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After battling a deadly disease, Naomi Judd finds her calling to help others

Naomi Judd gained fame in the '80s with her daughter Wynonna as superstar singing duo The Judds. Then in 1991, Naomi shocked fans by announcing she had the potentially fatal hepatitis C virus and was retiring from the spotlight.

"I thought it was so unfair to lose my career and to have to deal with this disease," confides Naomi. "Having a chronic illness is like being trapped under a boulder."

But Naomi, who had already gone from welfare-mom rags to multiplatinum riches, refused to let a mere chronic disease keep her down.

"Now I'm completely cured!" she beams.

Indeed, Naomi's blood tests show she has been virus-free for seven years. She feels great and is busier than ever keeping her famous family together and working for countless charities including the American Liver Foundation and Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund, among many others. She also spends her "off" time acquiring scads of information about health and other family-related issues.

"I have such an insatiable curiosity about anything and everything," confesses Naomi, who's always willing to share her knowledge and experience.

"People call all the time," she laughs. "I was on the phone the other night for an hour and a half with Pamela Anderson, who has hep C. Although the world knows about Pam, there are many celebrities with illnesses they don't want the public to know about. I respect that, even though it's not my way. I'll use the fact I've had hep C or panic attacks and discuss them so I can help people understand."

This desire to create understanding has become Naomi's post-Judds career.

Since she "retired," she's written four books and recorded several self-help tapes. And she's shared her opinions and advice on her syndicated radio show, Heart To Heart With Naomi Judd, and on her Women's Entertainment television Between Us segments.

"I'm a communicator," declares Naomi.

To this end, the woman dubbed "The Queen of Everything" by her daughter Wynonna has several new projects in the works (including writing an advice column for Country Weekly - see sidebar). A Food Network series, Naomi's Table, is planned for early 2003. "It will be like us sitting at your kitchen table," she acknowledges, "in our robes saying, 'OK, no defenses, no pretenses!'"

Naomi is also busy writing a book, Naomi's Healing Guide: Lessons In Positive Life Change, due late next year. "It answers the questions folks have been asking for 10 years," she reveals. "How am I a medically documented miracle? How did I keep my sanity when I lost my career? How have I raised two amazing daughters? It's for people who are trapped - I'm going to give them some tools to get out of their fixes."

With the highly successful Judds' Power to Change comeback tour behind her, Naomi says she has no current plans to tour or record.

"Wynonna's in the studio putting together her own album," she explains. "I just go over and rub her feet and tell her she's my '3-D' - deluxe diva daughter!"

For now, Naomi is busy living and sharing her life's lessons.

"This is my grand passion," she admits.

-- M.B. Roberts

Ask Naomi
Naomi is well-known as the star mom of super singer Wynonna and movie star Ashley Judd. She is also known for speaking her mind. Look for her homespun words of wisdom in a new Country Weekly column, Ask Naomi, beginning soon. Readers are invited to write for her advice on love, health, family ... anything. But beware - Naomi plans to tell it like it is!

Send your questions to:
Ask Naomi, Country Weekly
118 16th Avenue South
Suite 230
Nashville, TN 37203