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Perfect Princess
A loser – that’s what she was, until she became addicted to winning one beauty pageant after another. To her surprise, it didn’t satisfy.

Sheri Rose Shepherd longed for a Prince Charming to take her away from the hurt and disappointment in her life.

"I always felt ugly. I always felt fat. I always felt alone," she says.

Growing up in a dysfunctional home, Shepherd searched for peace and fulfillment in the wrong places and with the wrong people.

She battled depression, drugs, an eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts. Even a high school teacher told her she was "born to lose."

"She didn't teach God's grammar lesson," Shepherd says with a laugh. "God's lesson says don't put a period where He has a comma. God has a plan for every life He creates."

Before she found His plan, Shepherd had to overcome her need for approval from others — a lesson learned the hard way.

"It was my junior year, and all my friends had prom dates, but me," she says. "I offered to pay for everything if my friend's brother would take me."

Shepherd had a crush on the homecoming king all year and was surprised when he asked if she was going to the beach party after the prom. When she asked why, he answered, "Because we need a beached whale at our party."

Shepherd was crushed. She cried her eyes out and vowed never to be called a "beached whale" again.

During senior year she lost weight, entered her first beauty pageant, and won. But winning wasn't enough. "I became addicted to having another crown," she had to have that winning moment again and again."

Maintaining pageant perfection took a toll on her body. She developed a life-threatening eating disorder.

"I couldn't break free from this emptiness and loneliness," Shepherd explains. "At 24, I began to realize there was nothing more to live for because there was nothing else I could do to feel good."

A missionary couple befriended Shepherd and introduced her to Jesus. Loving and supportive, they encouraged her as she prepared for the pageant of her life — Miss USA. Then they told her about the greatest crown of all.

"It's not the crown appointed by man," the woman said. "It's the crown Jesus can give you. That crown cannot be taken from you, and that crown will give you what you're looking for."

But Shepherd couldn't comprehend that a new life could be given to her, all her sins would be forgiven, and she could start over.

She fell into a dark depression and cycle of overeating, getting sick, and wrestling with guilt. When she could bear no more, she vowed to kill herself.

Then she thought, "I've tried everything else. Why not try Jesus?"

She prayed, "Jesus, if you exist, come into my heart and give me the new life the missionary said you offer.

"As I began to confess my sin, I felt very pretty from the inside out," she says. "I was excited about my new life in Christ and wanted everybody to know."

Suddenly the pageant didn't matter. When she didn't make Top Ten, Shepherd wasn't devastated. "I felt God had allowed me to be there for a different purpose," she explains. "I was actually able to lead a few girls to the Lord."

Today Shepherd has the fairytale life she always dreamed of.

She's married to Steve, owner of a Christian marketing company, and is the mother of Jake, 21, and Emily, 9. Her family gives her their greatest support.

In 1994, Shepherd entered another pageant. She didn't plan on entering, but when her home state of Arizona needed a representative, she filled in — and was crowned Mrs. USA.

The non-Christian media picked up her story and went crazy over her pre-pageant pictures. The coverage gave her an opportunity to speak to thousands.

Today she's the best-selling author of several books, including His Princess Bride: Love Letters from Your Prince (Revell Publishing), released Jan. 2009. She's been the featured guest speaker

on television and at women's conferences.

Having found her real Prince Charming, Jesus Christ, Shepherd can relax. She realizes no matter how people try to change, nothing changes until Jesus becomes the focus of their lives.

Putting Jesus in charge of her life also helped her find freedom from any bitterness she felt toward people who let her down.

"I decided to take God's blessings over man's curses," she says. "And I decided to trade all the lies I believed about myself for the truth of who God said I was." Shepherd believes all women can feel just as beautiful and loved as she does once they see themselves through God's eyes. "Everything's different when you walk with Christ," she says.

"You become the kind of person you desire to be, not of your own doing, but because He creates in you a new heart and a new life. He changes you from the inside out."

For More about Sheri Rose Shepard, visit www.hisprincess.com.  

Originally published in Living Light News, May/June 2009.

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