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Cybill Shepherd talks near-death experience, beauty and being a 'rebel'

Cybill Shepherd has had a career full of major milestones, but she's always been a bit of a rebel with a clear-eyed view of her world.
/ Source: TODAY

Over the decades, Cybill Shepherd's career has passed many milestones — she was a beauty queen and model in her teens, she starred in classic movies ("The Last Picture Show") and TV shows ("Moonlighting") and now she playing a grieving mother in a new movie, "Do You Believe?"

It's a faith-based film, which, as Shepherd explained during a visit to TODAY on Wednesday, didn't faze her. In fact, she feels a connection, thanks to a near-death experience she once had.

"I felt my soul went up to a star," she explained. "And then I said, 'You can't go there; you have three children. Get back down there. You've got to stay alive."

If anyone can convince themselves that a trip to the hereafter needs postponement, it's Shepherd, whose 2000 memoir was cheekily titled, "Cybill Disobedience: How I Survived Beauty Pageants, Elvis, Sex, Bruce Willis, Lies, Marriage, Motherhood, Hollywood, and the Irrepressible Urge to Say What I Think."

Still, since that book was published 15 years ago, Shepherd says she's changed a bit. "I stopped saying so much what I think," she admitted. "Early on I was a real — can I say [it]? — smartass."

Cybill Shepherd speaks to Matt Lauer on TODAY

She retains a clear-eyed view of her own history, though, noting that she was schooled early by mom and grandma in how to handle being beautiful. "Beauty is as beauty does," she said they told her. "I just lucked out. ... It had nothing to do with talent."

But nurturing that smartass streak probably was — and maybe still is — a good thing. "I had to repeat gym because I was so — I was rebellious," she noted. "I was a rebel girl. I was a bad girl for a long time. I'm a good girl now, though!"

Believe it!

"Do You Believe?" is in theaters on March 20.

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