When you catch Danielle Brooks on the red carpet, you’d never think that the Orange Is the New Black star ever struggled with her confidence. The 25-year-old actress has such a gorgeous smile and pose that you’d think she was just born with that feisty demeanor. But in a personal essay written for Glamour, our beloved “Taystee” shared some deep secrets about what it was really like to grow up in her skin.
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“Being a teenager can be one of the hardest phases of a person’s life. For me, I struggled every day tricking myself into appearing confident,” Brooks wrote. “After reading over old journal entries, I realized some days were less successful than others. I came across one that took me aback. In this entry, I had written about how insecure I was about my weight. I wasn’t able to wear the flared jeans and cute tops the other girls wore—they didn’t come in my size. On top of that, I was dark-skinned and had natural hair. By the standard definition of beauty I had absorbed from the world around me, I had three strikes against me: I was too dark, too curly, and too fat.”
Brooks’ pain ran so deeply that she even considered ending her life just to put a stop to her never-ending unhappiness.
“Because of this insecurity, I was desperately unhappy. I was even having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it,” she continued. “The world saw a young teenage girl who was happy in her skin, laughed a lot, and didn’t care what anyone thought about her. The truth of the matter was I wasn’t happy in my skin; I laughed to hide my pain, and cared deeply what my peers thought of my appearance—to the point that I even was having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it.”
She continues detailing a childhood spent hiding from the boys on her street because she didn’t want to be laughed at, about the woman from church who first pointed out her stretch marks when she was only a child, and the “cycle of judging” herself that began from that point forward.
“From that moment on, it was a long road to learning to love myself again. I dreamed of being an actor, but when I looked for reflections of myself on the screen, I found few,” Brooks said. “Still, I found inspiration in the words of Sharon Flake and the music of India Arie. I took acting classes, where I felt free and accepted. Free to let out the biggest screams, to roll around the floor like a cat, and to cry sloppy tears without being judged. Accepted by this tribe of fellow performers, unique individuals who valued me for my talent and my boldness and not for what I looked like (or didn’t look like). In acting I found my confidence, my joy, my safe place.”
To read her entire essay and her hopes for Hollywood and other young girls, click here.
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(Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)