Was anyone else obsessed with 2008's Hairspray? Not just because of John Travolta (he is hilarious in the film) but I remember thinking that Amanda Bynes just had it. Comedic timing that was so natural that I was sure she'd explode into adult stardom as easily as it had come to her as a child, the darling of Nickelodeon. "She was almost Emma Stone," said the headlines. Almost. The explosion, sadly was a very public breakdown almost exclusively documented via Twitter. It's 2018 and we're a long way from the Hairspray glory days but happily, and to the delight of fans, perhaps that's just as well.
For the last number of years Bynes has retired from acting and public life; what exactly attributed to her breakdown we've heard only whispers of, but the 32-year-old, in a new profile and cover on Paper Magazine has revealed that drug use was her downfall. That, combined with some heavy body dysmorphia sent her into a spiral. She fell into the wrong crowd, "a seedier crowd" and the drug use made her a "completely different person."
She was always known as a "good girl" and it was perhaps this pressure for her to live up to, that squeaky clean, unrealistic ideal that saw her go over the edge. She was never into alcohol, but used drugs from a very young age. "I started smoking marijuana when I was 16. Even though everyone thought I was the 'good girl,' I did smoke marijuana from that point on."
Add this to trying to cope with a life in the public eye and a struggle with body image and it's a recipe for some drastic measures. She said she remembers "reading an article in a magazine that [called Adderall] 'the new skinny pill' and they were talking about how women were taking it to stay thin. I was like, 'Well, I have to get my hands on that.'"
She recalls absolutely hating her appearance on screen in her last film Easy A and walking away from another for similar reasons. "I remember seeing my image on the screen and literally tripping out and thinking my arm looked so fat because it was in the foreground or whatever and I remember rushing off set and thinking, Oh my god, I look so bad... I saw it and I was convinced that I should never be on camera again."
"I don't know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people. It absolutely changed my perception of things."
She recalls having no life purpose after officially retiring from acting via Twitter, a move she wryly calls "stupid." "I just had no purpose in life. I'd been working my whole life and [now] I was doing nothing."
She also acknowledges the hurt and pain she caused others via social media but said the drugs made her someone else. "I'm really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said. I can't turn back time but if I could, I would. And I'm so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach and sad," Bynes said.
"My advice to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse would be to be really careful because drugs can really take a hold of your life. Everybody is different, obviously, but for me, the mixture really messed up my brain. It really made me a completely different person. I actually am a nice person. I would never feel, say or do any of the things that I did and said to the people I hurt on Twitter."
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For all the tweets on the actress' 'comeback,' the profile serves as much more than that - not even that. It's a raw, honest piece on self-reflection that aims to de-stigmatise mental illness and highlight the dangers of falling into drugs when you have no real support system to help you find a way out. Her ordeal sounds harrowing, that she went through an extremely dark time is undeniable. Because so many mocked the young women; judged her, dismissed her rants with pity as they saw another potential star fall from grace. They assumed she had a mental breakdown, boxed her with that and then forgot about her.
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But the fact that she has come out the other side and into the light, is more than admirable. She has, she says been sober and clean for four years. It isn't easy to acknowledge and know that you have to start over; that substance abuse has ruined your life so utterly. But Bynes uses her profile not only to demonstrate astute self-awareness, but to warn others that falling into a trap is all too easy.
"Be really, really careful because you could lose it all and ruin your entire life like I did."
She credits others, such as her parents, with helping her get her life on track, but due credit must be given to Bynes herself. She's happy, healthy and at last, is getting the rallying of support she deserves.
Featured image via Paper Magazine