Victoria Justice: "If You Don't Feel Healthy, Nothing Else Matters"

The former Nickelodeon star opens up about battling a thyroid disorder, her tremendous influence on social media, and sweating it out in twerk class.

James White

Victoria Justice is sitting in an empty restaurant in New York City, scrolling through her phone to find her favorite workout tracks. "Ooh—this one's so good!" she says, flipping the screen my way to flash "Something Good Can Work" by Two Door Cinema Club. "Oh, of course all the Top 40 songs, like 'Lean On' by Major Lazer and 'Fun' by Pitbull. Oh my God, to me music is everything."

It's little surprise that the 22-year-old loves good music: She has been singing and acting since she was 12. Victoria has worked practically nonstop for a decade, starring in two shows for Nickelodeon (Zoey 101 and Victorious) and one for MTV (the acclaimed Eye Candy), recording music, doing two tours and landing roles in feature films. This fall, she stars in The Outskirts, about high school misfits who overthrow the popular kids, and Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List, about a girl who's in love with a boy who's in love with a boy.

When I ask how she finds time to exercise, she leans in as if to share a secret: "To be honest, I used to hate working out, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that it gives me so much more energy, and it just makes me feel so much better. I love taking classes to switch it up, so I'll do a dancing class or a twerk class—"

Wait—a twerk class?
I'm not kidding. It's actually a really great workout. After 10 minutes of twerking, your thighs and your butt feel it right away. [Laughs] But it's so much fun. You feel free. It's like, "Who cares? I'm twerking!"

Do you have a trainer?
I do, and we basically work out everything. He has me doing push-ups, squats, crunches, lifting free weights, jumping rope and all that stuff.

Any moves you dread?
Squats—especially when I'm carrying weights.

What helps you feel good about your body?
I try to meditate every day. It's important to take that time, even if it's just 10 minutes, to block everything out and get grounded again. And I love to lie on my hammock and read things that are inspirational and motivational, whether it's a self-help book or an autobiography.

What books have you loved lately?
Ones from strong, smart, positive women. Tina Fey's Bossypants, Mindy Kaling. I also have Amy Poehler's and Lena Dunham's books on my list.

Is it true you're into natural health?
I'm all about the supplements. I take fish oil every single day, as well as vitamin D, magnesium, B complex, vitamin C. I drink lots of water, and I've been trying to do daily wheatgrass shots, but they're awful and I have to plug my nose. We also have this shake in my house that we pretty much have every morning. It's made of rice milk, bananas, Udo's oil and protein powder. I've been drinking it ever since I was little.

Where did you hear about this magical shake?
My stepdad was at work, and [Olympic diver] Greg Louganis' coach came in and said something like "Greg swears by this, he drinks this." My stepdad came home and told my mom, my sister and me about it, and for, like, 15 years we've been drinking this shake.

Did you ever meet Greg Louganis?
One time at an event, my mom was like, "Oh my gosh, that's Greg Louganis." So I went up to him and said, "Hi, Greg, you probably don't know who I am, but I just wanted to let you know I drink this shake you've been drinking that your coach told my dad about, and we all love it and feel great." And he was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Next Page: Victoria opens up about her Hashimoto's diagnosis

James White

That's wild. Have you ever tried an extreme diet?
I actually have. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, which is a thyroid autoimmune disorder [that can interfere with thyroid function and affect metabolism]. This Korean acupuncturist put me on a super-strict diet, where I was a pescatarian [eating fish but no other meat]. I also couldn't eat any sugar, wheat or dairy. I did that for about two months, and it was so intense.

Did you feel better?
I think it made my skin clearer and glow more. They had put me on this thyroid medication, and I think the levels were too high for me because it caused my skin to break out. All my life I've always had great skin, so it was really devastating. Also, at first, I was losing a lot of weight, then I went on tour and I started gaining weight, and it was the most I'd ever gained in my life. I was, like, 115 pounds. Then when I filmed a movie last summer, I actually went under 100 pounds. It was crazy, but things have leveled out, and I'm back to normal.

How do you cope with public scrutiny of your skin or your weight?
It definitely did affect my confidence, and it made me a little bit more self-conscious. But at the end of the day, I had the support of my family and friends. I knew that the people around me had my back. Now I really empathize with people who have issues with their skin, because it can get you down.

Do you still deal with Hashimoto's?
I still have Hashimoto's. But my numbers are back to normal, and I'm not on medication. I feel good.

You have an incredible amount of social media influence. Do you have fun with posting on Instagram and the like, or does it feel like pressure?
At times it can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many different ways to use social media. But at the end of the day, it's just a great way to stay connected to the people who've supported me since the beginning. They've kind of grown up with me, and I know a lot of them by name and have relationships with a lot of these people. The best part is being able to share bits of my personality so they can see who I really am.

You never share too much; there's no dirt on you!
Thank you. And knock on wood! There isn't a lot of dirt, because what you see is what you get with me. I'm not pretending to be a different person on social media. I do it myself. I am who I am. I feel like if I was a diva or if I were doing all these crazy things on the side, people would find out. There's not much you can hide nowadays.

James White

When are you happiest?
When I'm with the people I love and trust. I'm such a homebody. I love watching movies with my dogs by my side. I also love discovering new music and making music, and to be onstage and let loose and have fun. To have people know the words is one of the best feelings ever.

The stuff that rocks her world.

In my hair kit
"Moroccanoil Extra Volume Shampoo and Conditioner. They are really good and sulfate-free, which is nice. I'll put in a pea-size bit of oil to smooth down the flyaways, then blow-dry."

Skin savers
"I try to use the Clarisonic every other day because it really deep-cleans. Your face feels like it's glowing. I have a gel cleanser from Avalon Organics that I get at Whole Foods. And since I live in L.A., it's so important to protect my skin from the sun, so I apply a tinted moisturizer with SPF by Revision Skincare."

Makeup musts
"Burt's Bees pomegranate lip balm is my favorite. I love this Bobbi Brown lipstick pencil in rose-brown. And, oh my God, I always have blotting sheets!"

Dream meal
"I'm a huge sushi fan. I have it every couple of days. Also Cuban food, like roasted pork and rice and beans. And tostones, when they're flattened and fried and you dip them in garlic sauce."

Favorite things in my closet
"I'm a jeans fanatic. It's ridiculous how many jeans I have. I love DL1961 because they hug my body really well. Also Joe's, Citizens of Humanity, Paige. But I recently gave a lot away to Goodwill."