Unlike her on-screen character Dionne, Stacey Dash’s teenage years were anything but glamorous.
The Clueless star, now an outspoken political conservative in the US known for her controversial views, has revealed details of her troubled childhood, including an adolescent struggle with drug addiction and a series of abusive relationships.
In one particularly horrific incident, recounted in her new memoir There Goes My Social Life: From Clueless to Conservative, Dash was raped at gunpoint by an ex-boyfriend while her newborn son slept in a bassinet just a few metres away from her.
“Sometimes my past is extraordinarily heavy,” the 49-year-old actress, who grew up in South Bronx, told People magazine in a recent interview.
“That’s when I scream and cry until I feel like I can breathe again.”
Dash with co-star Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.
Dash says she grew up surrounded by a culture of drugs and violence.
At just four years old she was molested for the first time by a teenage family acquaintance.
When she was 16, she was offered cocaine for the first time and soon fell into an all-consuming addiction.
"It got to a point where I didn't even want to live anymore. The voice in my head was saying, 'There's nothing here for you.'," she told People.
Her addiction continued into her early 20s when she fell into an abusive relationship with the man who would later stalk and sexually assault her in her home.
"He would punch me in my body, my legs, my chest, anything that could be covered," she said. "But part of me felt like I deserved it because what I was coming from was no better. I didn't have an identity. That's why I fight for women and people in the inner cities today. I want them to know it will get better."
Dash escaped the relationship and started another with musician Christopher Williams, to whom she fell pregnant with her first child Austin, now 25.
A recent photo of Dash on Mother's Day. Source: Instagram
"When I got pregnant, I was doing a lot of drugs and I didn't want to live. I wanted to die. I was going to have an abortion," she said.
"I was crying and I said to God, 'Please tell me what to do.' And God told me, 'Keep your son.' I ripped the IV out of my arm and I said, 'I'm keeping my son.'"
Soon after Austin was born her abusive ex tracked her down and raped her in her apartment, she said it was her son who gave her the strength to survive it — the next time the man came, she was armed with a gun.
"A gun saved my life," she said.
"That's why I won't let me Second Amendment right be taken away from me."
Dash has now been married three times and has a daughter, 12-year-old Lola, with second her husband James Maby, she is pro-gun and recently announced herself as a supporter of Donald Trump.
Dash with her two children. Source: Instagram
She says she is open with honest with her children about her past.
"The best way to protect my children is to be honest with them," she said.
"I let them know that I survived. I'm not a victim. And there is nothing they can't overcome."