“It feels good to speak my mind”: Amanda Seyfried chats to Stylist about mental health and life on her farm

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Helen Bownass
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Balancing the demands of her career with meditation and therapy, Amanda Seyfried has found a happy medium. Here she tells Stylist that it hasn’t always been that way...

There is a very large Australian shepherd dog wearing an orange neckerchief dozing on the sofa of the chic suite in New York’s classy Crosby Street Hotel. I am surprised to see him, but no-one else is. Because it turns out when you interview Amanda Seyfried, her dog Finn is her plus one. And very well behaved he is too.

Seyfried has had her canine pal, a rescue dog, since he was a puppy. He’s now seven and is a constant companion (this isn’t hyperbole, she has it written into US acting contracts that he’ll be on set with her). Only he’s now having to get used to sharing her.

When I meet Seyfried, she is expecting her first child with actor Thomas Sadoski – who she recently eloped with and with whom she shares her farm in the Catskill Mountains, a couple of hours’ drive from New York City. When she’s not in NYC or LA , she spends as much time there as possible. Since our chat, she has given birth to a baby girl.

It’s the biggest cliché in the world to describe a pregnant woman as glowing. And I’m sorry to do this, but the 31-year-old looks radiantly, beamingly happy when I meet her at the launch of Givenchy Live Délicieuse (she has worked with the fashion house since 2013).

It’s of note, because for Seyfried, times haven’t always been so great. While there’s been the high-profile films including Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables and Lovelace, alongside fashion campaigns for the likes of Miu Miu, Seyfried, who grew up in Pennsylvania, has also struggled with mental illness over the years, in particular OCD. But today she is honest, funny, sweary (this is a woman who has a tattoo of the word ‘minge’ on her foot – of course she knows how to curse) and curious about politics and the world around her.

Finn and I both have an excellent feeling about this new stage of her life...

Mental health and wellbeing are so tied up together, yet it’s still rare for someone in the public eye to talk about it. Has it been important for you to redress that?
Oh god, yeah! It’s partly why I suffered when I was younger because there was such a stigma that I couldn’t talk about it. I thought I was crazy and there was a lot of suffering, because of not understanding what was going on with me. But there’s a perfect medical explanation. I want my kids to feel comfortable talking about anything that scares them. God, if my mom had known... she feels so terrible that she didn’t know I was suffering. So I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. In terms of mental health, it’s just as important as physical health.

Has your own mental health been on your mind even more as you’ve prepared to become a mum?
This free time that I have, this ‘cooking’ time [laughs]... I have this special time that I will never get back. If I’m not working, I’m with my cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) therapist, doing meditation, taking care of myself.

Talking is important then?
Repression and fear can keep you from being able to communicate properly and get the most out of life. And there are so many things we can do and know in our short lives, which is really f**king cool.

Do you have to force yourself to practise these levels of communication and self-awareness sometimes?
I have to constantly go out of my comfort zone, which is staying on the farm, not venturing out, retreating into my nest. Luckily, my job pulls me out or I could easily be sucked in and turn into that fearful little girl that I was. There is that possibility of reverting, that’s why I have to keep working on it.

You mentioned meditation, has that been a useful tool in this journey?
For sure. Because I know that I can go into that role, that I can just focus on something and nothing. Meditation becomes a muscle memory. The OCD that I suffer from is still very prevalent, and it goes up and down. I’ve got a good pack of therapists. I happen to really like [therapy]. I like talking about myself – it’s hard to admit, but that’s what I do there. Therapy is bouncing ideas off people and them telling me, with their expertise, what the meaning behind things could be and what I might want to look out for. We’re all puzzles.

How do you meditate?
I have a teacher in LA at The Den Meditation. I’ve been doing these incredibly wonderful prenatal meditations there. It’s f**king great, and then when I’m at home I do [meditation app] Insight Timer.

How are you when you’re not working? Is that a state that you enjoy?
Yeah, I love it. But I have to earn it [laughs]. It’s a reward. If I haven’t earned it, it’s terrible.

You talk so openly; how easy has it been for you to find your own voice?
I’ve always felt really embarrassed by my lack of education [Seyfried changed her plans to attend Fordham University in New York when she got offered her role in Mean Girls in 2003] and put myself down because I didn’t go to college. I always thought I’m not smart enough.

In the past couple of years though, I feel like I’ve been paying more attention [to the news], I’ve been working really hard on getting to know myself, to work out my triggers, where I’ve come from, how I’ve gotten to where I am, why I behave in certain ways. Self-exploration is necessary. I don’t feel like enough people do it because it’s scary, but it’s so empowering, and it’s why I am the way I am. It also helps me to weed out the things about me that I think are very unhelpful.

Nowadays, I feel so much more confident talking about what I care about – I can have a conversation with you about what happened in the [US] election, for example. I do have feelings about it and my feelings aren’t going to necessarily match other people’s feelings but that’s OK. At least my feelings are coming from a place of awareness and information. It’s scary when you’re in the public eye and get emotional and say things that aren’t well thought out and you’re attacked for it, and then you attack yourself.

I think for young women particularly it can be especially hard to feel like you’re being heard...
As an actor, I know people are probably rolling their eyes [at me]. A lot of people are like, “F**k these celebrities, what do they know?” My retort is, “I’m just as important as you are. I’m not just a prop.” It makes me want to speak my mind even more. And god, it feels good. I know a lot of my friends in the public eye don’t really get involved because of that, but I guess you just have to be willing to take the sh*t.

And it’s been a particularly dramatic time when it comes to things to comment on.
It’s been a f**ked-up year. It was really hard at first. There are people – as we’ve seen through Brexit for you guys and the election over here – who feel they’re not being heard and we need to listen to them. It doesn’t matter if they believe in certain things, it doesn’t matter if they believe in things that we don’t believe in, what matters is that they feel that they have a voice too.

What’s happened [in politics] recently has made me question everything. Maybe that’s what we need to do though. It really does start with compassion, but it’s so f**king hard. We’re all such emotional beings and we want to stand up for what we believe in, but there’s a way of standing up for what you believe in without cutting people out.

So many of us talk nowadays about living a more – and I hate this phrase – ‘authentic’ life. It seems that by having your life out on the farm as well as a career in Hollywood, you’ve managed to strike a balance...
There’s no pressure on the farm. I’m lucky. I always knew I wanted a farm, and I didn’t know if I was going to have tons of animals, but I’ve just inherited these horses, we’ve bought goats. I would like an alpaca.

What sort of jobs do you do when you’re there?
I never did the litter box and I still don’t do the litter box [laughs], but that’s fine. I’m trying to be as strong as I can, to keep on exercising so I can lift the hay bales.

I know you’re also into crafting...
I have one of those big machines that you can spin on. It looks like a Rapunzel thing, something from the fairy-tales I used to read as a kid. I like creating things, even though the finished product is never as good as the journey. I’m usually like, “Eurgh, that looks so weird”. My sister [Jennifer, a musician] keeps saying, “Isn’t there anything else you can make? You’re just going to hang it on the wall again!” I’m making a wall hanging for my mom, but they take a lot of time.

Are you going to be a mum who makes your own baby clothes?
Yes. [Laughs] I’m making crocheted booties, because they’re so easy and the cutest little things. They take 45 minutes per boot and in one session of watching [US true crime TV show] Dateline, you can finish it.

Has spending so much time on the farm changed how you think about the world around you?
It keeps me wanting to preserve that sacred land. I live at the end of a road, so I have this little pocket – everyone should have their own pocket of land. There are no chemicals on the farm, we don’t use pesticides. I mean, we have terrible crops! And solar panels are a f**king must for me. It’s not about saving money, it’s not worrying about being on the grid if you don’t want to be and being completely self-sufficient. It makes me think differently about animals and eating animals too, and the way that they’re farmed. I do eat meat – I’ve tried being vegetarian and it’s really do-able, but I think there’s a humane way to do things. It’s industrial farming that I’m very aware of now.

How easy do you find it, going from farm life to doing consumer promotion like this? the world around you?
It’s a little tricky. I’ve been doing it for long enough now – and I’m pretty quick to adapt – but I think I’m even more aware of the vibrations of it all now. It’s the lack of space [not being on the farm]; my body woke up today all stuffed up. It’s the lower ceilings, the vibrations from outside, the people. It’s being really sensitive, it can be a little overwhelming at times.

Do you have a particularly sensitive sense of smell?
I do, especially now I’m pregnant. Body odour turns my stomach. I just cannot tolerate it. That, and garlic.

You’ve been the face of Givenchy Very Irrésistible for a few years now, what appeals to you about this scent?
There’s an energy to it, it’s fun and adventurous. It really reminds me of being a teenager.

Perfume is symbolic isn’t it? As a teen, it’s one of your first forays into womanhood...
Yes. It’s what you leave behind. And it’s a manipulative thing too – you can kind of change into whoever you want. It’s like Alias, when Jennifer Garner would put a new outfit on. You can transform with a scent.

Body odour and the lack of space in NYC aside, does this feel like a good time of life for you?
Yes, I’m so happy. I mean, listen, life is hard, but you don’t have to make it any harder. I feel like it’s always a struggle to remind yourself that. It is really bad for some people but I’m lucky that it isn’t like that for me, so it’s just about keeping things in perspective.

Amanda Seyfried is the face of Givenchy Live Délicieuse available May 2017, from £47