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'So cruel' American Idol star Lauren Alaina's battle with bulimia almost cost her voice

"People called me fat, there was a blog that called me Miss Piggy and put a pig snout on my face"

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Lauren was only 16 when she went on tour with American Idol and faced horrific trolling.

Lauren was only 16 when she went on tour with American Idol and faced horrific trolling.

Lauren was only 16 when she went on tour with American Idol and faced horrific trolling.

Country music star Lauren Alaina shot to fame at the age of 16 on American Idol — but ended up with an eating disorder as she struggled to cope with online abuse.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Nashville-based Lauren, who is now 26, tells how she was particularly devastated by comments about her weight.

“People called me fat, there was a blog that called me Miss Piggy and put a pig snout on my face... people can be really cruel, and I didn’t have the tools to deal with that,” she says.

Lauren became bulimic and lost up to 50lbs during the American Idol tour. “I did struggle with an eating disorder for a long time, and a lot of that was due to the pressure on the internet where people would comment on my weight and my looks,” she says.

“As a 16-year-old girl I was not ready for the entire world to judge me, and some people can be so harsh.”

The teenage star was warned that bulimia was affecting her voice. “They told me that if I didn’t stop, I would never sing again, and I didn’t want that,” she says.

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Lauren beat her eating disorder.

Lauren beat her eating disorder.

Lauren beat her eating disorder.

“That was a wake-up call for me, but it took me a few years even after that to really get into a better place. And I still go check in with the therapist every once in a while, specifically for an eating disorder.

“But I’m healthy now, and I got some curves and I’m proud of ’em! I can now say that I’m really comfortable in my skin, and those people on the internet can’t determine how I feel about myself.”

Lauren tells how she is happy to speak out about her own struggles to help others. “It has become my mission as an artist to share that with girls all over the place,” she says, as we chat by Zoom.

“The internet is not people’s truth. Young women, myself included, compare ourselves to these women on the internet. And it’s just not reality. I decided to surround myself with people who love me, who lift me up and who are in my actual daily life. Those are the people whose opinion matter to me now, but it has definitely been difficult to navigate.”

Lauren, who has clocked up nearly one billion streams worldwide, has just released a new album, Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World, which was inspired by her personal struggles, including the heartache of a love split.

“This album really represents who I am as a woman and living as a woman, being a woman… loss and love and everything in between. All the things that we ladies deal with,” she tells me.

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“I had to go through a really public break up… not fun. But I’m super glad that boy broke my heart because now I’m getting to talk to you about my new album, and I wouldn’t be if he hadn’t. It worked out for me, didn’t it!”

She has the last laugh because he’s not getting any of the royalties? “Yeah,” she laughs. “I’m making the money and I got to heal the heart.”

Despite the trauma she’s suffered, Lauren is a young woman who’s full of fun and light-hearted banter.

We talk about Garth Brooks before this week’s rumour that he’s set to play Croker again — she’s a close friend of his wife, Trisha Yearwood, who features on her album — and I tell her that he was the unofficial King of Ireland at one stage.

“Do you guys need a queen of Ireland? I’ll come over and be the new queen,” she jokes.

And what about Dolly Parton? “Oh, I can’t beat Dolly. Dolly can be the queen and I’ll be the princess. Dolly is my favourite of all time. She is such a storyteller, such a great artist, and she gives back. She’s kind, she’s everything an artist should ever be.”

Our conversation goes back to her pals, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and I discover she’s never heard about the five Croker shows that were cancelled. “Can you imagine being that successful?” she says. “I’d love just one sold out night there.”

Lauren says she’s can’t believe her good fortune to have Trisha Yearwood as a friend. “That’s really amazing,” she admits. “I grew up idolising her and then I met her at an awards show and we just really hit it off. She told me she wanted me to come on her cooking show, so I did that and then we became really good friends.

“I’ve got a book coming out in November and she wrote the foreword for it. So she has become a really close friend and mentor and I’m really thankful. She calls me Trisha Junior… I’m in her phone as Junior. She’s like my aunt. Aunt Trisha and Uncle Garth.”

So what’s Uncle Garth like? “Very humble, very kind,” she says. “They are both an example to country music artists how we should behave.”

  • Lauren Alaina’s new album, Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World, is out now.

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