Former Miss USA Opens Up On Drug Addiction, Donald Trump

By McCarton Ackerman 10/30/15

Tara Conner credits the Republican frontrunner with helping her overcome her alcohol and drug abuse.

Tara Conner
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While plenty of women aren’t particularly happy with Donald Trump at the moment, one former Miss USA winner credits the Republican frontrunner with helping her get clean and turning her life around.

Tara Conner, who won Miss USA in 2006, infamously made headlines after her alcohol and cocaine use was discovered during her reign as champion. He planned to remove her as Miss USA, but Conner convinced Trump that he would have a better image by turning her life around instead. Trump held a news conference to declare that “everyone deserves a second chance” and ordered her to rehab.

"Still to this day, I'm "Disgraced Miss USA,’" she said while speaking at an event in Kentucky for The Healing Place. “[But] I got into recovery and it completely saved my life.”

But Conner’s drug use started well before her Miss USA reign, though. She admitted that she started using at age 14 to help cope with the death of her grandfather. Conner was caught with prescription drugs in high school, but her mother convinced the administration to not punish her. She told the crowd that had Trump not intervened, she would have likely moved on to heroin.

Conner works these days as a public advocacy consultant for Caron Treatment Centers, but she and Trump are no longer on speaking terms. She slammed the Republican presidential candidate last summer after he referred to Latinos as “druggies” and said she was disappointed with his choice of words.

“When we throw around words like rapists and druggies it's extremely irresponsible because it adds to the stigma of addiction,” she told the New York Daily News in July. "If you're gonna make such a strong comment on a race or even just people in general, maybe back that up with: how are you going to help people in recovery and make that more of an option for people who are struggling with addiction and alcoholism?”

Although Trump was angered by her comments, she said she remains grateful for what he did for her and hopes to continue using her story to help others.

"I still have my days where I wake up and feel unhealthy and that's when I have to use the tools that I've been given or that I've learned,” said Conner. “You don't just get sober and you graduate and you're fine. It's a disease I'm going to have for the rest of my life, but I have to make that choice every day that I wake up.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.