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Actors Joshua Peck, Sebastian Stan and Lili Reinhart just got refreshingly honest about their body image struggles


By Sarah Finnan
10th Mar 2022
Actors Joshua Peck, Sebastian Stan and Lili Reinhart just got refreshingly honest about their body image struggles

The trio of Hollywood elite has opened up about their struggles, assuring fans that they’re not alone in having low periods or feeling down about how they look.

As a job that entails being on camera for the large majority of the day, people often look at actors and assume that they’re brimming with confidence – and while I’m sure that’s true of some stars, it’s not true of all. 

Continuously putting themselves at the mercy of the public – be that directly, through their social media, or indirectly, through their work – being scrutinised comes as part and parcel of the job. But, as many famous celebrities have already pointed out, that inevitably takes its toll on a person… and it can have detrimental effects. It’s ultimately what drove Drake & Josh actor Joshua Peck to addiction. 

Not enough 

Opening up about his battle with drugs and alcohol for the first time in his new memoir,  Happy People Are Annoying,  Peck admitted that dealing with such constant judgement and ridicule really impacted how he saw himself. “Hollywood life was often the setting for some very painful times in his life, including a public weight struggle and a years-long drug addiction,” a new People profile on the star points out.

“I was always looking for something outside to fix my insides,” said Peck, who has been sober since 2008. “But eventually I realised that whether my life was beyond my wildest dreams or a total mess, it didn’t change the temperature of what was going on in my mind. I knew that nothing in the outside world would make me feel whole.”

Teased relentlessly because of his size, Josh used comedy as a “natural defence mechanism”. Recognising that he had quite a few unhealthy habits in place, the actor made some changes to his diet and exercise routine and reportedly dropped a whole lot of weight as a result… but he still wasn’t happy. “It became clear that once I lost the weight that I was the same head in a new body,” he continued. “What is really clear is that I overdo things. And then I discovered drugs and alcohol. And that became my next chapter. I used food and drugs to numb my feelings.”

Inner monologue

Experimenting with drugs and alcohol from his mid-teens into his early 20s, Peck said that it was definitely an outlet for him to try and escape from his insecurities and pain. “It really was a buffet,” he noted. “I had this illusion of becoming more confident and attractive when I was partaking. I was trying to quiet that voice that woke me up every morning and told me I wasn’t enough.”

Everything he had worked so hard for suffered though and Peck soon had a reputation for being “unstable and erratic”. Prompted to join a treatment centre to get sober, the actor managed to get clean and has stayed that way for close to 15 years now. “By walking through discomfort and by doing my best to break down the false identity I had for myself, I was able to get to the place that I was always seeking. I’m just trying to do good work that makes people happy.”

“It took me a really long time to love the 15-year-old version of me, but now I understand how strong he was. And I feel like everything in my life set me up to find this chapter of health, peace and contentment.”

Unfortunately, male stars talking about their body image struggles is a rarity in Hollywood. Peck is certainly not alone in his experience though, and Pam & Tommy actor Sebastian Stan also recently detailed his own experience in this department. 

Role requirements

The internet’s attention has been focused on Lily James’ impressive transformation into Pamela Anderson since last summer, but what many didn’t realise is that Stan actually had to undergo a metamorphosis of his own too… one that involved much more than just drawing on a few fake tattoos and a new nipple piercing. 

Already having spent years bulking to play comic book antihero Buck Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter soldier, in many big Marvel movies, Stan had to lose a drastic amount of weight in order to more closely resemble the infamous Mötley Crüe drummer, Tommy Lee. In fact, according to the actor himself, it was the most difficult physical process he’s ever gone through in his career thus far. 

“I was trying to lose weight and I still felt I didn’t lose enough weight,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “And people were telling me I was crazy and going, ‘You have body dysmorphia now’ – which I always did anyway.”

Used to exercising regularly as a result of past Marvel roles, Stan’s Pam & Tommy routine took things even further and the actor essentially ran himself into the ground to try and lose as much weight as possible. “I was just running and trying to get 20,000 steps a day, and then I was fasting for 16 to 18 hours a day. And that definitely does something, especially if you’re [driving] in traffic. But I’m proud of the whole thing.” 

Mountains to climb

Stan may be proud of his commitment to the role, but his methods are far from healthy – especially considering subsequent comments he made which claim that “anybody that even has a healthy physique to some extent has body dysmorphia”. 

“Once you’re going into a peak, the best look possible, which by the way, I don’t care what they say, unless there’s like, magic formulas out there – which there are but some of us are not in that pocket – your body can only be at peak 100% for like maybe a week or something. At least, how I’ve experienced it; and I mean diet and exercise and tanning and water and lighting and everything. And then you spend the rest of the time going, ‘I’m not what I used to be.’ But it’s just all in the head.”

Immediately intimidated by the physical differences between himself and Lee, Stan was hesitant to take on the role and it actually took quite a lot of convincing from director Craig Gillespie for him to do so. “When Craig Gillespie called me and said he wanted me to play this part, I thought it was a joke. I don’t think I felt good about it… I don’t think I felt like I could do this until the camera test, the first time we applied the tattoos and the piercings and the costume and the hair was dyed and the whole thing.”

“It was always difficult because I just wasn’t the same frame as him. I had to lose so much weight, and the drums were a real pressure for me; I’d never played any instrument before and I had to learn. The whole thing felt like this just ginormous mountain to climb and there was always a little bit of an unsettling feeling about it. But I thrive well in discomfort, especially at work. It pushes you and as long as you can manage and handle it well, you can grow from it.”

Obsessive thoughts

Body image issues are something that Riverdale actor Lili Reinhart has also spoken openly about in the past, regularly detailing her battle with both acne and body dysmorphia on social media. 

Taking the opportunity to get real with people about how she’s been feeling recently, Reinhart revealed that things have actually been very tough for her as of late. “I’ve been struggling with obsessive thoughts about my body/weight the last few months and it’s gotten pretty severe in the last week,” she wrote on Instagram earlier this year. “So, I want to take a moment to be vulnerable and share this in the hope that any of you who are also struggling don’t feel so alone. I’m here with you.”

“It’s challenging to look at your body with love instead of criticism,” she continued. “It’s a practice I’m still learning. I didn’t think being in this industry, that is so obsessed with women’s bodies and weights, could ever mess with my own body acceptance and positivity… but it has.”

Like many other women her age, Lili’s self-image has been warped by things such as diet culture and the media’s obsession with “only one size of women”. It’s taken a lot of conscious unlearning to remind herself of her worth, but it’s something she’s committed to doing. “My body has carried me through 25 years of life. All my scars, tears, trauma… I wish I could love it more, even when it doesn’t look like it did when I was 20. But I’m trying. I know my body deserves equal love and admiration at any size. 

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been a “devastating” process at times though. Often left feeling “betrayed” that her body has changed, Lili said that she’s spent hours in front of the mirror poring over what she “should” look like. It’s painful to think hundreds of millions of us are so concerned with what our bodies look like,” she noted. “That’s an incredibly broken system. Somewhere along the line, humanity really f*cked this one up.” 

Why lay her insecurities out so bare for all to see? Because she knows she’s not alone in “this toxic way of thinking”. “It’s heartbreaking that this feeling is understood by so many of us. Let’s continue to talk about it. Normalise it. Empathise with others. Show compassion and kindness,” she urged. 

Body dysmorphia

Getting candid about the toll that both her skin woes and her body dysmorphia have had on her throughout her career, Lili shared a similar message back in November when she admitted that sometimes things get so bad that she wants to “crawl under a rock and hide”. 

Especially when her worst days coincide with big shoots where she’s needed on set for hours. As those of us who have struggled with skin problems will know, even one single spot can be confidence-crushing. Our blemishes may be the least of our peer’s worries, but usually, it’s all we can think about… which must be all the more difficult for Reinhart given her line of work and the fact that she’s always being watched (be that on screen, on set or IRL).

We all know that social media is a facade, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else is perfect all the same. 

Actors especially are often glamourised to a degree that feels unrelatable. They spend hours in hair and makeup, are given access to the best beauty treatments, and generally have a team of personal chefs, stylists, and trainers to help them look their best. Celebrity attempts to share their vulnerabilities can sometimes come off as forced as a result. Take the time supermodel Bella Hadid bemoaned the fact that she only got her first pair of Louboutins when she graduated high school. In her head, this probably made her relatable – she didn’t have designer clothes growing up either! She’s just like you! The sentiment was lost in the delivery though and her attempts to come across as salt-of-the-earth were sullied by privilege. 

Peck, Stan and Reinhart are some of the few whose vulnerability feels real. They’ve dealt with confidence issues, body dysmorphia and cystic acne respectively and they’ve each spoken about it in their own ways. Their realities are still worlds away from the daily mundanities we face in our own lives, but their struggles are innately human which makes them relatable.