If Tara got in trouble at school or her grades started to slip, she says she learned that if she won a pageant, all was forgiven. "My name was in the papers all over again," she says. "And [people thought], 'Well, she can't be a drug addict if she's winning pageants.'"

Even Brenda, Tara's mother, was fooled. "While she lived at home, I just thought she was misbehaving," she says. "There were times when I would hear rumors, and I would confront her. But she had a way of telling me what I wanted to hear. She knew what to say to me so that I could believe her. ... She was a master manipulator."

Tara says lying and manipulating became a way of life. After awhile, she told so many lies and did so many pain-numbing drugs that she says she didn't know who she was anymore.

"I didn't know what my laugh sounded like. I didn't know what foods I liked. If someone said I like spaghetti, I'm going to go with spaghetti. If someone said I like pizza, I was a pizza girl," she says. "I never really had my own identity with anything, because the longer I used, my authentic self just continued to drop down."

Over time, Tara says she created a fictional character for herself.


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