Troian Bellisario may be a star on a show that revolves around secrets, but the Pretty Little Liars actress is all about honesty in real life.
The 28-year-old celeb opened up during a candid interview for the February 2014 issue of Seventeen, revealing she suffered an eating disorder and self-harm issues as a teenager. During an exclusive chat with E! News' Alicia Quarles Tuesday night, Bellisario explained why she opted share her personal struggles.
"I knew that going into an article that was going to be the cover of Seventeen they were going to ask me, 'What was your life like when you were 17?' So I had to make the choice of do I just completely lie and say my life was great and totally perfect?
"And is that really gonna help the men and women out there who watch my show who are 17? Is that gonna help? Or is gonna be better for me to be honest and do something a little bit scarier and try to talk a little bit about that? I kinda made a choice and now I'm going with it," the cover star told us.
Bellisario also shared that her prior self-image issues and desire for everything to be perfect is why she connects so well to her onscreen character.
"The character, Spencer, is a perfectionist and you see how incredibly flawed she is. That's kinda why I think everybody really loves Spencer, that she's always trying to be perfect and she is always failing. And that really was my experience as an adolescent, as a 17-year-old," she told E! News. "I felt like I just wanted to put on this perfect front to the world and I was just feeling so different inside, and I think that's why I really relate to Spencer and I think that's why the fans really relate to her and that's why they kinda relate to me coming out and talking about this."
During her interview with the mag, the Los Angeles native said, "I was the youngest daughter, the perfect little girl. My school was a very intense college prep school. So it was about wanting to please my father and mother and wanting to be perfect to everybody. I just thought if I ever expressed to [my parents] any sadness or anger or anything that's going on with me, they would disown me. I kept a lot of it bottled up inside, and it turned into self-destructive behavior."
Bellisario says she "started self-harming" during her junior year of high school. "I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school. Being a teenager is chaotic because you're kind of coming into your own, but you're not an adult; you're fighting with your parents over responsibilities and freedom. I didn't know what was right and what was wrong, so I think I created this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world. But it really backfired."
Although the actress has overcome her previous struggles, she admits that some days are easier than others. "Honestly, it's an ongoing struggle. Especially for a woman on a show that has the word 'pretty' in it! Sometimes I feel like I'm trying too hard, like I don't belong," she told the mag. "I just look around at Lucy, Shay and Ashley and I'm just like, 'Why am I on this show?'"
"Wow babe @SleepintheGardn you inspire me. Your @seventeenmag article is amazing. Not to mention you look amazing on the cover. Congrats," Benson wrote on Sunday, Jan. 4.
Later that night, Mitchell sat down to read the issue. "So proud of my friend/ costar/ older sister @sleepinthegardn 's @seventeenmag cover and inspiring story. You are brave, intelligent and beyond talented," she wrote on Instagram. "I am so excited to be seeing your face on newsstands everywhere!"