Minka Kelly Opens Up About Her Childhood Trauma and 'Chaotic' Upbringing in New Book

Minka Kelly
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fashion Scholarship Fund

'Tell Me Everything' details the star's struggle with poverty and growing up with a mother who worked as an exotic dancer in L.A.

Minka Kelly is telling all. The 42-year-old actress opens up for the first time about her upbringing and "complicated" relationships with her parents in her new book, Tell Me Everything, candidly reliving some of her most painful memories.

"My childhood was colorful and chaotic, unstable and inconsistent, unpredictable and hard a lot of the times. But the silver lining is that it made me a very adaptable person," the Friday Night Lights star tells People in a new interview. 

Kelly grew up in Los Angeles the daughter of a single mom, Maureen, who worked as an exotic dancer and struggled with addiction, poverty, and domestic violence. In her book, Kelly shares that she spent time as a young child at the Crazy Girls strip club in Los Angeles where her mother performed and, at one point, she and her mother stayed in the storage shed of an apartment complex after being unable to pay rent for their unit. 

"If she made a lot of money that night, we'd go grocery shopping at 2 a.m.," Kelly recalls.

"I spent a lot of my youth wishing my mom was something she wasn't, wishing she was like the other moms," she says in the interview. "I only was able to really appreciate how special she was when I got much older. In fact when it was maybe a little too late."

Kelly's mother died of colon cancer in 2008. While the pair were estranged for a time, Kelly rekindled their relationship after her mother's diagnosis and attempted to confront her about her childhood experiences.

"I saw her start to crumble in shame and regret and pain when she was already in so much of all of those things, and I just immediately thought, 'I don't need to do this to her,'" Kelly remembers. "I only need to forgive her and love her. She's already broken. What is the point of pouring salt on the wound? I'm fine. I just want to take care of her right now."

In the end, Kelly held her mother in her arms as she died in a hospice facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Euphoria actress reveals in her book that when she was 17 years old, she performed in peep shows at an Albuquerque adult-video store. At the time, she was set on being able to support herself after bouncing between the care of family friends and acquaintances while her mom had been gone for weeks and months at a time. 

"I started with the scariest part," Kelly shares. "The part that I carried the most shame about, the part that I felt the most embarrassed of, the part that I hid my whole life, and the part that I've had people make me feel bad about. And I felt like that was just where I had to be the most brave."

Among the other revelations in her book is that she survived a toxic relationship with her first boyfriend, which resulted in an abortion and coerced sex tape. Later, she traveled to L.A. in an attempt to reconnect with her father, former Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay. 

"We met up a few times through the years but never really knew each other until I got older and was able to see the situation for what it was and was able to let go of any grudges," Kelly wrote in a 2018 Father's Day tribute to Dufay on Instagram. "Our parents are human after all. When I was ready, he was there. It was a very bumpy road to start but we found our way. Thank god for therapy. We still drive each other nuts sometimes but I can honestly say that I’m not sure where I’d be without him today."

Kelly eventually went to school to become a scrub nurse and, later, began modeling and acting. She broke big in 2006 with her role as the privileged cheerleader Lyla Garrity on the hit teen drama, Friday Night Lights.

During her time on the show, Kelly struck up an off-screen relationship with her co-star, Taylor Kitsch. Today, she says, the two are not in touch.

"I think that relationship taught me to not have on-set romances," says Kelly. "But you have to learn it for yourself." 

Kelly hopes that her book will help others who "might have complicated relationships with their mothers feel less alone." 

She adds, "And also to know that we don't have to be a victim of our circumstance."

Tell Me Everything will be released on May 2.