The characters on Pretty Little Liars may spend their days battling the mysterious A and dating sociopaths, but its the cast’s off screen struggles that are far more relateable to viewers. Troian Bellisario, who plays type A perfectionist Spencer Hastings, is the latest Liar to confess to having issues with body image and self-harm. In an interview with Seventeen she admits her problems began in high school.
“I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school… I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, so I think I created this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world. But it really backfired.”
Bellisario is not alone. Her co-stars Lucy Hale and Shay Mitchell have both admitted to past eating disorders, while Ashley Benson has spoken out about being over-photo shopped on the show’s promotional advertisements.
Actresses face unrealistic body expectations to begin with, but let’s take a moment to consider the pressures put upon the actresses who play fictional high school students. Fans may be shocked to find out that at 28, Bellisario is 10 years older than the character she portrays. Her co-stars are also well into their 20s with Hale being the youngest at 24. As a fellow 28-year-old, I am ecstatic when I get pity carded at the bar. I bid farewell to my teen self a long time ago. I doubt I could ever get back into one of those Abercrombie & Fitch pleated skirts even if I wanted to. I can’t imagine how a group of adult women stay sane when they are supposed to look like teenagers for a living.
Bellisario still feels the pressure telling Seventeen:
“Sometimes I feel like I’m trying too hard, like I don’t belong. I just look around at Lucy [Hale], Shay [Mitchell], and Ashley [Benson], and I’m just like, Why am I on this show? Sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud. Like, I’m not like these other girls – I don’t dress like that and don’t know how to do my hair. The minute I’m off that stage, I try to get as “me” as possible. I do that by piling on my black eyeliner, and I put on my ripped tights. Dressing like myself again helps.”
Thankfully, Bellisario seems to have a strong support system in Benson, who took time to tweet her encouragement.