'Real Housewives' star Taylor Armstrong returns to native Tulsa for book signing
BY KIM BROWN World Scene Writer
Sunday, April 01, 2012
4/01/12 at 5:27 AM
It's been a tumultuous year for Taylor Armstrong - and millions of people watched it play out on national TV.
The Tulsa native became a cast member of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" reality TV show in 2010. But when her husband, Russell Armstrong, committed suicide last August, she instantly transformed from reality TV star to tabloid regular.
On the show's second season, the Armstrongs' rocky marriage took center stage, and allegations surfaced on the show that Russell abused Taylor. After his death, Taylor confirmed that he abused her - saying in many television interviews that she had major surgery to repair the orbital floor of her eye socket after an attack.
She has recently released her memoir, called "Taylor Armstrong: Hiding from Reality," and will appear in Tulsa for a book signing at 7 p.m. Friday at Barnes and Noble, 5231 E. 41st St.
In a telephone interview, Armstrong said she's looking forward to her homecoming and reuniting with her best friend from first grade, saying she's "ready to drive around and let the memories come flooding back."
But in her book, Armstrong recalls a troubled childhood in Oklahoma - growing up as Shana Hughes in Tulsa, before legally changing her name a couple of times - in a broken home, writing that her mother left her abusive father when she was 3.
After moving to Tennessee and back, Armstrong became a cheerleader at Union High School, but on the inside, she was an insecure teen who leaped from unhealthy relationship to unhealthy relationship - a pattern she said continued through college and adulthood, resulting in her recent marriage to Russell.
She writes in the book: "My whole childhood felt very grey to me. Maybe that's because Oklahoma isn't exactly a bright and sunny place. While it's beautiful in many ways - with its wide-open spaces - it was far from the lush, exotic locales to which I dreamed of escaping."
This trip to Tulsa will be her first visit home in 20 years.
"The last time I was there was when my grandfather passed; I think I must have been in my early 20s when that happened, and I'm 40 now," she said. "It makes me sad to think that I waited so long to work on myself on the inside and like who I was, all that time just trying to change myself on the exterior."
Armstrong said her portrayal on the reality show - which showcases the luxurious lifestyles of affluent Beverly Hills women - was at times hard to watch.
"When I watch season 1 back, that was really the first time I realized how far away from my true, authentic self I had drifted," she said. "I was trying to be this Stepford wife and put on this face for Beverly Hills standards. I really didn't like me. I didn't dress like me, didn't talk like me ... and in season 2, I was a complete and total mess ... I felt like I was trying to keep a lid on a pot that was boiling over."
Armstrong's marriage and problems with Russell became a controversial focal point on the show when her castmate, Camille Grammer, revealed Taylor's claims of abuse on camera. What resulted was a series of arguments between cast members, which continued throughout the season.
So does she regret having her personal life exposed for entertainment?
"I think it shows people what it's like for someone going through something like that," she said. "I couldn't keep weight on, I was full of anxiety ... it's challenging at times, but I think because of what happened to me, it's opened up a public discussion about domestic violence."
Since the show and reunion show aired, Armstrong said women have written to her from "all over the world" about similar situations. She said her mission is to help women empower themselves and feel strong enough to leave abusive situations.
"I feel like I was left here and my life was spared for me to keep telling my story and to make this a public conversation," she said. "This is 100 percent preventable."
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Barnes & Noble 5231 E. 41st St
Original Print Headline: Tulsa native lives harsh reality on reality TV
Kim Brown 918-581-8474
"Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast member Taylor Armstrong returns to her native Tulsa for a book signing Friday. Courtesy