Amanda Bynes seemed to have it all when she first came onto the scene. She was pretty, she was accessible, and she was clearly a talented actress. Bynes quickly established herself with well-received films such as Hairspray and Easy A. But suddenly her behavior started to change. She posted bizarre things on social media. The arrests and accusations started to mount up. And the media presented the results as a joke – just another child star gone off the rails, they said. But they had it all terribly, terribly wrong.
Amanda Bynes started acting aged just seven, doing TV advertisements and stage work. Her big break came in 1994 when she was cast in the Nickelodeon show All That, a sketches-format comedy program that soon became wildly popular. After that she joined the game show Figure It Out and then launched her own comedy series. Aged just 13, she was the star of The Amanda Show.
The Amanda Show was another huge hit, and it propelled its leading lady ever further into the spotlight. In 2002 she won her first lead role in a movie, the teen comedy Big Fat Liar. Network executives sung her praises as well. In a 2002 New York Times newspaper article titled “A Proud Product of the Nick Pipeline,” All That co-creator Dan Schneider happily described Bynes as “clean-cut and wholesome.”
Though “wholesome” is an almost impossible label for anyone, let alone a teen actor, to live up to, Bynes did seem to give it a very good go. For the next few years, indeed, her career continued to be successful. She appeared in Love Wrecked and then starred in She’s The Man, a gender-swapping comedy loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the starlet was subsequently named one of the “Hottest Stars Under 25” by Teen People magazine.
She’s The Man received mostly poor reviews. James Berardinelli wrote that Bynes was “better than the material” and had “screen presence and a good sense of comic timing.” But other critics were meaner. Richard Roeper said, “Mere words cannot convey how awful Bynes is at playing a girl playing a boy.”
Then in 2007 came the smash-hit Hairspray. Bynes’ performance in the movie, based on the eponymous musical, won her rave reviews. People were starting to take her seriously as an adult actress. After that came the film Sydney White, followed by another, Living Proof. And in 2009 Bynes signed a two-picture deal with Screen Gems. Her first film for the company, Easy A, was another hit. The second, however, never came to fruition.
As 2010 rolled on, Bynes’ behavior suddenly started to become strange. Tweets that she posted to her personal account were unnecessarily confrontational or made no sense. She was fired from the Owen Wilson film Hall Pass, reportedly because of her paranoid behavior. Perhaps she could have bounced back from that, but over the next few years things became much worse.
The year 2012 was a particularly bad one for Bynes, in fact. She committed no fewer than seven traffic violations, including driving while under the influence, driving while using a cellphone and driving with a suspended license. Just one of those incidents would have raised eyebrows, but so many so close together were a sign that something was dreadfully wrong. Her postings on social media were extremely concerning as well.
Throughout the next couple of years, Bynes’ Twitter feed was a bright, shining signal that she desperately needed help. She tweeted cruel things at other celebrities in what seemed like strange attempts to get their attention. “Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough,” she wrote to singer Rihanna, a reference to the domestic abuse the singer had suffered. Later, homophobic and racist slurs also made their way into the mix.
As Bynes lashed out at everyone and everything, nobody seemed particularly willing to do anything about it. Us Weekly magazine ran a piece in 2013 titled “Amanda Bynes’ Craziest Tweets.” It included incidents such as when she’d asked President Obama to fire the cop who arrested her, or when she’d said that she was now estranged from her parents. Indeed, some felt that the media’s treatment of her had degenerated into a freak show.
In July 2013 Bynes’ mother was granted conservatorship of her, after Bynes had begun a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. It was clear to everyone at this point that Bynes was ill, not simply acting out. Countless articles were written about these episodes. Some people judged Bynes for the racism and homophobia in her tweets. Others, however, just made her into a figure of mockery.
The following year, in April, Bynes’s lawyer Tamar Arminak gave an interview to People magazine about her. She said, “There has been much speculation about Amanda’s medical condition. She asked me to dispel certain rumors. For the record, Amanda does not have schizophrenia, nor has she ever been diagnosed with it.”
The attorney went on, “Amanda currently is on zero medication. She’s devoted to living her life as healthy [sic] as possible. She’s never had a history of abusing alcohol or hard drugs, and she’s proud to say she’s been marijuana-free for the past nine months.” She added, “Her family is closely involved with her day-to-day life, but they try to give her as much autonomy as possible.”
On October 10, 2014, it became very obvious indeed how serious things were. That day, Bynes posted a series of disturbing tweets claiming that her father Rick had wanted to sexually abuse her when she was a child. Three hours later, she tried to take it all back, however. “My dad never did any of those things,” she tweeted. “The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he’s the one that ordered them to microchip me.”
Her mother Lynn subsequently came to the defense of her husband in a statement. “Rick has been the best father and husband a family can ask for. He has never abused Amanda or our other children physically or sexually,” it read. “These allegations stem from Amanda’s mental state at the moment. They have no basis in reality.” A few days after that, Bynes was admitted to a mental health facility.
No official diagnosis had yet been made, but the media speculated that Bynes had bipolar disorder. A tweet from her the following month seemed to confirm that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive. Bynes then quickly claimed, however, that her account had been hacked by “one of my friends.” After that her Twitter account became quieter and quieter, and by the next year she had stopped tweeting entirely.
Gradually the media that had followed her story so intently moved on to other things. Nonetheless, whenever Bynes made a public appearance, they were there. In July 2015 the website of TV program Entertainment Tonight reported that she “looked to be in good spirits as she stepped out for a fashion event on Thursday night.” A month later British newspaper the Daily Mirror noted that Bynes had become “overwhelmed” by the paparazzi during a shopping trip and consequently went to the nearest police station.
Bynes’s road to recovery, it seemed, would be a long one. And the constant presence of journalists and photographers wasn’t helping. She was staying off Twitter, however, and in fact seemed to be staying out of the public eye as much as she could. And in August 2015 her lawyer Arminak again gave an update. She told Fox411, “She is doing extremely well and everyone is so proud of her.”
Bynes did return to Twitter eventually, although she took things very slowly. Thankfully, the abusive tone of old had gone. She instead posted pictures of herself with her friends or with new haircuts. And she seemed to be focused on her education – she was attending the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). “I’m really appreciative of all that FIDM is giving me. I’ve been in school learning about the fashion business so I don’t have time to tweet,” she posted in August 2016.
It was in July 2017 that Bynes gave her first interview for four whole years, to Diana Madison of YouTube channel Hollyscoop. Although the interview was criticized by many viewers for being tasteless – at one point Bynes was asked to judge whether old pictures of herself were “hot or not” – it did reveal some tidbits about how Bynes was doing after her painful journey and where she planned to go next.
Bynes revealed that she was in fact thinking about returning to her former line of work. “I do miss acting and I have something surprising to tell you: I’m going to start acting again,” she told Madison. “I want to do TV. Maybe a few guest spots on some shows that I’m a fan of and maybe another TV show where I’m the star of it.” Bynes had other plans, too. She discussed her work at FIDM, for instance, and said that she wanted to start a clothing line in the future.
Perhaps most important of all, though, Bynes said that she was three years sober and feeling “great.” When asked what she was doing with her time now, she said, “I hike, I go spinning, take spinning classes and I feed the homeless.” And although it wasn’t brought up in the interview itself, her lawyer also subsequently mentioned to ABC News that Bynes was complying fully with her probation conditions.
If Bynes does suffer from bipolar disorder, then she’ll have it for the rest of her life – it doesn’t go away. Symptoms of the illness include psychosis, depression and mania. And, as is obvious, these can be extremely hard to manage. The disorder can be controlled with the proper medication, however, and that may be the approach that Bynes is taking now. Hopefully the former star has better days ahead. But did the actress actually have that particular condition after all? Come November 2018, the actress gave an explosive interview about her mental health, and set the matter to rest.
Bynes spoke to Paper magazine, and she said it was all to do with drugs. She said, “I started smoking marijuana when I was 16. Even though everyone thought I was the ‘good girl,’ I did smoke marijuana from that point on.” And she added, “I didn’t get addicted [then] and I wasn’t abusing it. And I wasn’t going out and partying or making a fool of myself… yet.”
Marijuana was one thing, but the drug abuse gradually got worse and worse. Bynes remembered, “Later on it progressed to doing molly [powdered MDMA] and ecstasy. [I tried] cocaine three times but I never got high from cocaine. I never liked it. It was never my drug of choice.” But she did get high from the legal drug Adderall.
Bynes told the magazine, “I definitely abused Adderall.” It all started when she read an article in a magazine calling it “the new skinny pill.” She explained, “They were talking about how women were taking it to stay thin. I was like, ‘Well, I have to get my hands on that.’” She lied to a psychiatrist in order to get it.
According to Bynes herself, it was the Adderall addiction which made her lose her Hall Pass role. She told Paper “When I was doing Hall Pass, I remember being in the trailer and I used to chew the Adderall tablets… I remember chewing on a bunch of them and literally being scatterbrained and not being able to focus on my lines or memorize them for that matter.”
And Bynes was having body issues as well. She remembered in the interview that she first became aware of them after She’s the Man was released. After she saw it, she told Paper, “I went into a deep depression for four-to-six months because I didn’t like how I looked when I was a boy… It just really put me into a funk.”
This was the case with Hall Pass as well. Bynes told Paper she recalled “seeing my image on the screen and literally tripping out and thinking my arm looked so fat, because it was in the foreground or whatever, and I remember rushing off set and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I look so bad.’”
After that Bynes saw herself in the movie Easy A and the same thing happened. She explained, “I literally couldn’t stand my appearance in that movie and I didn’t like my performance. I was absolutely convinced [that] I needed to stop acting after seeing it.” She added, “I was high on marijuana when I saw that but for some reason it really started to affect me. I don’t know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people.”
After announcing her retirement from acting via Twitter, something she described to Paper as “really foolish,” Bynes was lost. She explained, “I had a lot of time on my hands and I would ‘wake and bake’ and literally be stoned all day long.” Eventually, she said, “I got really into my drug usage and it became a really dark, sad world for me.”
Bynes wanted to make it clear in the interview that only the drugs had caused her mental health problems. She said, “It definitely isn’t fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are. That was always really bothersome to me. If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don’t believe you.”
In the interview, Bynes said she had been sober for almost four years, and her parents had helped her along the way. With the worst behind her, she wished to help other people who might find themselves in the same position. She said, “My advice to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse would be to be really careful, because drugs can really take a hold of your life.”
Bynes went on, “Everybody is different, obviously, but for me, the mixture of marijuana and whatever other drugs and sometimes drinking really messed up my brain. It really made me a completely different person. I actually am a nice person. I would never feel, say or do any of the things that I did and said to the people I hurt on Twitter.”
The young actress said that although “thankfully I never did heroin or meth or anything like that” she now knew full well the dangers of what she had been doing. With obvious regret she told her audience, “Be really, really careful because you could lose it all and ruin your entire life like I did.”
Of her past addiction and the associated behaviors, Bynes said, “I’m not sad about it and I don’t miss it because I really feel ashamed of how those substances made me act. When I was off of them, I was completely back to normal and immediately realized what I had done – it was like an alien had literally invaded my body. That is such a strange feeling.”
By September 2019 Bynes had rejoined social media. She’d changed her look, people observed – she was now sporting bright pink hair and a piercing in her septum. But she appeared to be doing well. One of the photographs she posted showed her graduation from FIDM.
But a few months after that, in December, reports started circulating that Bynes was relapsing. Website The Blast claimed that “sources close to the situation” believed the actress had left her sober-living home and said her parents were worried about her. Allegedly she had also started ignoring the terms of her conservatorship.
However, a few days later supposed insiders began clarifying things to the media. First a source told Us Weekly, “With Amanda, it’s not surprising that she would leave the sober-living facility. It’s not uncommon for anyone dealing with sobriety and mental health issues.” And after that a second source told Entertainment Tonight that Bynes was living with her parents – and still clean.
There still might be a way to go until Bynes is completely better, although insiders have implied they’re optimistic. In her interview with Paper magazine, Bynes said, “I have no fear of the future. I’ve been through the worst and came out the other end and survived it, so I just feel like it’s only up from here.” Hopefully she’s right.