updated 02/01/2009 AT 12:05 PM ET
•originally published 02/02/2009 AT 8:45 AM ET
Six months after Nikki Blonsky and her family were involved in a highly publicized airport brawl with America s Next Top Model contestant Bianca Golden, the Hairspray actress says she and her family have emerged closer than ever.
“We are a very strong family, we love each other and nothing will ever tear us down, Blonsky told PEOPLE Saturday night at the Silver Lining Society Winter Gala in N.Y.C. to benefit The Hope & Heroes Children s Cancer Fund. “I don t even need to defend myself. It s pretty obvious that it was just a big scam.
Blonsky, 20, and Golden, 20, were cleared of all charges stemming from the July 30, 2008 incident, but Blonsky’s father, Carl Golden, still faces charges in Turks and Caicos, where the incident took place.
“He’s a strong man. He is my hero because he showed me that no matter what happens in life you can make it through,” Blonsky says of her father.
But Blonsky, who recently guest starred on Ugly Betty and wrapped the film Waiting for Forever with Rachel Bilson and Blythe Danner, says the incident has taught her a lesson: to be more cautious.
She says: “I never expected that somebody would try to use my fame to get themselves fame.”