For the past five years, the name Amanda Bynes has, more often than not, elicited one of two reactions: pity or laughter. Both emotions are drawn from memories of Bynes wearing a dishevelled blonde wig in court and of her X-rated tweets to Drake, both of which were widely ridiculed in the press and on social media. But today, in a new interview with Paper magazine, Bynes has taken it upon herself to portray those moments in a new light.
“I'm really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said,” she tells her interviewer, Abby Schreiber, referring to her slew of now-infamous tweets. “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 and sad.” Bynes says her behaviour was due to her abuse of drugs – namely, marijuana, ecstasy and prescription drug adderall, which she gained by faking the symptoms of ADD to a psychiatrist. “[I remember] reading an article in a magazine that [called Adderall] 'the new skinny pill' and they were talking about how women were taking it to stay thin. I was like, 'Well, I have to get my hands on that,’” she says.
Bynes first experienced fame when she was just seven years old, when the work of her agent – and, of course, her talent – saw her cast in a number of commercials. From there, she joined children’s network Nickelodeon on their children’s sketch show All That, which led to Bynes’ own comedy, The Amanda Show. By the time Hollywood knocked on her door, Amanda Bynes was a fully fledged comedian and, at the age of just 20, her characters in romcoms She’s The Man and Easy A became iconic for a whole generation.
Today, four years sober, Bynes looks back at the world she inadvertently shut out with a surprisingly logical outlook, saying, 'I know that my behavior was so strange that people were just trying to grasp at straws for what was wrong'
It’s distressing to learn, then, that it was these roles in particular that supercharged Bynes’ depression and led to severe body-image problems. “When [She’s The Man] came out and I saw it I went into a deep depression for four to six months because I didn't like how I looked when I was a boy – I've never told anyone that,” she says, recalling the short hair and men’s clothes she wore as Sebastian/Viola, a girl who pretended to be her brother as part of a convoluted plan to reinstate the women’s football team at school (if it sounds complicated, it’s because She’s The Man is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night). Easy A brought on similar emotions – “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. I was high on marijuana when I saw that but for some reason it really started to affect me. I don't know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people. It absolutely changed my perception of things.” So, while the films launched the careers of now-megastars Emma Stone and Channing Tatum, Bynes faded into obscurity.
Her world, she says, became “really dark” and “sad”, while she was “just stuck at home, getting high, watching TV and tweeting”. From the outside, without the context of her addictions and body-image issues, the world was desperate to diagnose her with a severe mental-health disorder – another pressure that Bynes struggled to deal with, as she felt her normal self when she wasn’t high. “It definitely isn't fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are. That was always really bothersome to me. If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don't believe you. Truly, for me, [my behavior] was drug-induced, and whenever I got off of [drugs], I was always back to normal.” Today, four years sober, Bynes looks back at the world she inadvertently shut out with a surprisingly logical outlook, saying, “I know that my behavior was so strange that people were just trying to grasp at straws for what was wrong.”
And, now, thanks to Bynes’ honesty and candid examination of her own past, we can be sure that she’ll be OK. In a couple of months, she’ll graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, in California, and then begin a new bachelor’s degree straight after it, and is also keen to get back into acting – welcome news for her many fans. But, perhaps most importantly, Amanda Bynes is ready to talk openly and honestly about her by-the-book teen-star downfall, and by extension, giving others the chance to save themselves. “My advice to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse would be to be really careful because drugs can really take a hold of your life,” she says. “Be really, really careful because you could lose it all and ruin your entire life like I did.” Bynes may have “ruined” her entire life up until this point but, luckily for us, it seems like her hard work at university and at sobriety has paid off. We should applaud her for that.