Shortly thereafter, some friends encouraged me to try out for the Miss South Carolina World beauty pageant. To my surprise, I won - and was sent to New York City to compete nationally.
After graduating in the summer of 1980, I knew I wanted my life to count.
Since it was too difficult to get into the Screen Actor's Guild in New York, I moved to Miami in 1982 and started a successful career as a television commercial actress, obtaining my SAG card there.
So on May 1, 1987, at Gary's invitation, I agreed to see him one last time - to confront him face-to-face about his sincerity and with the intention of ending our brief relationship.
In my case, I learned that although God loves us, he doesn't grant us immunity from the consequences of our choices.
I was always an overachiever.
I'm stronger knowing that while Donna Rice could be sold, she could not be bought.
It was hard to turn down the money since I didn't have a job, but I didn't want to exploit my notoriety because I knew the way I'd been living was wrong.
Although I'd first seen Senator Hart in Aspen, Colorado, at a New Year's Day party in 1987, we hadn't talked.
At thirteen I began modeling, doing my first television commercial in ninth grade for Pizza Hut.
Before the group left, Gary asked for my phone number, and the next day he called to ask me to dinner that night. I had no idea he was married, but I found out that night.
I had gained so much confidence through my college achievements that I wanted to tackle the world.
I've had to recover not only from a single well-publicized incident, but several years of press aftermath.
But even after the first week, when Hart got out of the presidential race because of the Washington Post's threat to reveal a long-term relationship Hart had apparently been having with a prominent Washington woman, the media continued to embellish my past.
I also had to work through the violation of my date rape, my unhealthy relationships with men, my anger toward the people involved in the scandal, and those who exploited me afterwards.
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