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As the daughter of actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, Ireland Baldwin has lived most of her life in the public eye, so she's no stranger to criticism. But the 26-year-old says it was when she started working in the modeling industry that the attacks on her looks went from occasional to nonstop.
Ireland's first introduction to the scathing remarks of online commenters came on a photoshoot she was "pressured into" as a teenager. It was then she first witnessed people ravaging her every move.
"I regret getting into the modeling industry at all, honestly. I already struggled with extreme body dysmorphia and eating disorders and all kinds of issues prior to modeling. That was something I was introduced to very young," says Ireland. "I was 16 and I should have been in school and with my friends and not worried about how I looked in a bikini."
Basinger, who also started her career modeling, attempted to deter her daughter from pursuing modeling full-time. But Ireland, who had worked jobs starting at 13 in the retail and food service industries, didn't listen and pursued jobs when she recognized the allure of earning her own money in a high-paying industry.
This was my job— to be told that I was fat. It was a job at that point.
"My mom was honest with me. She said this is really tough and I don't think you should leave school," Ireland recalls. "If anything, she didn't want me to do it."
But Ireland now says that as a minor, she "didn't know what I was getting myself into." As a result, her obsession with her body was exacerbated.
"It spiraled when I began modeling. It was so normal to have such an unhealthy view of yourself," Ireland reflects. "This was my job— to be told that I was fat. It was a job at that point."
However, her time in the modeling industry wasn't the beginning of Ireland's issues with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Instead, that was sparked during her parents's divorce.
"I had extreme eating issues when my parents were getting divorced when I was really young. It really is true, all eating disorders are about having a sense of control when everything around you feels out of control. My pain, my guilt, it harbors itself in my stomach. A lot of what I was going through when I was younger — it made sense for me to control what I was eating and how I was eating it and when," says Ireland. "That developed really young, now that I look back."
But when confronted by online commenters on social media platforms like Instagram, Ireland would be emotionally destroyed.
"I could see a sea of the most kind, supportive messages, and I would see one thing and it would ruin my week. People go out of their way to say terrible things about people. I would read comments on my work as it was put out on the Daily Mail or just hatred on Twitter. It's people from all over picking apart every little detail of how you look or sound" she notes.
Ireland's breaking point came when she left an emotional support rehab after getting out of an abusive relationship. She recognized how she was surrounded by people whose problems were "so much bigger" than her own and came to understand how unimportant strangers's opinions of her were.
"I never looked at comments again after I got out of that rehab," Ireland admits. "People were writing about me that I was a drug addict, alcoholic. I cannot fight or control what people say or put out about me. If I stay up all night and cry, what good will that do for anyone?"
Despite feeling "indestructible" at times, Ireland admits she "struggles with social media every single day." She sees the value of it as a way to make money and as a "live scrapbook" for her to interact with her fans and chronicle her life. But this time around, she prefers to enact healthy boundaries.
"I love keeping your private life private. I'm super against people who have their phone in their hands every second of every day and post their kids all day long," says Ireland. "They don’t see present."
One way Ireland is taking back control of her social media use is by creating content that promotes positive interactions. She's a founding creator for Squads, a web3 creator platform that just launched in the App Store, which gives control to creators. By creating more exclusive experiences for followers, Squads creators can change the way fans can connect with them.
"I feel like it’s people that really want to invest in some way in what you offer and what you have to say. I think people are almost just really curious and genuinely interested in what you offer on there. People actually want to be part of it because they like what you do and they want to join in on the conversation," says Ireland. "It’s like a cool insider’s look into a person. As their career grows, you’re growing with them."
Career growth in on Ireland's mind lately. For the last few years, she has lived primarily in Portland, Ore., where she's screenwriting full-time. She also just bought a business with her boyfriend and the couple plans on opening up a wine bar. Those are the endeavors Ireland wants to bring followers along for.
"I think it's a pretty cool platform to give people an inside look into that process," she says.
If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or eating concerns, NEDA’s toll-free, confidential helpline is available to help by phone (800-931-2237) and click-to-chat message. Crisis support is also available via text message by texting ‘NEDA’ to 741741.
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