Playing Luna Lovegood was, well, good for Evanna Lynch’s health.
In a behind-the-scenes video that aired on Dancing With the Stars Monday, October 8, the actress revealed that she suffered from a severe eating disorder that started at the age of 11 — and the Harry Potter book series was the only thing that helped.
“When I was like 11, 12, I was battling an eating disorder. Anyone who’s had an eating disorder knows it completely takes over your life,” Lynch told her partner, Keo Motsepe, in the ABC show’s clip. “And the only thing that could actually take my attention apart from that was [reading] the Harry Potter series.”
The actress, now 27, began sending letters to the books’ author, J.K. Rowling. “I started writing to J.K. Rowling and she wrote back,” she said. “And we became pen friends after that. I was in and out of hospital and I would be getting these letters.” Those letters helped get her through, Lynch shared: “Her books and her kindness made me really want to live again.”
By the time there was an open casting call for the role of Luna Lovegood in January 2006, Lynch knew she could ace it. “I remember doing the auditions and feeling like, I just felt like I knew her so, and I was meant to be playing her.”
She was right — and after the Ireland native took on the ethereal character in 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she was on the road to a permanent recovery. “I loved the feeling of creating and acting more than I loved the feeling of being skinny or of being perfect,” she said. “Being in Harry Potter changed my life because it proved to me that I could do something, that I had something to offer the world.”
Lynch elaborated on her message to Us Weekly after Monday night’s show — in which she and Motsepe danced a Viennese waltz to the Harry Potter movie franchise’s theme song, earning a 27/30. “The way I always describe it, was that I fell in love with other things. I think love and light is the antidote to any of that kind of darkness, and I fell in love with acting and I fell in love with dancing and books and things,” she said. “It made me feel like, ‘Oh, maybe it’s worth giving up my eating disorder for these things. Maybe recovery is worth it.’ It’s about finding things that you love more than that need to self destruct.”
As for her decision to share her story, the outspoken star tells Us she did it for the sake of others currently struggling with anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. “I hope it shows them that there is light and there is hope and as hard as recovery is, and as much as you don’t want to do it, you have so much ahead of you,” she says. “Having an eating disorder, I know it’s a weird thing to say, but it takes a lot of willpower and inner strength. It’s a lot of energy, and if you channel that into something positive, there’s no limit to what you can do.” Adds the season 27 contestant, “There is so much more out there than what you think.”
With reporting by Emily Marcus