As an only child growing up in Venezuela, Jacqui lived the good life. She was beautiful and smart, and she loved to dance and hang out with her friends. In college, she studied engineering with the hope of one day taking over her father's manufacturing business. She also had dreams of getting married and having children. In August 1999, Jacqui said goodbye to her parents in Venezuela and moved to Texas to study English.
Just one month later, tragedy struck. Jacqui was on her way home from a birthday party when the car she was in was hit by a high school student driving drunk. Jacqui's legs were pinned under the dashboard while the car erupted in flames. "When Jacqui was engulfed by the flames, she was screaming and moaning and wailing an almost inhuman sound that I'd never heard another person make," a paramedic who was on the scene says.
Jacqui was on fire for close to a minute before they could free her from the car. She was burned beyond recognition—her skin, her hair and her face had melted away—and she was unconscious for 10 months. Once fiercely independent, Jacqui's life now revolved around hospitals, doctors and an endless search to rebuild her badly burned face and body.
When Jacqui talked to Oprah four years later, she told her that in her dreams she was still whole and beautiful. "I feel...of course not physically, but inside—I feel like the same person," Jacqui said. She also told Oprah that she was glad she had survived the accident and that she only allowed herself to cry for five minutes a day.