Lucy Hale is opening up about the perils of fame and being known as her Pretty Little Liars character, Aria Montgomery, for seven years.
In a new cover interview with Haute Living, the 29-year-old actress got candid about going through a period where she was “miserable” and how cutting down on social media and checking into a wellness resort helped her rediscover peace and happiness.
“It’s been really fun, but [taxing] to find an identity outside of my public persona,” said Hale, who looked stunning in portraits taken for the magazine by celebrity photographer, Randall Slavin. “For a while, that’s who I thought I was. I thought I had to live up to certain expectations, of who people expected me to be. It was miserable trying to keep up with that and keep up a perfect image. I’ve had to let that go.”
“I went through this weird phase, and it wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been,” Hale added about rediscovering her identity after PLL wrapped in late 2016. “I was going through real human s**t that we all go through, and it was shortly after that that I told myself I was going to make some major changes that would make me happier. Part of that is cutting out all the bulls**t and making decisions for me, not for anyone else.”
One of those changes, and a move she credits for helping her “stay grounded” in Hollywood, has been cutting down on how much she uses social media. Hale points out that platforms like Twitter and Instagram are often a “highlights reel of a person’s life" and that despite having more than 20 million Instagram followers, social media was further affecting her happiness.
“It’s almost like a disease,” she said. “We’re all so addicted to it, and to what other people are saying. Honestly, I know it sounds cheesy to say that social media was affecting my happiness, but it really was. It was important for me to disconnect from that, to put down my phone occasionally and live the life around me.”
“It’s a highlight reel,” she added. “It’s everyone on their best days, posting a picture they’ve probably taken a hundred times and put a million filters on. I’m not saying that I’m not looking for validation, because I’m not. There are days when I need that from people. But it’s nice to be at an age and time in my life where that’s not the most important thing, because for a long time, it was. It’s not anymore; I broke free.”
Since wrapping PLL, Hale has endeavored to shed the typecast that came with portraying sweet teen, Aria, for so long. She starred in horror film, Truth or Dare, indie flick, The Unicorn, Netflix comedy, Dude, and was the lead in the CW’s Life Sentence.
The series was recently cancelled, a reminder that the nature of showbiz means there’s always a lingering possibility that she could be out of work at any given moment. While such uncertainty can be difficult, Hale also admits she's scared of being alone with nothing but her feelings, but has worked to face that fear in the past year.
The biggest turning point came following a stay at the Canyon Ranch wellness and health spa, a period of “resettling” after the whirlwind nature of recent years.
“I have a fear of being alone and sitting with my feelings; I just hate that,” Hale shared. “I overthink and overanalyze. I was dealing with and thinking about things and emotionally bottling a bunch of stuff, and I finally dealt with some of those things there by hiking and meditating and sitting with myself.”
“There was very little technology,” she noted. “It was kind of depressing at first, but towards the end I really didn’t want to leave. It was the best thing I could have done.”
Hale also spoke out about the #MeToo movement, saying that she and many people she knows have been taken advantage of at times. The comments came after Hale alluded to a sexual assault incident in January, in posts which were later deleted from social media.
“I’ve experienced stuff on the small side, but assault is assault,” she told Haute Living. “I think there are a lot of people who have been intoxicated and taken advantage of. It’s happened to me and people I know. It’s very common. Luckily, I’ve been unscathed; nothing’s hurt me too badly.”
See more on Hale below.