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Elisa Donovan on new book, body image, and 'Clueless'

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  • Elisa Donovan
    Elisa Donovan
    American actress

Clueless star Elisa Donovan talks to Yahoo Entertainment about her new book, “Wake Me When You Leave” which will be released on June 8, 2021. Donovan also talks about her battle with anorexia, and why she felt "uncomfortable" when her Clueless character became a Barbie doll. She recalls when Mattel came to the set and she asked, "You're going to measure our bodies so that it looks like us, that they, they look like real bodies? And of course that was met with complete dismay and confusion."

Video Transcript

ELISA DONOVAN: Writing in general is always extremely therapeutic for me. And so that was a huge part of self care for me. Over the course of an extraordinarily short period of time, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my TV show was canceled, and the relationship that I was in ended with the man I thought I was going to marry. And then my dad died shortly after his diagnosis.

So I essentially was stripped of everything that made my life make sense, everything that gave me an identity, that brought me joy, success. And I kind of was just humbled back down to zero. And that's what prompted me to write the book. Because I was writing the whole time.

I wrote this book because I feel like it's my sole purpose to communicate in this way and to carry this message. And I think there was some confusion over the years when we were pitching it and things that people thought, oh, she's going to write about being in "Clueless" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." And we were constantly up against this battle of no, no, no, this is not a vanity book.

She doesn't have a ghostwriter. It isn't about, oh, look at how I am on set. Because I thought, well, who wants to read that? Somebody way more famous than me is going to write that book.

- Whatever. If she doesn't do the assignment, I can't do mine.

ELISA DONOVAN: Doing the film "Clueless" was so magical in the sense that for everybody, all of the kids, it was really the first big film that anybody had really worked on. And it was exciting because we were all around the same age, you're working with your peers. Everybody is so committed and excited. It was a terrific experience.

- Dionne and Amber and of course, Cher. So today, I failed my driver's test. Instead of going postal, we shopped.

ELISA DONOVAN: I remember when they came to set for Mattel and they took all these extensive photos of our faces and really tried to get the structure right and the eye shape and all these things. And it was so exciting. And then I, you know, very naively said, so are we going to have the proper like-- are you going to measure our bodies so that it looks like us? That they look like real bodies?

And of course, that was met with complete dismay and confusion. And they said, of course, we're not doing that. These are the formulaic bodies, and that's how it is. And I felt so uncomfortable with that. But I was also super excited because I mean, who gets to be a Barbie doll. It was kind of unbelievable when it was happening.

I certainly kept any of my eating disorder issues to myself because I wasn't even able to handle them myself. So I certainly wasn't sharing them with anyone else. And you know, I look to that time and my-- the work I did at that time as kind of a help to me. Because I was most concerned about losing my job. So that initially is what helped me to stay on the recovery path. While that's no recipe for true recovery, but it helped me to stay on there until I got to the place where I realized that I really wanted my life back.

And I really wanted to have a full, happy, active, engaged life. And that's why I'm so proactive about recovery and why I speak about it publicly. Because I want people to know that you truly can recover and that it takes a lot of diligence and help and doctors and nutritionists. And the mental health piece is vital. That's why I always talk about it if I'm asked.

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