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Deborah Shelton

When Deborah Shelton was invited to compere the Miss World pageant, it meant more to her than most of us realized. The beauty competition at the Lost City gave Deborah a rare opportunity to socialize.

Although most guys wantonly eye out her cleavage and most girls enviously wish they could be half as gorgeous as the American actress, Deborah never has any dates. She told PERSONALITY that she’s actually very lonely and longing for true love.

During her recent trip to South Africa, Deborah was not escorted by any dashing young man. Instead she was accompanied by her mother and her best friend, South African Lynne Widgerow who also doubles as her agent.

Deborah Shelton on an elephant in South Africa
Deborah rides high in Africa with elephant trainer Randall Moore.

“It’s very funny that in films I always play seductive and sexy characters, because that is so far from my real private life. I mean nobody ever asks me out,” she says wistfully.

Even in her latest film Deborah plays an ex-stripper and probable hooker who manipulates men – something she insists she “just cannot do at all! In fact I can’t even flirt very well.”

It’s so bad that Deborah is currently undergoing therapy to try and become less inhibited about her feelings. She’s aching for the type of relationship which has totally honest communication instead of the childish barriers people build around their hearts to protect themselves from potential rejection.

Deborah Shelton and Ninibeth Leal
Former Miss USA, Deborah Shelton, and former Miss World, Ninibeth Leal, exchange beauty tips.
Deborah Shelton, Miss USA

Most of all, Deborah is still battling to recover from the traumatic break-up of her second marriage of 14 years.

“It’s been very hard. At the time of the split I lost almost 15kg. I was really sick, I was devastated,” she says mournfully. As she co-owns a film company with her estranged husband they’re still in contact, but “it’s too painful to see each other all the time.” Their emotions still run deep but the harsh reality is that they cannot live happily together as a married couple. They’ve been separated for two and a half years but have still not divorced.

“I think a common problem is that couples set up home and get on with having a family, and then it’s only in later years when the children have grown up that they realize they’re not really suited. As you get older, you need true companionship so much more.”

But that’s something which is difficult to find when you live in Los Angeles as Deborah does.

“Nobody asks me out because it’s so difficult in LA. You’re very secluded because everything’s so spread out that there is really no social life… you go to a movie, you rent a movie and you do the occasional charity event. That’s it. This Miss World pageant is the most fun I’ve had in a long time!

“In fact,” she giggles, “I had such a good time in South Africa that I ate far too much – too much bread and too much boerewors. So I was too scared to stand on the scales. When it came to the night of the pageant, it took four guys to squeeze my dress onto me because I’d put on so much weight!”

Deborah Shelton and the Rey boys
Getting to grips with the local talent – the Rey boys have inherited their mother’s world-class looks.

Even now while we’re sitting at the poolside bar of the Lost City, Deborah’s tucking into the pretzels. Meeting Deborah is like being showered with cool water during a hot berg wind. She’s so refreshing, and just so different in reality to the Deborah who played JR’s lover in Dallas. As Mandy Winger she could chat up any man with ease and remove her clothing without flinching.

“I’m not like that at all! In fact, before each lingerie scene in Dallas I had to drink two Pina Coladas!” she laughs. She’s definitely not a brazen vixen. Deborah’s far more reflective. She’s into self-hypnosis and relaxation therapy. Her favourite place in the entire world is Natal’s Valley of a Thousand Hills which she was delighted to discover on her first trip to SA years ago with her husband.

“During relaxation you have to imagine a place where you feel calmest, and I always use the Valley. To hear the air, feel the grass on your legs, see the Zulu villages dotting the hillside and the clouds moving as only Spielberg could capture them… it’s wonderful. I love it.”

Deborah Shelton and mom and Lynne Widgerow
No toy boys for Deborah – she was escorted to SA by her mom and her agent, SA-born Lynne Widgerow.

The first time Deborah visited SA was during a time when it was a sin to utter the word SA, let alone visit the country… but Deborah couldn’t help herself.

“I did get flak, but I just love the beauty of this country,” she enthuses. She also loves the men in this country. Half-way through the interview she excuses herself to get to grips with the Rey boys, sons of former Miss World Penny Rey.

“They’re gorgeous, aren’t they?” she whispers when she gets back to the bar. “And Gary Player. I just love him, don’t you?”

Deborah Shelton, Sol Kerzner and Gary Player
Over champagne breakfast in the bush, Sol Kerzner and Gary Player vie for Deborah’s attention.

Deborah appreciates sporty men since she herself has always been a sports freak. As a teenager in Virginia she played football. For her role in Nemesis, which she shot during 1992, she lost almost 4 kg in training, and her next movie will involve a grueling three-month training period because she’ll be playing the part of a rock-climber. She’s thrilled because it’ll satisfy two of her greatest loves: exercising and acting.

“The only good spin-off about my not having a man in my life at the moment is that I have more time and energy to immerse myself in my work,” she says optimistically. In the last year she shot cyborg movie Nemesis and sexual suspense thriller My Love Possessed, due for release within the next year.

In early 1993 Deborah’s toying with the idea of getting back into a bit of television work. After the long-running Dallas series, she is reluctant though because that eventually became like an ordinary 0-to-5 job devoid of creativity.

“We only had five weeks off a year. It was so grueling and so boring after a while always being the same character so that you couldn’t explore different parts of yourself,” she complains.

It’s bizarre that Debora even became a TV or film actress. She had all intentions of becoming a doctor like her father, uncle and everyone else in her family. Instead she became Miss USA and went on to become a screen star.

Deborah Shelton
Deborah enjoyed South African food so much she could hardly squeeze into her clothes by the end of her stay!

“I always tried to keep my Miss USA title secret because people think you’re a bimbo and empty when they hear that,” she admits. She’s certainly no bimbo. Deborah studied art and during her escapades around the world she takes every opportunity to study the art of the religion and encourages her children to do the same when they travel with her.

She’s dreaming that soon she will meet a special man who can share these travels with her. She’s looking for someone who’s intelligent like her “without being a rocket scientist” and with whom she can share true companionship as well as enjoy physical passion.

“I want a guy who’s going to be fun to be with, who’s quick witted and into double entendres. I’d love to have somebody special with me at dinners when there’s a totally rubbish conversation going on and you can share that ‘oh my God’ look with each other,” she says longingly.

But while Deborah waits for her love life to take off, she’s appreciating the companionship of her dearest friend, Lymm Widgerow. The two met 13 years ago in America and have been close friends ever since. Since Lynn’s a South African herself, who knows – perhaps she’ll introduce Deborah to a wonderfully warm and witty local guy who’s a cross between Gary Player and the Rey boys!

PERSONALITY, January 8, 1993

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