While competing in pageants, Tara turned on the charm, smiled for the judges and channeled her fictional persona. Tara admits she was high on drugs during most pageants...even while competing for the coveted Miss USA crown. "I was doing pain pills the entire time," she says.
The moment her name was announced—a moment millions of little girls dream of—Tara says she thought, "What now?"
"Honest to God, I didn't think I was going to win," she says. "So when they called my name, I just kind of covered my face. ... I think, 'This is what I'm supposed to do.' But I didn't even feel it."
Earlier that day, Tara says she'd taken a Xanax and was still feeling the effects. Tara stood onstage with a smile plastered on her face and tried to hide what she was feeling inside.
"Everyone thought I was professional and this sweet girl who showed up for what I needed to show up for, and I was a pageant girl. Everyone thinks the pageant girls are Polly Purebred perfect," she says. "You can't make a mistake, but on the inside, I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I felt less than, not enough. I was never enough for me."
After she won the Miss USA pageant, Tara began to see she didn't have the mental or emotional capacity to do the job. "I didn't even realize I was suffering from a disease that was literally taking me out lie by lie, manipulation by manipulation and drink by drink," she says.