30 Famous People Who Have Suffered From Bulimia
Paula Abdul rose to fame as a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader in the 1980s and went on to be a popular choreographer and then released her own music. Abdul came back into the spotlight as a judge for the TV show American Idol and will return for the eighth season beginning in January 2009. Abdul revealed in a 1995 “Prime Time Live” interview that she had been battling bulimia for 17 years and had engaged in “extensive therapy” at an Oklahoma psychiatric clinic to help address her problem. She blames the problem on her perfectionism and the constant competition as a dancer with tall and skinny dancers (she’s 5’ 2”). Abdul has spoken for the National Eating Disorders Association and also admitted to attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings since 1989.
Shane and Sia Barbi began their modeling career in a Sears catalog and went on to appear in Playboy and several calendars in the early 90’s. The Barbi twins became quite popular thanks to their tiny waists and 38D chests. To maintain that look, the twins developed bulimia when they reached adulthood and they have since overcome the disorder. The Barbi twins became a voice on the matter of eating disorders when they wrote a book on their struggle Dying To Be Healthy: A Breakthrough Diet, Nutrition and Self Help Guide in 1999 and they also spoke on television, radio and online about the issue.
Justine Bateman is best known for her role of Mallory Keaton on the sitcom Family Ties from 1982 to 1989 playing Alex’s (Michael J. Fox) sister. Bateman revealed her struggle with anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating to TV Guide in 1996 and said the struggle came while making Family Ties. She cites a 12-step program and turning to Christianity as helping her overcome her eating disorder.
Catherine Bell originally planned on being a doctor or biomedical engineer but when she took her first acting class at the University of California at Los Angeles, she was hooked. Bell left UCLA to go to Japan to pursue a modeling job and says that’s where she learned about anorexia and bulimia from the other models. Bell became very depressed for a few years while trying to deal with this lifestyle and was helped when her acting teacher introduced her to Scientology. She credits the religion with her success and the repossession of her life. Bell went on to star in the TV show JAG for ten years and currently stars in the Lifetime hit Army Wives.
Russell Brand burst onto the scene in the U.S. when he was in the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall but he has been around for a while in the United Kingdom as a stand-up comedian and television host. Brand started binge-eating and vomiting at the age of 11 and says he found it “euphoric.” His childhood was lonely as an only child and it was suspected that he was bipolar although he was only treated for depression. Brand moved on to heroin and alcohol as an adult but the bulimia briefly returned when he was in rehab. Brand has been clean since 2003 and still regularly attends AA meetings so he can stay that way.
Melanie C aka Sporty Spice found enormous fame in 1994 when the Spice Girls released the song “Wannabe.” At the time, Melanie C was only 20 years old and blames her age with her struggle with bulimia. Melanie C claims that with the sudden rise to fame also came the focus on the size of her body and the paranoia of what would be written in the papers caused her to develop the eating disorder. She got help when the Spice Girls fame wound down and was doing great until she returned to London. While in London, Melanie C made the decision to turn to anti-depressants and counseling to help her overcome her problems. She says that she now seeks alternative help in the form of acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage to keep her in a positive place in her life.
Margaret Cho is a stand-up comedian, author and actress who has never been afraid of expressing her thoughts on topics like substance abuse, eating disorders and her bisexuality. Cho says she has struggled with both anorexia and bulimia and has also abused drugs in the past to try and become thinner. Cho now performs as a burlesque dancer and says she has gained some peace towards her body.
Chyna shot to fame when she appeared as “Chyna: The Ninth Wonder of the World” for the World Wrestling Foundation from 1997 to 2001. Chyna found fame again when she was on the reality show The Surreal Life in 2005 and remains friends with house mate Adrianne Curry. In her autobiography If They Only Knew, Chyna admits to having been bulimic before taking up bodybuilding.
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales, literally married her Prince at the age of 20 and 750 million people worldwide watched the event. Unfortunately, the pressures of constantly being in the public eye put a strain on Diana that led her to depression and bulimia as a way of coping. Diana claimed in an interview that sometimes she would binge and then vomit daily, depending on the pressures that she was dealing with. She called it her “escape mechanism” and dealt with it for many years before she finally was able to overcome her bulimia.
Sally Field started her career on television in the mid-1960s with Gidget and then starred in The Flying Nun shortly after that. During her time on The Flying Nun, the 20-year-old felt pressured to look like cultural icon of the time, the skinny Twiggy and began a three-year bout with bulimia because of that pressure. Field overcame her bulimia and went on to star in a number of hit films.
Jane Fonda reigned as fitness queen beginning in 1982 and she went on to release 23 workout videos, 5 workout books and thirteen audio programs. Fonda claims that she got into compulsive exercising as a move from her eating disorder. She initially started the workout tapes as a way to make money for the Campaign for Economic Democracy after the Vietnam War and ended up raising 17 million dollars. Fonda says she learned about bulimia in boarding school and became bulimic as an actress and model at the age of 21. The battle ended with the beginning of her workout videos when she was 36. Fonda has spoken at an Eating Disorders Education Network event to talk about her personal battle with eating disorders.
Geri Halliwell also felt the pressure to be thin that was felt by Spice Girls bandmate Melanie C and developed bulimia as a result of the pressure. Halliwell says that when she left the band, her weight plummeted from 119lb to just 98lb and she also claims she used to be an “exercise freak.” She has since overcome her bad body image and works to promote a healthy body image for her daughter Bluebell so she doesn’t have to go through the same struggles that Halliwell did.
The Darkness’ former front man and lead guitarist Justin Hawkins found a hit in the 2003 song “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and his skin-tight cat suit worn in the video for the song and onstage became synonymous with the rocker. Hawkins became terrified that he might end up looking like a fat Elvis Presley and did whatever he could to prevent that fear. In 2005, Hawkins said that he had switched to exercise as a way to stay fit but ended up in rehab in 2006 with a serious cocaine and alcohol addiction.
Cheryl James, better known as Salt of Salt-N-Pepa, found success with Sandy Denton, Pepa, and they went on to sell 27 million albums worldwide. Unfortunately, the duo called it quits in 2002 when James broke off the relationship to deal with her own battle with depression and bulimia. James claims that finding Jesus is what cured her of her bulimia and depression and revealed this on The Salt-N-Pepa Show in 2007.
Elton John was once famous for his flashy clothes and he had a number of hit records including songs like “Rocket Man” and “Crocodile Rock.” In recent years, John has done a lot of humanitarian work with a particular interest in the support of AIDS charities. After his popularity began to decline, John found other vices like alcohol, drugs and food. He received treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse and bulimia in the early 1990s and cited the death of Ryan White, who died of complications from AIDS, as a major motivating factor in his decision to enter rehab.
Lindsay Lohan has accomplished a lot in her short 22 years. She began as a child fashion model, went from there to do commercials and landed the starring role(s) in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Lohan has appeared in numerous other movies and has released three albums in an attempt to launch a singing career. In 2006, Lohan admitted to Vanity Fair that she was bulimic and credits Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey with helping her by staging an intervention. Lohan has been in rehab multiple times and it seems that something has finally stuck because the party girl has not been shying away from that lifestyle recently.
Maureen McCormick played the Bradys’ oldest daughter Marcia on The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974 and found life after the hit TV show to be somewhat rough. McCormick revealed in 2006 that growing up on the set, she could eat whatever she wanted but she developed bulimia in her late teens and early twenties when she could no longer maintain her desired body with that diet. She also fell into a cocaine addiction for six years but kicked that habit as well as the bulimia thanks to therapy and faith in a “higher power.”
Katharine McPhee appeared on the fifth season of American Idol and placed second behind Taylor Hicks. In June 2006, McPhee told People magazine that she had previously struggled with bulimia for about five years. After qualifying for American Idol, she began treatment and lost 30 pounds while on the show.
Alanis Morissette began her career as a teenager and recorded two dance-pop albums before striking international success with the album Jagged Little Pill. Morissette admitted to suffering from anorexia and bulimia between the ages of 14 to 18 and blames professional pressure for the issues with her weight. She severely restricted her diet to carrots, black coffee and Melba toast and lost between 15 to 20 pounds. Morissette headed to therapy to rid her of her bad body image and it helped her to un-program her brain and let her see her body as perfect the way it is.
Thandie Newton earned critical acclaim for her roles in Crash and The Pursuit of Happyness and is set to play the role of Condoleezza Rice in the biography of President George W. Bush, W. Newton revealed to People magazine in 2007 that she suffered from bulimia for about a year and has the scars on her knuckles from where she put her fingers down her throat to prove it. She says the obsession with her weight began when she was 14 and training for her ballet exams. In her early 20s, Newton went through a series of abusive relationships and they brought the eating disorder back on. While in Los Angeles to shoot a film, she finally sought therapy and said, “After the first session, I never threw up again.”
The Osbourne family matriarch Sharon Osbourne is known for her outspoken tendencies against anyone who has negative things to say about her family and is also quick to give her opinion as judge on America’s Got Talent. Osbourne appears to be very confident but blames her low self-esteem for the reason she is still bulimic after 35 years. She claims that she has had weight issues since childhood and constantly goes back and forth between fat and thin. Osbourne sees a therapist once a week and says that she used to vomit four times a day and now is down to once a week, which is a huge improvement for her.
Gilda Radner was the first actor cast for the show Saturday Night Live and was well known for characters like Roseanne Roseannadanna and Baba Wawa. Radner battled bulimia while on the show and once told a reporter that she had thrown up in every toilet in Rockefeller Center.
Joan Rivers became famous for being a comedian, talk show host and red carpet interviewer. Rivers, 75, developed bulimia and contemplated suicide after her husband committed suicide. She credits counseling and the support of her family for helping her get better.
Terri Schiavo sparked a national debate in the final months of her life: should she or shouldn’t she be removed from life support? Schiavo entered into a vegetative state in 1990 as a result of her bulimia and “iced tea diet.” The result of that diet was a potassium deficiency that caused irreversible brain damage and put her into a coma. Schiavo remained in the vegetative state for the last 15 years of her life even though neurological tests indicated that her cerebral cortex was mostly liquid. Her family fought to keep her alive while her husband didn’t think she would want to live life this way with no hope of mental capacity. After interventions by the President George W. Bush himself and legislation concerning the matter being passed, Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed and she died on March 31, 2005.
Ally Sheedy made her mark on the “Brat Pack” movies The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire and moved to television movies in the 1990s. She began dancing at age 6 with the American Ballet Theatre and was told that she had to lose weight. Sheedy became bulimic and struggled with the disorder until she gave birth to her daughter in 1994. “After a while I actually began to get bored of it,” Sheedy has said.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler was picked for the role of Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos in 1997 while still in high school and it appeared that everything was going well for her. Behind the scenes, Sigler was struggling with exercise bulimia, where she would “purge” calories by working out for hours at a time. Sigler shrank from 120lbs to 90lbs and her parents helped her find a nutritionist and psychiatrist to overcome her eating disorder. She now serves as a spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorders Association and also created the Jamie-Lynn Sigler Foundation to raise awareness about eating disorders and to help promote healthy body image.
Before Richard Simmons donned his short shorts and encouraged us to sweat to the oldies, he was overweight and dealt with his share of eating disorders. Both of his parents were chefs and he became a compulsive eater at an early age. In his teen years, he tried everything to lose the weight such as diet pills, laxatives, and starving, bulimic and anorexic episodes and after many hospital stays, he decided to take charge of his life. Simmons went on to become a leader in the fitness craze and still helps people all over the world with his diet and exercise programs.
Yeardley Smith may not be a face you would recognize but if you heard her speak, you’d hear the voice of Lisa from the TV show The Simpsons. Smith says that she started dieting at age 9 and was obsessed with her weight by the age of 14. She has dealt with bulimia for 24 years and has seen side effects such as throwing up blood and sensitive teeth because of it. It started because she wanted to manage her weight but then became a way to manage stress and her mood. In 2003, she joined an outpatient program that met for four hours twice a week to help combat her bulimia.
Britney Spears has been in the spotlight since her first hit “..Baby One More Time” in 1999 and her personal life has been in the headlines more than her musical career in the recent years. In 2007, it was reported that Spears has been dealing with bulimia since the age of 16 to keep herself from gaining weight. She was able to stop the habit during her two pregnancies but started up again after her sons were born in an effort to lose the added baby weight. Spears has been to rehab multiple times in an effort to ditch her problems with alcohol, drugs and bulimia.
Amy Winehouse shot to fame when her 2006 album Back to Black and the single “Rehab” became a huge hit worldwide. Since then, Winehouse has dealt with numerous issues such as drug addiction, the jailing of her husband Blake and bulimia. Winehouse has reportedly been dealing with bulimia since her teens and it became a bigger struggle when she became famous and the tabloids called her fat. She is dealing with many other health issues currently some wonder how much her body can take.
Written by Amy on November 10th, 2008 | Tagged as: Popular Culture