When Elisha Cuthbert played an ex-porn star in 2004's The Girl Next Door, it solidified her reputation as a sex symbol. Now, nearly two decades later, the actress is sharing how that attention turned toxic.
In an interview on the podcast Broad Ideas with Rachel Bilson, Cuthbert, 39, spoke about how she was encouraged by studio executives at the time in her career to appear on men's magazines like Maxim and FHM, publications known for photoshoots over-sexualizing young actresses.
"There was really no option back then," she said of posing for men's magazines in the early 2000s. "That's what the [film] studio wanted you to do."
Over the years, the 24 alum has topped several "hot lists" for such publications — like in 2013, when Maxim named her the "most beautiful woman in television." In hindsight, she says titles like that never held anything of real substance.
"It's not like I won an Olympic medal. It was just some list some random magazine decided to create," she said. "When someone reads my bio, those things come up. They actually don't mean anything in regards to me as a person or my career."
Cuthbert acknowledges that at the time, these types of photoshoots were commonplace.
"We kinda ended up in a space at the time where that was really happening. I mean, Halle Berry was doing it, for God's sake ... Jennifer Aniston was doing it," she said. "We were probably too young to be subjected to that, and feeling pressured to do that."
Many of those images are still in circulation, Cuthbert explained, which is something she's come up against time and again.
"This is what I have to explain to my kids. This weird, bizarre outfit and hair extensions. And you know what's so crazy? I don't even know how much of those pictures are even accurate as far as, like, airbrushing … I was in my early 20s. I didn't look bad, but did I look that? I don't even know if the fantasy's real."
There is a silver lining, though.
Cuthbert said she uses those experiences to educate her young children — daughter Zaphire, 4, and son, Fable, who is six months old, both of whom she shares with her husband, former professional hockey player Dion Phaneuf — about the importance of self-love.
"If I can take what I know now about having two children, and going back, I would be so much kinder to myself," she explained. "Luckily, I didn't have any eating issues or anything like that, but I definitely got caught up in that wanting to live up to what everyone was expecting of us, which is [to be] the 'hottest woman in the world.' It's like what? I'm an actress. I’m not Gisele [Bündchen], what in the world? I'm 5'2" with little legs and height. It was kind of ridiculous."
In the years following, Cuthbert has focused on her health, mind and body in a more positive way.
"At this point in my life, I’m working hard to stay in shape and be as healthy as I possibly can, especially with kids and life and age," she said. "I feel like there's better ways to filter that those times of the FHMs ... that was so crazy ... Living up to these ridiculous standards, it's just not reality."
Her latest role in the supernatural horror flick, The Cellar, in which she plays a mother of two, presented an opportunity for the actress to show the world what a real mom looks like.
"It was the first movie I got a chance to really go, 'This is what I look like at this age.' I really didn't have a ton of makeup for [the role] because obviously she's going through hell and back so there was really no point in being this glamorous mother of two," she explained. "It was nice to go, you know, it’s time to take my career into another direction of maturity and have it reflect the age that I'm at and not try to play this role in this of sugarcoated version of [a woman at 39]. I wanted it to feel as raw and as real as possible. It's very hard to do and to keep it something you still want to look at. That's where I'm finding the art of it. You want to be appealing and you want it to be something nice to look at, but at the same time you want it to be authentic."
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