It’s no great shocker that Troian Bellisario is thoughtful and astute in person. Her character Spencer Hastings, on Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars, is deeply shrewd and ambitious. And, like Spencer, Bellisario thinks before she speaks — in this case about the impact of the series, which has deeply resonated with young female audiences.
“Being on a show where it was so important how we looked, and yet we’re supposed to be girls that were rolling out of bed and dealing with traumatic experiences — I was conflicted for a long time personally — what sort of image are we selling to young women? Are we making them feel worse about themselves?” she tells Yahoo Style.
But ultimately, she made peace with PLL’s highly stylized reality because of the show’s underlying message.
“These were a group of strong women who had each other’s backs, and I saw that there was a strong and empowering message being sent out to the female audience,” she says.
She’s also as open as possible about the fact that the Spencer you see in Rosewood doesn’t mirror the woman who plays her.
“I wear so much makeup on the show and when I do press. If I were to even wear normal makeup in my life and take a photo of myself, people ask me if I’m feeling all right. It’s a false expectation. Is that what you think you’re supposed to look like?” she says.
Now that the series is closing the second part of its seventh season, Bellisario is ready to embrace what’s next. And for her, it’s a movie she wrote and stars in about anorexia, based partly on her own history of eating disorders. She’s been open about her struggles, though somewhat unwillingly at first.
“If I could have maintained a very secret personal life, I would have loved to have done that,” she says. “Our show, it thrived and changed the game via social media. So much of that is engaging with your true self. You have to put your personal life out there because people start to ask you questions.”
She recalls the exact moment she shared her story with the world and how uneasy it felt at first.
“There was an article when they asked me what life was like for me as a teenager,” she says. “I could choose to lie and say it was sunshine and lollipops. Or I could talk about what my experience was really like, which was not great for me. I decided to be honest. When the article came out, I wanted to throw up. I started receiving letters from men and women, who told me they were seeking help, seeking treatment, and I felt that this was right. What matters is that people feel like they’re not alone.”
Now, Bellisario, 31, stays healthy by taking care of herself. “I’m a very, very active person. I don’t like sitting around. I have a lot of energy. I like dance classes, hiking, even just walking around,” she says.
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style:
• Why Shay Mitchell Might Pull an Erika Jayne Someday
• ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Stars Get Real About Body Image: ‘I Decided to Be Honest’
• Lucy Hale on Chopping Off Aria
• How Ashley Benson Ignores Body Shamers