Lindi Ortega Reveals Battle With Body-Dysmorphic Disorder

"The Comeback Kid" singer pens candid essay for 'Lenny Letter'

In an intimate, detailed essay, Lindi Ortega shares her battle with Body-Dysmorphic Disorder. Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Canadian-born singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega's forthcoming LP Liberty is a concept album, driven by the work of Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone, famed for his musical scores of spaghetti westerns such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The LP explores Ortega's links to her Mexican and Irish heritage and sees its main character on a journey from profound darkness to one of hope and light. While the album tells the tale of a fictional protagonist, Ortega's own troubling past and her path to self-discovery is revealed in a startlingly honest first-person essay for Lenny Letter, the feminist newsletter created by writer-director-actress Lena Dunham and writer-producer-director Jennifer "Jenni" Konner. 

Titled "In the Mirror, a Fractured Reflection," Ortega's essay frankly addresses her struggle with Body-Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and how it led to creating what she refers to as her "country gothic-noir" persona. BDD is a body-image disorder characterized by "persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one's appearance," according the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Following an incident where she was bullied by a male peer at a party when she was 13 years old, Ortega says she began struggling with her appearance.

"I constantly obsessed over how unattractive I was," she writes. "I spent an obscene amount of time scrutinizing my outrageously large pores and my unreasonably crooked nose and fixating on the texture of every inch of my skin. The more I focused on my perceived flaws, the more I alienated myself from the world. I often refused to leave my house because my compulsive grooming, hiding, and concealing rituals consumed so much energy."

Of her decision to reveal such personal details, Ortega tells Rolling Stone Country, "It was important for me to share this story about my struggle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder because I wanted those suffering with this, or something similar, to know that they are not alone; and also that they don't have to stifle their dreams in life because they are dealing with a disorder. I was still able to pursue mine despite the anguish BDD has caused me over the years. If I can do it, anyone can."

After seeing a psychologist while at university, the singer learned more about BDD but couldn't afford additional counseling after gradating. As a performing musician in her early 20s, she hid onstage behind oversized sunglasses, but had to give them up on the insistence of her manager at the time. She also reveals how being asked to arrive at a photo shoot wearing no makeup struck terror within, sending her into "full panic mode." "The faulty wiring in my brain had me convinced that, without makeup, I was monstrous — a fragmented Picasso painting on acid," she writes.

Though not cured of the disorder, Ortega says she has learned to cope, wearing a birdcage veil or cowboy hat on stage, which she says fit in with her "country gothic noir vibe."

Ortega's new album Liberty will be released March 30th.