Lena Dunham is looking back at the fierce criticism she received for her body in her 20s.
In a new interview with the Observer, the Catherine Called Birdy director, 36, spoke candidly about the rampant analysis of her body as she rose to stardom on HBO's Girls. Dunham often appeared nude on the show, and became a lightning rod for criticism as a result.
"The funny thing is, now I’m much ‘curvier,' 'bigger,' whatever, than I was in my 20s it’s wild to me that THAT was the body everybody critiqued: the body of an anxious, emaciated, aching person," Dunham told the U.K. publication, citing her lengthy battle with endometriosis, a disease of the reproductive system in which cells grow outside the uterus, and addiction to benzodiazepines.
"I look at her and can’t believe that little hurting girl was subjected to this," she added. "What does that say to everybody else in the world? Now I’m able to very proudly be in the body I’m in, recognizing what it’s taken to get here.”
Back then, the nonstop attacks on her body were "a trauma all of its own," said the actress and writer. Growing up in a feminist household, she says she "wasn’t hit with the signal that I was not ‘correctly formed’ until the public really let me know."
At the time, Dunham — who shared how one of her nurses even questioned her about her on-screen nudity — tried to tune out the negative attention.
"I had always thought there was something crude or superficial about caring how people responded to me, so I tried really hard in my 20s to act as if I didn’t notice," she said. “I thought I could receive all this input about what a hideous cow I was and also hold on to this feeling that I am essentially, you know, lovely?”
Dunham's endometriosis pain was so severe that she had five operations in an attempt to stop it, and even collapsed at the 2017 Met Gala. She checked into a hospital, and told doctors she wouldn’t leave until they either stopped the pain or removed her uterus and cervix. Ultimately, she underwent a full hysterectomy.
“I struggled with this idea, that I had chosen my own health over being able to bear children. But really it wasn’t a choice at all because the person I would have continued to be had I remained in that kind of pain would not have been a person I could really live as," Dunham explained.
The constant criticism "contributed to the formation of self. And I stopped being a person that I liked.” It encouraged her to take a break from the public eye, and she decided to check into rehab to deal with her pill addiction.
Now married to musician Luis Felber and exploring new career ventures, Dunham says she's found a greater sense of peace these days.
“One thing my 20s did is made me quite bored of the sound of my own name," she concluded. "Now I find I’m way more interested in saying: ‘Enough about me — who are you?’”
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