Elizabeth Smart is still figuring out how to tell her children about her harrowing past.
The 33-year-old author and activist recently expanded her résumé in a surprising way, as she was revealed as the latest castoff on Fox's The Masked Dancer on Wednesday, Jan. 13. In an exclusive interview pegged to her appearance as Miss Moth on the competition series, the mother of three tells E! News that she has slowly started opening up about her abduction as a teen with her oldest child, 5-year-old daughter Chloé.
"Even now, she has begun to sort of ask questions," Elizabeth says. "Occasionally, I'm doing a presentation or I'm on a Zoom call, and she doesn't understand. So she asked me, 'Why?' And as her questions come up, that is how I gauge how much to tell my daughter."
She continues, "With all my children, really, I certainly never want to hide what happened in the past, because every single one of us has a past. Every single one of us has had something happen in our lives. It's unrealistic to think that we will all just have a perfect life. We will all face hardships and struggles, in whatever form that may be, and so I have begun to speak to her as she asked questions. But with that being said, it's not all at once. And it's age-appropriate, to the best of my ability."
Elizabeth was the subject of headlines worldwide when she was kidnapped from her Utah home in June 2002 at the age of 14. She was returned to her family nine months later and now runs the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to the prevention of sexual abuse.
As Elizabeth tells E! News, she believes that her traumatic ordeal makes her a far more watchful parent than she might have otherwise been. She and husband Matthew Gilmour tied the knot in 2012 and share 3-year-old James and 2-year-old Olivia, in addition to Chloé.
"I'm probably more into helicopter parents than I would have imagined," the Smart Talks podcast host admits. "And it also makes me think that I'll never regret checking on my children or spending that extra time to look after them or watch them. I'll never regret it. I might regret not spending time with them or not looking after them for that moment. So, I think it's probably made me a more conscious parent."
As for her time on The Masked Dancer, she says she has zero regrets, even though she "can't dance to save my life." Her initial reaction was that the producers were "crazy for asking me," and she adds about her stint on the show, "Honestly, it was the most terrifying thing I have ever voluntarily done."
But she ultimately decided that appearing on the program would be a fitting tribute to her late grandmother, who passed away last year and was an avid dancer, even into her later years of life.
"I'm pretty sure she wasn't scared of anything," Elizabeth says. "And I thought, I want to be able to look back on my life and feel the same way. For all of the heavy, serious things that I've done, I want to be able to look back and laugh."