The young woman at the center of the historic downfall of the governor of New York is finally speaking out.
Ashley Dupré, the 23-year-old former escort who was the target of intense media scrutiny in the days after Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation from public office, has stepped forward to give her first television interview. Dupré told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that she does not feel responsible for Spitzer's downfall.
"If it wasn't me, it would have been someone else," she said. "I was doing my job. I don't feel that I brought him down."
In March, the media discovered Dupré was "Kristen," her alias at the Emperor's Club V.I.P., the high-end escort service that had arranged her rendezvous at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., with Spitzer. Soon after the story broke, Dupré sought refuge at her family's home in New Jersey.
"I felt like it was surreal, like it wasn't happening," she said. "But it was."
Middle Class Kid to High Class Escort
The insight Dupré gives into the world of high-end prostitution is a continuation of Sawyer's recent and extensive reporting on the profession "Prostitution in America."
Dupré's situation raised questions about how an upper middle class girl from New Jersey, whose stepfather is a prominent oral surgeon, could become an escort.
She told Sawyer that, as a child, she was a "happy kid" who "got along with everybody" and was particularly close to her older brother, Kyle Youmans. She changed her last name to Dupré because she didn't have a close relationship with her biological father.
"I wanted a new name to go along with me," she said. "I've been searching for so long for that identity of who I am." In high school, Dupré was an honor student, worked in a restaurant and "never really socialized and went ... to any of the parties, the high school parties."
"I got along with everyone, I was kind of popular," she said. "I was pretty popular."
But Dupré also told Sawyer about her struggles with drugs, running away from home at 17 and troubled relationships with men in her life.
"I was an angry 17-year-old," she said. "I was so confused and I didn't understand my emotions. Where I became self-destructive."
At 19, Dupré moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. She was working three jobs when someone gave her a business card for the escort service.
"You don't mean to make those choices but you're put in a situation and, you know, you have an opportunity to do it," she said.
"I really didn't see the difference between going on a date with someone in New York, taking you to dinner and expecting something in return," she said. "I really thought it was more of a trade-off. He's expecting something in return when you date, whereas, you know, being an escort, it was a formal transaction."
"The media thinks that I'm this crazy partyer and, you know, I like limelight and I want to be out and socializing," she said. "And I would love nothing more than to sit at home and watch a movie. And hang out with my dog, or cook with some close friends."
Dupré said she worked on and off for the escort service and, after being left by a boyfriend with a $3,600 apartment lease to pay off, medical bills and a heavy load of credit card debt, she returned to the agency. Four weeks later, she went to Washington, not knowing that she was meeting a governor.
Dupré says she initially didn't know the identity of the man referred to in court documents as Client No. 9.
"He looked familiar," she said. "But I was 22 years old, I didn't, I wasn't reading the papers, I was so involved in my life and I was so selfish and caught up in my life and I didn't know who he was. And I was whoever they wanted me to be, and he was whoever he wanted to be."
When asked how often she saw Spitzer, Dupré was reluctant to discuss the details.
"Legally, I am not able to answer that question," she said.
Dupré remembers the moment of shock when she watched Spitzer's televised resignation.
"I didn't know the depth to my situation," she said. "That's when I connected the dots, was when everyone else found out. I turned on the TV and I said, "Oh s--, what did I get myself involved in? I felt like everything slowed down around me. And it was just the TV and I and, I was shocked."
Dupré says she was not focused on the governor during the speech, but rather, wife Silda's face as she stood by his side.
"I felt connected to her," Dupré said. "I didn't feel connected to him. Her pain. And I just saw the pain in her eyes."
Looking to the Future
Dupré is well aware of the pain she caused her own family. Her mother's sadness was intensified by pressure to turn against her daughter.
"So many people told her to kick me out," Dupré said. "You know, don't, why are you taking her in? And my mom's response is, 'She's a piece of me. How can you just throw it out?'"
Dupré's relationship with her stepfather has been particularly strained.
"He was so disgusted with me when everything happened," Dupré said, adding that he wouldn't look at her or hug her for quite some time. "Now it's, it's getting better. And we're working on our relationship."
Dupré says her only ambition now is to pursue the singing career of which she has always dreamed. She has received a number of lucrative offers, from reality shows to $1 million to pose for Hustler magazine, but she has turned them all down.
"You stop and think, but that's not who I am," she said. "And that's not what I want to do. I want to go after my music and do what I love. And not lose track of who I am on the way. I'm trying to pursue my music. I'm still living for it. I'm not gonna give up my dream. I'm not going to change. I'm not going to let this change who I am. And what I love."
Legal experts say it is unlikely that Dupré will be charged with a crime because federal prosecutors have announced they will not seek any criminal charges against the former governor.
"I needed to give myself time to heal," Dupré said. "And the people that were hurt by my choices time to heal, as well. And now it's time for me to tell my side of the story. And for people to get to know me. The real me, not, not the person that was created by the media."