‘I never wore clothes to garner sexual attention’
Christina Ricci is opening up about her first marriage, how motherhood helped her snap out of a nihilist streak and why she tried to avoid tabloid attention on her appearance as she grew from a child star to a young woman.
“I didn’t enjoy that,” the actress, now 42, tells Sunday Times Style of the attention given to her changing body. “I never wore clothes to garner sexual attention, because I have always felt that kind of attention in a very threatening way.”
As she hit adulthood, the Addams Family star — who will appear in Netflix’s new Wednesday series — leaned into edgier roles, with a “feral and wild” lifestyle to match. Looking back, Ricci sees that period as a “reaction” to her ” chaotic” upbringing. Though the Mermaids star, who has been estranged from her father since her teens, hasn’t shared many details about her family, she tells the Times that she “grew up in a very chaotic home.” As the youngest of four kids, she learned early on how to use her precociousness to her advantage. “My ability to be adorable could diffuse things or distract people,” she notes.
Being “emotionally attuned” as a youngster helped her career soar. But over the years it grew to be “exhausting,” and so Ricci learned to tune out her feelings.
“I just felt no passion, no care,” she says. “I made a lot of important decisions completely dispassionately, which ended up being a problem later — so, note to anyone, don’t make important life decisions when you are going through periods of nihilism. But really it was a reaction. It was exhausting to be so upset and in pain all the time.”
The birth of her son Freddie eight years ago changed everything.
“My son’s birth really broke my nihilism and it was a pretty surprising change,” she says. “I thought I would really love him and feel a lot of emotions towards him. I didn’t realize that it is all or nothing.”
Freddie’s father is Ricci’s first husband, James Heerdegen, whom she accused of physical and emotional abuse as she obtained a restraining order last year. Though Ricci is reticent to speak about that marriage, she did address her struggle to see things for what they were.
“Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but it took me a long time to admit to myself what was going on, what it should be called,” says Ricci, who welcomed a daughter with second husband Mark Hampton last December. “Denial is very strong. Of course you don’t want to accept that the worst possible thing is happening and that you put yourself in that situation. So it took me a really long time to realize that.”
Beyond its emotional toll, the split also made a dent in Ricci’s finances, leading her to sell off some of the Chanel handbags she’d amassed over her career.
“Certain traumas in life go along with financial traumas, extended court situations, custody situations, fighting restraining orders,” she says. “Having said that, I’m absolutely doing fine, there’s no issue. But I learnt to use these investment pieces in different ways. I also had a Chanel Fine Jewelry collection that I put to good use.”
With a new husband, new baby and an Emmy-nominated role on Yellowjackets, Ricci is looking ahead, not looking for pity.
“I think it is important to say that I don’t feel like a victim in any way,” she says. “I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t even feel like saying, ‘Well, it’s been a really hard road for me.’ Everybody has their personal issues and this has been mine, and it has been about finding my own self-worth and position and strength and power.
“I tell my story only because I know that, having been in situations like the one I was in, I searched for success stories, stories of people who could get out, could get over it and just be OK. And so the fact that now I am in this place where I am so much better than OK, that is my impetus for being honest about it. Today I am not ready to talk about it in more depth, but I do think it is important that we have examples for other women — that, as scary as it is, changing your life and saving yourself is the only choice.”
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life’s newsletter. Sign up here.