Skip to main content

Having grown up in the entertainment industry, Shailene Woodley knows all too well the pressures of the spotlight. The actor was only 5 years old when she started acting. Over the years, she has built an impressive resume. However, navigating such a successful career hasn’t always been a cakewalk. This was especially true when the Divergent star was in her early 20s and navigating an illness.

Shailene Woodley at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival
Shailene Woodley | Phillip Faraone/WireImage

Shailene Woodley has been pretty tight-lipped about her illness

While Woodley comes across as an open person, she keeps certain things very close to the chest. An example of this is the illness she experienced. In fact, it wasn’t until 2020 that the Endings, Beginnings star revealed that she was very sick earlier on in her career and dealing with huge amounts of physical pain. And while Woodley has yet to reveal what her illness was, she did get candid about it in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

‘The O.C.’ actor turned down quite a few acting jobs due to her medical condition

“It was pretty debilitating,” Woodley shared of her illness. “I said no to a lot of projects, not because I wanted to but because I physically couldn’t participate in them. And I definitely suffered a lot more than I had to because I didn’t take care of myself. The self-inflicted pressure of not wanting to be helped or taken care of created more physical unrest throughout those years.”

Woodley’s health condition had had plenty of negative aspects. In addition to the pain, she had to turn down quite a bit of acting work so that she could care for herself. However, The Descendants actor did learn some valuable life lessons from the illness. It forced her to focus on herself, rather than what was being said about her.

How Woodley’s illness helped her not to care what other people thought about her

“It made me learn the incredibly difficult life task of not caring what people think about you very quickly,” Woodley explained. “The more I paid attention to the noise that was surrounding me, the longer it was taking my body and my mind to heal because I wasn’t focused on myself, I was focused on an image of myself via the lens of everyone around us.”


Shailene Woodley Vowed to Quit Acting When She Was on a Magazine Cover

Fortunately, for Woodley, her health has improved in the years since. However, the Big Little Lies alum isn’t shy about sharing that being in the spotlight while she dealt with her illness wasn’t easy. “I’m on the tail end of it, which is very exciting, but it’s an interesting thing, going through something so physically dominating while also having so many people pay attention to the choices you make, the things you say, what you do, what you look like.”

We’re sure Woodley’s fans are glad to hear that she’s on the mend. Perhaps, when she feels ready, she’ll share more details about her illness and other things she’s learned from it.