I sat in awed silence with an enormous grin as the closing credits flashed across the screen. I had just watched the newest film of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A large part of my happiness with the newest Star Wars movie was the casting: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega seem like the new generation’s Star Wars heroes. The stars of the movie are a woman and black man, respectively, both young and both very talented and charismatic. Being a 25-year-old black woman, I connected with them so easily.
I did not know that I would have yet another reason to identify with Daisy Ridley, but when she opened up about her polycystic ovaries and endometriosis, she piqued my interest again. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome just six months prior to watching Daisy Ridley shine as Rey in the third-highest-grossing film of all time.
Her admission, which she posted on Instagram in order to talk about her skin, is important for those struggling with illnesses and disorders of the uterus, ovaries and the like. PCOS wreaks havoc on hormones; and like Ridley, it had my skin looking like a pubescent teen, which is to say, heavily covered in acne with no cure in sight. This, like Ridley notes, is hard on one’s self esteem. So, to see my illness talked about on a large scale is really important.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is marked by polycystic ovaries and high levels of androgen hormones, and can also have other side effects, such as acne, infertility and insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain, make weight hard to lose and puts one at an extremely high risk for Type-2 diabetes. Endometriosis, on the other hand, is when the lining of the uterus, or the endometrium, grows up and outside of the uterus, sometimes attaching itself to other organs. It is very painful for those who suffer from it.
That Ridley, an actress, talks so candidly about her imperfect skin is important: Actresses are often thought of as perfect and criticized for anything less. So, the fact that she can air out her flaws and insecurities is inspirational to those of us not in the public eye and encourages us to love ourselves and try to not be so self-critical.
One of the life-altering effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis alike is infertility, which can also be a huge reason for self-esteem issues, like it is for me. For those who want to have children, the idea that having children will be difficult at the very least (not to mention expensive) and impossible at the very most is a large cause for hard feelings and depression.
Something interesting I have learned since my polycystic ovarian syndrome diagnosis a year ago is that it is the single most common reason why women experience infertility. And yet, even with a relatively high number of women who experience PCOS, there is no cure, not a lot of treatment options and, most important, not a lot of attention focused on the subject, often making it taboo.
Infertility is, rightly so, a sore subject for those who experience it. Harder still is that those who have not experienced that uphill battle are often insensitive because of their ignorance on the subject, and many just do not want to talk about it at all. This makes someone as high profile as Daisy Ridley talking about her diseases — and urging folks to listen to their bodies and seek help when they need it — exceedingly important. Many do not realize that when you experience something like polycystic ovaries, that “just adopt” suggestion in response to infertility is unhelpful and insensitive; many do not realize that infertility is not even the only symptom that can greatly affect someone. When I was diagnosed, I had gained 60 pounds with no lifestyle changes; my skin was covered in inflamed and painful acne all over my face, neck, chest and back (and nothing helped!). There is a varying array of symptoms one can experience with this disease, and they deserve attention and to be handled with care. As far as her endometriosis, I do not suffer from this, but I know that it is exceedingly painful to go through, with some folks electing to get a hysterectomy early in their adult lives to prevent any more pain.
I am glad that the young Ridley is using her superstardom and platform to talk about things that affect many people. I hope this will open up a larger national discussion on these types of diseases so that we can kiss the taboos goodbye.