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The journalist and People (the TV Show!) special contributor, 54, was crowned Miss America 1989, and that sudden fame led to significant criticism about her body. After she won, "there was a lot of pain and shame and agony about why people were treating me in a different way," Carlson says in this exclusive clip from Tuesday's episode of Finding Your Roots.
One of the male Miss America judges, Carlson says, went on to write a book about her, "and he called me, not by my name throughout the book, he called me Miss Piggy," she says.
"He thought I was too fat to have won, at, less than probably 100 lbs., when that all happened."
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Gretchen Carlson
After her year as Miss America, Carlson started her career in journalism, taking an entry-level position as a reporter and working her way up through the ranks, eventually becoming the host of her own show on Fox News. In July 2016, she left the channel and sued chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, saying that she was fired from her show for denying his sexual advances.
Carlson says on Finding Your Roots that the body shaming she experienced in her early twenties lead to years of self-image issues, and feels similar to the pain of being a sexual harassment survivor.
"It is horrible. But it shows that shame hurts, and it stays with you for life," she says. "It's the same thing about being sexually assaulted or harassed. You keep it all in, right, and the systems helps to make that happen that way. And you're scared to have a voice about it."
Courtesy McGee Media Gretchen Carlson on Finding My Roots
After Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment, more women came forward with claims of harassment and joined her lawsuit, which was eventually settled that September after Ailes resigned from Fox News.
After she was announced as a special correspondent for People (the TV Show!), Carlson said she wants to continue sharing stores that help to empower women.
"After I did what I did at Fox News, a lot of people feel comfortable telling me their stories, and I want to continue to inspire other people to speak up and stand up and have a voice," she told PEOPLE. "And so I'm really looking forward to featuring women from all across the country."