Jennifer Lawrence visited N.Y.C.’s SoHo chapter of The Wing on Friday evening, touting words of professional and personal wisdom to an all-female audience in a conversation led by the community's founder and C.E.O. Audrey Gelman.
Although the 27-year-old is undeniably a household name and a Hollywood mainstay, she’s still dealing with new industry challenges everyday. Lawrence, whose nude photos were hacked and leaked online in 2014, told the crowd that on-screen and public sexuality has made her uncomfortable for years.
“I’ve felt very insecure in sexuality, really, with what happened to me in 2014—but also, I grew up in Kentucky, I grew up in a conservative home, and I’ve [felt] afraid to be judged by using my body or being sexual. I felt like I would be judged for that.”
However, the Oscar winner’s upcoming film Red Sparrow flipped the script (literally) on her thinking.
“I read the script and found it empowering and I thought that was an important character, an important message—and I thought, ‘If I don’t do this movie because of these fears, then these fears and insecurities are going to rule my life, and then they win.’”
The film in question follows Dominika (Lawrence), a prima ballerina recruited to a Russian intelligence service in which she is trained to seduce the enemy. The role required a major concession from Lawrence: full nudity. But despite her previous hesitations, filming the revealing scene was an enlightening experience for the actress.
“After I finished the first scene—where I literally—it’s the nightmare come true: strip naked in front of a classroom—I thanked the director, as crazy as that sounds, because I walked off that set feeling like a completely different person,” she shared.
Off set, however, Lawrence owes her composure to her closest friends.
“If you want to know why I am the way I am and how I get through absolutely any aspect of life—it’s the women in my life,” she explained. “It’s my best friends, who range from my friends that I knew way before [fame], to Emma Stone, who became a friend that was my age, and we’re both kind of experiencing the same thing and supporting each other and giving each other advice.”
Despite her reliance on her famous peers, one of Lawrence’s dearest friends has been dealing with the demands of fame since Jen was just a kid.
“I live in a neighborhood where I’ve met the most amazing—we’re like a tribe or a village of women. One of the most important women in my life, who’s more recent, is Cameron Diaz. I was having a tough week, and I was just like, at what point do you not go ‘Is this making me happy anymore’? And I called Cameron and she was just like ‘Dude, I get it. I’ve been there. You have to find a way to ground yourself. This is your reality. You can’t escape the reality.’”
Lawrence also addressed her direct approach to sexism and condescension in the industry, relaying a story from when she was shooting Joy in 2015.
“I called somebody in my trailer to say ‘I’m working too late, these hours, it’s chaotic’—complaining, basically—and he went on to explain to me why I was wrong and I was very uncomfortable so I just said ‘OK,’ because it was just uncomfortable and I wanted it to be over,” Lawrence said.
“So I was like, ‘OK, thank you so much, bye,” and I was like, ‘What was the point of that?’ I decided at that very moment, when I was 25, that I’m never going to say something that I don’t mean. I will always be polite; I will always be professional, and I will always be kind, but I will never say something that I don’t mean. So I think instead of being worried that you’re going to be difficult, there is a way to deliver a very clear message: ‘That is not enough for me, I need more.' Be very clear, and be polite, but do not shy away from a controversy because it’s uncomfortable."