Pretty Little Liars' Troian Bellisario has admitted she hasn't always felt so pretty. The actress told Seventeen magazine that in high school she struggled with eating and used to self-harm. This news is, of course, making headlines across the Internet already, but the most important part of the interview isn't the details of her past, but that she's coming forward with this information. Following other stars like Ke$ha, Zac Efron, and Demi Lovato in being honest about their struggles, Bellisario's words are an important next step in continuing to address societal issues and to reassure fans that these celebs really are just like us. Maybe not in the most glamorous ways, but it's great that they're showing us that they're not perfect, that they struggle with addiction, with their image, and with self-doubt. This kind of honest interaction between celebrity and fan can only bring more good as it steps up awareness for issues like eating disorders, depression, and drug addiction.
Bellisario's been outspoken about image in the past as well, criticizing the photoshopping the promotional poster for PLL's 4th season. Fellow cast-member Ashley Benson drew attention to the issue saying, "Our faces on this were from 4 years ago....and we all look ridiculous. Way too much photo shop. We all have flaws. No one looks like this. It's not attractive."
Bellisario took to Twitter to agree with Benson's statement saying: "Wow @ashbenzo I couldn't agree more. Very cool concept as always. But aren't we attractive enough…"
For Bellisario to come to that conclusion about herself and her fellow actresses couldn't have been easy given her past struggles with her own self-image. "I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school.…I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, so I think I created this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world. But it really backfired.”
Bellisario's not the only Pretty Little Liars' actress with a negative relationship to food. Lucy Hale had spoke to Cosmopolitan in 2012 about her own past saying, "I would go days without eating. Or maybe I'd have some fruit and then go to the gym for three hours."
It can be disheartening to hear Bellisario and Hale share their struggles with their bodies, but it's also uplifting because these are girls who persevered. These are people who have shown that yes, they struggled, but they also overcame, and that's an inspiring message for people who look up to them. They're not advocating that people copy their struggles, but acknowledge that it happened and are talking about how they've changed. In that same Cosmo interview, Hale wrapped up her thoughts saying, "I knew I had a problem ... It was a gradual process but I changed myself." And Bellisario did too, telling Seventeen:
My friends and my family – the people who I love and who love me back. Whenever I get down, when I want to crawl under a rock, I just look around at them and I see how rich my life is. You have to remember what’s most important in life. I am loved by so many people and have a wonderful job. I know I’m incredibly blessed. I am a completely lucky human being.
And like with the photoshopped poster, she wants people to know the truth of how she looks so good. “I’ve heard fans say that I’m perfect on the show and I want to tell them I’ve been through two hours of hair and makeup," she says. "Don’t hold yourself up to that!”
The straightforward way she gave her Seventeen interview showed she doesn't hide behind her words.
Sometimes I feel like I’m trying too hard, like I don’t belong. I just look around at Lucy [Hale], Shay [Mitchell], and Ashley [Benson], and I’m just like, Why am I on this show? Sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud ... I’m not like these other girls, I don’t dress like that and don’t know how to do my hair. The minute I’m off that stage, I try to get as “me” as possible. I do that by piling on my black eyeliner, and I put on my ripped tights. Dressing like myself again helps.
It's understandable that some may find this honest admission trite. Some may question how she dares to feel inadequate when she has so much more than most, but doubt spreads across all factors of life. That's why the phrase "money can't buy love" rings so true, because you can have everything and still not be happy. Fortunately it seems like Bellisario is continuing to overcome her struggles, and when she feels like she's not, she has people to rely on.
So all we hope for her, and her fellow actors and actresses, is that they continue to be honest with themselves and if they feel up to it — with us.