Patricia Krentcil, dubbed "Tan Mom" in 2012, said the constant media scrutiny destroyed her soul.
Krentcil told Insider she's reformed her wild-child ways and is no longer disrespected.
After losing her husband, Richard, she said she's dated a little but isn't rushing into anything.
Patricia Krentcil is in a good place these days. And that place is not a tanning bed — for the most part.
The woman who was dubbed "Tan Mom" a decade ago said she has shed the persona that's dogged her "every day for the past 10 years."
In May 2012, Krentcil was thrust from an under-the-radar life in suburban Nutley, New Jersey, to internet celebrity for all the wrong reasons. She talked to Insider about how that sudden social-media notoriety has affected her and her family's lives, even years later.
The longtime tanning addict was accused of bringing her then 5-year-old daughter, Anna, into a tanning bed with her; she was subsequently arrested and charged with child endangerment. It landed her in jail for a week before she was acquitted of all charges. Krentcil has always insisted that she never brought her daughter into a tanning bed or exposed her to harmful UV light.
But social media had a field day, lampooning the tanning fan and assigning her the nickname that stuck like discount self-tanner.
As Krentcil told Insider, the ordeal battered her bank account as well as her psyche. "When 'tan mom' hit, I was a wreck," she said, adding that the lawyers' fees for defending herself against child-endangerment charges "cost us almost two houses."
She's changed her life
The collateral damage hit her where it hurt. "I couldn't tan — I was banned," she said, referring to her banishment from multiple local tanning salons after her arrest.
Her life post-scandal has had its highs, like becoming a regular on Howard Stern show, and its lows, like getting dressed down by passersby about her parenting.
But the 54-year-old mother of five said she has turned a corner in her life. "I'm a totally different person today — I changed my whole attitude on life. I've turned my life around," she said. "I don't get disrespected anymore. I don't party or do any crazy things."
She said her husband, Richard, died last summer after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, COVID-19, and pneumonia. "We had our ups and downs, but he was my best friend," she said through tears. He was Krentcil's second husband, with whom she shared two of her five kids, including Anna, now 16, and her youngest son, Addison, 13.
While she has dated casually since Richard's death, she said she wants to focus on her family: "I'm not rushing relationships, that's not the most important thing."
Krentcil said Richard was her support system during the media onslaught that tested the family's mettle. "They took my whole soul, they took my energy," she said, recalling that the paparazzi would hide in vegetation outside her New Jersey home and tracked her moves for years.
She just wants to be a great mom
She's since relocated to Boca Raton, Florida — 1,000 miles from the center of the media storm that scarred her — she's had the space to process the fascination and disapproval she's faced. "I've always been a great mom, and I'll continue to be a great mom. Anyone in my position at that particular moment would have lost it, and I had the energy to stay strong in my worst hours," she said, before dissolving into tears.
Krentcil said that the media circus took a psychological toll on her kids. "We all have memories of this whole thing," she said.
As for her one-time favorite hobby that started when she was 25, a cloud of remorse hangs over her. "I didn't mean to get that dark," she said, telling Insider she's grateful she hasn't gotten skin cancer. "I'm here for a reason, and I have to make sure I'm here for my kids."
The mom always had one piece of advice for her kids: "I always told them to stand tall in your life. I try to follow my own advice."
These days, she's swearing off tanning — mostly. "I'm not dark anymore. I'm very happy. It's exhausting keeping it up."
As a reformed tanner, Krentcil said she's considering selling the $5,000 home tanning booth that sits in her Florida basement.
Read the original article on Insider