Lily Collins is enjoying a successful career in Hollywood. She's starred in eight movies in the past five years, and she's about to break into the world of television (after a brief role in 90210) with Amazon's The Last Tycoon, starring opposite Matt Bomer. But all that success came after a long road of challenges she had to overcome.
The actress sat down with Shape Magazine for an interview, in which she opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder, and how she's now using her experience and projects to educate the public about a situation like that.
Opening Up About Her Struggles Through Her Projects
#LilyCollins stars in the Netflix original movie To The Bone, which centers around Ellen, a young woman who makes another attempt at combatting her anorexia by joining a clinic run by a doctor (played by Keanu Reeves) determined to give his patients a new outlook on life.
The actress revealed the movie came at an interesting time for her. She's also an accomplished writer with a background in journalism, and in 2015, she signed a deal for book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, in which she discusses her eating disorder. At the time, many more projects were coming her way, so she was advised to put the book on hold.
She decided to keep going with it, and To The Bone came knocking, a project that lined up perfectly with the message she wanted to send out with the book. Given her past experiences, the movie understandably wasn't just another role for her: It was another form of healing:
"Although I was in recovery for several years before the movie, preparing for the film allowed me to gather facts about eating disorders from professionals. It was a new form of recovery for me. I got to experience it as my character, Ellen, but also as Lily."
Delving into the project wasn't an easy feat, however, as she feared revisiting anorexia would backtrack the progress she'd made within herself. But she changed her mind once she realized she would be going back to that position with a more settled and experience mindset:
"I was terrified that doing the movie would take me backward, but I had to remind myself that they hired me to tell a story, not to be a certain weight. In the end, it was a gift to be able to step back into shoes I had once worn but from a more mature place."
Did She Ever Hesitate About Discussing Her Past With The World?
The actress was originally hesitant to discuss her eating disorder so openly in her book because she felt it would overshadow what she'd accomplished in the entertainment industry. To her surprise however, Unfiltered ended up being much more honest than she originally envisioned, and she realized that her honesty had the potential to help out a lot of people in her situation:
"I did consider that talking about my struggles with an eating disorder would overshadow my accomplishments as an actor, but I also knew this was something I needed to do to move forward as a human and an actress. I needed to let go. I've always strived to start conversations about taboo subjects with young women."
According to a study conducted by the National Association Of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people suffer from some sort of eating disorder in the U.S. alone. So there are a lot of people out there in need of guidance that could certainly benefit from hearing her story.
Learning To Accept Her Own Awesomeness
Collins is fully aware of the benefits that come from being honest about who you are to your audience, and she isn't ashamed of what she went through:
"I've always admired people who are relatable and honest. Having suffered from an eating disorder doesn't define me; I'm not ashamed of my past."
There's no reason for her to be ashamed, but the fact that she felt the need to clarify that tells us a lot about our society. Going through a situation like this always carries a stigma. But instead of putting labels on others, we need to understand that a disorder like this in no way lessens who someone is as a person.
Thankfully, she's now happy with her body: No longer concerned with her muscle definition or body shape, Collins is focused on being healthy and most importantly, happy with herself:
"I used to see healthy as this image of what I thought perfect looked like—the perfect muscle definition, etc. But healthy now is how strong I feel. It's a beautiful change, because if you're strong and confident, it doesn't matter what muscles are showing. Today I love my shape. My body is the shape it is because it holds my heart."
It takes a lot of bravery to open up to the world the way she has, but that's what she needed to do to heal and help others.
If you want to see her in To The Bone, don't forget to check it out once it's released on #Netflix on July 14, 2017.