Lena Dunham Reflected On How It Felt to Have Her Body Criticized In Her 20s

The 36-year-old actress and writer opened up about her evolving body image in a new interview.

Lena Dunham
Photo: Getty Images

Lena Dunham is reflecting on her past. The actress, writer, producer, and director considers the "trauma" of the public's scrutiny of her body in her 20s in a recent interview with The Guardian.

It's been about a decade since Dunham debuted her character Hannah Horvath on Girls, the popular HBO series she created, wrote, and stared in from 2012 to 2017. But today, she's still unraveling the public discourse around her body during that time, calling audience's response to seeing her naked body on screen "a trauma all its own," according to The Guardian.

"I had always thought there was something crude or superficial about caring how people responded to me, so I tried really hard in my 20s to act as if I didn't notice," she said. "I thought I could receive all this input about what a hideous cow I was and also hold on to this feeling that I am essentially, you know, lovely?"

Dunham believes everyone sees themselves in a positive light until someone, whether that be a parent or significant other, makes them think otherwise, she explained in the recent interview. "I wasn't hit with the signal that I was not 'correctly formed' until the public really let me know," she said. "I thought I could keep those two things separate."

The 36-year-old has come a long way since then. "And the funny thing is, now I'm much 'curvier,' 'bigger,' whatever, than I was in my 20s," she explains. "It's wild to me that THAT was the body everybody critiqued: the body of an anxious, emaciated, aching person," Dunham tells The Guardian. "I look at her and can't believe that little hurting girl was subjected to this. What does that say to everybody else in the world?" she continues. "Now I'm able to very proudly be in the body I'm in, recognizing what it's taken to get here."

This new mindset didn't happen overnight. Dunham has been open about her relationship with her body and the public scrutiny of it for years. In 2019, she wrote about feeling her best while at a heavier weight in an Instagram post. "At 32: I weigh the most I ever have," she wrote in her caption at the time. "I love the most I ever have. I read and write and laugh the most I ever have. And I'm the happiest I've ever been."

Of course, body image is ever-evolving. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunham shared the pressure she felt to lose weight while quarantining. "Somehow, this pandemic time has brought back some of those old feelings of self-loathing," she wrote in the caption of an Instagram post in 2020. "Should I be revamping my fridge with veggies and showing off before/after pics, emerging from quarantine with a revenge body?"

Most recently, Dunham made headlines for calling out 'gnarly' body shamers after sharing photos of her wedding to musician Luis Felber in 2021. "When will we learn to stop equating thinness with health/happiness?" she wrote in an Instagram caption. "Of course weight loss can be the result of positive change in habits, but guess what? So can weight gain."

Cheers to that! Let this and Dunham's recent thoughts about the public's perception of her body be a reminder that weight loss or gain isn't necessarily good or bad. And it's certainly no one's business except the person living in that body.

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