“Clueless” star Elisa Donovan on battling an eating disorder before fame: “Everything was going to fall apart”

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Elisa Donovan faced great triumphs in Hollywood – and painful losses.

The actress, who starred in “Clueless” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, opens in a new memoir titled “Wake Me When You Leave”. The book, which is currently being turned into a movie, explores how the 50-year-old’s career skyrocketed until her show was unexpectedly canceled, her relationship ended and her father received a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Donovan said she hopes her book will give readers, especially those struggling with the loss of a loved one, a sense of hope.

The star spoke to Fox News about how she coped with her eating disorder on the set of “Clueless,” her relationships with her former castmates today, and how the writing of her story – as heartbreaking as it was to relive those memories – helped her heal.

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Elisa Donovan has a new book titled
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Elisa Donovan has a new book called “Wake Me Up When You Go: Love and Encouragement Through Dreams on the Other Side”.
(Storm Santos)

Fox News: What prompted you to release your book now?
Elisa Donovan: It was a good time to share the story. And I had enough perspective on the events that changed my life. I feel like people really need sources of hope and positivity. I wanted to show people that one can be faced with great grief and tragedy while coming out on the other side.

Fox News: You starred in such iconic 90s movies and TV shows. When did you realize you had?

Donovan: Well, I don’t know if it feels like “I got it” already but I will say, I remember things changed when I was in an escalator in a mall, that I was going to the movies, and all these kids had just started to invade the escalator.

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Elisa Donovan starred as Amber Mariens in 'Clueless', which premiered on Friday July 21, 1995.

Elisa Donovan starred as Amber Mariens in ‘Clueless’, which premiered on Friday July 21, 1995.
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

And, I said to my friend that I was with, “Oh, there must be someone famous on the escalator.” And, so we both looked around, wondering who it could be, and then we got to the top and they invaded me. It was me. I went, “Oh that’s a different experience.” *Laughs*

Fox News: During the filming of “Clueless” you were confronted with an eating disorder. Do you remember that time when you knew you needed help?

Donovan: Well I was battling an eating disorder before this movie. But, it was during the filming of the film that I began to recover. And that’s really when I knew I needed help because I ended up in an emergency room and I knew everything was going to fall apart if I didn’t really start. to focus on my health.

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Elisa Donovan and Alicia Silverstone, circa 2014.

Elisa Donovan and Alicia Silverstone, circa 2014.
(Photo by Araya Diaz / WireImage / Getty Images)

Fox News: Did you feel like embarking on an acting career in Hollywood made it worse for you at the time, or was it due to something else you didn’t tackle until? that time ?

Donovan: I don’t think anyone can blame Hollywood for eating disorders. It’s a much more complex question than wanting to be “skinny”, but I certainly think in entertainment, in that time in particular, it was a bit champion to be very, very thin.

And, sure, it was … People closed their eyes instead of saying, “You have to get healthier. So I think it’s an environment that can certainly endorse it, but I showed up there with these issues long before … I had them long before I got to Hollywood, and that was my own. responsibility to have to fight them and choose to recover.

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“Cluless” was written and directed by Amy Heckerling. Seen here seated from left, Elisa Donovan (as Amber), Stacey Dash (as Dionne), Brittany Murphy (as Tai, center), Alicia Silverstone (as Cher Horowitz) and Joseph D. Reitman (as student).
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Fox News: What memory of Brittany Murphy makes you smile every time you think about it?

Donovan: I remember we shot this clip for a song by Luscious Jackson that was in the movie. And it just makes me laugh to think of doing that to us in those neon roller derby outfits. We were bumping into each other, acting like we were these roller derby girls. It was really fun.

Fox News: How would you describe your relationship with the rest of the cast of “Clueless”?

Donovan: Oh we had a great time, and I still keep in touch with Donald [Faison]. I love it. He’s a friend and a great guy.

Fox News: Regarding “90210”, who have you connected with the most and why?

Donovan: It was another great experience. I felt so lucky to have hit the jackpot with these projects. Everyone on this show was really a lot of fun and incredibly welcoming. They could have … They had all worked together for so many years, and a lot of times when you come in as a new guy and you’re only around for a short time, you can feel like a stranger.

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Left to right: Soleil Moon Frye, Melissa Joan Hart and Elisa Donovan arrive for the 100th episode of

Left to right: Soleil Moon Frye, Melissa Joan Hart and Elisa Donovan arrive for the 100th episode of “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” at the Sunset Room on October 23, 2000, in Hollywood, CA.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown / Online / Getty Images)

But no one made me feel that way. And I loved it. I loved Jason Priestley, he’s one of my favorite people in the business. He’s such a great human. I loved working with Tori Spelling. Everyone was really great.

Fox News: What is your relationship with Melissa Joan Hart today?

Donovan: She’s just great. I love it. She is one of the most grounded people I have met in this field, which is no small feat considering she has been in front of a camera since she was a child. I just love him. We had a lot of fun. She is also a professional support. She’s a good friend. She’s great.

Fox News: Have you ever faced some sort of typing after starring in so many notable projects?

Donovan: Oh, I was definitely cataloged. As soon as I did “Clueless,” I was branded as the rich, shallow Beverly Hills comedian * laughs *. It never hurts to be labeled as it means you’ve achieved something, but it can be frustrating when you’re recognized for just one thing. So in that regard, it was frustrating, but again, the flip side is that it’s only because you did something right and a lot of people appreciated it. You can’t complain too much.

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Elisa Donovan with her father.

Elisa Donovan with her father.
(Photo courtesy of Elisa Donovan)

Fox News: Just when “Sabrina” was canceled, your father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and your relationship with your partner was ended. What gave you the strength to continue?

Donovan: I don’t know if I felt I had strength, really, at the time. So I think once you’ve hit that “rocky bottom” as they call it, or certainly an emotional bottom like that, there’s really nowhere to go but to back down, and you let go. And, I think what pulled me out was knowing that I love life so much and that I had more things that I wanted to create and do and accomplish and share. So I think that instinct and motivation is really what allowed me to put one foot in front of the other.

Fox News: What do you think was the most difficult chapter for you to write? And what does it feel like finally to put those feelings on paper?

Donovan: I think the hardest part was probably getting to know when my dad was really sick. He was mainly at home. And the past few weeks have been incredibly debilitating for my family. We all suffered a lot and he was obviously in pain, and writing that part was really hard.

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Elisa Donovan and her family.

Elisa Donovan and her family.
(Photo courtesy of Elisa Donovan)

When I first wrote it, it was incredibly difficult and unintelligible. Then over time and through the review process and with this distance that I have now it was easier to articulate what we were all going through … It was really cathartic for me to be able to put that aside … It was really rewarding for me.

Fox News: How are you today?

Donovan: Oh, I’m fine today. I am so happy. And, a lot of times I think we culturally want to avoid challenges or want to ignore them or just want to go beyond that and not talk about it. And, I can say, unequivocally, that for me, all of these things that I went through really made my life better, in the end.

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Elisa Donovan is now a proud mom.

Elisa Donovan is now a proud mom.
(Photo by Michael Buckner / Getty Images)

I have been through all of these challenges. But because I got through them, I have a richer life today. So, I hope people really understand this from this book, that it’s important to recognize our struggles so that we can come to the other side stronger.

Fox News: If you were to sit with your young self right now, what would you say to him?

Donovan: I would say, “I love you. Just hang on and trust that we will get through this and your life will be even more full than before.

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