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The Lexington Herald-Leader recently caught up with our favorite redeemed beauty queen, Tara Conner:

I read that you are up for a starring role in a Broadway production of Chicago. Is that true?
I have been talking with the people at Chicago, so, you know, I’ve been working with them a little. I’m not sure when this is going to take place, or if, but it’s a possibility that it could. I’m not sure yet.

* The Hollywood Gossip note: First Ashlee Simpson and now Tara Conner. This show really goes after the most talented, huh?

What was your rehab experience?
Rehab for me was basically like an awakening. I had troubles. We all have issues we have to deal with. It’s kind of funny that it happened during my reign as Miss USA.

(It was) the worst time for that to happen, but in the same sense, it was the best time for all of this to happen. It made me truly appreciate the little things in life, made me truly appreciate my job and the role in this society. It humbled me a lot. It taught me how to be honest. It taught me to be the genuine Tara. I didn’t know who she was.

* The Hollywood Gossip note: She’s someone that talks in the third person, obviously. We can’t wait to hear what Britney Spears has to say about the Britney Spears stint in rehab.

What kinds of things did you discover about yourself while you were there?
There was a lot of things — being dishonest. I was very dishonest before. I had many masks that I wore on a daily basis, basically just out fear of unacceptance. I felt inadequate. It was a very, very hard time for me.

I learned to find my confidence and my self-esteem. I learned that I can face this life without fear because that’s what holds us back. I don’t have to wear a mask. It’s kind of like: “Take me or leave me, love me or leave me,” because this is who I am, this is what I’ve done, but this is how I am today, and that’s what really matters.

We’ve heard a lot of stories lately of young, famous women (e.g. Lindsay Lohan) having problems with addiction and heading into rehab. What effect do you think this has on the public’s perception of addiction and rehabilitation?
I hope this has the correct effect. A lot of people assume that addicts and alcoholics are people who let things get out of control, they don’t take responsibility. A lot of people look at it as an easy way out.

To be quite honest, rehab is one of the hardest things you can ever go through. It’s not the hardest thing. Because you have to sit down and you have to face yourself and you have to work through your stuff. No one wants to sit down and look themselves dead in the eye and admit, “This is your flaw. This is a flaw of yours.”

How do you think your time as Miss USA will change future pageants? Do you think this has changed the public’s perception of pageant queens and those people up on stage?
I used to look at pageant queens and think to myself, “Wow, they’re perfect. I could never be them.” In a lot of my interviews, people would say, “Did you expect to win?” and I’d say, “I went into complete shock.” I didn’t think that I was lucky enough. And when I said I didn’t think I was lucky enough, deep down I thought, “I’m not perfect. How am I ever supposed to pull off this job that’s perfect?” … We’re not perfect women. We’re humans just like everybody else. We all make mistakes, we all have our own problems. I’m sure we can find an issue with everybody. Nobody’s perfect.

* The Hollywood Gossip note: Except for fellow pageant winner, Katie Rees.