updated 11/18/2008 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/19/2008 AT 8:00 AM ET
She was the tabloid sensation at the center of the sex scandal that brought down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. But in her very first interview, Ashley Alexandra Dupré tells PEOPLE, “I am a normal girl.”
“Everyone knows me as ‘that girl,’ but I’m not just ‘that girl,’ ” the 23-year-old former escort says in the new issue of PEOPLE, on sale Friday. “I have a lot of depth, a lot of layers.”
Spitzer Was Unknown to Her
Her descent into tabloid mayhem began the night of Feb. 13, 2008, when Dupré – who had worked as a high-end escort to help pay the bills on and off since 2004 – met a client who turned out to be the Governor of New York.
Dupré claims she had no idea who the man was that night. What she does recall is that “Client 9,” as Spitzer was reportedly known at her escort service (which was shut down in March), “was polite.
“Some guys, they want to have conversations and really get to know each other. With him, it clearly was not like that. It was more of a transaction. Strictly business.”
Casually dressed and with no entourage in tow, Spitzer didn’t strike Dupré as someone important. Besides, “I was there for a purpose – not to wonder who [he] could be.”
FBI Steps In
In fact, she didn’t find out who he was until March when, just days after learning she was mixed up in some sort of FBI investigation, she saw the Spitzer apologizing on TV. “It was surreal,” Dupré says of seeing the client she had met a month before. “I felt like I was sinking.”
As for the former governor, “I think he’s been punished enough.” Asked what she might tell his wife, Silda, who stood at Spitzer’s side when he announced his resignation, Dupré offers, “I’m sorry for your pain.”
In the interview, Dupré also opens up about her troubled past – running away at age 17 into a non-stop life of drinking and partying – and how a girl from the suburbs could fathom becoming a prostitute: “This wasn’t any different than going on a date with someone you barely knew and hooking up with them,” she reasoned. “The only difference is I can pay my rent.”
Mother Finds Out
Once the FBI told her they were looking into one of her clients, Dupré says she was forced to confide in her homemaker mother, Carolyn, that she was turning tricks.
“It was extremely painful for her,” Dupré says, though “my mother wasn’t angry. She was supportive.”
Now living with her mother and stepfather in New Jersey, Dupré says she has learned her lesson, and then some.
“I’m 23 years old,” she says. “I want to do music, to do fashion, to write books – there’s so many things.” One thing she won’t be doing: selling her body to make ends meet. “No,” she says. “Never again.”
For more from Ashley Dupré’s very first interview – including details about her night with Spitzer, her earlier attempts to quit the escort business and her reaction when she sees Spitzer’s wife – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Who’s your Favorite Star Under 35? PEOPLE.com and the People’s Choice Awards are counting your votes! Click here to vote now!
From celeb sex tapes to salacious affairs, read about more sex scandals