02/02/2009 AT 08:45 AM EST
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."
2007: Nikki goes from ice cream scooper to Hairspray star!
Blonsky calls airport brawl allegations 'absolute lies'