Taylor Swift is opening up her struggles overcoming a past eating disorder, which she discusses in her documentary “Miss Americana,” and an interview timed to the film’s world premiere Thursday night at the Sundance Film Festival.
In an exclusive interview, Variety discloses one of the most revealing and surprising segments of the Netflix documentary, Swift discussing having struggled in the past with an eating disorder.
In the film directed by Lana Wilson (opening Jan. 31 in select theaters and streaming on Netflix), Swift says that “it’s only happened a few times, and I’m not in any way proud of it.” According to Variety, Swift then says there have been times in the past when she’s looked at “a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or… someone said that I looked pregnant … and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit — just stop eating.”
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Speaking to the publication, Swift elaborated, talking about the early impact of life in the spotlight on her views of body image.
“I remember how, when I was 18, that was the first time I was on the cover of a magazine,” Swift recalled. “And the headline was like ‘Pregnant at 18?’ And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment. And then I’d walk into a photoshoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at a magazine would say, ‘Oh, wow, this is so amazing that you can fit into the sample sizes. Usually, we have to make alterations to the dresses, but we can take them right off the runway and put them on you!’ And I looked at that as a pat on the head. You register that enough times, and you just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body.”
Swift then discussed her decision to speak out. “I think I’ve never really wanted to talk about that before, and I’m pretty uncomfortable talking about it now,” she said. “But in the context of every other thing that I was doing or not doing in my life, I think it makes sense” to have it in the film, she said.
Director Wilson said she is proud of Swift speaking on the subject with candor in “Miss Americana.”
“That’s one of my favorite sequences of the film,” Wilson said. “I was surprised, of course. But I love how she’s kind of thinking out loud about it. And every woman will see themselves in that sequence. I just have no doubt.”
Wilson added: “I think it’s really brave to see someone who is a role model for so many girls and women be really honest about that. I think it will have a huge impact.”
In the film, Swift says that her under-eating during times of struggle could be felt during constant tour performances.
“I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it,” Variety quotes Swift saying in the documentary. “Now I realize, no, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows and not feel (enervated).”
But Swift, at the time, would still maintain to concerned people that there wasn’t an issue saying, “‘What are you talking about? Of course I eat. …. I exercise a lot.’ And I did exercise a lot. But I wasn’t eating.”
Thursday’s world premiere of “Miss Americana” received a rousing standing ovation with Swift and Wilson in attendance.