BEVERLY HILLS—Actor, model, and published author Johnny Gershon released his first book, “U & Me/BDD,” last June to heal from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and to “help save lives.” Gershon spoke with Canyon News about his journey, connecting with himself and others, and what life means now after overcoming BDD. The actor indicated that he mostly gets mistaken for a certain actor, also named Johnny.
“The first person I get is Johnny Depp. Johnny is one of my inspirations behind acting and the look he has, you know, with his style. It’s fun. As much as I love Johnny Depp, and love his style, I’m not Johnny Depp. So, what I mean is, with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, some people go to the extremes. They go to certain extremes, in my opinion, to look just like that person. And me, you know I wear the scarf, the bandana, the glasses, the hat, but I’m not gonna get the same tattoos he does because that’s not me.”
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health problem where a person is negatively obsessed with a specific part of their body. The defect might be a minor imperfection or non-existent. In his book, Gershon explains how his strong desire to be taller and have bigger hands and feet impacted his life. Other aspects of his life, such as childhood, career, and family, are weaved in.
“Inspiration behind this [book] was to find myself in some way as I was going through the process of getting Body Dysmorphic Disorder, depression, and suicide. And all those thoughts in my head, how to put them into words, to really find out, you know, what the treasure was to find, which is myself,” the artist said.
We asked how it felt to reveal his problems to the world.
“Some friends were kind of just in shock like ‘wow’ like you know, they never knew; they couldn’t tell. Some friends, we would joke around a little bit here and there, but nobody aside from my parents really knew how much I was struggling.”
“I definitely felt very vulnerable to the world, especially to my friends who didn’t know about this or had a clue. I kept very secret from people, and it was scary because you’re showing your weakness to the world—a weakness, but also a strength. And you know, I felt that ‘would people judge me’, ‘would they look at me any different’, ‘are people going to think I’m crazy’. [Or] ‘wow, this really inspired me’ because I have a very unique point of view, you know, when it comes to comparing my body to cartoon characters, like Dragon Ball Z, or the Hulk, or [a] werewolf. For me, those are my dream roles to play in a movie, but at the same time, people are going to be like ‘What? This guy is just out of his mind’. You could say it’s a blessing and a curse.”
About two to three years ago, Gershon got the idea to write the book and began composing notes on his iPhone.
“It was just thoughts that started coming to me and, at the time, I had all this free time. I was only working part-time at the gym. And I just, you know, had the idea to, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to write something.’ [Writing] down these notes [and] all these thoughts. After a few months went by, I took some time off, took a break, went back to it, and then I really started to focus, and peel away all the layers of myself to write into this book.”
“As I [saw] the story unfold and [started] to really see something there to help people, I just thought ‘you know what, let me write a book.'”
The actor explained that obtaining a clear direction for his project was easy because the thoughts came naturally.
“Every day, ideas would just pop into my head or if I went out for a coffee. Just drinking coffee, people watching. I used my everyday experiences to kind of pull into my ideas, and figure out ‘what’s going on with me’, and ‘why am I feeling like this.'”
When asked if he achieved self-healing the way he intended, the artist said he did. Writing the book set a new course to feel better about himself, not an end to one. “It’s a milestone, an accomplishment that was put in the past, and I’ve achieved that. Now I can be focused on being me a little bit better. A lot more better.”
“Whether they’re an actor, or model, or teacher, or anything. You’re a human being. Everybody has something. We all deal with these differently,” he added.
On Instagram, he said his goal is “to send a positive message out there to people who are also struggling and, most importantly, help save lives”. When asked if the world doesn’t want to heal right now, and if he doesn’t get the response he is hoping for, he replied, “I’d say, with that, all I could do is try and give my best. I would love to save everyone, I would love to heal the whole world, you know, but I can’t. So, I’m doing my part.”
People enduring BDD have told him that they were inspired by his book to keep going and find outlets that suited them. “Something in my book maybe triggered something in, a good way, their mind where they now see something they never saw before,” Gershon said.
“My family was nothing but supportive from day one, and they still continue to be supportive. I’m lucky and grateful to have that support because a lot of people out there don’t have that support. [They] don’t have the access to resources to get the help they need and they struggle. It breaks my heart.”
“It saddens me to see people who have their roles or are in a position in Hollywood, [whom] I would want to be as successful as, and they take their own life for many reasons, which is unfortunate. It’s just sad because in the entertainment industry it looks so cool to be famous and stuff. But you know, you see these people who are one character on screen, but in reality they could be themselves.”
Some stars who have died this year due to suicide include actor and acting coach Stan Kirsch, and trans Latina actress, writer, and activist Camila Maria Concepción.
On January 11, Kirsch was hanging in a bathroom at his Los Angeles home and found by his wife Kristyn Green. The 51-year-old actor was later pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. According to the LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, the manner of death was confirmed as a suicide caused by hanging. Kirsch was known for portraying characters such as Richie Ryan in the 90s television show “Highlander,” and Lieutenant Ferrari and Ensign Frank Cody in the TV series “JAG.” He and his wife established the LA acting studio Stan Kirsch Studios in 2008.
Camila Maria Concepción also died by suicide on February 21 in Los Angeles. The 28-year-old wrote for projects such as Netflix’s “Gentefied” and “Daybreak.” As the writer’s assistant on “Gentefied,” Concepción wrote the ninth episode of season one, entitled “Protest Tacos,” which aired on the day she died. She also worked on the 50/50 by 2020 intersectional initiative with Jill Soloway, Executive Producer and creator of Amazon’s “Transparent” TV series.
Gershon hinted at a possible short film adaptation in the works where he would star in it as himself. He has lived in Beverly Hills for over 11 years, and acted in films and TV shows such as “Steele Wool” (2019), “Sex and the City,” “Monk,” and “Law & Order.” As a model, Gershon’s credits include Alvi Armani’s 2019 hair campaign, the Vivienne Westwood fashion show, and Satellite Magazine. His new book, “U & Me/BDD,” is now available for purchase at Amazon.com.