Inside Amanda Bynes' Private World

Years after a very public meltdown, Amanda Bynes is making plans to tiptoe back into public life—but first she's determined to do everything she can to remain her healthiest self.

By Sarah Grossbart Apr 03, 2019 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Amanda Bynes Opens Up About Past Drug Abuse

As tweets go, they were #basic. When Amanda Bynes logged onto her social media page in August 2016 after a six-month hiatus, the messages she shared bordered on banal. She was swamped with classes at L.A.'s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she said, and had just made it through midterms. "I am really loving school and I feel that I am learning a lot," she detailed in her first tweets since showing off a fresh haircut that February. "I enjoy all of my classes and my teachers are excellent." In fact she was so focused on her studies, she said, "I don't have time to tweet."

Requesting that Drake you-know-what her vagina this was not. Bynes has come a long way since being under the influence caused her to share every thought that crossed her mind with her 3.2 million followers. (For the record, she's said she was trying to be funny with her Drake missive, "but I was also on drugs.") Since her lowest point saw her placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, the Thousand Oaks, Calif. native is focused on working with a life coach—a source tells E! News their relationship "is productive and helpful,"—and moving from her Associate of Art degree in Merchandise Product Development to her Bachelor degree. Explains the source, "She really wants to finish what she started at FIDM."

Amanda Bynes: Then & Now

And then, should all go to plan, return to her roots. Despite announcing her retirement in 2010 with—what else?—a tweet declaring "I don't love acting anymore, so I've stopped doing it," the former child star revealed in a 2017 interview that she misses performing. "I have something surprising to tell you," she teased in her chat with The Lowdown host Diana Madison, "I'm going to start acting again."

Because while she fully intends to use her FIDM degrees, already making plans for a future fashion line, "I want to get back into acting first," she revealed this past November in her PAPER cover story. It was far from the most shocking admission she shared for the magazine's annual "Break the Internet" issue, but it was, perhaps the most enlightening glimpse into how much her life has changed the past few years. 

Her days of "experimenting" with drugs long over, she shared, "I really feel ashamed of how those substances made me act. When I was off of them, I was completely back to normal and immediately realized what I had done—it was like an alien had literally invaded my body. That is such a strange feeling." 

Danielle Levitt/PAPER

Now she's ready to get back to herself, intending to break back into acting "kind of the same way I did as a kid, which is with excitement and hope for the best."

But, first, she has a far more important role to tackle. Earlier this year Bynes checked back into a mental health facility following what a source told People was a "relapse" brought on, in part, from diving back into the public eye and the Hollywood audition scene. Sensing a need for help, says the source, she'll be getting treatment from mental health professionals and addiction counselors for drug addiction and mental health issues.

According to Us Weekly, that's where the star will be marking her 33rd birthday today, determined to remain in treatment "for several more months," an insider tells the outlet. "Nothing will be rushed to give Amanda the best possible result after leaving treatment."

And should she still wish to give her previous career another stab when she's done focusing on self-care, well, we're guessing the entertainment industry will be waiting. 

Demi Lovato's Quotes on Sobriety and Mental Health

Discovered at a Los Angeles children's comedy camp as a grade-schooler, by then already a seasoned professional with some 20 commercials under her child-sized belt, Bynes showed a natural gift for physical comedy when she began her six-year run on the Nickelodeon sketch show All That in 1996. "It was a dream come true," she said of being cast in the now nostalgia-inducing sketch comedy show. "It was unbelievable to me."

And she was unbelievable in it. "She is fearless," former costar Kel Mitchell assessed of her skills in a February appearance on E!'s Daily Pop. As she scored her own spinoff, The Amanda Show, and collected roles in everything from What a Girl Wants to Hairspray, industry insiders praised both her comedic timing and her ability to avoid the Hollywood club scene that had waylaid other young stars.

Turns out it was a part she played just a bit too well. As she was continuously cast as the uptight best friend (Hairspray) or the bubbly, somewhat goofy teen (What I Like About You) she reportedly grew resentful that she wasn't scoring the more mature roles being offered to the likes of, say, Lindsay Lohan.

Bowers/Getty Images

"Everybody had her as a goody-goody. She couldn't break out of that genre," an unnamed executive explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "Her frustration was, 'I could have played this role; I could have played that role. I'm not getting the Lindsay Lohan roles.'"

Of course at the time Lohan, just three months older, had racked up a handful of arrests for drunk driving and drug possession, while Bynes had made it a point to publicly eschew the type of wild behavior that could saddle her with a party girl rep. "I'm not that interested in the club scene and drinking doesn't appeal to me so it's actually easier for me not to do it. I have never been offered drugs," she shared in a 2007 Showbiz Tonight interview that now feels just a tad ominous. "I'm surrounded by people who aren't interested in that. Birds of a feather flock together and I definitely don't fly with that crowd."

But she was wiling to change course just a bit. In a seeming bid to take the shine off her straight-laced image, she told Cosmopolitan that, yes, she does drink occasionally—"I'm in that phase where I just want to have fun!"—and that she was looking to stun with a meaty, dramatic role. "I'd love to do something that would shock people, something that's against type," she said, adding, "I feel like people don't know yet what I can really do."

Two years later she posed in lingerie and a bellybutton ring for a February 2010 Maxim cover that proclaimed her "grown up & uncovered." Inside, she shared her parents, former dentist Rick Bynes and former office manager Lynn Bynes, had asked if she'd be doing "sexy movies." Her response, she said: "If they're done the right way, then maybe!"

Her sultry campaign worked. That same month, she was tapped to play Paige, a provocative 21-year-old babysitter determined to seduce Owen Wilson, in the Farrelly brothers' raunchy flick Hall Pass.


But in an unfortunate twist, that shot would be torpedoed by her actual, off-screen, real life bad girl behavior. She had been indulging in marijuana since age 16, she revealed to PAPER: "Even though everyone thought I was the 'good girl,' I did smoke marijuana from that point out. I didn't get addicted [then] and I wasn't abusing it. And I wasn't going out and partying or making a fool of myself...yet." 

As she grew older, though, and began feeling the stressors of her high-profile job (she revealed seeing herself with short hair and sideburns to play a teen girl posing as her brother in 2006's She's the Man sent her "into a deep depression for 4-6 months because I didn't like how I looked when I was a boy,") her experimentation expanded. "Later on it progressed to doing molly and ecstasy," she shared. "[I tried] cocaine three times but I never got high from cocaine. I never liked it. It was never my drug of choice."


That honor belonged to Adderall, which she took to after reading an article about how women were using the pills to stay thin. "I was like, 'Well, I have to get my hands on that.'" A quick trip to a psychiatrist employing her skills to fake the symptoms of ADD scored her a prescription and soon she, admitted, she was abusing the stimulant. 

By the time she showed up to Hall Pass' Atlanta set in spring 2010—fresh off a traumatizing split from rapper-actor Kid Cudi—she was no longer the girl insiders lauded as a consummate professional. (In The Hollywood Reporter profile, Morgan Creek Productions president David Robinson, a producer on Bynes' 2007 comedy Sydney White, said the star "was always on time, worked hard and was great with the crew and the cast.") One source told The Hollywood Reporter she hadn't learned her lines. Another whispered to The Daily Beast that she was acting paranoid and scared.

Child Stars Then and Now

The real issue, she revealed to PAPER, was that she was chewing "a bunch" of Adderall tablets in her trailer in an effort to get high "and literally being scatterbrained and not being able to focus on my lines or memorize them for that matter." On set, she continued, she "remembers seeing my image on the screen and literally tripping out and thinking my arm looked so fat because it was in the foreground or whatever and I remember rushing off set and thinking, Oh my god, I look so bad." 

Bothered by "the mixture of being so high that I couldn't remember my lines and not liking my appearance," she dropped out, and was swiftly replaced by future Baywatch actress Alexandra Daddario with both camps blaming the switch-up on a scheduling conflict. "I made a bunch of mistakes but I wasn't fired," she insisted. "I did leave...it was definitely completely unprofessional of me to walk off and leave them stranded when they'd spent so much money on a set and crew and camera equipment and everything." 

Watch: Drake Bell Recalls Working With Amanda Bynes

Months later, Bynes declared her retirement following a screening of her last film, Easy A. High on marijuana, "I literally couldn't stand my appearance in that movie and I didn't like my performance. I was absolutely convinced I needed to stop acting after seeing it," she explained. "I officially retired on Twitter, which was, you know, also stupid. If I was going to retire, I should've done it in a press statement—but I did it on Twitter. Real classy! But, you know, I was high and I was like, 'You know what? I am so over this' so I just did it. But it was really foolish and I see that now. I was young and stupid." 

No longer devoting her energy to acting, she began acting out. "I just had no purpose in life," she noted. "I'd been working my whole life and [now] I was doing nothing. I had a lot of time on my hands and I would 'wake and bake' and literally be stoned all day long."

It started with a series of 2012 driving violating that ranged from merely troubling—that March she was pulled over for talking on her cell phone, but drove off before she was ticketed—to full-on alarming. In the first of three accidents, she ran her BMW into another car while trying to pass a police car at 3 a.m. When she refused a breathalyzer, she was arrested for a DUI. She followed up that performance with two consecutive hit-and-runs.  

In the age of twitter, fans devoured every update in real time, with Bynes providing commentary of her own. As her missives grew increasingly concerning—in one, she asked President Barack Obama to fire the cop that arrested her; in another she told Rihanna that ex Chris Brown "beat you because you're not pretty enough—outlets began compiling lists of her wildest tweets.

Bynes' offline behavior ramped up as well. She locked herself in the dressing room of a West Hollywood boutique, then a New York City cupcake shop bathroom, she allegedly threw a bong out the window of her Midtown apartment in NYC and was placed on the first of two involuntary psychiatric holds (and under the conservatorship of her parents) after starting a fire in the driveway of a stranger's California home and inadvertently dousing her Pomeranian in gasoline.


She did even more damage with her words. In a 2014 Twitter rant, she accused her dad of verbal and physical abuse, claiming, among other things, that he fondled himself in front of her. "He called me ugly as a child and then asked me if I wanted to have sex with him and I did not know how to respond and I said no and then I was forced to live with my dad which was a total nightmare," she wrote. "My mom knows that my father's literally and physically incestual towards his own daughter and the fact that she never called the police on him embarrasses me to no end."

Forced to respond, her mom called the accusations "absolutely horrible," issuing a statement saying "These allegations stem from Amanda's mental state at the moment." And while Bynes recanted her claims a day later, her words did little to ease growing concerns. "My dad never did any of those things," she wrote. "The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he's the one that ordered them to microchip me."

A month later, she boldly delivered a new diagnosis, tweeting she was suffering from both bipolar disorder and manic depression. 

Malibu Joe/ / AKM-GSI

Looking back now, said Bynes, she truly can't believe some of her drug-induced declarations. "Everybody is different, obviously, but for me, the mixture of marijuana and whatever other drugs and sometimes drinking really messed up my brain," she said. "It really made me a completely different person. I actually am a nice person. I would never feel, say or do any of the things that I did and said to the people I hurt on Twitter." 

She remains grateful that her parents stood by her, crediting them with "really helping me get back on track" and guiding her down the road back to sobriety. "I'm really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said," she told PAPER. "I can't turn back time but if I could, I would. And I'm so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach. Everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of ruined it all through Twitter." 


It makes sense, then, that part of her recovery included going dark on social media and resuming a more private existence. She took up hiking and spin classes, she told Madison in her 2017 interview and feeding the homeless. Outside of that, an insider told E! News in 2015, "She is focusing on reading, yoga and reconnecting with her family."

And her studies. By the fall of 2015 the creator of Steve & Barry's fashion line Dear, had re-enrolled at FIDM. "I've learned how to sew, I've made patterns, and I want to start a clothing line in the future," she explained to Madison, "so FIDM has been helping me with that."

At the downtown L.A. institution, a source told E! News, the former straight-A student (she completed Thousand Oaks High School's independent study program at age 16) attempts to blend. Though her long locks and famous face make her easy to spot, "At school, Amanda doesn't socialize," says the insider. "She doesn't want to be a distraction for the other students so she just keeps her head down, focuses on the work and sticks to herself." And thanks to a fascination with the history of fashion, "She has been reading all sorts of materials on books about it for her own interest," says the insider, "so that's been keeping her busy."


Successfully so. Thriving in her studies (she noted to PAPER she's earning a 96 percent in her Merchandising Math course), "Instructors love her. Love her," Kathi Gilbert, the assistant dean of admission and one of Bynes' advisors, enthused. Professors, she continued, have said they "wished all of their students could be like her. She's smart, she participates in class—she's an amazing student."

In school, and in life, as it turns out. Though she remains under the conservatorship her parents sought out for her in 2014, it's hardly stifled her independence. "The fact that Amanda is living on her own, making her own decisions and future plans is something her parents are so proud of," her family's attorney Tamar Arminak told E! News in August. "Finally she is surrounded by friends and companions she can trust and really open up to. She feels free to be herself." 

Amanda Bynes' Biggest Roles

That included going full mea culpa with her big PAPER tell-all. While taking responsibility for your actions and admitting to just how the wheels came off in the first place could hardly be pleasant, Bynes knew it was the only way to show how much she's grown. Besides, as she told the mag, "What's there to lose? I have no fear of the future. I've been through the worst and come out the other end and survived it so I just feel like it's only up from here."  

And if she can help others grow along the way, all the better. "So many celebrities and people she admires have admitted recently that they also struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety...and that has given her confidence to be open about her own struggles," Arminak explained to E! News. "The pressure to always be perfect in public for young celebrities can be so stressful. This newfound honestly and acceptance among her peers has made her see that she isn't the only one in Hollywood dealing with it." 

So as she continues to focus on her health, she sees no reason not to be open about those struggles as well. The insider told Us Weekly that Bynes is "responding very well to treatment and her team remains extremely optimistic about her future," while the L.A. resident herself knows that taking this time to focus inward can only help her moving forward. 

Because, let's be real, everyone has challenges they face and stuff they need to deal with. And, especially in Hollywood, who doesn't love a good comeback?