If you’ve ever been on Instagram before –or any form of social media, really–it’s more than likely that you are familiar with model Alexis Ren. Alexis is basically the poster child for social media fame, with an absurdly high follower count (9.2 million and counting on Instagram) that actually translates into real life success, with everything from a cosmetics campaign with ColourPop to her new personal activewear line, called Ren. But all is not perfect behind the scenes – in a new interview with Cosmopolitan, Alexis revealed that she has had an eating disorder for years–and has only recently begun to deal with it.
In the interview, Alexis told Cosmo that her eating disorder began in 2014, when she was 18. She had gone to Australia after her mom passed away, and, when she got back, her modeling agency pointed out that she had gained some weight and asked to her start working out “a little bit more.” Shaken by the criticism, she began working out more frequently and dieting–which, she told Cosmo, she had never done before.
Around the same time as her disordered eating began, Alexis’ rise to social media stardom took off–she began dating her ex-boyfriend Jay Alvarrez, another Instagram personality, and the two started documenting their relationship on Instagram and YouTube, which helped both of their careers. But her increased presence on camera took a toll on her mental health, and she started to feel like her body was the “only reason why people liked [her].” So, she restricted her diet to the point where she was experiencing “flu-like” symptoms from lack of calories.
It’s no secret that there’s usually some sort of disconnect between real life and the carefully curated, picture perfect lives that Instagram personalities present to their followers–another (former) Instagram star, Essena O’Neill, made headlines in 2015 when she abruptly quit social media right after she edited the captions on her old Instagram photos in order to reveal how much work had actually gone into creating them. Eating disorders are also common in the modeling industry, where almost two-thirds of models feel pressure to lose weight from their agencies, and up to 40 percent of models suffer from some sort of eating disorder.
Still, just because disordered eating and perceptions are relatively common, this doesn’t mean that it should be normal, which is why we think it’s really important and cool that Alexis is speaking up about her recovery process. She told Cosmo that she’s now working with a personal trainer and nutritionist who has helped her “get back to a healthy mind-set.” She’s sharing her story now, she says, because she wants to let her fans know that it’s “OK to not be OK.” And this is really true. It’s common for celebrities to share their stories about eating disorders years later, but not so common for them to talk about it while they’re still in the process of going through it. The genuine tone of her story is really appreciated for anyone dealing with this in their own life.
So, if you’re ever feeling down that your life isn’t as exciting as your favorite Instagram celebrity’s appears to be, try not to sweat it too much–everyone has issues. What’s important is that you deal with yours, and that you take the initiative to get help when you need it.
If you are are in need of support regarding disordered eating, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
What do you think about Alexis’ announcement? Let us know in the comments!