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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.