'Call Her Daddy' host Alex Cooper recalls 'hating every single thing about myself': 'I did put emphasis on my looks'

Alex Cooper is the host and creator of the most listened to podcast by women, Call Her Daddy, with a millennial and Gen Z audience that outnumbers any others. But the 28-year-old is sharing that confidence isn't what got her there.

In an episode of Jay Shetty's podcast On Purpose, Cooper opened up about being "severely bullied for my looks" when she was a kid. "I was super, super skinny, people made fun of me, said that I looked like I had an eating disorder. I had awful, awful acne to the point where like I would beg my parents to let me stay home from school," she said.

During those formative years of her life, her looks felt like they had determined a lot of her worth.

"I hated everything about myself. I hated my skin, my face, my hair, my teeth, my body, my torso, my legs. I could pinpoint every single thing about myself that I hated and it was almost everything, exterior-wise," she explained. "But inside, I knew I was a good person, I knew I was a good daughter, I knew I was a good friend, but I felt like it was all based on looks of why I was getting bullied."

Cooper recalled searching for remedies to make herself feel better about her body or her skin. "In high school, I used to put on three pairs of leggings, tape it to my leg and then put on my school pants just to hope that everyone would think my legs were bigger. And by the time I would have soccer practice after school, my joints were in so much pain from sitting in class," she said.

And while she didn't open up to her parents about how isolated she had felt at the time, she found solace in taking up hobbies that her dad, who was a sports broadcaster at the time, had introduced to her. Ultimately, it was in her parents' basement creating content and on the soccer field playing on an all-girls team that made her feel "safe and seen" during an otherwise difficult chapter of her life. But as she grew to her current level of fame through her podcast, she kept those painful memories to herself.

"There's this dichotomy of, for me, the girl that was bullied and then the girl I've created or the woman I've created in the show. But I think a lot of people have a hard time because everyone wants to put things in boxes, understanding like, 'There's no way Alex Cooper, the confident Call Her Daddy girl could've also been bullied when she was younger,'" she said. "What I've come to realize, in therapy actually, is that ugly, awkward, acne girl is who started Call Her Daddy. Because if I had not gone through that, there's no way I would've started Call Her Daddy."

While the show might be considered a part of Cooper's revenge arc, as she speaks confidence into an audience of young women who might feel as lost as she once did, she also acknowledged how her childhood experiences led her to place a rather unhealthy emphasis on her appearance.

"I look back and those years where you start to especially be judged for what you look like, when we're actually just trying to figure out inside who we are, it's so problematic. I definitely think that it affected me. Then I did put emphasis on my looks," she said. "Hating every single thing about myself, of course, I was like, 'I wanna go bleach my hair, I want to be the girl that I saw on the magazines.' And then I did all of that and I even look back at pictures of myself when I took it way too far. But it was all just for me to feel like the women that I thought had it all because they looked a certain way."

She's even recognized that the change in her physical appearance has altered the way she's seen and treated by people around her.

"I remember one of the boys that I went to middle school with who bullied me ended up going to my college and at that point, I had already had a glow up," she recalled. "And he was trying to hit on me and giving me all this attention and it only made me just feel actually awful because I was like, 'I'm the same person, I'm the same exact person.'"

She continued, "I'm the same person to my core and you're only treating me differently because I got a prescription for Accutane, got some hair dye, got my braces off, put on some muscle 'cause I'm playing soccer. It's quite literally just the physical as to why you're acting differently towards me."

Although she's used it to her advantage to create a social media presence that's good for her business, she also acknowledged how the attention paid to Instagram and TikTok feeds has had a negative impact on her self-esteem and ultimately her podcast.

"I've really gone through periods where I felt like my whole existence was immersed and defined by social media," she said. "It gives me anxiety, I realize, when I don't feel good enough, I don't feel pretty enough, I don't feel like I’m fitting the body standard and then I start to spiral. Why are we doing this to ourselves?"

Through recent years, Cooper has spoken on her podcast about efforts to separate her self-worth from social media, including turning off comments on her posts. She told Shetty that she's taken on other self-care practices to better her mental health including meditation and therapy.

Ultimately, she hopes that her own development and evolution have a positive impact on the way that she uses her platform.

"I know who I am now and I know my morals and my values and I know that a lot of that stems from the pain that I went through and I am a very empathetic person," she said of her past. "It made me really turn inward and that created a different level of strength and self reliance that I can’t even put into words."

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.