Tallulah opened up about her personal life, her family and more in a new candid conversation with 'Vogue.'
Tallulah Willis is telling her story. After battling years of commentary on her body, grappling with the highs and lows that come with having a famous family, and most recently, dealing with her dad, Bruce Willis' aphasia diagnosis, the 29-year-old actress is forging her own path forward.
Days after sharing a series of social media messages that she said she's received from body shamers, Tallulah opened up to Vogue about her battle with body dysmorphia and anorexia, garnering the support of her mom, Demi Moore, and stepmother, Emma Heming Willis.
"I think it’s important to share this, that this happens, that this happens to a healing person in recovery, who has been honest about how very sick she was/is and is working daily to find safety and home within her skin," Tallulah wrote, just days ahead of her candid conversation with the outlet.
"It felt really important to show you this, that this happens," she continued, sharing screenshots of direct messages she's received from people responding cruelly to her photo posts. "I'm very thankful I've gotten to a place where I don’t become dismantled by strangers words (for the most part). I love you and I like you - myself, buuskis included!"
Both Demi and Emma took to the comments applauding Tallulah for her vulnerability and strength, but it's not the first time she's felt compelled to address her body image issues. Back in 2021, she revealed that she punished herself for not looking more like her superstar mother.
In addition to her personal battles -- breaking up with her fiancé and health issues of her own -- her family is facing one with Bruce, who was forced to step away from acting after he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia last year -- a progressive neurological disorder that impacts both cognition and behavior -- and as a byproduct, aphasia, a brain-mediated inability to speak or to understand speech.
While separate, the two became very much intwined for Tallulah, whose ups and downs have led her to discoveries about herself, her bond with her dad and her future.
What is her current view on her body image? How is she handling her father's diagnosis? Here are the biggest revelations from Tallulah's conversation with Vogue.
Her Body Images Issues Started at the Age of 11
Tallulah was just 11 when she says conversations surrounding her appearance began. Recalling an event in New York, she remarked on feeling grown up in a mink capelet as she stood alongside her mother and Demi's then-partner, Ashton Kutcher. Curious to see if her outfit had made the party pages of any style websites, Tallulah opened her laptop and did a simple search, and what she found was something that would begin a battle with body dysmorphia that still plagues her today.
"I found my way to the comments, hundreds of them, the words just burning off the screen. Wow, she looks deformed. Look at her man jaw—she's like an ugly version of her dad. Her mother must be so disappointed. I remember how deadly silent the room was," Tallulah recalls. "I sat reading for two hours, believing that I had stumbled onto a truth about myself that no one had told me because they were trying to protect me. And for years afterward, protecting people right back, I told no one. I just lived with the silent certainty of my own ugliness."
Suffering in silence would be a consistent theme, even after entering psychiatric treatment at the age of 20. While the media was writing about her struggles, she was forced to keep quiet.
"I was reared to keep my mouth shut," she writes, reflecting on her upbringing alongside sisters Rumer Willis, 34, and Scout Willis, 31. "My sisters and I learned to lie flat on the floor of the van under our jackets, to sneak out the back doors of restaurants."
How Her Father's Diagnosis Impacted Her Own Health Struggles
Tallulah and her family announced in early 2022 that Bruce was suffering from aphasia, and while the public only learned about Bruce's diagnosis last year, Tallulah said she had known something was wrong for a long time.
"It started out with a kind of vague unresponsiveness, which the family chalked up to Hollywood hearing loss: 'Speak up! Die Hard messed with Dad’s ears.' Later that unresponsiveness broadened, and I sometimes took it personally. He had had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he'd lost interest in me," she explains with regard to Bruce's wife of 14 years. "Though this couldn't have been further from the truth, my adolescent brain tortured itself with some faulty math: I'm not beautiful enough for my mother, I'm not interesting enough for my father."
Adding that she met Bruce's decline with "avoidance," Talluah says she was too sick herself to handle it, as her body dysmorphia turned into a battle with anorexia nervosa. By spring of 2022, Tallulah says she weighed only 84 pounds.
"While I was wrapped up in my body dysmorphia, flaunting it on Instagram, my dad was quietly struggling. All kinds of cognitive testing was being conducted, but we didn't have an acronym yet. I had managed to give my central dad-feeling canal an epidural; the good feelings weren't really there, the bad feelings weren't really there," she writes.
But they would come out, as revelations about what her dad's sickness meant for her future spiraled her deeper into her struggles with her health. She often wondered if her father would've stepped in and put a stop to it had he been cognitively aware of what was happening.
"What if my dad had been his full self and saw me at that size? What would he have done? I'd like to think that he wouldn't have let it happen," Tallulah wonders. "If he had understood, might [he] have scooped me up and said, 'This is ending now.' His style has always been to plug the leak even if he's not sure why the leak is happening. Certainly there are benefits to examination, but there's a beauty in his way, and I don’t think I noticed it until he was no longer capable of it."
A Breakup That Led to a Breakthrough
"In June of last year, my boyfriend, who was by then my fiancé, dumped me, and my family stepped in as they had done before and sent me to Driftwood Recovery, in Texas," Tallulah shares. "I was introduced to a variety of therapies, my medication was retooled, and I was given a new diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder, an illness that impairs the ability to regulate emotions and find stability in relationships."
Tallulah left not only feeling better, but with the desire to find harmony with her family, who had worried about her for so many years as she struggled with her health.
"Recovery is probably lifelong, but I now have the tools to be present in all facets of my life, and especially in my relationship with my dad," she continues.
That presence of mind has allowed her to bring a bit of levity to her father's life, in an otherwise dark time.
Tallulah adds, "I can bring him an energy that's bright and sunny, no matter where I've been. In the past I was so afraid of being destroyed by sadness, but finally I feel that I can show up and be relied upon. I can savor that time, hold my dad's hand, and feel that it’s wonderful. I know that trials are looming, that this is the beginning of grief, but that whole thing about loving yourself before you can love somebody else—it’s real."
Her Relationship With Her Dad Now
These days, Tallulah says she's building a record, documenting what she can for the unthinkable day when he's no longer around.
"Every time I go to my dad's house, I take tons of photos—of whatever I see, the state of things. I'm like an archaeologist, searching for treasure in stuff that I never used to pay much attention to. I have every voicemail from him saved on a hard drive. I find that I'm trying to document, to build a record for the day when he isn't there to remind me of him and of us," she writes.
And with that, there are still hopes she has for her father that Tallulah says she's reluctant to let go of.
"I keep flipping between the present and the past when I talk about Bruce: he is, he was, he is, he was. That’s because I have hopes for my father that I’m so reluctant to let go of. I've always recognized elements of his personality in me, and I just know that we'd be such good friends if only there were more time," Tallulah continues. "He was cool and charming and slick and stylish and sweet and a little wacky—and I embrace all that. Those are the genes I inherited from him."
Now that she's feeling better and able, it's about standing in her own light and using that strength to be there for her dad.
"It wasn't easy growing up in such a famous family, struggling as I did to find a patch of light through the long shadows my parents cast. But more and more often I feel like I'm standing in that light," she said, reflecting on the ups and downs and changes of her growing family. "In April, my older sister Rumer had a baby girl, Louetta, and Bruce and Demi became grandparents. There's this little creature changing by the hour, and there's this thing happening with my dad that can shift so quickly and unpredictably. It feels like a unique and special time in my family, and I'm just so glad to be here for it."