While she was filming Pretty Little Liars, the actress experienced two painful years of cyberbullying.
Photo: Desiree Navarro / Stringer / Getty Images
As Alison on Pretty Little Liars, Sasha Pieterse played someone who was both a perpetrator and victim of bullying. Sadly, behind the scenes, Pieterse was also experiencing bullying IRL. In a video for ABC and Disney's #ChooseKindness campaign published on E!, she opened up about the online harassment.
In the video, she explains that she gained around 75 pounds over the course of two years, initially with no clue why. She was finally diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance with symptoms including irregular periods, infertility, and yes, weight gain. Unsurprisingly, when people began to notice her body changing, the trolls decided to insult the actress online. "I didn't know that's what was happening to me, so during that time when I was trying to figure it out on my own, it was publicized, and I was on a TV show so it was documented every week," she recounted. (Related: Knowing These PCOS Symptoms Could Actually Save Your Life)
Pieterse reminds you that while cyberbullying tends to be amplified for celebrities, it's something that pretty much everyone experiences. "With social media, it makes it really accessible and makes it much easier to hide behind a computer screen," she says in the PSA. And it basically goes without saying that body-shaming like Pieterse experienced is all too common both on and offline. (See: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem and What You Can Do to Stop It)
The Perfectionists actress previously opened up about getting bullied when she was competing on Dancing with the Stars. "It was really, really hurtful the way people reacted," she said while on the show. "People were saying stuff like, 'she's pregnant, you're fat.' They were angry, they were mad that I look like this."
Now Pieterse has joined in the anti-bullying campaign along with other celebrities, including Leighton Meester and Carrie Underwood. Her PLL costar, Janel Parrish, recalled getting made fun of during high school in her own PSA. (Related: Science Says Bullies and Their Victims Tend to Be Obsessed with Their Weight)
Those years of being the target were a "really hard" period in her life, says Pieterse, but she "came out on the other side." Props to the actress for spreading her story to draw attention to the realities of bullying. Watch her full PSA (and be mindful the next time you think about posting something not so nice on someone's photo—or saying it to their face!). Then, take a look at some fearless women who have experienced nasty, unwarranted comments about their body, too.
#MindYourOwnShape shows the REAL effects of body-shaming and encourages women to stand together against body-shamers. Because loving your body should never mean hating on someone else's.