Miss USA says that since she got treatment, she can be "the genuine Tara"

By Ellen Tumposky
Updated March 01, 2007 08:05 AM

Miss USA Tara Conner says rehab taught her to be her true self.

“It taught me to be the genuine Tara,” she tells her home state of Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader in a new interview. “I didn’t know who she was.”

Conner, 21, spent 31 days in rehab beginning in December following allegations of wild partying. She checked out on Jan. 21.

“Rehab for me was basically like an awakening,” she tells the paper. “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.”

Conner says she plans to stay in New York City after her reign ends at the March 23 pageant in Los Angeles, where her family will join her to watch her hand over her crown. She has talked to the producers of Chicago about appearing in the Broadway musical, but says, “I’m not sure when this is going to take place, or if, but it’s a possibility that it could.”

Still, she might visit home for the Kentucky Derby, if she can skip the mint juleps (“No offense,” she says).

Conner, who tells the paper she is “78 days sober,” told PEOPLE in January she had tried cocaine before entering rehab. “It’s hard to look back at that,” she said. “I was an equal-opportunity [user] – I would try anything once.”