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How Princess Diana Raised Crucial Awareness Around Eating Disorders

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royal wedding


This post discusses, in detail, bulimia and eating disorders. Information and help are available at wannatalkaboutit.com and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

In season 4 of The Crown, we meet Diana Spencer. Most fans of the show likely know her as Diana, Princess of Wales, a cultural icon and humanitarian, but when we first meet the future royal in the series, she’s 16 and dressed as a “mad tree” for a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In real life, just five weeks after Diana’s 20th birthday (and reportedly only 13 dates with her fiancé), Lady Spencer married 32-year-old Prince Charles—the heir to the British throne—in a global wedding spectacular.

But beyond the grandeur of the event and the elegance of the dress, there was a very private crisis happening in the young royal’s life. As The Crown documents, Diana was living with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that, she revealed in recordings featured in the documentary Diana in Her Own Words, started after her engagement to the Prince of Wales.

“I’d shrunk into nothing,” she says in the documentary. Her waist whittled down from 29 inches the first day she was measured for her wedding dress to 23-and-a-half inches on the day of her wedding. The night before her wedding, she was “sick as a parrot” after a “very bad fit of bulimia.”

“I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter, and I knew it,” she says.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day: July 29, 1981.

Princess Diana ArchiveGetty Images

The public first learned of Diana’s eating disorder in 1992, when biographer Andrew Morton published Diana: Her True Story. Diana herself had been the source for details about her illness. “The bulimia started the week after we got engaged,” the princess recorded herself saying. “My husband put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me. I remember the first time I made myself sick, I was so thrilled. I thought, ‘this is the release, the tension.’”

In 1995, Diana spoke directly about her bulimia in an interview with BBC journalist Martin Bashir. “I had bulimia for a number of years,” she said. “And that’s like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day—some do it more—and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It’s like having a pair of arms around you, but it’s temporarily, temporary. Then you’re disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach, and then you bring it all up again.”

This kind of openness, from someone whose every move was followed by the press, had a major impact on the stigma surrounding eating disorders.

Lauren Smolar, the Senior Director of Programs at the National Eating Disorders Association, tells ELLE.com that what followed is what people in the eating disorder community call “the Diana Effect“: “By sharing her story, Princess Diana encouraged people who recognized their own symptoms in her experience to seek diagnosis and treatment,” Smolar says.

Diana was a champion for those struggling with eating disorders. In a keynote address in 1993, she shared that she had met with young people living with the illness:

On a recent visit to The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, I met some young people who were suffering from eating disorders. With the help of some very dedicated staff, they and their parents were bravely learning to face together the deeper problems, which had been expressed through their disease. With time and patience and a considerable amount of specialist support, many of these young people will get well. They and their families will learn to become whole again. Sadly, for others, it will all be too late. Yes, people are dying through eating disorders.

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Smolar says Diana might’ve been one of the first public figures to speak about her eating disorder, and her courage and influence helped other celebrities do the same. “When high-profile figures speak up about their own struggles, it really helps people who are suffering feel less alone,” Smolar says. “When people with EDs see their experience is one that other people also deal with, and that there are treatment options available, they are more likely to seek help.” Smolar points to TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio, who revealed her eating disorder and shared a link to NEDA’s helpline in September. “The helpline was noticeably busier than usual and we had a 300 percent increase in website traffic,” Smolar says.

lady diana giving a talk on bulimia

Princess Diana speaks at the Eating Disorders 1993 conference in London.

Tim GrahamGetty Images

And just as Diana did not shy away from telling her story, neither did the popular (albeit fictionalized) Netflix show.

“I was very determined that I didn’t want it just to be alluded to—I didn’t want it just to be a flushing of the toilet or her wiping her mouth,” Emma Corrin, who portrays Diana, told Vogue. “I wanted you to see her experiencing it because she was so candid about her struggles with the media, which I think was incredibly ahead of her time.”

As Rolling Stone notes, The Crown crucially did not portray Diana’s recovery from the disease, which began in the late 1980s. “I suddenly realized what I was going to lose if I let go, and what was worth losing,” Diana says of pursuing treatment in Diana in Her Own Words. “That’s how I got involved with the shrink called Dr. Lipsedge… He asked all these questions, and I was able to be completely honest. He said, ‘I’m gonna come and see you once a week for now, and we’re just going to talk it through. He said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you.’ And when he said that, a door opened. I thought, well, maybe it’s not me. And he helped me get back my self-esteem.”

Evelyn Attia, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told Rolling Stone that it would benefit those in recovery to watch more than just scenes of Diana struggling with the disease. “I would always recommend that the impact of treatment be part of what is included in any portrayal of eating disorders,” says Attia. “We want to show recovery is possible. We want to show those types of outcomes. They’re important, they inspire people, and they educate people.”

I’ve lived with an eating disorder for a decade, and just a quick search on Twitter reveals I’m hardly the only person to feel a convergence of complicated feelings upon seeing Diana’s bulimia depicted in season 4. I’ll always be in recovery, but knowing that the real Diana was a champion for so many struggling with what often feels like a deeply shameful secret only makes me want to carry on her mission. If that’s you, please know you’ve never been—and never will be—alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or eating concerns, NEDA’s free, confidential Helpline is here to help by click-to-chat message, text message (text ‘NEDA’ to 741741) or phone (800-931-2237).

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Celebrity Couples With the Biggest Age Differences

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Celebrity Couples With the Biggest Age Differences


For these A-list couples, age is just a number.

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Kathryn Hahn Cast to Play Joan Rivers in a New Limited Series

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Kathryn Hahn Cast to Play Joan Rivers in a New Limited Series


Following her Emmy nomination for WandaVision, Kathryn Hahn has been tapped to portray Joan Rivers in a new limited series for Showtime, Variety reports. She’ll also co-executive produce the project, titled The Comeback Girl, which focuses on a trying period in Rivers’ life: after the cancellation of The Tonight Show (on which she was a frequent guest host) and her husband Edgar Rosenberg’s death by suicide.

The series will be directed by Greg Berlanti (Love, Simon) and written by Cosmo Carlson (Time Lost). Both will join Hahn as executive producers. Variety also shared a logline for the production:

“Trailblazer. Adored. Cruel. Diva. Joan Rivers had a life like no other. At age 54, she was a superstar comedienne…and then it all fell apart. The Comeback Girl is the awe-inspiring untold story of how Joan Rivers persevered through near suicide and professional abyss to rebuild herself and her career to become a global icon.”

Rivers, known for her sharp humor, passed away in 2014 at the age of 81. She was a trailblazing stand-up comic, who broke through in the 1960s New York comedy scene. After a falling out with The Tonight Show‘s Johnny Carson in ’86, she started the The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, becoming the first woman to host a late-night program. In the decades following, she carved out an expansive television career with highlights including The Joan Rivers Show and, later, The Fashion Police.

The Comeback Girl is just one of many projects Hahn has in the works, in addition to Apple TV+’s The Shrink Next Door and Rian Johnson’s long-awaited Knives Out 2. And, although nothing’s confirmed yet, WandaVision fans are still holding out for the return of her character, Agatha Harkness. “It would be fun to see what universe she could pop up in,” Hahn told Harper’s BAZAAR this summer, but further updates from Marvel have so far been slim. “They are so tight-lipped, who knows?”

In the meantime, we’ll just add The Comeback Girl to our ever-growing list of Hahn’s must-watch upcoming roles.

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Devery Jacobs on the Power of Indigenous Communities Owning Their Stories

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reservation dogs “satvrday'” episode 8 airs, monday, september 20 pictured l r paulina alexis as willie jack, d'pharaoh woon a tai as bear, devery jacobs as elora danan, lane factor as cheese cr shane brownfx


“I grew up inherently political and fueled with Mohawk pride.”

Resistance and revolution have always been instinctive to actress Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs. Like so many BIPOC women across the globe, she has a passion for creating space for her community and dismantling the systems that hold back many women like herself. Though we chat to discuss her role in the groundbreaking new show, Reservation Dogs, Jacobs is sure to shed light on missing Indigenous women, protests to build a pipeline in Minnesota, and the need to portray two-spirit folks on screen. “It’s so funny when I’m asked about which specific issues I’m passionate about and want to bring attention to; they’re all interwoven,” she tells ELLE.com on Zoom.

Jacobs, who grew up on Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory in Quebec, has long focused on community-based efforts outside of her love for acting and filmmaking. She founded the Kahnawà:ke Youth Forum where she led and organized protests and rallies. She was also an active participant in the Idle No More Movement. And as her star rises in Hollywood, she continues to honor her people and culture. “I grew up surrounded by language and culture and such a sense of pride of who I am and where I came from,” Jacobs says.

After starring in the 2013 award-winning film Rhymes for Young Ghouls and shows like American Gods and Canada’s The Order, Jacobs now plays Elora Danan Postoak, one of four lead characters in FX’s new dark comedy Reservation Dogs. Created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the series follows a group of four Indigenous teens who live on an Oklahoma reservation while working—sometimes unconventionally—toward their dream of a better life in California.

Although the series is not an outright political commentary, the underlying subtext of the show mirrors that of the lives of many young people of color: that our existence is inherently political. Who we are and the environments that shape us all tell a larger unspoken story. “We’re not monoliths,” Jacobs says. “We have 500 plus different nations and tribes across Turtle Island, let alone Indigenous people across the world.”

Amidst the calls for better representation in Hollywood, Reservation Dogs is one of the rare shows challenging the one-dimensional portrayals of Indigenous cultures we often see on screen. It doesn’t just “check the boxes” of representation. There are also Indigenous people working behind the scenes, behind the camera, and in the writers’ room—and that’s exactly how it should be. The series helps viewers understand “that Indigenous folks are still here and we’re complex and we’re funny and we’re thriving and we’re healing and we’re celebrating our stories because we have so much to share,” Jacobs says.

ELLE.com sat down with Jacobs and discussed the need to create more shows centered around two-spirit identity, the fight to stop the Line 3 pipeline, and how she prepared for the season finale of Reservation Dogs.

Reservation Dogs is such an incredible series. What was it like wrapping up season 1 on your last day of filming?

Sterlin had gotten each of us a blanket and had wrapped me in it. I was just an inconsolable, blubbering mess. There was a moment at the end of season 1, and I am not even an emotional person, but it just meant so much and felt like it was something that I’ve been fighting my entire career for. There was just a sense of relief like, “We did it. We accomplished what we set out to do,” and that was to tell the truth of our community and to honor the story of Daniel and where Sterlin’s from. For me, just to be able to play a character alongside my fellow Rez Dogs, I was so emo about it. It was so overwhelming.

Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear, Jacobs as Elora Danan, and Lane Factor as Cheese in Reservation Dogs.

FX

You and your costars have a brother-sister bond that is so authentic and genuine on screen. How did you build that over the course of shooting?

Very similarly to Elora Danan, I feel like a big sister to them. Although I feel like I’m way less moody than Elora is, and I’m not nearly as badass as her. But they didn’t need much support. I let them know that I was there if they needed, especially during the pilot with Lane [Factor, who plays Cheese]; this was his first audition ever and his first time acting. But they didn’t even need training wheels. They hopped on board and were just taking off running and are so great and such kind people and funny as hell. I have nothing but love for D’Pharaoh [Woon-A-Tai, who plays Bear], for Paulina [Alexis, who plays Willie Jack], and Lane, and the rest of the cast and crew. It was really awesome to be able to work with them.

You’ve mentioned that the hardest thing for you was leaving your reservation because in your community, family is a measure of wealth.

When people picture a reservation, or in Canada we call them reserves, they envision the images that they’ve seen in the media, which are among the poorest reservations in North America, when that’s not actually the case for all people. We’re not monoliths. We have 500 plus different nations and tribes across Turtle Island, let alone Indigenous people across the world. My community, Kahnawà:ke, borders a major city, Montreal. I had the best of both worlds, where I grew up on the dead end of a dirt road in the middle of the bush, and I could also drive for 20 minutes and be in downtown Montreal. I had a lot of access and because we were so close to a major city, there was a lot of economic prosperity in my community and the standard of living is pretty much on par with mainstream Canada.

I grew up surrounded by language and culture and such a sense of pride of who I am and where I came from that I never saw a reason to leave. I didn’t think that I needed to.

For many of those reasons, a lot of hardships that other Indigenous communities face is not felt as deeply on my rez. I grew up in a place that was so proud of being Kahnawà:ke. I grew up in the legacy of the 1990 Oka Crisis, which is when the Mohawk nation had a 78-day standoff with the Canadian army. I grew up inherently political and fueled with Mohawk pride. My grandmother was principal of the Mohawk Immersion Elementary School, and me and my younger sisters attended an adult immersion Mohawk program. So, I have fluent speakers of Mohawk in my family.

I grew up surrounded by language and culture and such a sense of pride of who I am and where I came from that I never saw a reason to leave. I didn’t think that I needed to. My leaving Kahnawà:ke was more in pursuit of this career and this life that I wanted to live than it was trying to run away from something. Whereas it is the case for Elora in Reservation Dogs. [She had a] deep-seated belief that that place was the reason, and one of the contributing factors as to why Daniel [her late best friend] couldn’t handle it. This place killed him, is what Elora says. That was a little bit difficult delving into Elora and feeling that sense of disdain and needing to escape from the place that you came from, because my experience and upbringing was so different from hers. But when I was able to find my way, it was so powerful, and it really flooded me with Elora.

Without giving too much away, what do you think lies ahead for Elora in season 2?

For Elora, but for everyone else as well, I think we’re going to see a greater scope of the world than we currently have. There is so much that happens in Indigenous communities that the writer’s room is bubbling over with ideas of what to do, because this is one of the first opportunities, we’ve been afforded to explore our worlds and tell our stories. For me, growing up in my community, our weekend was a huge time of drama, and competition, and flashiness, and snagging, and hooking up, and everything in between. There’s so much in this world that we’ve only scratched the surface of. In season 2, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this town and the world that these kids are growing up in.

devery jacobs

Mauricio J. Calero

Throughout the show there are underlying messages surrounding environmentalism, land rights, and people impeding on Indigenous land. Outside of the show you’ve been very vocal about how these issues overlap.

That’s so true. It’s so funny when I’m asked about which specific issues I’m passionate about and want to bring attention to, they’re all interwoven. Whether it’s the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, whether it’s the issue of pipelines—right now the Line 3 pipeline is being built and there are so many Indigenous water protectors and land defenders who were fighting against it. There are so many overlapping components to it: It’s environmental because it is uprooting earth and it is extracting oil and is unsustainable for the environment. It’s a human rights issue because if and when the pipeline bursts, it’ll affect the drinking water of millions of people. It’s also an Indigenous rights issue because it’s impeding on and going against the treaty rights that were formed in that territory. Whether it’s land, whether it’s Indigenous rights, whether it’s issues that our community faces, they are all rooted and are interwoven with each other. They’re one and the same.

I completely agree. I think there is rarely equal media attention given to any of those human rights violations, even though they all intersect on colonialism.

Yes, and I would say Stop Line 3 is one of them. In the territories where there are oil fields, which are typically in areas with high Indigenous population, the women and two-spirit folks from those communities experience violence at a staggering rate versus areas that did not have oil fields and “man camps.” The issue of Line 3 would be one that I’d like to push for, as well as the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, but also residential schools and Indian boarding schools. Over a thousand bodies have been found of Indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their homes and made to attend these schools so that they could “kill the Indian and save the man.”

I don’t think it’s getting nearly enough media attention. … It’s a very heavy subject, but it’s American history and it’s important. It’s North American history. So often in the U.S., stories of Indigenous folks being modern are erased, and I firmly believe that we cannot move forward in a positive way towards healing if not for acknowledging the history of what’s happened to Indigenous peoples in North America.

It also applies to North American education and politics and school curriculum, because that’s where the erasure starts and then it kind of funnels into the media. Which is why it is great to have a show like Reservation Dogs.

It’s wild to see how much media has an impact on people and their interest in learning about history. And Reservation Dogs isn’t necessarily a political show; we don’t have conversations like that. It’s about kids living their lives and mourning the fifth member of their group and their best friend, Daniel. But it’ll still have lasting impacts by creating visibility for Indigenous folks. I look at shows like Watchmen—because we filmed Reservation Dogs in Okmulgee, which is the capital of Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, and also culturally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I know that because we filmed in Tulsa and I had learned a lot about the area. Even in Oklahoma and in Tulsa, the Tulsa massacre on Black Wall Street [wasn’t included in the school curriculum] until [after] it aired on Watchmen with Regina King. Which is honestly astounding and ridiculous. But I will say that the media had that impact, and the media forced that place to hold a mirror to itself. That’s what I think Reservation Dogs has the potential to do in North America and America specifically, to show that Indigenous folks are still here and we’re complex and we’re funny and we’re thriving and we’re healing and we’re celebrating our stories because we have so much to share.

devery jacobs

Mauricio J. Calero

Right. And I think it would be great if we can get to a space for communities of color to tell intersectional stories, which is something you’ve been vocal of, particularly seeing more two-spirit stories.

Absolutely. In Reservation Dogs we do have someone who is two-spirit a part of the show. While we’re not having conversations about identity, I think that it has such an influence on our world and in the show inadvertently. I had the opportunity to work with Tommy Pico, who is a writer and who is out and queer. Also had the privilege of working with Sydney Freeland, who is trans, and Navajo, and queer. Also Elva Guerra, who’s two-spirit, non-binary, who plays the role of Jackie. While we’re not overtly having conversations [about sexual identity on the show], it seeps into the fabric of the world of what we’re creating and it’s just so beautiful.

Unfortunately, I got used to being the only Indigenous person on set, let alone the only queer Indigenous person on set. And being a part of a show like Reservation Dogs was such a sigh of relief. We could just take a breath, we all knew what we were doing, we had a shorthand because we understood what we were trying to make, and we just got to do it. There was no explaining, or second guessing, or having to cater and spoon-fed to a non-Indigenous audience. We just got to make the shit we wanted to make.

This has been such a transformative year for you. Do you have any new projects that we can keep an eye out for?

Yes! I am also a filmmaker and Sterlin Harjo knew me because he saw my short film that I’ve written and directed. You can stay tuned for more projects that I’ll be working on in front of and behind the camera. The next project that I’m going to have coming out will be released in early 2022. I also voiced an animated series that I’m really excited about, it’s called ARK: The Animated Series, based on the video game. I act alongside Zahn McClarnon, who plays Big in Reservation Dogs. But also, I work with legendary icons who I just completely geeked out over when I was cast. People like Elliot Page and Michelle Yeoh and David Tennant and Gerard Butler and Vin Diesel as well as Madeleine Madden, who is an Indigenous Australian actress. It’s an exciting series. I’m a big fan of animated shows and anime!

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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