'Bachelorette' star Hannah Brown battled 'depression and anxiety’ as a result of competing in beauty pageants

·4 min read
Hannah Brown gets candid about pageantry's impact on her mental health. (Photo: Getty Images)
Hannah Brown gets candid about pageantry's impact on her mental health. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Bachelorette's Hannah Brown is sharing more about her pageant days with Duck Dynasty's Robertson family, opening up about the impact that competing had on her body image and mental health.

The 26-year-old Alabama native joined Willie, Korie and Sadie Robertson, as well as Sadie's husband Christian Huff, for an episode of the family's Facebook Watch series At Home with the Robertsons. In it, they discussed the concept of beauty pageants — something that both Willie and Korie deterred their own daughters from being a part of — and how they can be both harmful and helpful.

"I think having a strong sense of your femininity as a woman is something that should be celebrated. But there’s another side to it," Brown explained, recalling her own history in pageantry that began when she was 15 years old. "I had a director of a pageant. She’s emailed me a picture of another girl’s body and said, 'I need you to look like this in your swimsuit before this time.' And it killed me."

Brown, who opened up about an ongoing battle with body image and disordered eating back in February said that the comment led her into a pattern of dieting. "I would go a year without eating carbs," she shared. "It really messed with me a lot. And I dealt with some anxiety and depression because of it."

She went on to explain that the vicious cycle and harsh comparison to others eventually brought her to quit pageants.

"I would spend a whole year preparing for this one pageant and then I would never make the top. And then I would do it again and I just kept being beat down and would look at the person that had won and be like, ‘What do I need to do this year?’" Brown said. "I kept changing myself. I ended up just being miserable and actually stopped because I started battling with depression and anxiety and I think a lot of it came from trying to be something that I wasn’t."

Sadie shared similar experiences that she had when doing some modeling gigs after her family had acquired fame from Duck Dynasty. "I remember the guy came and grabbed my side and he said, 'Yeah, if you would lose just like 10 pounds then you’d look like a real model,'" she recalled from one photoshoot. "That really messed with me."

Another time, she had anticipated doing a no-makeup shoot until an unpleasant encounter with the photographer. "I was so excited, I was like, ‘This is going to be so awesome. It’s going to show girls this is what I really look like,’ and all this stuff. I got there and the photographer said, ‘She doesn’t really have the face for no makeup, call in a makeup team.’ They did and they put makeup on me and the whole day I was just crushed. Because I’m like, ‘What do you mean I don’t have the face?’"

Ultimately, Brown explained that she learned a lot from pageants about how to command an audience and feel her most confident on stage. She even recalled that one of her most proud moments was when she won Miss Alabama USA after taking a hiatus because she was no longer comparing herself to others.

"I was completely myself. There wasn’t one part of it that was fabricated. It was truth, I had the most genuine conversation. My name finally gets called, I’ve never heard my name be called. It’s probably one of the most proud, surreal moments of my life, even from winning Dancing with the Stars or Bachelorette because that was so authentically me," she said. "I didn’t have to be anything that I wasn’t. And that’s when I won. So I feel like for me that was a really cool experience that I needed to have. Don’t try to be a B-grade version of something else. Be yourself and that’s when you’ll have those moments."

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