From Puffy Eyes to the Public Eye: Jamie Lee Curtis’ Journey from Addiction to Recovery
Her story will resonate with any woman who’s been found wanting by an impossible beauty standard. And if this ad from the July, 1939 issue of Glamour magazine is any indication, we’ve been found wanting for a long, long time:
“Don’t be a Susy-Droopy! Gantner’s inner bra maintains that proud uplifted look, slims your waist and hips to accent your beautiful, high bust! “
So Jamie Lee Curtis had an agenda n 2002, when she asked More magazine to photograph her in a before-and-after spread.
In the “before” pose, the 43-year-old actress was clad only in a black sports bra and briefs. She had all the flaws of a Susy-Droopy, with a generous bosom, a noticeable tummy and inner thighs that had the audacity to touch.
But the “after” Jamie?
She was a heat-radiating vamp in backless black stilettos and a fringed, handkerchief-hem sheath chosen to lengthen her lines and smooth her curves.
And all the transformation required was 13 people spending three hours choosing her wardrobe, doing her hair, makeup and nails and photographing her in the most flattering light possible.
Her agenda? “… I don’t want the unsuspecting forty-year-old women of the world to think that I’ve got it going on. It’s such a fraud. And I’m the one perpetuating it.”
But it wasn’t always so.
Once Upon a Time, Her Body Was Perfect but Her Eyes…
were puffy. So in spite of being cast as a rock-hard, leotard-clad gym instructor in 1985’s Perfect, she wasn’t perfect enough.
Or so respected cameraman Gordon Willis said, when he refused to shoot her under fluorescent lights that accentuated their puffiness.
At the time, Jamie Lee confessed to Variety last month, she felt only shame at not measuring up. As she recalls, “I was mortified. Right after that movie I went and had an eye job.” Then, when her doctor prescribed Vicodin for pain following the surgery, her slide into addiction began.
But she thought nobody noticed. In her words, “I was the wildly controlled drug addict… I never did it when I worked. I never took drugs before 5 p.m.” So she believed her problem remained hidden for 14 years, until late December 1998.
Then one evening, as she washed a handful of Vicodin down with a swig of wine, she heard her Brazilian healer house guest say from behind, “You know Jamie, I see you. I see you with your little pills. You think you’re so fabulous and so great, but the truth is, you’re dead. You’re a dead woman.”
But even then, she didn’t abandon the pills.
A New Year and a New Beginning
What changed her mind and life was Esquire reporter Tom Chiarella’s New Year’s Day article “Vicodin, My Vicodin.” His decision to publicly admit his addiction gave her the courage to attend her first recovery meeting.
Two years later, she revealed to Redbook that she was in recovery. It was a breakthrough moment of “stepping over the line of anonymity and privacy into a public conversation,” and she risked losing her contract as T-Mobile’s corporate spokesperson.
But they kept her on, she says, “because it was done in the spirit of positive, transformative life change… And if you liked me then, you’re going to love me now.”
And in that she’s absolutely right. We did, and we do!
How do you feel about the impossible beauty standard? Have you ever been shamed into wanting to change your appearance? If so, how did you deal with it? Let’s have a conversation!