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In a world driven by celebrity gossip it’s easy to forget that behind those beautiful faces, long legs and perfect hair are real people with real stories. We see the finished product on a magazine cover or after hair and make-up on a television show but what is real?

Having met Claudia Jordan I can tell you that she is drop dead gorgeous and very real. She exudes a strength that let’s you know that she’s more than a just a pretty face.

Claudia Jordan

Claudia was kind enough to call me after we met and there was no subject that was off limits. I knew Claudia had been Miss Rhode Island Teen USA and Miss Rhode Island USA. I knew she had been one of Barker’s Beauties, that she was on Deal or No Deal and then battled it out on Celebrity Apprentice and again on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. I wanted to know the other stuff, the stuff that made her who she is, the fierce strength behind the exotic beauty.

Claudia spoke about what it was like growing up biracial. “My mother’s from Italy, an immigrant. My father, black. I had members of my family that were kind of negative, you know prejudiced.” An aunt taunted her while she admired a model on Ebony telling her that, “maybe you’ll be cute some day when you get color.” It is something that stuck with her.

Growing up in Rhode Island she heard her mother called names for having children with a black man, slurs too ugly to repeat here or really anywhere. Claudia spoke of this country as being a true melting pot yet, “we have the worse attitudes towards race.” It is something that made her more open minded towards people.

The day after Claudia graduated high school she was sexually attacked by an acquaintance. A planned beach day was rained out and instead someone had keys to a club. Thinking she was drinking Portuguese wine, Claudia later discovered it was really Cisco, something the US Surgeon General calls “wine fooler” because at 40 proof it is more like a drug than a wine cooler.

Claudia was lured up into the DJ booth and with the music too loud for any of her friends to hear anything, attacked. She described it as being horrific but told nobody and buried it deep inside. She didn’t get help and acknowledges the effect it had on future relationships.

She arrived in Los Angeles broke but determined not to become one of the Hollywood horror stories. In a place filled with beautiful faces, Claudia’s stood out and her career took off only to cool off again. She began to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

She spoke about being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and feeling overwhelmed. There were times that she couldn’t breathe due to anxiety. “It was from all those years of being ‘I’m fine. I’m fine.’”

It was later in New York while talking with friends that she shared what happened to her. She was told that the same man had attacked her friend too. It made Claudia wonder how many other girls he did that too.

We spoke of the misplaced shame that victims of sexual attacks often feel. Many victims, like Claudia, don’t tell anyone and never seek help. My heart broke hearing her talk about it especially when she spoke of a fear of it being used against her. Claudia did nothing wrong. She did not deserve to be attacked yet she still carried some of that weight years later.

Claudia’s independence is obvious and I asked what it is that kept her going. There are so many parts of her story that would make it understandable for her to give up and that is something that she almost did.

Claudia Jordan

There was a point when her career cooled down that she doubted if she was even pretty. Imagine a woman as stunning as Claudia Jordan doubting her looks. But she spoke about being on shoots and having to keep it all together and look good for the camera while inside she was falling apart.

She had overcome so many obstacles but the depression that creeped up made her think about suicide. Broke with no job prospects in a land where youth and beauty are everything can be the most overwhelming obstacle.

There were times she felt like she wanted to stop fighting and just give up. She had been through the worst and knew what rock bottom was.

There was hope though because Claudia received an email from “good ole Chuck LaBella” inviting her to be a part of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and then other calls started coming. It helped her see that there is always hope and that her strength would get her through this latest difficult time.

With all the women who go to Hollywood and don’t make it Claudia heard of stories and what some “women are willing to do to have those red bottomed shoes or that car.” She laughed saying, “I could stand to get a new car but that’s not my priority.” There’s also a price and not one she was willing to pay.

Instead she pulled herself out of her depression and got back to work knowing that she had “walked through fire” and felt like there was “water on the other side of that fire.”

Claudia’s story is one of strength and inspiration. She spoke of the many women with low self-esteem that they have from many issues and according to Claudia “make them feel like damaged goods.” She hopes that by sharing her story it will reach some of those women who have been through their own struggles.

“Whatever it is that made them feel like damaged goods. No matter what you’ve been through and if you’re still breathing and have some will, you can get out of it and start fresh.” It is something she says even she struggled with a year ago but knows that, “There is a rainbow after the rain and you can get through it.”

Claudia has a few projects in the works; she’s working on a movie, a talk show on VH1 and will be on a new travel show coming out this summer on AT&T. She laughed as she spoke about being dropped into water with sharks and being asked to bungee jump from the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

With all she has survived while balancing on killer heels, I think it’s safe to say she will survive the sharks. Whether she jumps off the Stratosphere remains to be seen but she’s been through scarier things and come out on top.

Author’s Note-Claudia Jordan’s story is one of courage and strength. I applaud her for being brave and speaking out against racism and opening up about sexual assault. There is help out there for survivors. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault please get help.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization

Long Island Crisis Center, 24-7 hotlines

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

The live Finale of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice brings such mixed emotion. I hate for the season to ever end but then I love it because it means an amazing after party.

By now you all know that Trace Adkins won, at least you do unless you live under a rock, so let’s just say, “Yay Trace,” and get right to the fabulous party. And trust me, it was fabulous. As the confetti flew it was time to head over to Cipriani. Following a week of waxing, tweezing, spray tanning, mani/pedi-ing and trying to find shape wear that would remove what wasn’t lost on a treadmill, it was time to party with the stars.

I walked in having shed my heels for Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats and didn’t get far before coming across an ice cream station serving both Trace’s Maple Macadamia Mash Up and Penn Jillette’s Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle. Shape wear crushing my internal organs was not keeping me from that ice cream station. It really was Good & Delish!

No sooner had I licked my bowls clean than I turned around and bumped into a waiter standing there ready with the Cipriani signature drink, a peach Bellini. It was amazing how quickly I learned magic and made that drink disappear.

So there I was guzzling my peach Bellini thinking life doesn’t get any better when I spotted The Donald walking across the crowded floor surrounded by a throng of admirers. I had to pinch myself because I know I’ve had a very similar recurring dream.

The Donald has helped raise over $13 million for charity over the past several seasons. Just in the finale, approximately $2 million was raised for American Red Cross, Opportunity Village, and American Diabetes Association. Just amazing!

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But now the dish…..

Dee Snider was there with his wife, Suzette, who is beyond beautiful. I’ve met Dee a few times and to call him a nice guy is an understatement. He has the rock star hair and clothing but to the core is just a genuinely nice person.

If I told you how thin Marilu Henner is and thin as in not even a size zero thin. I started to hate that ice cream station. Marilu rocked a red dress and I just stared at her with my jaw hanging open wondering how she looked so perfect at 61. She grabbed my hand and then someone grabbed her before I could really talk to her or get more than a very blurry picture of her being dragged away.

Lil Jon walked past me and I remembered meeting him two years ago and loving him so I grabbed him like the stalker that I am. He asked if he minded if he came right back and for a second I was sure I was being blown off but then he came back and found me. There were so many people there trying to get his attention and he could have easily forgotten, but he didn’t. There were so many things I wanted to say to him like, “why did you give it up to John Rich that other season?” Instead I may have let it slip that I loved him. He smiled and gave me a hug.

Next up was LaToya Jackson. What struck me was that her manager and friend Jeffré Phillips actually thanked me for the blog I wrote about LaToya and then went and brought LaToya over to meet me since we had only spoken by phone. Even more striking was that she thanked me as well. It was surreal to think that LaToya Jackson was thanking me. She’s been written about by so many people but took the time to acknowledge what I wrote and thank me for it. It was an amazingly thoughtful thing for them both to do. LaToya and Jeffré were the epitome of class.

Omarosa was there. Gary Busey was there. I ran into Dennis Rodman. I don’t understand the controversy over his hair or his outfit. The man can pull off a feather boa like nobody I’ve ever seen. A Mohawk is that far off? I had expected Dennis to be one of the most approachable celebrities there but, well, I liked his hair.

Penn Jillette was there but I only was able to see him in passing as well as the very beautiful Lisa Rinna along with her gorgeous husband, Harry Hamlin.

As I was making my way around I saw Claudia Jordan who is just exquisite. I had my second camera malfunction of the night but Claudia was kind enough to send me a few of her pictures from the party. She has an amazing story, one I hope to share with you all soon.

Finally I ran into the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice in the flesh, Trace Adkins. He had already won me over in our phone conversation a few months back. In person he is even better. When he took my hand and called me, “darling” with that voice, well I melted a bit. Ok, a lot. He then thanked me for what I wrote about him and, believe me, it wasn’t lost on me that the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice was thanking me. He told me how nice it was to finally meet me and for all of two seconds I forgot he was Trace Adkins and it felt like a perfectly normal moment except that he’s a major country artist.

He got dragged off before I could tell him I think I went bankrupt downloading every song he’s ever sung on iTunes and that I would gladly do it again just to hear him sing. But I saw him again later on and he was just as charming. He smiled at me in such an “aw shucks” kind of way and I think I just may have fallen in love with him a little. I met his wife Rhonda who had sent me one of the kindest emails I have ever received and I think I fell in love with her too. Forget gold records or number one songs. They were just two of the most down to earth people hanging at a party.

Even with my flats, my feet heart, I had one too many peach Bellini’s, The Donald broke my heart by leaving with his beautiful wife, Melania and there’s only so much my kidneys and liver could take being crushed together with shape wear. The party was over and what a party it was.

My favorite part of the night was seeing my friend Chuck LaBella who left Massapequa many years ago and and went on to become an Emmy nominated producer as well as VP of Talent Relations for NBC. I am a huge fan of Chuck’s in both the things he produces and the person that he is. Every single celebrity I spoke with described Chuck as a man with tremendous integrity and a big heart. Of course I already knew that and hearing it from Marilu Henner, LaToya Jackson or Trace Adkins didn’t make it better or truer, but it was nice that on a night that was about glamour and celebrity to know that it was also about celebrating a friend for his success and for the person he is.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.