Lili Reinhart has been outspoken for almost as long as she’s been famous. The star of the popular teen soap “Riverdale” has openly discussed her struggles with anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia. She has also been vocal about women’s reproductive rights, white privilege, her disapproval of President Trump and the public’s undying fascination with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

She didn’t set out to make candor her calling card. I had no idea three years ago that I’d be known as the girl who talks about her depression all the time,” Ms. Reinhart, 24, said in a video call from the backyard of an Airbnb in Vancouver, where “Riverdale” is filming. “Is that something that I necessarily would have tried to seek out? No, but I’m glad that that’s how it happened.”

As she sees it, she’s just being honest. “I’m the kind of person where, if I’m struggling with something, I need to talk about it. That’s the only way that I can get through it,” Ms. Reinhart said.

In a poem from her new book, “Swimming Lessons,” which hit bookstores this week, she put it another way: “I’ve only told the world/ what I feel,/ not how to overcome./ It feels fraudulent to be given/ a pat on the back/ for simply telling the truth.”

Ms. Reinhart grew up in Cleveland, the middle of three sisters. Her father worked in sales, and her mother worked in home health care. She had theater-kid tendencies, which her family encouraged. This eventually translated into attending open casting calls and taking eight-hour drives to New York City for auditions.

“I didn’t come from anyone who knew anything about the industry,” she said. “I really have to give credit to my mom who went out of her way to help me pursue these options as a young 13-, 14-year-old, who was like, ‘I just want to act.’”

At 16, her family moved from Ohio to North Carolina. She decided to finish school online so she could focus on acting, self taping audition after audition. “I hated being a teenager,” she said. “I hated going to school. I hated a lot of things. I didn’t enjoy life at that point.”

She tried her hand at a slew of jobs. There was the five-hour stint at a bakery; she quit after a severe panic attack during her first shift. She was a hostess at a restaurant for a few hours, then had another panic attack and quit. She was able to hold down a sales associate role at Pier 1 Imports, where she could hide in the back room, breaking down boxes. “Acting was genuinely the only thing that I could do that didn’t give me anxiety,” she said. “This is kind of it. I really don’t have a backup plan here.”

She moved out to Los Angeles alone at 18, where she’d spend her days waiting for auditions to trickle in. For Ms. Reinhart, who has dealt with depression since 13, her time there was isolating. She didn’t know anyone in the city and wasn’t making enough money to survive. “I was very unwell, mentally,” she said. “I was throwing up every night from depression.”

Five months later, she moved back home and returned to therapy. She worked in retail to save money. She gave herself one more year in L.A. and planned to become a makeup artist if acting didn’t work out. A month after her return to L.A., at 19, she landed a starring role on “Riverdale” as Betty Cooper, a gritty Nancy Drew-like take on the sunny girl next door from the Archie comics.

“We’re constantly putting poor Betty through the emotional ringer,” said Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner. “Part of the reason is Lili is such a phenomenal, soulful actor and she could handle it. Some characters, we try to add darkness to them, and it didn’t sit right. But with Betty, we found Lili could absorb every trauma and challenge before her and turn that into an incredible performance.”

Ms. Reinhart refers to herself as a “CW girl” a lot, but “Riverdale” has opened other doors for her: a breakout role in “Hustlers” alongside Jennifer Lopez, homeownership, the ability to produce films and, now, her first book.

Production for “Riverdale” halted in March because of the pandemic. For Ms. Reinhart, it was a relief. “I was honestly run dry. I was working six days a week, 16 hour days, I was beyond exhausted,” she said. “I was reaching a breaking point and then Covid hit, and then I didn’t work for five months.”

She spent quarantine working on herself, and moved into her first home, in the San Fernando Valley, in June. She did weekly therapy, read self-help books and spent time with close friends. She worked with a healer and learned how to meditate. And she wrote more poetry — a passion she discovered at 16 while searching for words that were “pretty enough” to send to a long-distance boyfriend.

“Roberto called all of us after that happened and was like, ‘I just want you to know, I talked to Vanessa, I heard everything she has to say, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we right this wrong,’” Ms. Reinhart said. “I think our show is definitely going to try to just be better about being more racially diverse and making sure that our secondary characters have actual story lines and aren’t just kind of there as an accessory to the white characters.”

Having millions of followers also means that Ms. Reinhart’s actions are subject to heavy scrutiny. In June, she posted a topless photo to Instagram alongside the caption: “Now that my sideboob has gotten your attention, Breonna Taylor’s murderers have not been arrested. Demand justice.”

The backlash was swift. Many observers called the post insensitive, pointing out that it was another instance of someone trivializing Ms. Taylor’s death by turning it into a meme. Ms. Reinhart quickly deleted the post and apologized.

“Before I posted that, I turned to my friend and I was like, ‘Are people going to take this the wrong way?’ I wanted to get people’s attention,” she said.

“If I posted about Breonna Taylor, it would get, I don’t know, 500,000 likes, maybe less. If I post a picture of myself, it’s going to get 3 million,” she said. “But it was ignorant of me. It was an ignorant thing to do.”

In the aftermath, she deleted Twitter off her phone. “This is not the first time I’ve been on the other end of some internet hate,” she said. “I’ve experienced it many times. And I think it’s because I speak out about things, so I’m inherently going to attract some negative attention.”

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