Shailene Woodley is speaking out about the pressure she's faced during her 25-year acting career — and sharing more about the private health ordeal that left her bed-ridden while filming the Divergent trilogy.
Woodley, who turns 30 in November, was 5 years old when she first started acting. Next up in The Last Letter from Your Lover, the newly engaged star has opened up to the Observer Magazine about some of the negative Hollywood experiences she's encountered along the way.
"You audition almost every single day," the Big Little Lies actress said of dealing with rejection as a young actress. "You get told ‘no’ a thousand times. You get one yes and it’s soooo exciting. And then you get told ‘no’ another thousand times.”
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According to Woodley, she was told she "shouldn't audition any more" as a teen because she had acne; she was later advised to go on birth control in hopes that it would help clear up her skin. The former Secret Life of the American Teenager star felt pressured to be "more cosmopolitan — to dress a certain way, to think a certain way, to not say certain things.”
At the time, Woodley brushed off those criticisms and continued to live life on her own terms, from going off the grid and couch-surfing to waxing poetic about the benefits of sunbathing naked. Ultimately, however, self-doubt began to creep in.
"I was so strong-headed and free-willed, so rooted in the core of who I was,” she tells the publication of that time. “But in my mid-20s I went through a couple of years feeling insecure about the choices I was making, believing the opinions of others a little bit too much, not staying on my path.”
Comparing herself to other actresses fueled these feelings of "massive insecurity and self-doubt."
"I had a couple of years where comparison was really detrimental to my mental health," she shared, adding that she was suddenly occupied by thoughts like: "Am I eating the right f***ing breakfast foods? Is this what I want to do? Am I this enough? Am I that enough?”
She continued, "life had felt good, pretty solid, and I’d been unwavering in who I am, and then…”
Woodley, who also declined to discuss her engagement to NFL star Aaron Rodger for the interview as "we're trying to keep it as private as possible," said she has since come to embrace her "hippy" image rather than worry about what her Hollywood peers are doing.
"I mean, I used to get offended by that," she admitted of the label. "But now I’m just like, ‘Great, you want to call me a hippy? So many things about the hippy movement were f***ing beautiful, I’m all about it.’”
“When I was talking about these things 10 or 15 years ago, it was before people knew what environmentalism was," she added. :The most environmental thing you could do then was recycle. There wasn’t a lot of narrative around these things. So of course you’re going to be ostracised in some way, be labelled as ‘other,’ because it’s not mainstream... Now? Every single f***ing influencer or model or CEO is talking about this! Look, I don’t take offense at being called ‘The Hippy of Hollywood’ if it means one or two people are going to learn some things.”
Woodley again mentioned the health battle she's previously described as "pretty debilitating," but has declined to name the specific cause. The ordeal happened while she filmed the Divergent trilogy, released in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
"You know, health is one of those things where, unless something is very visible, unless you can see someone has a broken leg, it’s such a personal battle, it’s such a private battle," she shared. “It’s weird to have huge movies coming out and premiering while you’re laying in bed not able to move going, ‘Oh, f**k.’”
She added, "All I’ll say is that I feel so grateful to be alive.”