For 21 seasons, The Bachelor has invited viewers into the infamous mansion to follow the love story between two people. We as the audience sit at home, critique, judge, and become infatuated with the lives of these strangers, holding our breath as each rose is passed out until the bachelor has found the love of his life.
Reality television gives us the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of otherwise strangers, and we begin to feel a connection to them. But, as we all know, reality television is more staged and scripted than we realize, so everything is not what it seems.
Britt Nilsson, a contestant from the show and runner-up for The Bachelorette, recently came forward about her battles with binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia, and drug and alcohol abuse. “I had pain and anxiety, I felt insecure, I didn’t feel pretty enough, I didn’t know what was going on, I missed my family…” Nilsson said in the video she posted to her YouTube channel. She also reflected on the toxicity of the mansion environment: it’s a competition show and the women would talk negatively about one another behind their backs. It was not supportive and extremely unhealthy, which only perpetuated Nilsson’s triggers and old habits.
Nilsson revealed that one of her major sources of anxiety on the show were the mics that were attached to all of the contestants 24/7. Not only did this rob the contestants of any privacy, but for individuals like Nilsson, it made it difficult to deal with these feelings as she was under a constant microscope of observation and scrutiny. Everyone was watching, listening, and she didn’t want her struggle to become a major plot point of the series. Nilsson said, “I was totally terrified that is was going to be caught on a mic and that millions of people were going to know that I just couldn’t control myself.”
This is not the first time a celebrity has come forward about an eating disorder. Demi Lovato, Kesha, Russell Brand, Zayn Malik, Zosia Mamet, Shawn Johnson, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Lily Collins, Troian Bellisario, and Evanna Lynch are just a few of the big names who have opened up about their struggles not only with eating disorders, but mental illness as well. The version of these celebrities that we see on a regular basis is one that might be staged, filtered, and polished. We get to see their flawless looks on the red carpet after hours of hair and makeup, breathtaking photos on Instagram, and perfect selfies, but we rarely get to see them for their real self. Under all of the lights, makeup, and performance, these are human beings facing insecurities and challenges.
By opening up about struggles that millions of people around the world endure, celebrities are reminding us that they are people too. It’s not always easy to open up about our struggles, let alone open up to millions of strangers, but they are talking about these issues. This awareness is sparking a much-needed conversation that will hopefully continue.
Grace Bradley is a senior at Connecticut College majoring in dance and sociology. Working with the Active Minds chapter at Conn College and NEDA, she is an advocate of mental health and eating disorder awareness after personally dealing with both. Grace is dedicated to raising awareness about both of these issues, specifically within the dance community.
Images via @brittkarolina