The headline for Chrissy Teigen’s Marie Claire July cover story reads, “The (Truly) Unfiltered Chrissy Teigen.” Living up to her reputation for candidness, Teigen doesn’t shy away from commenting on her postpartum depression: “Every step I take feels a little shaky. It’s such a weird feeling that you wouldn’t know unless you have really bad anxiety…You feel like everyone is looking at you.” She brings it up again later in the interview when discussing the possibility of expanding her family: “Maybe I should be scared [of having PPD again], but I don’t know. It couldn’t be any worse than it was – could it?”
This is not the first time Chrissy Teigen has casually woven mental health into an on-the-record conversation with a journalist.
In the March issue of Glamour, she wrote, “for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me — but me — knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression.”
In April, she told Refinery29, “When I was in the midst of everything, I could never imagine myself on the other side of it. Now, I’m able to look at September, October, November, December, and shake my head at how dark and crazy of a period it was. Unfortunately you can only really do that when you’re out of it. There’s no other way to explain it.”
Time after time, Teigen’s honesty becomes internet-sweeping headlines. This may seem exploitative, but I actually think it’s exactly what she intends. She isn’t solely responsible for making mental health part of the national conversation, but she is normalizing it in a very particular way — a way that she is uniquely equipped to exercise. Unlike a TED talk or a researched New York Times op-ed, Chrissy Teigen has enormous star power, and that star power is the key to unlocking a place for mental health in pop culture’s historically limited lexicon.
Chrissy Teigen isn’t just combatting the “hush hush” stigma around mental-health issues — the socially reinforced inclination to clamp down and keep difficult feelings quiet — she’s also combatting the clinical stigma. By “clinical,” I mean the ease with which mental health can be reduced to impersonal statistics and scientific studies instead of taking the form of the face of your best friend or your mom or coworker or favorite celebrity who loves fried chicken and making jokes on twitter.
News of Teigen’s experiences with depression and anxiety inevitably runs alongside writeups about acne products, dating pitfalls, friendship advice and other universally relevant content about the joys and struggles of being human. She isn’t just making mental health normal to talk about — she’s making it abnormal not to.
It’s significant that Teigen hasn’t tried to wrap up her pregnancy, or her postpartum depression, with a neatly tied bow. There is enormous pressure on women in general, but especially women in the public eye, to have an aesthetically perfect pregnancy and to “bounce back” immediately afterward, both physically and mentally. Those who aren’t consistently overcome with happiness during and after pregnancy are considered non-normative, which is kind of odd since I’m told it’s a pretty life-changing experience, and would understandably cause some outer and inner upheaval.
The narrative Teigen has created around her experience with motherhood bucks the compulsion to be perfect and instead acknowledges the not-so-wonderful alongside the wonderful. Instead of waiting to talk about her postpartum depression while she was safely on the other side, she openly admits to still feeling “shaky.”
There’s not a lot of leeway for moms who deviate from the prescriptive identity set forth, because admitting to anything less than perfection can easily be seen as a strike against you. By bringing it up again and again, Teigen’s making it clear that this is just another ongoing chapter in her life — a chapter that doesn’t have an ending yet.