No one can tell me anymore that I'm not enough

March 30, 2023   |   Written by Federica Volpe

Lili Reinhart is the tenacious heroine of the cult series Riverdale and has been awarded as the face of the future of cinema. Yet despite her success, this young actress had to face the shadows of depression and struggle to accept her body, challenging Hollywood prejudices. Here she poses for Grazia and explains why her story can help every girl who doesn’t love herself.

In the cult TV series Riverdale we met her as an always fearless heroine, forced to often compare herself with others and with herself. But even in real life, American actress Lili Reinhart, 26, has often found herself having to look within to overcome difficulties.

At 14, when she was already determined to pursue a career in the world of acting, she was diagnosed with a form of depression. At a very young age, she went through anxiety attacks and difficulties of various kinds, not least that body dysmorphic disorder which leads her to see herself differently from others and to suffer from some physical characteristics that she perceives in a distorted way.

Reinhart has therefore become the champion of the battles for mental health and for the acceptance of different types of beauty. She didn’t hesitate to expose herself even to a global celebrity like the queen of social media Kim Kardashian: the actress found that having lost a lot of weight in a short time to fit into a dress that belonged to Marilyn Monroe was not a good example for women who have difficulty accepting their bodies.

At the Women in Film Gala 2022, Lili then received the Max Mara Face of the Future award, dedicated to emerging actresses. «My family», declared Maria Giulia Prezioso Maramotti, «has built a company that honors and celebrates women, especially in the arts. We wanted to award the prize to a young artist who embodies our values, but who is still evolving. What Lili is going in is a great direction to follow.”

I meet Reinhart in Los Angeles, while she is curled up in the make-up artist’s chair for the Grazia fashion shoot you see in these pages. She remains seated for a long time with her legs pulled up to her chest, a position that evokes the tenderness of a little girl. But she talks to me about serious topics and does so with honesty and depth, even when it comes to revealing the most intimate aspects of her life.

You became a global celebrity thanks to the character of Betty Cooper in the TV series Riverdale, now in its seventh season. Do you ever think that the success of this role has slowed down your acting career in any way?

“I am grateful to Riverdale for everything it has brought me. If I’m sitting here with her now, it’s thanks to the success of the show. But at a certain point in life the time comes to move on.”

Do you feel like you have something to prove to others or to yourself?

“I’ve been acting since I was 12, I’ve come a long way since then, but I think I haven’t reached my potential yet. And this is a challenge for myself. I want the actors who inspire me to talk about me, I want to get far and deserve it. For the last seven years I’ve been acting on a teen show, Riverdale, in a style that’s not necessarily my favorite. But Riverdale has been incredibly successful and takes up almost all of my time, so it’s been difficult for me to pursue other opportunities.”

Did you have to give up a lot of work?

“Last spring I was offered a role that I wanted to play with all my heart, but unfortunately the dates didn’t fit with the filming of the show. It was devastating to say no.”

What were you like as a child? Did you imagine yourself like this when you grew up?

“I was introverted, I lived in my own little world and I always felt a little isolated. I think I have an ancient soul, with my peers I felt like a fish out of water and I didn’t really understand what the right place for me was. Just yesterday I was talking to my mother about when I enjoyed dressing up as a child. We had a box full of costumes collected over the years, I even changed three times a day. I put on shows and plays for my family, I constantly wanted to perform. So, in the end, I moved on to theater until I reached television and cinema.”

Was performing a way to express yourself?

“Some people are naturally extroverted, fun, funny. I felt I could only be that by performing. I was very insecure and acting gave me the chance to explore sides of my personality that I wouldn’t have brought out otherwise.”

And you also brought out a very intimate and vulnerable side by writing a book of poems, Swimming Lessons: Poems.

“Yes, it was a period in my life where I felt I wanted to do something that came exclusively from me and over which I had total creative control. I was very nervous at first, because it was a bit like sharing a diary with people ready to judge it and me. As an actress I feel confident, as a writer I don’t: so the negative comments on my book have strengthened my fears. I know that no one would have paid attention to my poems if Lili the actress hadn’t signed them, but I never had the ambition to establish myself as a writer. I’m a romantic and I just wanted to share a different side of me.”

Don’t you think you’re being too hard on yourself?

“I internalize a lot, especially criticism. Poetry, after all, is how I express my emotions. What I wanted to communicate was not: “Look at me, I’m a writer”. I wanted to tell the people who follow me that I am an absolutely normal human being: I have feelings, insecurities, I struggle and I face life’s challenges just like anyone else.”

You have often spoken about your insecurities, especially physical ones, and are a spokesperson for the “body positivity” movement for the acceptance of all physicalities. Do you remember the first time that dysmorphia, a disorder you suffer from, appeared?

“I have an average build and, when I began to learn more about the world of fashion and clothes, I met models with a very different physique to mine. There were times when the clothes they offered just didn’t fit me. So I said to myself: “Why don’t I have a smaller body?”. When a dress designed for someone two sizes smaller than you doesn’t fit, you start to think you’re wrong and that you have to do something to conform to the clothes. But in a young woman these thoughts can do a lot of harm.”

Today, however, you see your photos everywhere. What do you feel? Do you like yourself?

“I talked about this with my therapist recently. In fact, I feel like I live in a sort of perpetual comparison with other, more glamorous versions of myself. I started acting as a child and learned that my body is constantly changing. Today I accept myself more and judge myself less, however Hollywood doesn’t want you to grow old and puts pressure on you for it. Don’t you think it’s crazy that at 26 I’m worried about not having the same face as when I was 19? Of course I don’t have it! Even the one in these photos is certainly a more beautiful version of me: I’m not like this every day. Having to constantly show a better image of ourselves can play bad jokes, because it can make us believe that our daily version is not enough.”

And how do you find a way to make all these versions of yourself get along?

“I can’t, they don’t get along. There is my everyday self that reminds me of the glamorous Lili who only appears like this if she has professionals around her who do her makeup and do her hair. But I’m making peace with the fact that I first have to learn to be okay with every version of me. For example, I now have an acne breakout. He sees him? Acne has always triggered strong mental and emotional distress in me. It makes me feel bad and makes it difficult for me to show up in public or take photos without makeup because I know that my skin would otherwise look different than everyone expects. Instead I should think that a rash doesn’t take anything away from me, it doesn’t define me. It’s always me. Unfortunately, it’s a constant struggle: I live in a world that demands perfection and, at times, I think I’ve begun to demand it too. Then, by the way, I think that everything happens for a reason and maybe the reason why acne always shows up on my face is because I have to learn to love every season experienced by my skin and my body because that’s right. I am a human being, not a mannequin.”

I couldn’t help but notice the tattoo on your right forearm: an arrow.

“I did it around 18, 19 years old. It represents my battle against depression: an arrow can only move forward if it is first pulled back. It’s like saying that, once you hit rock bottom, you can only go back up.”

What direction is it pointing in then?

“Forward, always. My mental health has ups and downs and this arrow reminds me that I always manage to get through them, because I am a tireless fighter.”

But, during this struggle, I hope you take moments to appreciate what you have managed to conquer.

“I appreciate my battles, it is thanks to them that I am such a strong person. I wouldn’t change anything about myself. Having had the experience of depression leads me to experience moments of joy more intensely and helps me establish healthier and deeper relationships. The moments of discouragement have taught me a lot about myself and it is right that I live them and face them when they arise, rather than trying to escape.”

You were chosen as Max Mara Face of the Future. How does this recognition make you feel?

“It’s a complicated feeling to explain. It’s hard for me to accept that people see me this way. I almost feel like I have impostor syndrome, because I don’t think I’ve shown my full worth as an actress yet. I have exposed myself as an activist for “body positivity” and for mental health, but I think I have not yet given my best in my work. I’m waiting for that opportunity, which is on the horizon, but I’m waiting. So to receive the award before I’ve even demonstrated what I think I can do as an actress is very encouraging. And I’m grateful because this recognition makes me understand that I’m already doing something good.”