In her first TV interview since being released from prison, Cyntoia Brown sat down with NBC News to open up about her incarceration, the moment that she was finally freed, and the feeling of redemption.
“It’s an honor that God has put me in this position. I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Brown told NBC’s Lester Holt. “I fully intend to step into that and to share my experiences as often as I can, with whoever I can, in the hopes that it can bring about more understanding about what goes on in the system with young girls who find themselves in the situation that I did.”
Brown, 31, spent 15 years in prison on a murder conviction. A victim of child sex trafficking, Brown was granted clemency after her story caught worldwide attention, which included rallying for her release from the likes of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and other celebrity figures.
In the interview, Brown admitted that she had grown to expect violence from men. Brown, who survived multiple rapes, detailed the deadly encounter with Johnny Allen, a 45-year-old man who solicited her for sex. Brown was convicted of Allen’s murder in 2004. “I’m so much more than the worst thing that I’ve done. I’m so much more than that moment,” Brown told Holt.
Despite being forced into prostitution by an ex-boyfriend and pimp nicknamed “Kut-Throat,” Brown didn’t initially see herself as a sex trafficking victim. “You meet these young girls who are in these situations, and they don’t view themselves as being pimped. They don’t view their trafficker as their trafficker. They think, ‘This is my boyfriend.’ And that’s exactly what I thought with Kut,” she explained. “I thought, ‘This is my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship. I’m his Bonnie, he’s my Clyde.’”
Brown pointed out that her story is not unique. “There’s nothing special about me. I can’t tell you how many Cyntoia Browns still in prison. The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences. And they don’t have hope right now.”
While in prison, Brown received two college degrees. The Nashville native also recently tied the knot with Jamie Long, a Christian recording artist and entrepreneur.
Brown has been making the media rounds in promotion of her memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, released on Oct. 15.
Watch her full interview below.