‘I felt so alone for so long': Downton's Lady Sybil actress Jessica Brown Findlay admits she's been battling an eating disorder since the age of 14
Published: 21:47 BST, 23 March 2017 | Updated: 08:27 BST, 24 March 2017
Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay has revealed she has been battling an eating disorder for 13 years, and blamed society’s idea of beauty for fuelling body image issues.
The 27-year-old criticised the pressure put on young people to conform to ‘certain ideas of beauty' and their measures of success.
Explaining that she had opened up about her own struggles in a bid to help others, she called for ‘mature conversation’ about mental health and depression.
Brave confession: Downton's Lady Sybil actress Jessica Brown Findlay has bravely revealed this week that she has been battling an eating disorder since 14
The former ballerina, who danced for a summer season with the Kirov Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London when she was just 15, said she hoped that admitting to her own issues would help others in the same boat, and called for ‘mature conversation’ about depression.
She added: ‘I’m doing Hamlet, and it explores a lot about mental health, and... I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 14.
‘We can feed certain ideas of what beauty is and what success is. There has to come a time where those aren’t the rules any more. Then we can have a mature conversation about what that is about, and about depression.’
Miss Findlay said that keeping her eating disorder secret for so long had been an isolating experience, adding: ‘I felt so alone for so long, and I just hid.
Speaking out: Jessica played Lady Sybil Craley in the ITV drama until 2012
‘Then I started talking and held my head up and instead of saying sorry decided to tell myself that I matter. For a while, I really shied away from things.
‘It’s about learning to stand up and say, “This is me, and that’s OK”. I’m not going to be a better actor if I’m a dress size smaller. It’s nothing to do with my brain.’
Although Miss Findlay did not specify which type of eating disorder she had struggled with, the actress said she had been in therapy, which made her appraise herself and decide that ‘I was going to help myself feel safe and good and healthy’.
She told the Daily Telegraph: ‘If you are lucky enough to speak and be heard, it might be useful to others.
Jumping ship: Having found fame beside Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley (centre) and Laura Carmichael (right) as Lady Edith Crawley, Jessica was the first of the stars to leave the show
‘The more we have brave discussions like that, the easier it is to talk about things, and the less alone we can feel. It’s certainly made me feel less alone.’
Miss Findlay gave up ballet at 19 as a result of problems with her ankles. She became an actress after taking classes while studying art at Central St Martins college in London.
Sister, sister: Miss Findlay will shortly return to our screens in ITV Encore’s raunchy new drama Harlot’s, about prostitution in 18th century London
Off-screens: The female actresses have all stayed in touch since their derpature
She will return to our TV screens on Monday in ITV Encore’s drama Harlots, about prostitution in London during the 18th century.
She said: ‘It is so rare that a piece like this gets made.
‘It’s a feminist piece of work about sex in all its many forms. Just how volatile that world was for these women was something that felt really relevant.
‘Women are still fighting for rights over their own bodies, for equality, and for a world in which these transactions – especially in the sex industry – can be safe.’
Weight battle: The brunette blamed 'feeling alone' and wanting to 'hide'