Behind the glitz and the glamour of the red carpet, it’s easy to forget that celebrities are human too. Yep, they may look super-human, but behind the Hollywood veneer they have the same human foibles as the rest of us, and they aren’t immune to life’s hard knocks either. We thought we’d pay tribute to the celebs who refuse to toe the my-life-is-perfect Hollywood PR line by getting real about the real-life challenges they face. Take inspiration from these strong women, who have battled some heart-wrenching situations and come out fighting.
“As I get more successful, insecurities only pile on top of one another” – Olivia Wilde
On childhood struggles
She’s clear that her feelings towards her mother Jaid aren’t all negative, but Drew Barrymore says the two women can’t “be in each other’s lives” thanks to her tumultuous upbringing. “When I was a kid, everything was so unplanned, my parents were so erratic, and my world was so inconsistent,” she told Marie Claire in 2014. “I was 14 when I moved into my own apartment. I was so scared. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know that you had to throw food out when it rotted in the fridge. I was convinced someone was going to crawl through my window. I would go to the laundromat and sit there reading Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath.” Having her own child helped the situation somewhat, though. “I’ve always been empathetic towards my mom, and even more so when I had a kid and we had a really amazing conversation about it. My relationship with my mom is so complicated. It’s the hardest subject in my life. I’ve never just been angry with her; I’ve always felt guilt and empathy and utter sensitivity. [But this] hasn’t enabled me to lessen the distance. I hated growing up alone. I hated it.”
On feeling like a fraud
“It’s called Imposter Syndrome. I’m just thinking: ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am’” – Emma Watson
Being married to – and subsequently divorced from – one of the most famous men in the world took its toll on Nicole Kidman. The actress opened up about her 2001 split from Tom Cruise during the recent Women In The World Summit in London, describing it as the “loneliest” time in her life. After her ex called time on their 10-year marriage, Nicole immersed herself in work, ultimately winning an Oscar for her role in The Hours in 2003. “To be completely honest, I was running away from my life at that time. I wasn’t able to handle the reality of my life,” she told the summit. “As an actor, the wonderful thing is you can become something else for a time. Out of that came work that was applauded so that was an interesting thing for me.”
She shared with the audience her realisation that she couldn’t run away from her problems by hiding in her characters. “I embraced my own life, which took a number of years... That culminated in winning an Oscar and that caused an epiphany — this is not the answer. I was sitting in the Beverly Hills Hotel with a gold statue and I was the loneliest I’d ever been. I was jolted out of the idea that ‘this is gonna heal me,’” she explained. Her path back to happiness came only when she “slowed down”, she says. “I did a lot of reading and a lot of talking, I managed through about five or six years and then I stumbled into Keith,” referring to her current husband, country singer Keith Urban.
Last December, in an interview with the Evening Standard in London, the 48-year-old talked about the life lessons she has taken away from her divorce. “Be the best you can be, not the worst, and think of the children.” Adding to Who magazine “I got married really fast and really young, but I don’t regret that because it got me [adopted children] Bella and Connor, and I did have a fantastic marriage for a long period.”
British TV personality and commentator Katie Hopkins recently aimed her fat-shaming tweets at American singer Kelly Clarkson writing, “Did she eat all of her backing singers? Happily I have wide-screen.” Adding, “Kelly Clarkson had a baby a year ago. That is no longer baby weight. That is carrot cake weight.”
But the singer – who gave birth to baby River in 2014 – fired back with finesse, telling Heat magazine. “Oh, she’s tweeted something nasty about me? That’s because she doesn’t know me. I’m awesome! It doesn’t bother me. It’s a free world. Say what you will.”
She added, “I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and I’m confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family – I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
On postnatal depression
Nashville star Hayden Panettiere revealed to her Twitter followers last month that she was checking herself into rehab for treatment for postnatal depression. The 26-year-old tweeted, “The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life. Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!” The message comes seven months after the star first admitted herself to a rehab facility for treatment for the disorder.
The actress has been open about her battle with the illness following the birth of her daughter Kaya in December 2014, her first child with boxer husband Wladimir Klitschko. Last September, she addressed the issue on Live! With Kelly And Michael when talking about her Nashville character Juliette Barnes’ battle with the condition. “I can very much relate. It’s something a lot of women experience. When [you are told] about postpartum depression you think it’s ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child; I want to injure or hurt my child.’ I’ve never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don’t realise how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”
She added, “There’s a lot of misunderstanding. There’s a lot of people out there who think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, that ‘Oh, it’s hormones.’ They brush it off. It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.’
In a recent interview with Yahoo Style, the former Heroes star again addressed common misconceptions about postnatal depression. “It’s like, you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said of people who question postpartum depression. “If you think for one second that a mother wants to feel that way toward her child, you’re outta your mind. It is one of the most debilitating, scary, guilty feelings that you can ever feel. That a mother would not be able to connect with their child, would not be able to get a grip, or would not know what’s going on, for anybody to say that it’s false or created by us, you must have your head examined.”
On eating disorders
In the summer of 2014, American singer Kesha opened up about the eating disorder that caused her to check into a rehab facility. Writing an opinion piece for Elle UK, the musician wrote, “I’ve always tried to be a crusader for loving yourself, but I’d been finding it harder and harder to do personally. I felt like part of my job was to be as skinny as possible, and to make that happen, I had been abusing my body. I just wasn’t giving it the energy it needed to keep me healthy and strong. My brain told me to just suck it up and press on, but in my heart I knew that something had to change. So I made the decision to practise what I preach. I put my career on hold and sought treatment. I had to learn to treat my body with respect.”
The singer also addressed her battle in an interview with Vogue last year, saying, “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s been quite a journey. I went to a dark place. There was a lot of not eating – and I started to think that being hungry to the point of feeling almost faint was a positive thing.”
After talking to her mum, she checked into rehab in January 2014. “I went to an eating-disorder-specific rehab [facility] where a nutritionist taught me that food is a positive thing for your body. I realised being healthy is the most important thing I can do for myself. Now, I’m trying to embrace the skin I’m in. It’s difficult sometimes.”
On mental health
As a spokesperson for Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health, US singer Demi Lovato has spoken publically about her battles with mental illness. At the National Council of Behavioral Health’s Hill Day in Washington DC, she admitted to having suicidal thoughts from as early as seven years old, while as a teen, she battled eating disorders, self-harm and substance addiction. “I knew at a young age that some of my behaviours were a problem,” the 23-year-old told Elle.com. “When I was bulimic, I knew it was a problem. When I was anorexic, I knew it was a problem. But I wasn’t in a place where I could quit by myself.” In 2010, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Getting the diagnosis kind of explained why I would act out,” she says. “So when I was diagnosed, I went back and told my manager and my parents and my closest friends. I was like, ‘Hey, so I’m bipolar… that’s why’.” Her diagnosis motivated her to reach out and help other people with mental health issues.
“You know, entering rehab while you’re on the Disney Channel, it was kind of like, everything was magnified, in the spotlight. It’s quite the headline. And I couldn’t get around it. So I thought, you know, I can use this to help others. And that’s what I did.”
On being cheated on
Eva Longoria was refreshingly candid about her 2011 divorce from husband Tony Parker after finding out he had reportedly cheated on her with a mutual friend. “I am so secure in who I am. I really am! And I’m not conceited. I just think, ‘Wow, OK, that’s the life you want to live,’” she said on US show The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet. “It wasn’t about who he chose. I had moments of, ‘OK, I’m not sexy enough? I’m not pretty enough? Am I not smart enough?’ Then I immediately stopped,” she said, explaining that told herself off quickly: “No, no, no – don’t start doing that. Because you can get stuck in that cycle and you can carry that on to other things.”
Eva even described confronting her ex about the hundreds of inappropriate texts between him and Erin Barry, the ex-wife of his teammate.
“Even having the conversation, I really wanted to provide a pillow for him to say and express ‘the why.’ Because I really wanted to know why,” she said. “’I don’t want to judge you. I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to be mad in this moment. I’ll be mad later.’”
The former Desperate Housewives actress added, “People say, ‘What grace!’ and it wasn’t that. I really wanted to know, and if you genuinely want to get something out of somebody, you have to not judge.”
She acknowledged that her ex cheating “was definitely not about me” and hearing about it “didn’t make me feel better, but it helped me understand.”