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Wellness advocate + Oscar-nominated actress
Mariel spends her days working to end the silence and stigma around mental health. She has given talks to audiences around the world.
"With mental health issues, the worst thing is that people feel isolated, alone, and they feel unheard."
There have been seven recorded suicides in the Hemingway family.
In 2013 Mariel unpacked this history in a documentary, Running from Crazy; a title that has evolving meaning for her.
"Most of my early life was spent thinking I understood where I came from. Thinking I had all the answers by the way that I ate and followed gurus, all this stuff outside myself. Until I realized I don't need to run. I'm not crazy. And even if I have those tendencies, I have solutions. I never realized there were solutions within me. I was running from what I couldn't understand."
At age 14, Mariel burst onto the scene, starring alongside her sister, Margaux, in the thriller film Lipstick (1976).
Margaux, seven years Mariel's senior, was one of the world's first supermodels. She graced the covers of every hot publication, from Vogue to TIME. For years, however, Margaux struggled with alcohol and drug addiction.
"People used to say, 'Are you Margaux?', and I would freak. I wouldn't say anything - but immediately I thought, oh my god, you think I'm crazy … In my mind, she just come out of a rehab and was 50 pounds overweight. As opposed to what most people who thought - that Margaux Hemingway was a glamourous model, beautiful, funny and they just loved her."
Suicide took Margaux's life in 1996.
"I was so judgmental of her. I had some sort of superiority feeling that addiction was controllable. Whereas, when I look back, I feel so sad because she had no control."
Although Mariel was able to avoid substance abuse, she did find herself preoccupied with other intrusive thoughts and habits.
"I have an addictive personality. That was very clear to me early on because I get obsessive about things. Now, as I've come to understand balanced living - doing things with a sense of equilibrium - I don't have this sort of addict-behaviour as much anymore. There used to be a time where I couldn't stop thinking about food … that became the addiction that kept me away from the thoughts that scared me more than that."
Her fixation on exercise and nutrition led to a cycle of disordered eating and unrealistic body expectations. She tried everything from traditional diets like macrobiotic, vegetarianism, veganism, from no-fat to all-fat ... to less common diets such as only fruit and tea, to literally nothing but popcorn.
"My fear of losing control was my fear of food, body image, those were all about control. I thought, if I can control my body and what I put into it, then I can control the rest of my life. And of course, you can't control anything."
Over the past three decades, an integral part of her journey to healing and finding inner peace has been the practice of yoga and meditation.
"Morning meditation - even five minutes where you create a safe world for yourself and think, I'm super grateful to myself, for this day, to God, whatever you believe in. Then create a vision of how you would like to see things be. Intention really is mindfulness; it's having response instead of reaction."
Mariel has traveled across America sharing her story and spreading a crucial message to those struggling, to keep holding on.
"As trite and ridiculous as this might sound, everything changes. If this were a dream state, everybody wakes up from the dream, even if it's a nightmare. You definitely will wake up. At some point, it has to shift because energy doesn't work that way. Everything moves. The world is constantly in motion."
Being raised in Ketchum, Idaho, a town known for its sprawling mountains and enchanting nature, is what she attributes to keeping her leveled throughout her childhood.
"I went home, and nobody gave a shit that I had made a movie in Hollywood. I think I always had a sense of groundedness in my home, the physicality of that. The beauty of being outside can sometimes just be enough."
To this day, she continues to spend much of her time outdoors and routinely rises at daybreak to catch the sunrise.
"I go outside, bundle up and I just watch. Those moments of silence are so imperative. The beauty of life is finding those moments where you're reminded of your humanity and how ridiculous we make little tasks and dramas - we act like it's the end of the world. There are things to be taken care of, but there is no problem in the present moment."
Over a decade ago, after a mutual friend suggested they get together for a hike, Mariel met Bobby Williams, a former stuntman and her partner in love and balanced living.
"He gets out of the truck; I get out of my car. I look at him, and he was my person. I knew it."
She smiles as she recalls her first birthday with Bobby.
"He took me to a health food store, and at the end of the day we went climbing. We were in nature, took a little walk. I looked at him, my eyes welled up, and I said, that was the best birthday ever. He goes, I can see you. That just killed me because nobody had ever really … to be seen is everything."
The greatest source of Mariel's pride is her two children - Dree Louise and Langley Fox.
Dree is a successful model and actress. Langley is an illustrator whose design work has been commissioned by the biggest names in fashion.
"Parenting is a great mirror for who you are as a human being. I realized I hadn't learned how to be a kid because I wasn't very good at being an easygoing mom. I have real trouble being playful. I didn't know how to do it because it wasn't taught to me. Bobby was the person that taught me how to play in my life, how to have fun, how to giggle."
Of all the valuable lessons she's learned throughout her life, one tops the list.
"The biggest struggle but the greatest gift is the ability to listen. I'm still working on it. That's being present. That's intent. That's mindfulness. It's all those things wrapped into one, but the learning of not having to be right and sitting back and listening. Really connecting with somebody and hearing them … you learn so much from it."
In a 1994 episode of Roseanne, Mariel's character engaged in a same-sex kiss. It was one of the first ever seen on scripted network television and was groundbreaking for the LGBTQ+ community. The episode, viewed by over 30 million people, nearly wasn't aired after calls for a boycott.
"In retrospect, I should have gone, oh my god, this is going to be a big deal, but I just did things. I thought, well that will be funny. That will be fun."
Mariel also starred in the 1982 movie Personal Best, a love story of two female athletes. Her portrayal of a young bisexual track-and-field star gave representation to an entire generation of women. The film was one of the first of its kind.
"I never thought twice about it. I was actually pretty naïve. To me, it was playing a role that's part of our society, that's part of our world, that's part of humanity."
From actress and author, to speaker and advocate - Mariel is known as many things to many people and leaves us with this piece of advice to young people in search of their purpose:
"If you're young, it's likely you won't know your purpose for a long, long time. Must you have a defined purpose? Our purpose changes throughout our lives. I never knew that I would be an advocate for mental health. I had an inability to look at it because I was so afraid of it; I wasn't going to talk about it. Now part of my mission in life is to make it okay for people to talk about it. I'm 57-years-old, so maybe our purpose is ever-changing?"
Interview Recorded: December 2018 | Updated 2022
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