The release of the blockbuster that made her a household name, "Titanic," should have been a happy time for Kate Winslet. Instead, she was mourning the loss of her first love, Stephen Tredre.
"Looking back, I see what I was dealing with when ‘Titanic' came out," the 31-year-old actress says in Sunday's Parade magazine. "I had a lot of pain, and I was confused about who I was."
The Britain-born Winslet, who's married to director Sam Mendes, met Tredre in London when she was 15 and he was 28. "He was the most important person in my life, next to my family," she says of Tredre, who worked as a TV writer and actor.
"I was very shy," she says. "I was vulnerable ... Other girls teased me horribly. I was bullied. I'd just put my head down and get on with it. That was my means of survival. Stephen made me feel secure and embraced."
Tredre was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1994, and died three years later during the opening week of "Titanic." The two had ended their relationship but "talked every day," she says. "This was not somebody I'd turn my back on."
His death was "unbelievably heartbreaking," says Winslet, who went on to star in such movies as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Finding Neverland."
She found love anew with Mendes, 41, whom she wed in 2003. The two have a 2-year-old son, Joe, and Winslet has a 6-year-old daughter, Mia, from her first marriage (to James Threapleton).
"I believe in fate," she says. "I know it sounds corny, but it was like Sam and I were from the same tribe. We were meant to meet: Both of us from Reading, both born in the same tiny hospital, Dellwood.
"Then suddenly, years later, this totally gorgeous, sexy, talented man is in my life? That's fate."