Natasha Stoynoff Has No Regrets About Taking On President-Elect Trump: 'It Felt Good to Overcome My Fear'

Natasha Stoynoff wrote about her decision to come forward with her story of Donald Trump's attack in the new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident 

Photo: Melanie Acevedo

When PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff revealed in October that she’d been physically attacked by Donald Trump during a 2005 interview at his Mar-a-Lago estate, her decision to come forward was not easy.

Neither was the immediate aftermath, as she describes in a new book about body confidence co-written with Amy Newmark and model Emme. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident, 101 Inspirational Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body is a collection of personal essays by nearly 100 women (and a few men) about body shaming and finding confidence in how you look.

When Stoynoff decided to come forward, she was already finishing up her work on the book. “Women of today [have] a profound need to read body-positive stories,” writes Emme in the book’s introduction, “now more than ever.”

In one of her three personal essays in the collection, “Go Ahead, Look at Me,” (excerpted below) Stoynoff shares her initial concerns with going public about the attack — which Trump has since denied — after the president-elect claimed he’d never kissed or groped a woman without consent.

Read the excerpt below:

Except for a circle of trusted friends, family and colleagues whom I told at the time, I’d kept mostly quiet about the incident. I had many good reasons to do so. And there was something else lingering at the back of my mind: Trump was known for viciously attacking women’s looks when he didn’t like them or when he wanted to intimidate them.

I’d already spent years feeling ashamed and degraded by his actions and words and I didn’t want to subject myself to any more humiliation, especially in front of the entire world.

Skip ahead one week, and that’s exactly what happened.

A lot of thought — more than a decade’s worth — and many conversations with editors, my family and friends went into the decision. And also, so did my experience working on this book. I’d been inspired by the hundreds of personal anecdotes I’d read about women empowering themselves and not allowing other people’s limited, skewed conceptions of beauty interfere with how they thought about themselves. If our Curvy & Confident writers could be brave and bare their souls, so could I.

I stayed silent for a week after the story went online, hidden away in a hotel in New Jersey. My friends protected me, and my privacy. Meanwhile, I took comfort in the hundreds of supportive e-mails and online comments from women whose confidence has been shaken by similar experiences.

But Trump had challenged my credibility, so People decided to publish a follow-up story.

This meant I had to come out of hiding and pose for at least one photo. I felt self-conscious about it, but I agreed.

I met the photographer in a loft in Chelsea and we got to work. I tried not to think about the reality that millions of people would be scrutinizing this photo, including you-know-who. I tried to look good, I tried to look confident, and I held my head up high. As I did this, something surprisingly wonderful happened.

The People photographer saw it too.

“Confidence!” she yelled out. “Yes!”

I smiled. She was right. It felt good to overcome my fear and do the right thing. I would no longer let the words, opinions or actions of one person, any person, hurt me. I was serene, confident and empowered.

So go ahead, look at me.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

WATCH: Former PEOPLE Writer Natasha Stoynoff Speaks After Trump Controversy

Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident, 101 Inspirational Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body by Amy Newmark, Supermodel Emme and Natasha Stoynoff, published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, copyright (c) 2016 by Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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