Rachel Uchitel knows what it's like to be in the headlines, but she's happy to have risen above the drama after being put down for years.
"It's always a work in progress because people will always go back to it. When people are feeling angry, they want to make sure you're below them and will remind me who they think I am. But I turned the page on that many years ago. When you're involved in something that's a topic of conversation for so many people, it's tough. Unless you're given an opportunity to have a comeback yourself or you create that opportunity, it can be really challenging," the 48-year-old, who had an affair with Tiger Woods in 2009, exclusively tells OK!.
"I have done a lot of work to be able to not live a discounted version of myself and to move forward and try to find opportunities that have become my purpose," she continues. "My passion is about helping other people and giving them a platform for those that want to be heard."
Since the Alaska native has come out on the other side, she is now chatting with others to hear their side of the story on her podcast, "Miss Understood with Rachel Uchitel."
"I'm aware of pop culture and I'm aware of the news and what is going on, but I get to have these real conversations with people so I can connect with them. I want to take their story to the next step," she shares. "I've always been interested in journalism, and I like to use those skills."
From Dita Von Teese to Rudy Giuliani to Mama June, Uchitel likes to chat with people who might have had similar experiences to her. "There are very few people that have gone through something as phenomenal as I did, and I don't mean that in a positive way. I've seen what happens when you're not somebody who signed up to be an actress and people make up a narrative about you. It's difficult, and it can ruin your family, your relationships and your job opportunities," she explains. "The internet keeps it alive forever."
When Uchitel would get her daughter, Wyatt, from school, "it was an issue," she shares. "When I applied for jobs, my past was an issue. Sometimes it's a positive because people think you're famous and want to hang out with you, but for the most part, as a normal human being, you wish you could wipe a lot of that stuff away from the internet. So, my guests and I have developed a bond through just an understanding of what it's like to not have your story told by yourself."
For many years, the mom-of-one was on other people's podcasts when people would ask her a lot of questions. "I felt like I was really stuck in the past with the things people wanted to ask me about. It resonated with me, and I felt really misunderstood. I had felt like I had been reduced to a headline and people though they knew me, but they didn't," she says. "That was upsetting to me and difficult for me. As time passed, I wanted to get out of that shadow and stigma."
From there, Uchitel launched her podcast to talk about "people or topics that need to be reconsidered."
"I did an interview with somebody on medically assisted suicide, which is controversial, but something that people actually love to talk about. That was very interesting," she says. "I've done an interview on ketamine treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and therapy, which was one of my top episodes. For the people involved, it's about the human behind the headline. It's about who they are, how they got to where they are and why they were portrayed a certain way. That was the premise of the podcast and that's why it's doing so well because it resonates with people that want to be on it."
"It's a different topic every episode with totally different people," she continues. "And it doesn't have to be scandalous too. It can just be a topic or person I find interesting, and I try to find something that's misunderstood about them. I interviewed Kimbal Musk, who I find fascinating, but he's misunderstood because people reduced him to be Elon Musk's brother. People are like, 'Who's that?' I'm like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
The star became interested in releasing a podcast when she realized she could have "a platform she could control."
"I do not work for a network. I work for myself," she says. "I put out every episode myself. I fund it myself. I book every guest myself. I don't have a booker, so I wanted to have that platform to be able to do that myself and control. That was important to me. I want it to be really authentic and every guest I thought out about why I want to have them. I will say no to a lot of people because I don't think it fits my brand, even if I find them interesting."
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While interviewing her guests, the podcast host makes sure to "not take a side at all," as she enjoys getting to the heart of the story. "Some of my reviews say, 'She lets the people talk.' I also ask questions others want to know the answer to. I create a bond with these people," she shares.
Up next, she would love to chat with Conrad Murray, the doctor who was accused of killing Michael Jackson. "I think he has a story to tell," she says. "Armie Hammer would be interesting because he hasn't told his story yet. I would love to talk to Aubrey O'Day. I could list so many people on my bucket list. I'm booked out through the end of March, and I'm constantly reading up on new people to try and offer them to be on my show. Hopefully this year will bring some more opportunities with the show."
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Ultimately, the Florida transplant is "proud" of her "survival skills," as she was able to take back the narrative. "I'm proud of being a Renaissance woman, so to speak. I've had to continually try and figure out new avenues of things to get good at to make myself better," she admits. "When things don't work, it's upsetting and depressing. You're like, 'OK, I went down one path, but this isn't the right path. I am going to start again.' There were a lot of stops and starts, but I've learned that no matter how tough things get, I will have the strength and survival skills in me to figure it out. I don't want to keep doing that, but I'm good at it."