Billie Eilish just opened up about the reality of living with Tourette syndrome – and it’s no laughing matter

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Christobel Hastings
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Billie Eilish

In a candid interview for Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, award-winning musician Billie Eilish opened up about the reality of living with Tourette syndrome.

Having already tackled sexism in the music industry, toxic body-shaming, social media trolling and the effects of watching porn at a young age, Billie Eilish is no stranger to speaking up about important issues in a bid to change the status quo. One topic she hasn’t discussed much in the public eye, though, is her experiences with Tourette syndrome – that is, until now.

In an interview with David Letterman for his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the Grammy-award winner talked candidly about her neurological disorder, which can cause uncontrollable repetitive movements and sounds called tics, and the ways people frequently misunderstand what is happening.

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During the interview, Letterman broached the subject when Eilish experienced an involuntary movement.

“If you film me for long enough, you’re going to see a lot of tics,” she explained. Letterman then asked if it she felt comfortable discussing the condition, to which she replied, “Absolutely.”

“It’s really weird, I haven’t talked about it at all,” she continued. “The most common way that people react is they laugh because they think I’m trying to be funny. They think I’m [ticcing] as a funny move. And so they go, ‘Ha,’ and I’m always left incredibly offended by that. Or they go ‘What?’ and then I go, ‘I have Tourette’s.’”

Eilish, who was diagnosed at the age of 11 with the neurological disorder, revealed that many other artists in the industry had disclosed that they too live with Tourette syndrome with her since she started speaking openly about her condition.

“So many people have it and you’d never know,” she continued. 

“A couple artists have come forward and said, ‘I’ve always had Tourette’s.’ And I’m not going to out them because they don’t want to talk about it. But that was really interesting to me because I was like, ‘You do? What?’”

The musician went on to explain that her tics don’t occur when she is performing, but that it happens frequently off stage. Although they’re subtle, Eilish explained, they take a significant toll.

“I never don’t tic at all, because the main tics that I do are constantly, like, I wiggle my ear back and forth and raise my eyebrow and click my jaw and flex this arm here and this arm there,” she continued

“These are things you would never notice if you’re having a conversation with me, but for me, they’re very exhausting.”

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Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish.

Eilish then reiterated that she said she’s “very happy” to talk about her Tourette’s because as it’s all “really interesting” to her. She also said she has made peace with her diagnosis and now sees it as part of what makes her unique.

“It’s not like I like it, but I feel like it’s… part of me,” she reflected. “I have made friends with it. And so now, I’m pretty confident in it.”

Eilish is right: the parts of ourselves that are so often stigmatised as abnormal, difficult or strange are in fact what makes us special. And in speaking so openly about her condition in the public eye, Eilish’s words will undoubtedly go a long way in helping both those living with Tourette syndrome and wider society to understand and normalise the condition.

Find out more information on Tourette syndrome on the NHS and Tourettes Action.

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