From”The Palm Beach Post” November 10,2011- please go to the website and see her pictures now and past
Ex-supermodel Tara Shannon finds her true beauty
By Jan Tuckwood | Arts and Culture | November 10, 2011
In the fashion world of the 1980s, Tara Shannon was defined by one label: Supermodel.
With her auburn mane, ivory skin and expressive face, she posed with the flair of an actress – from the runways of New York to the cover of Italian Vogue, from ads for Calvin Klein to photo sessions with Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton.
She even became the “bride of Frankenstein” in the Huey Lewis and The News video Doing It All for My Baby.
Capitalizing on her chameleon beauty, Shannon became known industry-wide as “the woman of a thousand faces,” and that label felt comfortable, too, because she was used to playing roles and pretending.
Shannon had pinned labels on herself all her life: “ghetto girl,” “poverty girl,” “child of an alcoholic,” “daughter of a Black-Panthers activist,” “neglected child,” “post-traumatic-stress victim,” “alcoholic,” “recovering alcoholic.”
If a fashion designer had created a dress for the shame-filled woman Tara Shannon thought she was, even at the height of her modeling fame, it would have been marked “damaged.”
That’s what 25 years of abuse and guilt had led her to believe.
Then she met Byron Katie, self-help teacher and author of Loving What Is, and had a revelation: That dress didn’t fit.
Neither did any of the negative labels Shannon had placed on herself.
She came to realize: “There was an internal life within me – whole, healed and perfect.”
Shannon so embraced “The Work” - Katie’s method of jettisoning the negative thoughts that keep people stuck and suffering – that she traveled with Katie and learned her methods.
Today, at 55, “the woman of a thousand faces” is discovering the one person that matters: The unique and authentic Tara.
She is holding workshops in and around West Palm Beach, her home of two years, to help others do “The Work” and ask themselves: “Who would you be if all those labels didn’t define you? Who would you be?”
in a magazine
Tara Shannon tried to commit suicide three times before she was 19.
Swallowed up by her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s neglect and the family’s dire poverty, suicide seemed the only way out.
“In our family of five kids,” she says, “my mother stopped counting suicide attempts when she got to 10.”
Shannon’s father eventually did kill himself, and her mother spent more energy on political causes like the Black Panthers than her own children. “She had no capacity to be nurturing,” Shannon says.
They scraped by, living in the rough Five Corners area of Denver, and in the chaos – with police occasionally tear-gassing their house and renegades shooting at her siblings – young Tara found comfort in the pages of Ladies Home Journal.
“I loved the beautiful food photographs,” she recalls. “I would cut them out and put them in front of me and pretend they were my meals.”
Teenage Tara tried the usual things to numb her pain: Boys and booze. She had gone to 16 schools by the eighth grade, and finally left home at 14 to become a live-in babysitter.
She was living on her own by 17. Again, the pages of the Journal helped save her.
She wanted to pose like the models in the magazines. So she knocked on the door of The Denver Post and persuaded the illustrators there to let her pose for their fashion drawings.
On one of her earliest modeling jobs, she modeled wigs for actress Eva Gabor’s line.
Afterward, Gabor wrote Shannon a thank-you note, an act of “graciousness” the young woman had never experienced before.
When Shannon became famous, she posed for Ladies Home Journal, and wrote her own thank-you note to the editor: “All of my mothering it came from you.”
THE WORK: Who would
you be without your ‘labels’?
Shannon got sober in 1984 and became a “seeker” – on a constant journey to heal her wounded self.
She went to a Byron Katie session in 1995 and boldly sat in the front row.
“I thought, ‘here I am, the tough ghetto girl. I’m gonna get this!’”
Her bravado quickly fell away when Katie urged her to stop believing the story of her childhood damage, to lose the dogma of “something is wrong with me.”
“All my labels, all my self-hatred fell away,” she says. “If you feel shame, that’s just you agreeing with someone else’s opinion of you.”
Katie’s “Work” focuses on the “truths” people tell themselves and presses them to ask how they know these things are true and how they react to the stories they tell themselves.
If your spouse leaves you, for example, is that because he or she didn’t love you? It’s impossible to know – because you don’t inhabit his or her mind.
The only person you can really know is you – which is hard enough.
In 2007, after a painful divorce, Shannon found herself struggling once more. She had a contract with Ford Models to start working again, but one day, while walking along Fifth Avenue, she started crying:
“This is not who I am anymore.”
She had a vision that she would live in a place with a water view.
When a friend drove her around West Palm Beach, she knew: “This is it.”
Now she has her view – of both the Intracoastal and the ocean – and she has her mission: To help others like her make peace with their pasts and find joy.
“Reality is kinder than your own story of it,” she says. “I used to believe my childhood damaged me, but now I believe my childhood enlightened me.
“I love the girl who made it through all that. I love that girl.”
‘Finding the power of your heart’s desire’:
Tara Shannon will facilitate an afternoon workshop on ‘The Work of Byron Katie’
When: Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: Gyrotonic Satnam, 2916 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, gyrotonicsatnam.com
For reservations: Call (561) 650-0304
Wednesday healing workshops: Tara also leads workshops Wednesday nights from 7 to 8:30 at Gyrotonic Satnam. Cost: $15, with 15 percent off for a series of 10. Next Wednesday’s topic: ‘The love of abundance.’ For more information, call the number above or go to tarashannon.com.