Cyntoia Brown, who was released from prison this month after celebrities advocated on her behalf, said that after 15 years behind bars she's enjoying manicures, cooking and choosing how to spend her time — things she used to only dream of doing.
"I am loving every single thing about being in my own home," said the 31-year-old Tennessee woman who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man when she was 16.
"Being able to cook for myself and decide how I want to spend my day feels amazing," she said in an exclusive statement to NBC News. "Those simple pleasures that people take for granted are what I looked forward to when I sat in prison dreaming of freedom."
Since her release, Brown-Long said she has been relishing simple pleasures like getting manicures and shopping for cooking supplies "whenever I need it." She plans to also release a memoir, "Free Cyntoia," in October.
Brown-Long — the name she now goes by after marrying recording artist J. Long, formerly of the R&B group Pretty Ricky — was a teenager when she shot and killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, 43, who she said had paid her for sex. Brown-Long said she shot Allen, of Nashville, because she feared for her life when she saw him reaching for what she believed was a gun while they were in bed at his home.
Prosecutors argued that the motive was not self-defense, as she said, but robbery.
At the time of the incident in 2004, Brown-Long was a runaway and said she was a sex-trafficking victim. She said her boyfriend, a pimp known as "Kut Throat," had raped her and forced her into prostitution.
She was tried as an adult, convicted in Allen's murder and sentenced to life in prison. Under Tennessee law, Brown-Long would not have been eligible for parole until she served at least 51 years.
Her story and fight for freedom inspired a 2011 documentary, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," and caught the attention of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Amy Schumer, who all fought for her release.
In January, Brown-Long won a major victory in her case when then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted her full commutation to parole. She walked out of the Tennessee Prison for Women early on Aug. 7. She will remain on parole for 10 years.
"One of the best moments was the night I celebrated my release with my whole family and everyone who'd made a difference in my life over the last 15 years," she said.
"Looking around and seeing how everything had come together, and how everyone was fellow-shipping and happy, was just incredible. I wasn't presenting myself as a 16-year-old heading to prison and needing help. I was a grown woman with my calling from God. This was my coming out party," Brown-Long continued.
"Every day I find myself thanking God for yet another experience I haven't had my whole adult life," she said in the statement.