By Isabel Jones
Feb 26, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

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.”

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Wing

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.”

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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.

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Wing

“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."