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'I MARRIED A PRINCESS' Unique family takes reality spotlight



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Catherine Oxenberg says she's not ashamed of who she is anymore.

By LUAINE LEE

SCRIPPS HOWARD

When Catherine Oxenberg was cast in her very first part as Princess Diana, the first thing her mother did was phone Prince Charles. After all, Charles was her second cousin. And Oxenberg's mother, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, was merely observing royal protocol.

Charles said it was OK with him.

She went on to star in "The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana," a TV movie that launched her career.

Oxenberg says she was grateful for the Prince's blessing, but being of royal blood has often been a royal pain.

Born in New York, but brought up in private schools in England, she's been a curious enigma: a patrician beauty with a rebellious streak.

She was sexually abused by a family member when she was very young (it was neither of her parents.) The abuse left her feeling strained and inadequate. Longing to be perfect, she suffered from a severe eating disorder, which began when she was 16.

"I've done so much healing on myself, been through personal hell, through hell in my relationships, my children have been through so much, and we've gotten to a place of healing," says Oxenberg, 43.

'Think and Grow Rich'

After years of therapy she finally conquered her ailment, she says, by reading "Think and Grow Rich," by Napoleon Hill.

"He suggested a technique where you state your life purpose and how much money you want to make and how you want to make it and what your goals are. I applied it to my life, at that point. This was end of 1997. And I started doing it," she says.

"I would make a mission statement and I would say it out loud the first thing in the morning and when I went to bed at night. After doing this for 21 days, the desire to throw up disappeared. It was lifted from me.

"It had nothing to do with following steps for an eating disorder, but what I believe it was, is that I used my voice and my body to create a new pattern in my life. And by restating that pattern over and over again -- I totally believe we are computers -- and I was just reprogramming the computer in a way I hadn't done before," says Oxenberg.

The beauteous Oxenberg (who did her first spread in Vogue when she was 18) went on to star in films like "The Omega Code," the TV series "Dynasty" and "Acapulco H.E.A.T," but in the last few years she has relegated most of her energy to her family. And some family it is.

She has a 14-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship. She has two daughters, 3 and 1, with her husband, actor Casper Van Dien, and they have full custody of his children, a boy, 11, and a girl, 8. She cooks and handles the business, he repairs things around the house and gets up with the kids at night. "The 'vomit' detail, it's usually him," she laughs.

Reality check

This division of labor will be subject of a new reality series, "I Married a Princess," to premiere on Lifetime Monday. "Obviously the condition was if you want to do a reality show about us you're going to follow our real lives," she says.

"We're not going to make anything contrived especially what we're doing with children. We don't want anything to be fake," she says.

He was reluctant at first, but she convinced Van Dien.

"I always get my way," she shrugs. "When it's supposed to be, when it's the right thing. I have a very strong opinion about things and what works best for me in terms of manifesting my desires. I'll reach a point, I'll state my case and then let it go. And I'll let it percolate with him. If he comes around, he comes around. And generally he does. He has to come to it of his own accord."

While she was inspired by the show "The Osbournes," Van Dien and Oxenberg aren't anything like the Osbournes.

She was raised within the strict rigors of European politesse. He was reared in an accomplished military family that stressed decorum and manners.

She's not afraid to welcome strangers into her living room, she says. "We have so much humor in our life and a sense of equanimity that I think is really rare, especially when I compare our relationship to others in this town. ... Everything is magnified under public scrutiny, it definitely is harder. At this point I can truly say I'm not ashamed of who I am anymore."




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