Hiding From Reality Taylor Armstrong Book Review
My name is BravoTVLover and Yes, I bought Taylor Armstrong’s book. I decided last week that I could not be a nay-sayer or a complete doubter until I read her entire side of the story. I really didn’t want to write this book review. The reason being is that so many “haters” of Taylor’s have their minds made up and it won’t matter that I detail her side of the events, some people just want to find any word/any small inconsistency like the use of “home” to describe going to her hotel room to discredit her entire abuse story. I know that this is a sensitive issue and I feel sorry for Russell’s family and children, but here’s what- NOBODY knows what happens between spouses when the doors are closed. I have experienced abuse at the hands of an ex and even my family didn’t believe me at first until it was admitted. So, just because Russell was a good friend, brother, son, or father does not mean that Taylor wasn’t hurt.
Yes, she changed her name a few times and that always seemed so shady to me. But, she explains it. Yes, her behavior was annoying season one (and two with the meltdowns) but she explains it. Taylor explains it all…
I’ve read all the lines of “time” (do you like how I switched that up) and I’ve read all the “proof” that Taylor is lying but in the book she addresses most of my questions. I believe this woman was abused by her husband. She has suffered enough and I am not going to continue to question her on her life story anymore. Should she have written a book so close to his death? No, it isn’t something I would do, but I didn’t suffer like she has. She has a financial mess on her hands and she was paid a lot of money to write her story. She is donating money to domestic violence organizations as she tweeted the other day.
This book synopsis took almost 4 hours to type, so please if you “borrow” please give me some credit. There are many stories I left out and this is not the entire book and I encourage you to buy the book.
She starts off detailing the abuse that we’ve heard about before where she was between 2-3 and she remembers pulling her daddy’s hair to get him to stop hitting her mother. Taylor’s mother then leaves her dad and struggles to raise Taylor as a single mother throughout her childhood. Her mother worked multiple jobs in order to provide for Taylor and herself and Taylor felt that her mother was always crying. Her mom was only 21 when she had Taylor and looking back Taylor feels that her mom must have been extremely lonely. Taylor had very little contact with her biological father once her parents divorced as he moved on and had another family. She said her visits with him filled her with dread. She describes her dad as intimidating and when he was angry with her he would use her entire birth name: Shana Lynette Hughes. “ ..I think this association is one of the reasons that I always hated my name. I never felt like Shana Lynette Hughes. And because I didn’t like who I was, or the life I’d been born into, I always felt there was someone else I needed to be. “Hiding From Reality
She tells us that she always wanted to trade names with her “normal” friend name Melissa who was a child of a traditional family living in a nice home with a white picket fence. She was embarrassed of her humble living conditions because divorce wasn’t as common as it is today. They moved a lot and she had a lot of inconsistencies growing up and Taylor never really wanted her friends to know how she lived eating fish sticks and macaroni and cheese. She felt abandoned by her dad because she didn’t have much to do with him and she had very low self-esteem. Taylor tells us that she started having boyfriends at a very young age and her first boyfriend moved away a year into the relationship soon after sixth grade. She said that she was devastated that this consistent relationship was ending and she considered “throwing herself under the school bus”. “I didn’t want to live without him, but since my life did in fact go on, I had to find another boyfriend. And so began a lifelong pattern: I always had to have a boyfriend. Without the force a guy in my life, I became more insecure, nervous, and introverted.” Hiding From Reality, Taylor Armstrong
She moved to Tennessee (holla)for junior high and then to Tulsa for 8th grade. She details awful boyfriends that treated her horribly, but she was desperate for the relationships to work. When boyfriends tried to end relationships she would beg, “Please don’t leave me” “It’s humiliating and painful for me to think back on behavior like this, but it’s who I was years, including throughout my marriage to Russell.” Hiding from Reality Taylor Armstrong She went to college and earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology and then entered the master’s program at the University Of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center because she wanted to prove that she was good enough to be a scientist or a doctor despite her upbringing. Soon into the program, she realized it wasn’t what she was interested in.
She developed symptoms of exercise bulimia as a high school and college cheerleader stemming from her self-loathing. She ate very little and exercised twice daily.
She discusses living with her college cheerleading partner- I think this might be the Jeremy Sipes we’ve read about but curiously, she doesn’t name him by name unlike the other boyfriends she listed. He cheated on her and she moved on and tried to fit in with another boyfriend and his family. She details paying attention to every detail in order to act perfect in order to impress her boyfriend of years and his family. She didn’t feel like she was worthy of his love because of her childhood and who she was. She legally changes her name to Shana Taylor in order to take her now step-father’s name and the only dad she’s ever had. Her friends then start calling her “Taylor”. She was relieved to be putting Shana Hughes behind her.
At 22, she gets the lip implant and a boob job in order to try and feel good about herself.
First real job, pharmaceutical sales in Illinois where she met Dwight.
Moved to Dallas for better job, heavily pursued a guy that looked straight laced and stable and within a few months, she moved to Florida to be with “Chris”and she quit her job in Dallas as Chris’ dad was her boss. She spent the next couple of years with Chris and was engaged to him and played the role as stay at home wife beginning in an apartment, then later in a house. 5 weeks before the wedding, Chris called it off. Taylor then moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL. And worked another job 2001-2004 during this time, she wanted a fresh start and to abandon the insecure girl that craved a man’s affection so she decided to change her name again. This time she changes her last name to Ford after her favorite designer (her aunt had been in fashion) and first name to Taylor. Taylor Ford.
A friend in FL had a stroke and she spent a year helping him to rehabilitate. The friend opened up a business in California 2004 and asked Taylor to move there. By that time, her mother and stepdad were in Orange County, CA.
She says that when she first saw Russell Armstrong she knew she had to have him. She pursued him for months because of his stability, confidence, appearance and business sense. She had her own money at this time driving a silver Porsche and living in a nice condo. He blew her off as a gold digger. Over time, after she kept running into him and his friends, he asked her out.
On the way to the first date-Valentine’s Day , when she learned that they were going to be eating at Dolce, she told Russell that a guy that had been calling her hung out there a lot and she hoped it wasn’t awkward. Once seated, Russell accused her of “F*cking the bartender”at Dolce. Despite her insistence that she was not sleeping with anyone, he kept accusing her until she cried on their very first date. From that first date and throughout their entire marriage, Taylor paints a picture of a very jealous, suspicious Russell Armstrong. He accused her of being a whore to a major NBA player because he had called her phone once or twice after meeting him BEFORE meeting Russell.
Russell had such paranoia that he tape-recorded Taylor in her car, in the office, in the bedroom and after she found the first tape recorder and her cleaning lady also found tape recorders, she just always assumed that she was being recorded. When she tearfully asked him about it, he said that she shouldn’t mind if there was nothing to hide. Taylor details seeing Russell remotely log in to her emails from his computer across town through one of those remote programs and watching the mouse cursor click on email after email. When she had a small eraser sized scab on her back, he accused her of having rough violent sex and cheating on her. He would bring up this, the NBA player paranoia about every couple of months throughout their relationship despite her insistence that nothing of the sort had happened. He was insistent that she was lying to him for years and he finally asked her to take a lie detector test. After some argument, he convinced her that if she had nothing to hide- she would take the test. She obliged and passed. He was thankful for her taking it, but soon thereafter, he accused her of paying off the lie detector test administrator.
Once they got serious, they were inseparable and she backed away from her other relationships and isolated herself with only Russell and his boys every other weekend. She did whatever he said to do and learned quickly to always have her phone beside her where she could hear it when she wasn’t with him. If she didn’t answer for a mere 15 minutes, he created a scenario in his head that she was cheating on him in a secret hotel room at the Four Seasons when in reality, she was having a facial with electrodes on her face or having her nails done. He continued a cycle of dominance and control and if she didn’t do what he wanted when he wanted it, he would tell her to leave or that it was over. It was a high-conflict relationship where she had to walk on eggshells and behave just right in order to try and please him. She details times where he would get so mad at her at business dinners if she talked too much OR too little that he would just get in his car and leave the dinner with no explanation to her or his clients. He would tell her that she was too skinny and having sex with her was like having sex with a skeleton.
“…I was hooked on the roller-coaster ride of the relationship, and the need it brought out in me to please him. He seemed hooked too. Instead of breaking up, we established a pattern: he flew into a rage over the smallest thing, or sometimes over nothing other than a figment of his imagination. I apologized, cried, and begged and pleaded, and vowed myself that I would be so perfect that he’d never get angry again. From the beginning, I began compiling a careful mental inventory of all the many things I needed to avoid doing or saying to keep the peace in our relationship.” Hiding from Reality
Russell apparently told her stories of a rough childhood growing up in public housing in Dallas where he fought regularly growing up and that was his reasoning for being so aggressive with her mentally and physically. When he explained his relationship with his first wife, he told Taylor that she would throw dishes at him and she would fly into rage. One time he held out his palm and his ex wife ran into it and she called the police. Within the first few months of dating Russell, she ran into his ex-fiancée who told her to run for the hills and that she (Taylor) was probably being recorded. They soon moved in together and she found the recorders.
Soon, they got pregnant (they had discussed it previously) but Russell ONLY wanted to keep the baby if it was a girl since he already had two boys. Thankfully, they learned they were having a girl.
Then, the story we’ve heard- she made pizza for his boys, Russell came home from work and they were going out for a business dinner and Taylor was downstairs (kitchen was on the 2nd floor of 3 floors) and Russell came out of nowhere and grabbed her throat and shoved her against the wall. This was the first incident of physical abuse. “If you ever again serve my kids a pizza without a vegetable, I’ll kill you, “he said. “You have just humiliated me in front of my mother.” Hiding from Reality
Taylor blamed herself and profusely apologized. He called her names and said he wouldn’t take her to the business dinner. She didn’t want to be LEFT so she begged to go with him and she went, but he wouldn’t talk to her all night. She details trying to stay one step ahead of Russell so that he would never have a reason to hurt her again. If he wanted a shirt and it was at the cleaners ready to be picked up it would set him off for an entire day.
Russell was inattentive during her pregnancy and didn’t take an interest in Lamaze classes and only made it to like one class.
Then, they got engaged, Russell tells her out of the blue that he’s filing for bankruptcy due to the palimony suit brought by his ex fiancée. They got married in Cabo Oct2005, Kennedy was then born and Russell didn’t want Taylor to breastfeed her because breasts belonged only in a bikini. Taylor did breastfeed for a few weeks while Russell was out of town, but when he returned, Taylor’s body quit producing milk.
She describes a marriage where they never discussed money. If she was buying something over $500 she would have to discuss in advance and she was questioned regularly who she had been to lunch with and why. He didn’t want her to know anything about the finances because of being burned by his ex fiancée. Apparently, she took financial information from him and it hurt him significantly.
He then began grabbing the side of her head after dinners, etc… and smashing her head against the glass window in the car. In a reflective moment, Russell told Taylor to hit him back the next time he hit her. So she did, and he went into a rage. He told her to not ever do that again because he was afraid he was going to kill her. After one particular head banging incident, she had her nanny, Gloria take photos of the knots that were somewhat visible on camera. His physical abuse episodes were about every six weeks or so.
Throughout all of this, her nanny, her friends, her mom all told her to leave him. When she wanted to talk to her family, she had to do it outside of the house and outside of the car in order to not be recorded. She wanted to go to therapy but Russell wouldn’t go.
In 2009 she began interviewing for RHOBH he didn’t think she would be cast so he didn’t mind that she tried out. Then on May 22, 2009 a horrible incident involving Russell and her best friend’s fiancé was one of the last straws.
Her friend Jennifer (This is Jennifur Diamond) had gotten engaged to Mark (Alsentzer) and she and Russell in two separate cars went by their friend’s house to say congratulations. When Russell was ready to leave, he left in his car and then Mark asked Taylor how things were going with the abuse because Jennifer had told him about the abuse. When Mark offered to help Taylor and Kennedy if they needed to escape, Russell emerged from the side gate and started hitting Mark saying something like you aren’t going to take my wife from me, throwing him into the pool and holding him under. Russell briefly let go of Mark and grabbed Taylor and held her under water. Jennifer the friend started beating Russell over the head with a fire log. Russell went back to Mark and punched him over and over. Jennifer called the police and the ambulance. Jennifer told police that she was afraid that Russell was going to kill Taylor. Mark needed 20 stitches, and 5 front teeth were knocked out. Despite this, Taylor pressured Mark and Jennifer not to press charges. Taylor paid for $10,000 of the dental work. The police kept trying to question Taylor and she tried to protect Russell and told them that he wasn’t trying to kill her. She was afraid that if he went to jail that they would be financially ruined.
Each time the abuse happened, Taylor thought she could learn from whatever she had done wrong and it wouldn’t happen again. She thought she could change him.
RHOBH was continuing to call for casting and since she was friends with Adrienne and Adrienne knew of the abuse, Adrienne thought it would be financially smart for Taylor to do the show, plus Taylor thought that Russell would behave better if he was on camera.
In March 2010 cameras began rolling and Taylor says that she felt that she needed to play up the parts of a perceived Beverly Hills housewife. She hid some of her personality and took on a persona that she believed viewers would be more interested in. After the first season aired, they viewed how the other ladies conducted themselves in their marriages and Russell agreed to go to counseling. Whenever she was filming and Russell would have paranoia that she was cheating, he would text her “F&ck you, you whore.” Lisa Vanderpump witnessed one of these texts and told Taylor that it was unacceptable.
Once the show started airing in Oct 2010, Taylor didn’t like her Stepford Wife behavior and how she represented herself as the stereotypical Botox housewife. “I saw it all, and at times I hated myself as much as some of the hostile people on twitter did.” Taylor quit reading blogs and reviews due to the negativity but Russell was addicted to Google alerts and the reviews in an unhealthy way. Every little thing would set him off if he read that an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s had commented or been interviewed, etc… “Russell felt that he could control the whole world as completely as he controlled me.” Hiding from Reality Finally, admitting that they needed help, Russell agreed to go to counseling.
Dr. Sophy was their counselor and Taylor said that the therapy was working and that she and Russell were communicating better than ever before. Dr. Sophy would hold them both accountable for working on their marriage and he kept in touch almost daily through phone or text with both of them.
During this time another witness to the yelling, arguing and abuse was Taylor’s new live in assistant Julie. Russell would apologize to her about his yelling and she told Taylor that she would listen every night to make sure that Taylor wasn’t hurt.
In January 2011- they went to Dallas for the Superbowl and fans kept coming up to talk to her and Russell didn’t like all of the attention that she was getting. He got really mad at Taylor and pulled her into a service entrance in the hallway of a restaurant and hit her twice in the jaw with his open hand. When they returned to where they were staying that night, Taylor was talking to their friends and Russell overheard her tell someone that he got physical and when Taylor went to bed, Russell hit her in the jaw. “After several blows, something snapped. The pain was excruciating, and I could no longer shut my mouth. Russell had knocked my jaw out of socket. He kept hitting me.” Hiding from Reality She knelt over the toilet in order to try and fix it because she couldn’t close her mouth and saliva was coming out. She wasn’t able to fix it. Then, she laid on the bed and popped it back into place (I read a couple of people say that if it is truly out of socket that this is nearly impossible to do) still in horrible pain and had to be gentle with it for days. She never saw a doctor and she still gets shooting pain from her jaw.
When they returned home, Russell claimed he was moving out and he set a moving date for the following day. He hired movers and found a listing in a high rise condo. That date came and went and he didn’t leave. This is when she met Camille and told Camille he was leaving but he didn’t. They never discussed why Russell didn’t actually leave.
She discusses him yelling at her in front of Kennedy and him telling Kennedy that Taylor was a whore and to get the f&ck out of his life.
Later, Dr. Sophy put Russell on medication and it worked really well, but Russell didn’t like what he felt like on the medicine. So, Russell decided to bring home some pot and while the nanny was with Kennedy, Taylor and Russell would get high together. Taylor said that when Russell was high he was the husband she always wanted him to be.
Then, despite that things were getting better with Russell on meds and “the pot” Taylor’s castmates were frustrated with her and her inconsistencies. She totally understands why. Her marriage was such a plotline on the show and she was on such a rollercoaster but she couldn’t fully explain it all because she was caught up in the tornado of the cycle of abuse. She didn’t want Russell to know the extent that she had spoken to the ladies, but she didn’t want to leave him yet because she loved him.
The last straw was the night of her perfect 40th birthday party at Beecher’s Madhouse and they were staying overnight at the Four Seasons. They had friends there, they were laid back and dancing and kissing on the dance floor. Taylor describes having these amazing butterflies for Russell again that night and everything was perfect. They got back to the hotel (she said “home “meaning back to the hotel)and they started to kiss in bed and then he all of a sudden started questioning her about the Chippendales in Vegas and why and where did she lose her phone. He accused her of having bruises all down her back but there were no bruises. He kept calling her a whore and accusing her of cheating on him. She was on top of him naked and trying to convince him that nothing had happened and he raised himself up on one elbow and punched her hard straight in the right eye.
She went into the living room of the hotel suite and woke up her assistant Julie and told her what was going on. She doesn’t say she left or where she slept but the next day she went by the pool to relax despite not being able to look inward or down. The next day, she visited her LASIK doctor who told her flap had been wrinkled and asked Taylor in front of Russell how it had happened. Taylor lied as Russell had instructed her to do and said Kennedy had kicked her while swinging. She had to have her flap repaired and then wait 10 days after her flap healed before having the ocular plastic surgery to fix the fracture. On June 26, she had a CAT scan that showed that 40% of her orbital floor (the bone supporting the eye) had been fractured and required major surgery and an overnight hospital stay. The doc went on to say that she would need a titanium implant beneath her eye so that her eye would not be sunken for the rest of her life. After that, she, Julie and Kennedy left for a few days and she told Russell over the phone to move out. He said he would be out by the next day. That’s when she called Kyle and Lisa in Hawaii.
On July 5, 2011 Taylor had the reconstructive surgery and Russell tried to win her back in the hospital with roses, but Dwight and her mom made her make him leave even though she still loved him and wanted him there. The bruising that we saw in the photos was from the surgery but the injury that caused the surgery was still from Russell.
Then, from her recovery through mid August, they were cordial and even played with Kennedy together and went to dinner.
The discovery of the body was widely reported and not much new information was shared other than conveying how it was the worst day of her life.
She kept a suit for each of Russell’s boys and she speaks of them lovingly throughout the book. She also is making a photo album for both of them.
This book is a must read if you are a fan of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It was well worth the money in my opinion. I understand that many disagree with me on this point. I am not saying that I believe every word 100% as that would be foolish. HOWEVER, after reading this book, I believe that she has suffered abuse-mental and physical. Taylor, if you read this- I wish you well. I hope that you, Kennedy and Russell’s sons can someday be able to move forward and remember the time in between the cycles of abuse-the honeymoon stages.
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments- but I ask you to be nice! I didn’t write the book-I’m just reporting it and voicing my opinion.