The name Rachel Uchitel conjures up all sorts of thoughts. Chances are, according to Rachel herself, what you're thinking is wrong.
The celebrity mistress turned reality star sat down exclusively with E! News to set the record straight:
"I am different than the cartoon character that people have made me out to be," she says.
"I am just a normal girl. Like anybody you would know. I am absolutely not the wicked witch that people have made me out to be. It's hurtful. I am human. You know that is a hurtful thing to have people talk about you all the time…There are a lot of things that I think people don't know because nobody has ever asked really."
While Uchitel is understandably eager to put her scandal-plagued past behind her, she understands the flak she's caught in the past 11 months (Thanksgiving, if you'll recall, marks Tiger Woods' one-year anniversary with infamy).
"I would probably think the same thing, too," she says of her reputation. "I understand that it is a subject that people are really interested in. it's something that I have never spoken about. It's something that I don't wish to speak about at all going forward."
However, she clarifies that her silence on the matter is her own choice—not because of any payment or agreement that has determined she can't speak out.
"I am still in hiding. I really changed my life in the last year. I've changed all the people that I speak to. I've changed what I do for a living. I've changed my entire…my entire way that I live is completely different."
But while even a mention of the story makes her "angry," Uchitel says she's not afraid to remain the public eye.
"It was absolutely not an easy decision at all," she said of agreeing to participate in Celebrity Rehab, adding that plenty of people close to her advised her not to take part.
Though she still won't divulge exactly what she was being treated for, she does note that love addiction "is a very real addiction. It's not a moral issue, it's a disease."
"I'll tell you why I did the show. I did the show because it was my only opportunity to have the world understand me and where I came from and what I was feeling. As you know…I was offered a spot on Celebrity Apprentice and I chose to do Celebrity Rehab instead because I felt like it gave me an opportunity to have the world know who I was and to see me work out the issues that I had in the past and hopefully move away from them."
Uchitel also says she was caught off-guard after Donald Trump blasted the move.
"I was really surprised that Donald Trump would come out and make whatever remarks he made. You know, I thought that was really unfair.
"People will say I did it for the money. People will say I did it for notoriety. People will say I did it to become a reality star. At the end of the day, I needed treatment and I chose to get it that way on television because it was the only way that I could let people see who I was."
And while she's reticent when it comes to talking Tiger, Rachel does mention another of her famous flings.
"Again, I don't want to hurt him, I don't want to get into this because David doesn't need to be involved in any more issues and I wish him the best…Unfortunately, what comes out to the press later isn't the whole story, but I choose not to talk about it because I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to hurt his wife."
Currently studying to get her masters degree in forensic psychology, Uchitel is involved in an intensive 10-week detective course and has already participated in undercover stings. She's also looking for a special someone…in a very unexpected place.
"The reality of my life is pretty funny and interesting. I'm dating on Match.com; I'm studying to be a private investigator, you know, it's sort of random. It could make a good show, but I'm not sure what will happen there."
Still, Uchitel holds out hope that she won't always be painted as the villain she claims not to be.
"I think that watching Celebrity Rehab will help people move past the image that they have of me. I hope it will. If it doesn't, then that's OK. And that's fair.
"Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a chance to be heard out. Doing Celebrity Rehab was my chance to be heard out."
Watch Rachel's full interview with Jason Kennedy on E! News tonight at 7 and 11:30 p.m.