout from revelations in December that she had been drinking and doing drugs. She didn’t lose her crown, but she spent the next two months in rehab in Pennsylvania and came out, she told Lauer, a new woman — and a different Miss USA.
Her reign will end Friday night when a new beauty queen is crowned Miss USA.
When Lauer asked her how the past two months of her reign have been different, she said, “They actually had substance. I was actually able to put my Tara Twist onto my title as Miss USA. I gave it my own flavor and I made it my own. Every day I feel more free to fight everything that happened in my past.”
One of those things was childhood abuse. Conner had told Lauer in a TODAY appearance in February that she had been dealing with the “demons” brought on by abuse. She said then she wasn’t ready to name her abuser or be specific about what she went through, but said she had confronted the person and made peace with the past.
Tuesday, she repeated that, saying, “It’s just something I want to keep private. I’ve faced it. I’ve faced the person. I’ve talked to my family. Amends were made, I’ve forgiven, and I’ve moved on.”
Wearing a sleeveless olive dress with her satin “Miss USA” sash, Conner said she intends to split her time between Los Angeles and New York. She told Lauer that there is a book she intends to write “in a year and a half, just about my experience as Miss USA and the steps I had to take to get there.”
A long way from home
Conner had set her sights on being a pageant winner when she was just 13, a self-confessed “tomboy” from the small (Population: 2,400) and homogenous resort town of Russell Springs in south-central Kentucky. From the start, she wasn’t your grandmother’s pageant contestant, listing as her leisure pursuits such extreme sports as skydiving, wakeboarding, rappelling and riding all-terrain vehicles. She has also confessed to having tattoos, all of which she covered up when she was crowned Miss USA on April 21, 2006.
With the crown came an apartment in one of pageant owner Donald Trump’s posh residential buildings on Manhattan’s West Side. There was plenty of travel and appearances to be made, but Conner also found time to dive into Manhattan’s fabled nightlife.
Last December, reports surfaced first on the Internet and then in The New York Daily News that Conner had been drinking underage, doing drugs and sneaking men into her apartment and could become the first pageant winner since 1957 to be asked to turn in her crown.
But at a weepy press conference in New York, Trump, who added the catchphrase “You’re fired!” to the American lexicon, said he believed in second chances. Conner went off to rehab to take advantage of the one she had just been handed.