Camila Mendes Explains How Rihanna Helped Her Overcome Her Bulimia

Camila Mendes
Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows.

With more than 12 million Instagram followers, Camila Mendes has a clear influence—and she’s not letting it go to waste. In an interview with Shape, the 24-year-old actor opened up about her battle with bulimia, and how the body positivity movement—including Rihanna—helped her heal.

Mendes’s eating disorder battle began in high school and collage, but it wasn’t until she started acting on camera that it reached its lowest point. The Riverdale star recalled a fear of carbs and purging if she thought she ate anything unhealthy.

“I’ve struggled with bulimia. It happened a little bit in high school and again when I was in college. Then it came back when I started working in this industry with fittings all the time and watching myself on camera,” Mendes said. “I had such an emotional relationship with food, and anxiety about everything I put into my body. I was so scared of carbs that I wouldn’t let myself eat bread or rice ever. I’d go a week without eating them, then I would binge on them, and that would make me want to purge. If I ate a sweet, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to eat for five hours now.'”

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Mendes’s food obsession didn’t end with unhealthy foods. The actor said she even punished herself if she felt she ate too many healthy foods. “I was always punishing myself,” Mendes said. “I was even anxious about healthy food: Did I eat too much of the avocado? Did I have too many fats for one day? I was consumed with the details of what I was eating, and I always felt as if I was doing something wrong.”

Mendes credits the body positivity movement for helping her heal. Specifically, she shouts out Rihanna and other celebrities who are open about their fluctuating weight and loving themselves the way they are. “This body positivity movement we’re having right now is so amazing, and it’s helping me so much,” she says. “I’m seeing all these people who I look up to, like Rihanna, open up about their weight fluctuations and loving themselves the way they are. That makes me love myself more too.”

MORE: Why Celebrities with ‘Acceptable Bodies’ Deserve a Place in the Body-Positive Community

As for why she opened up about her eating disorder in the first place, Mendes knows she has an influence on younger generations. For her, her work goes beyond acting and continues with inspiring people, like Rihanna did for her, too.

“I realized that I have this platform, and young women and men who look up to me, and there is a tremendous power to do something positive with it,” Mendes said. “As actors, yes, we bring joy to people. But for me, it’s also about what I’m doing for the world, what I’m contributing on a larger scale.”

She continued, “It was definitely a very vulnerable thing to put that out there to almost 12 million people on social media. But that’s who I am. That’s me being authentically myself. There’s nothing I won’t talk about. I’m open and upfront. I don’t play games.”