Women Who Inspire Us - Evanna Lynch

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, we chat with Evanna Lynch on her journey to shift to positive thinking and more. Evanna is an actor, as well as a mental health and vegan activist best known for her fan-favourite role as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter film series. She is the host of The ChickPeeps, a top-rating vegan podcast that she shares with fellow actor Robbie Jarvis, ocean conservation enthusiast Momoko Hill, and vegan activist Tylor Starr.

Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an actor?

I was so young when I discovered acting and decided straight away that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t see it as a job or vocation, I just saw it as living out stories. I wanted to keep jumping from story to story, in a way experiencing as many lives as I could. Sometimes I think actors are often people who can’t decide what they want to devote their lives to, so they don’t decide - they just choose the career where they can be a little bit of everything. I was around 8 when I really found my passion for acting and it was for me to combat my crippling shyness at the time. I wanted to share myself with the world, but I didn’t know how to speak up, and having other people’s words and lives to do that with was an incredible vehicle of self-expression for me. I hadn’t a clue who I was, but I felt I found a little something of myself with each character that I took on.

Did you have inspirational people in your life that lead you to becoming an artist?

I didn’t really have any acting role models, I just had characters I obsessively wanted to inhabit, be they Disney princesses, performers, artists or beloved Harry Potter characters. It is still like that with acting, there are actors I admire but I don’t see myself in other actors. I see bits of myself in characters that I want to play thought, it’s like I’m driven by my curiosity and need to collect those pieces. I would say J.K. Rowling was my biggest role model growing up, for how she created a world of her own design, on her own terms and let her imagination drive her amazing creative life. Her work and how she overcame adversity was a major source of light for me in my adolescence.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I clearly remember when I was very young, that I was determined to be a cat or a butterfly when I grew up. My parents always told me I could be anything I wanted to be and I took that a bit too literally! I suppose being an actor was the next best thing because you’re a shapeshifter in a sense. You’re always exploring different facets and elements of yourself. Who would I be in this culture, with these restrictions, with this dream, with these magical abilities etc… I think I always assumed I’d be an actor, to the point where later on I just assumed I would be in Harry Potter. It was sort of the law of attraction in action because I was very sure of my purpose, especially with that role. I did have a period in my mid-teens where I decided I wanted to be a dancer instead. Dance helps me get out of my head and I loved the discipline and artistry, as well as that it was a tangible skill, whereas acting did not seem as physically technical. I was a bit afraid of fame and the pressure of being in the media that comes with acting and I wanted to throw myself into an art where I could be free and anonymous. But I didn’t get into dance school and ultimately I realised that deep down I was still drawn to acting. I learned too that I’d been a bit ignorant to the technical skill of trained actors up until that point, so I started studying it in depth. I always expected I’d do something in performance and I know in some form I always will.

What is one thing that you would like people to know about you, that they might not already?

I continuously have to work really hard to manage my negative thinking. I’ve had a therapist since I was 11 who I still see. I’m proud of the work I do on myself. I want to be positive and optimistic and hopeful - I think they are beautiful, admirable and rebellious qualities and are the ones you need to manifest your dreams and the most beautiful scenarios. So, I work hard to project that, but it did not come naturally or without effort. I think people mistakenly think I’m exactly like Luna Lovegood, but I only have access to her light and her loving, kind, optimistic outlook because I experience the transverse keenly, in my own mind. I can get into such critical, negative, dark places and characters like Luna, who are sensitive and vulnerable but choose to focus on the beauty in themselves and others consistently, show me the way out of that darkness.

I say this not to come across as a martyr or to elicit pity but to remind anyone out there with the same struggles that you absolutely can change your thinking, but it is a discipline and a practice and you have to stay on it. You have to consistently choose light over dark; be they positive people, uplifting books, mind-expanding blogs or instagram feeds. You have to reject drama, toxic relationships, tabloids, gossip websites and people who just generally influence your outlook to be negative. Cynicism and optimism are both choices. I used to think cynicism was the harsh, but real truth. Now I see cynicism as a cowardly choice; it’s the choice that shuts out opportunity and risk, shuts you down from ever being disappointed or hurt or shocked, because you always expect bad things to happen. It keeps you safe from hurt, sure, but you won’t grow or change. It shuts off all the beauty and magic that happens when you dare to expect good and magical things. Optimism is the bold, radical, abundant choice and I work hard to cultivate that mindset.

You are a great advocate for the vegan lifestyle, was there anything in particular that made you choose veganism, how long ago did you adopt that lifestyle?

I’m vegan for the animals for sure. I was a vegetarian since the age of 11 for ethical reasons, but I didn’t realise the inconsistencies in the concept of ‘ethical vegetarianism’. I applaud people for making that change and I think it is a brilliant stepping stone towards veganism. But there’s no denying that a vegetarian diet does not prohibit cruelty in the production of the foods you eat. I had the wakeup call when I read the book ‘Eating Animals’ by Johnathan Safron Foer. That’s where I learned that male baby chicks are ground up alive every day in the egg farming industry, and that calves are sent to slaughter for veal, as a function of the dairy industry. Basically, I realised that animals were still being murdered for my food choices as a vegetarian. I loved dairy milk and ice cream and yoghurt so I know how hard it can be for veggies to make that transition, but I just knew in my heart that I was vegan and that I had to make those changes. It was not easy for me at first and I had to confront a lot of my demons relating to food and the emotions that came up when I cut out certain foods. It took a lot of false starts and relapses before I got the hang of veganism and made it my norm. Now I’m very happy as a vegan and my diet feels very full and abundant; there is no sense of restriction and I feel better than ever in my body. I've been vegan for approximately 6 years now.

What were some of the key challenges you’ve come across in your career and what was the key in overcoming them?

I think the hardest part of my job is the fact that you have to put yourself and your heart into all the work you do and you have to be ready for that to be rejected over and over again. I had that a couple years ago for a role I was dying to play. It was a character I’d been studying in literature for years and who I felt such a soul connection to, who I identified with and felt understood by. Everything lined up perfectly and I discovered a film was being made about the character so I wrote to the director and got a meeting with him and he was talking as if I were already playing the role. I really thought that role was meant for me. And then the director cast a different actress. It absolutely broke my heart and made me want to quit. My therapist says that the universe will always play out your deepest fears so if you don’t want something to happen then you better address those fears quick. I am deeply afraid of not being good enough for the film industry so, I keep being shown I’m not. Now I am learning not to attach my self-worth and identity to what others think of me.

I think the thing that helps me overcome those challenges and pick myself back up again is community and having other passions. I used to observe on set how the older actors were such clever, cultured, curious people, that they would rarely ever talk about acting and films with each other. They had other passions and hobbies and I realised that’s what keeps them sane and happy in an industry where the opinions of others’ matter so much to their success. For me, having a community and projects within the vegan community - something totally separate to my acting world - is a source of great comfort and strength to me. Didn’t get the acting job? That’s ok, I have 3 podcast episodes to edit and a book proposal to submit. That film project I was attached to fell through? No problem, I was planning to read Ulysses this summer anyway. It’s just a matter of having other passions and interests that give meaning to your day and give you an outlet for your creativity. Being an actor means you’re sometimes waiting for a callback, waiting for permission to do the thing you love. But life is too short and there are so many ways to express yourself, so I’d rather busy myself with something else I love and let the callback catch me off guard in a positive way.

What is your favourite INIKA Organic Product?

I cannot live without the Certified Organic Lip Pencil in Sugar Plum! Ugh! I felt like I’ve been looking for this shade my whole make-up loving life!! It’s moisturising and doesn’t make your lips crack the way other pencils do, and it has great staying power! A very particular red - absolutely not pink, but a brownish, orangey, coral red. That little pencil is like a prayer answered by the vegan makeup goddesses!

Tell us one thing you do for yourself every day, to be a little happier and healthier?

I read every day, even if just for a few minutes. It has to be from a book, anything on the internet doesn’t feel sacred and personal enough. I think reading is kind of a spiritual practice, in that it stills my thoughts and connects me to something greater than myself and it’s where I truly listen and receive wisdom. It’s probably the only way I ever feel relaxed enough to listen intently, because I don’t have to respond to my books. I love the privacy of reading, the secret world it creates where no one can get to you for those moments. It gets me out of my own head by making others’ thoughts and problems and dreams more important than mine, if only for a few minutes. Afterwards, I feel lighter and like I’ve gained perspective on whatever I’m dealing with.

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