Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres didn't see her 2000 nuptials to fiancé Marc Anthony coming. At a moment's notice, the singer whisked her away to a 15-person surprise wedding at a Las Vegas penthouse suite—a lavish yet intimate affair he'd planned only the day before. But their marriage ended in 2004. That same year he wed Jennifer Lopez—whom he'd dated briefly before marrying Torres—in a secret ceremony in L.A. "You don't plan the end of your marriage," says Torres, now 33. "I dreamed of finding my prince, but it doesn't always happen that way."

Luckily, hers is a fairy tale with a happy, if hard-earned, ending. Now living in L.A. with the sons she had with Anthony, Cristian, 7, and Ryan, 4, Torres has rarely spoken publicly about the split. "You get mad," she says. "But I took the high road." As she reveals in Married to Me, the new self-help book she cowrote with her sister Jeannette to inspire divorcées (see box), the journey hasn't been easy. "You want to move on as quick as possible," says the Puerto Rican-born actress (who starred in 13 foreign-made films after becoming Miss Universe in 1993). "But you realize time is your friend. You have to go through the pain to get to the other side."

She went through more than her share. After Anthony left, she found herself barely able to get out of bed. "You go through hell," she says, her blue eyes soft. "I cried until there were no tears left—until I was numb. I didn't want to eat; I didn't care to get dressed or take a shower. I just wanted to lie there." But after a few months, she got a wake-up call from another man in her life. "One day Cristian walked in and said, 'You're crying again?'" says Torres. "I felt embarrassed that they saw their mother being weak. I woke up. I realized I'd been crying for all the wrong reasons."

She pulled herself together and tried to make things right. "I didn't want them to choose sides," says Torres, who keeps photos of Anthony throughout her home for the boys' sake. "He's not someone we need to hide—he'll always be their father. And to this day, I don't think they've seen our divorce as a bad thing."

Indeed, Torres says their children were thrilled to find out that their blended family was expanding. When Anthony, 39, called in February to tell her that twins Max and Emme had been born, "they were so excited," she says. Cristian helped pick out clothes and stuffed animals before she took him and his brother to visit the newborns in New York City in March: "They love them! It's cute to see."

She's also glad to see her life fall back into place. Set to start filming the boxing drama The Nail this month, she's finally comfortable in her own skin, with or without Mr. Right. "I'm happy, and I don't put my happiness in anybody else," says Torres, who's been "taking a break" from her former boyfriend, Prison Break star Amaury Nolasco, since March. "I'm doing what I love with kids who are healthy and great friends. Just because things don't happen the way you planned, the world hasn't ended. It's really the beginning of a wonderful new adventure."

  • Contributors:
  • K.C. Baker/New York City.