The stunning transformation of Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham. When that names pops up, so many thoughts can come to mind: actress, director, writer. And it's not just the titles that make you know her name; Dunham is the definition of success.

At just 30 years old, this triple threat has worked on many successful projects, including having written and starred in the very popular HBO show Girls. Even with a hit show, she finds the time to show she can write more than scripts. She has written a book and has also been featured in The New Yorker. What is so refreshing about this woman is that she writes and acts along the theme of real life. She has opened up about her own life, successes and struggles both, on screen and in print.

Throughout the years, as Dunham has continued to earn more and more recognition, she appears in the parallel to become more and more humble. She is a fierce human being who is giving a voice to millennials and gives a spotlight to the real and not-so-glamorous side of life. There is no doubt she will continue to do so, and all are ready to follow her lead. So let's get to know the talented Dunham from childhood to her current 30-year-old self.

She was surrounded by art from the start

Dunham was born on May 13, 1986 in New York. She had a creative brain from the beginning and was in the right city to explore that during childhood. During an interview with W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (via Slate), Dunham described her younger years.

"When I was little, I thought the New York art world was everything…I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of the mechanics. You go into your studio, you have studio visits, you have openings…I thought that was what people's jobs were and I thought it was cool to be the same thing as your parents."

And growing up with artistic parents was a positive to Dunham. "I was given the tools, the space, and the support to do whatever I wanted…New approaches to old problems were encouraged," she said. It's no wonder she has continued to take chances in her work to this day.

She suffered from anxiety since childhood

Dunham has shared many stories with the press about her years growing up. She suffered from anxiety in childhood and discussed this further at a 92nd Street Y event (via The Playlist), saying, "I don't ever remember a time not being anxious. I know a lot of people will say, it was so great to be a kid, what a carefree moment! I don't remember a single second of being alive where it didn't seem like there was looming disaster."

She discussed her parents and what her days at school were like at this time in life. "I think that probably the first four years of my life my parents were probably like we have a kind of quirky and unusual child who sometimes tends to have a glass half empty attitude…I was often dissociative and not responsive to my teachers, not responsive to other kids, going into, not a catatonic state, but a state where I can hear people but I was so focused on my own looping thoughts focusing around numbers, feeling as though I could fix some of the anxiety if I was able to repeat certain patterns again and again and that made it hard for me to interact with other kids."

She knew herself even from a young age

Watching or reading any interview with Dunham, it appears she is an old soul of-sorts, seeing the world in a unique way. Ever since childhood, Dunham knew herself and can now look back at the time and understand who she was. Dunham was a kid not necessarily interested in hanging out with other kids.

She spoke with The Guardian about this topic. "I was pretty annoying. Looking back, I was a know-it-all…I'm not saying I was smarter than other kids, but I wanted to talk about what I wanted to talk about, and I wasn't interested in meeting anybody halfway," she said. "I remember being on play dates and not feeling there was a sympatico between us."

So when did Dunham feel at home in a conversation? Literally, at home. She said, "Then going home and hanging out with my parents and feeling, well, this is what's fun, this is what's interesting to do."

She experienced life through her writing

Dunham was first able to expand her knowledge of the arts during her teen years, when she went to school in Brooklyn, at Saint Ann's. This was a time when Dunham started to write more. She confronted tough topics even during tough times in her own life.

As she later told Vogue, "I had really bad OCD. I was really lonely at school. I felt a lot of shame…Seeing what I thought was people lightening their own load, or lifting their own burdens, by writing about them or singing about them just made the world seem more open."

Dunham's time at Saint Ann's also was a happy time for the young teen. She touched on those memories, telling The Guardian, "It was an amazing place, like a home for wayward children." And one of those fellow students would end up being an important person in Dunham's life. Jemima Kirke, who would later star in Girls alongside Dunham, also went to St. Ann's, and the two started their friendship from a young age.

She earned more than a diploma after college

Next came the college years for Dunham. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio, studying creative writing. After graduating in 2008, Dunham was ready to show who she was. She had worked on a few short films in school, but her big moment came in 2010 at the young age of 23. This was when she made her full-length film, Tiny Furniture, which she found success with at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference.

Dunham brought her own life into the film, starring as the main character and having her mother and sister act in the film respectively as her movie mom and sister. And it wasn't just the characters. Dunham's character was at the same point in life as the star and writer. She described this to The New York Times, saying, "The movie came out pretty true to form…It's about a period when someone doesn't know how to value yourself. She is no longer a student, but not defined by a career yet, she is not defined by relationships, or by being someone's child."

It was an accomplishment enough to create art, but Dunham had to take it even further. The Times reported just how long it took Dunham to create this film. Hint: not long. The article said, "She wrote Tiny Furniture in a four-day fever in October, shot the film in November and after getting a waiver for a late submission, sent it to SXSW in January." And the rest is history.

The beginning of Girls

After Dunham's success with her film at 23 years old, how could she top it? Dunham is never one to doubt. Just two years later, HBO picked up Dunham's new show, Girls. During her initial meeting with HBO, she discussed what she wanted to see in a show.

As Time reported, Dunham said, "Here's the kind of show I would want to see. Here's what my friends are like. They don't totally have jobs but they're really smart. They take Ritalin for fun, but they're not that f**ked up. They're having these kind degrading sexual relationships yet they're feminists." And not only did Dunham get a show, but a leading role as well.

She went on in the interview to say, "It never occurred to me that I could be a showrunner and it never occurred to me that I could be a person who was on television." But that is exactly what happened. Girls first premiered in April 2012 and was met with instant success. Later that year, the show was nominated for multiple Emmys. It was a show that pushed boundaries from the start, and people were responding well to that.

She's not afraid to bare it all

Girls has brought real-life topics to the spotlight that never had been before. It was Sex and the City, but for millennial twenty-somethings, trying to make it in a city that is full of opportunities, and equally full of costs. And one topic that comes up quite often in the show is sex. And these scenes don't have powerful, romantic music playing in the background. There's silence. It's awkward. But it's also very real.

In 2014, 27-year-old Dunham spoke about this and why she prefers to write those scenes when they are more awkward. She told The Guardian, "I have an easier time playing romantic rejection than playing loving situations. I have an easier time playing humiliating nudity than playing sexy nudity. I think it's because there's something really vulnerable…about the earnest emotions that come with being in love or being attracted to somebody that are anxiety-inducing to play, whereas there's the armour of humour and relatability to that other stuff that makes it easier to do."

Her focus on fashion

In Girls, Dunham's character may be seen often with no clothes on, but when she does wear clothes, the choices are quintessentially her character, Hannah. Similarly, Dunham has a unique style that is her own, and she pulls it off effortlessly.

Dunham's interest in fashion was fate. Growing up, one of her babysitters was Zac Posen. According to Vogue, he created her high school graduation dress, and the two still work together today. Aside from that, who are Dunham's inspirations? She spoke with Vogue in that same interview, saying, "I've always loved Comme des Garçons; I've always loved Yohji Yamamoto…I'm into Charlotte Olympia flats. I really love a Prada bag because they always have one weird detail that you didn't think about. I always wear J Brand jeans because the waist is high . . . a low-cut jean is a problematic thing for me."

And in order to be the Dunham we know and love, she had to include a humorous comment as well. She told the magazine that when it comes to jewelry, she loves bigger necklaces, "like a kindergarten art teacher."

Sharing her own story

In 2014, Dunham took her focus and writing to a new level when she published her first book, entitled Not That Kind of Girl. How did she come up with that title? The 28-year-old shared that answer during an interview with Parade. "Well, I thought of it two ways. You know old movies when a guy will hit on a girl and he says something forward and she'll say, 'I'm not that kind of girl, get off me!' — that kind of dramatic, 1940s, women-defending her purity thing? There was that version of it, and then there was the version that it was just like an exclamation of difference and that women are each unique and the fact that nobody is that girl."

Sharing her own life stories, Dunham didn't hold back, sharing both the good and bad. She said, "But there is something very complex about delving into your past, even stories that you told a lot, when you write them, new things come up and you sort of relive them. As I was writing the book, there were a lot of emotional days as I sort of stepped into the past and felt all the kind of ghosts walking around with me."

While Dunham's book received high praise, there was also negative press. Based on one of Dunham's stories in her book, many accused the actress of sexually assaulting her sister. Dunham took to social media instantly to stop the accusations, saying on Twitter that they were, "really f**king upsetting and disgusting."

Privacy is key for her

With how open Dunham is in interviews and her role in Girls, not to mention publishing her book, it has always seemed like Dunham herself was an open book.

However, Dunham is happy to be also be open about the fact that she needs her privacy in life too. In 2014 she shared with Vogue, "I have a really great private existence, almost more like a memoirist or a columnist would, and less like an actor would." It's always been very important to her to have her time, and this shows a whole new side to Dunham.

She continued on to say, "It's important for me to have a lot of time alone, and to have a lot of time in my house by myself. My entire life sort of takes place between me and my dog, my books, and my boyfriend, and my private world. To me, privacy isn't necessarily equated with secret-keeping. What's private is my relationship with myself."

She stands up for women

In 2016, Dunham became a voice not just for millennial women, but for voters too. She openly supported Hillary Clinton for President. At this time, the 29-year-old wrote a piece for Time, describing why exactly she planned to vote for Clinton.

She said, "She fights for equal pay. She raises money for other women running for elected office. She stays current on prenatal-nutrition research. (Though when the time comes for me to have my baby, just let me eat in peace, O.K., Hillary?) She flies to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms — from China to Yemen to the Democratic Republic of Congo — and puts their leaders on blast. She coined the phrase 'women's rights are human rights,' for goodness sake!"

Dunham kept this passion throughout the election, and even after the results, she continued to speak up, joining the Women's March on Washington in January 2017.

She's unapologetically herself

Dunham has always been open about her thoughts, and sometimes that has gotten her into trouble with people who do not agree with her. When she feels she is in the right, Dunham sticks up for herself. However, at the same time, if she believes she is in the wrong, Dunham will openly state the fact.

In 2016, the star made a comment during her podcast, Women of the Hour, that caught a bit of attention. "I still haven't had an abortion, but I wish I had." After receiving upsetting feedback from the public, Dunham took to Instagram (via The Washington Post) to explain her comments.

She said, "My words were spoken from a sort of 'delusional girl' persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that's what my TV show is too) and it didn't translate…That's my fault."

Finding strength in her body and herself

Dunham's life has been non-stop for quite some time. She continues to reach success and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. If anything, she has picked up speed. Recently, Dunham has lost some weight and was surprised by the reaction from the public.

The 30-year-old told Ellen (via People), "I was frustrated by it, because it really was evidence that as a woman in Hollywood, you just can't win…It's just so crazy because I spent six years of my career being called things like 'bag of milk' on the internet, baby cow, aging cow…But then I had this experience of my body changing and I had all these people being like, 'you're a hypocrite, I thought you were body-positive, I thought you embrace bodies of all sizes."

Dunham takes the criticism in stride, knowing who she is and happy with that. She also opened up during the interview about her reason for weight loss. It wasn't to fit into a smaller dress. "I came to her [Tracy Anderson] and was like, 'I have endometriosis, I have chronic physical pain, I just want to feel stronger I just want to have a stronger core, I want to feel like I have more power throughout my day, how do I get there?' I like that she was coming at it from that perspective rather than like, 'I'd like to shrink six inches."

Dunham does it all

Dunham is a force to be reckoned with. At just 30 years old, she has been an actress, director, showrunner, Golden Globe winner and more. She has given a voice to millennials and women, and she's done that by being herself. She's intelligent, and I have no doubt we'll be hearing more and more from her.

The final season of Girls is the ending to one of Dunham's first huge accomplishments. While there will be many more endings, that also means lots and lots of new beginnings. I'll be there the whole ride, excited to see what Dunham does next.

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