Brooke Burns recalls her near-death experience and how it changed her life

By Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith It’s been four and a half years since Brooke Burns broke her neck in a diving accident – and miraculously made a full recovery. Looking back, she says the event changed her life.

“I think it’s impossible to go through something like that and not be changed. You kind of take an inventory of who is in your life and what you’re doing with your life, where you’re spending your time. You place more importance on relationships and you don’t take other things so seriously,” says the actress, who has a 10-year-old daughter with former husband Julian McMahon.

The beauty who rose to fame on “Baywatch” has been involved in spinal cord research and support charities since her recovery. “I have a bit of survivor’s guilt,” she admits. She will serve as co-chair of this year’s gala fundraiser for the now-merged Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation/Life Rolls On in Beverly Hills this October.

“Once you’ve faced a life or death moment, you don’t sweat the small stuff,” she adds. “You learn to be flexible. You learn to laugh more.”

Speaking of learning to laugh, both her latest projects offer opportunities. She hosts Oxygen’s Aug. 10-debuting “Hair Battle Spectacular” and has the “Titanic 2” spoof movie coming our way on home video next month.

The new TV reality competition showcases fantasy hair stylists – people who create hair looks that might incorporate, say, three-foot guitars or toys with moving parts. Seriously. “I loved the idea of bringing this tiny underground subculture into the public eye,” says Brooke. “These battles go on all over the country.” The stylists’ personalities are “radical and outrageous,” she says, and remind her of her modeling days in Milan, Berlin and Paris. “There’s the visual appeal, the ‘Oh my God!’ It’s all bigger than life – very Oxygen, very live out loud.”

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