- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2010

Beneath the sparkling tiara and shimmering evening gown, the reigning Miss Black USA is a woman who has overcome extreme hardships and wants to help others do the same.

“I just want young ladies not to run away from the greatness that they have,” said Shayna Rudd. “It gets better; it does. We’re all worth seeing the end of the story.”

That message is the foundation of Miss Rudd’s new book, “Lady Lessons: The LadyDiva Guide to Embracing the Truth About You, Volume 1.” The project is the first in a series designed to encourage inner-city women to overcome negative situations.

A 10-book series is planned. The second volume is scheduled to be released around Mother’s Day, and the third later in the year.

The series is just one of the latest projects of the Lady Diva Corp., an organization founded by Miss Rudd in 2005 that provides mentoring, group discussion opportunities and seminars to help inner-city women rise above unfortunate circumstances. It has chapters in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

Growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, Ms. Rudd witnessed firsthand many of the issues on which she is counseling women. She said she was surrounded by women who had endured extreme hardships and was drawn to them. She recalled her own difficulties living in a single-parent home with her mother and dealing with a verbally abusive, drug-addicted father.

“It was always chaos. It was never a household of peace,” she said.

Miss Rudd said she easily relates to young women she counsels who are facing hardships.

“Its almost like I’m talking to me,” she said. “That is the key to healing and the key to sisterhood. We have to see ourselves in each other.”

Miss Rudd was crowned Miss Black USA in August. She graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and African-American studies.

She won the titles of Miss Howard and Miss District of Columbia, which qualified her to compete in the 2008 Miss America pageant.

“I wanted to be Miss America so bad I couldn’t breathe,” she said. But during the excitement that came with being a Miss America contestant, she said, she briefly lost sight of the real reason she entered pageants: the girls she worked so hard help.

“It was about me,” she said.

After falling short of the crown, Miss Rudd said, she refocused on her goals with an even stronger passion for her cause.

She entered and won the Miss Black Pennsylvania competition and later was chosen as Miss Black USA.

She began writing “Lady Lessons” in November 2008.

“I was in an abusive relationship when I started writing it,” Miss Rudd said. “My mom read it and she said, ‘I remember every phase that you’re talking about in the book.’”

Miss Rudd said she wants the inspiring stories in “Lady Lessons” to be used as teaching and reference tools. She describes the book as a self-help guide written like a fairy tale.

Miss Rudd describes how she grew up with the impression that light skin and long hair gave a woman beauty, while dark skin and short hair were considered unattractive.

“These were lies,” she said. “We want to tear down every single lie.”

“Lady Lessons” also addresses the issues of molestation and rape, and mentions the effects on women of not having a good father.

“I have young women telling me that their fathers are telling them that they hate them,” she said, adding that women have told her that they want to commit suicide because their fathers don’t love them. “It’s killing them … literally.”

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