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How the Leading Actresses of Riverdale are Creating Change Off-Screen

Riverdale is a relatively new show that started just over a year and a half ago and, in that time, has become a worldwide phenomenon. The show is about Archie (KJ Apa), his friends and their parents trying to stay standing while the rest of their seemingly perfect town crumbles around them.Loosely based off of Archie Comics, Riverdale has a mostly unknown main cast (with the exception of Cole Sprouse) to ensure that each actor looks as similar as possible to their comic counterpart. Each cast member has taken their stratospheric rise to fame with great humility, some even started using their new platforms for good. Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch are changing things for the better!

The Riverdale cast, from left to right: Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart and KJ Apa. Credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube

Lili Reinhart has used her platform to talk about her ongoing struggle with anxiety. In September 2017, Lili got candid with W Magazine about the time her anxiety was at its worst. She moved to Los Angeles from North Carolina at the age of just 18, with the hope of achieving her dream of becoming an actress. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much success for quite a while. She said of the expenses of living in L.A., “I didn’t have a car, so I was spending $500 Ubering everywhere. I remember looking at my bank account and seeing all of this money that I had saved acting over the course of many years just gone. I had so much anxiety booking work, and I spent almost five months holed up in this bedroom in this house just feeling anxious, waiting for my next audition, and not doing anything else. It was the most miserable time of my life.” After having the worst panic attack of her life, Lili decided to move back home because she felt like her “world was crashing.” Once back home, she started visiting a therapist who she said, “really helped me build myself back up again.” Lili showed her many fans that anxiety is something lots of people have to deal with and that if yours is getting hard to manage, it’s best to ask for help from someone you trust. She also showed that it is possible to get better and bounce back: after a few months of recovering at home, Lili moved back to L.A. and landed the leading role of Betty Cooper on Riverdale. She has an arrow tattoo on her left forearm that promotes mental health awareness. When asked about the tattoo, she said: “An arrow can only go forward by being pulled back, so when you’re going through a hard time, being pulled back, it only means you’re about to experience something bigger and greater.”

Credit: Lili Reinhart on Instagram

She has also used her platform to encourage her fans to love their bodies just the way they are.

Very recently, she created a skin care line with Dermalogica so that young girls don’t have to go through all the problems she had with acne, which you can buy here.

Camila Mendes, another actress from the hit CW TV show, also uses he platform to give awareness to a problem that is more common than most people think: eating disorders. 5.4% of children aged 13- 18 suffer from an eating disorder [1]. This is a number that could be reduced significantly if we stopped setting unreachable targets for teenagers by photoshopping every magazine cover and Instagram post. In February, Camila posted a beautiful quote from Marya Hornbacher on Instagram about learning to love your body. In the caption, she detailed her own struggle with an eating disorder, showing her 11.8 million followers that even the most seemingly confident women can feel immense insecurity about their bodies. She ended the caption by telling her fans to incorporate a little body positivity into their routines.

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I met @thepouf at a gala for Project Heal, where we bonded over our experiences being in the fashion/entertainment industry while recovering from an eating disorder. Even though I’ve been crazy busy and on the other side of the continent, and even though I’m quite possibly the worst texter I know, Christina frequently checks in to see how I’ve been doing, and through that alone I’ve learned to appreciate the value of peer support when recovering from an eating disorder. Christina recently co-founded The Chain, a nonprofit organization that offers peer support for women in fashion & entertainment who struggle with eating disorders. I’ve been following @thechainnyc – and having that constant reminder to love my body (especially on instagram where my feed is full of perfect pictures and “perfect bodies,” and especially being in front of a camera every day playing Veronica, who adores her tight mini skirts) is just enough to clear my head of all the negative voices that creep in every once in a while. Our minds can get so contaminated with endless images of perfection, and even if you don’t suffer from an eating disorder, it can’t hurt to incorporate a little body positivity into your routine. Take care of yourself in every way that you can🧚🏽‍♀️

A post shared by camila mendes (@camimendes) on

Camila and Lili, who are best friends on and off screen, both called out Cosmopolitan Philippines for editing their bodies to make their waists look smaller. In the original photos, which can be seen on the cover of Cosmopolitan USA’s February issue, the girls look so beautiful. Lili wrote on her Instagram story, “It’s an every day battle, sometimes. And to see our bodies become so distorted in an editing process is a perfect example of the obstacles we have yet to overcome.” This is a powerful message that every magazine should think about before editing.

This is how much Cosmopolitan Philippines edited Lili’s gorgeous body. Credit: E! News

Madelaine Petsch is on this list for two reasons. One of which being her brilliant, heartbreaking portrayal of Cheryl’s coming out story. When Cheryl told Toni (played by the amazing Vanessa Morgan) about how her horrible mother had tried to push down her bisexuality, viewers everywhere were tearing up. Then her mother sent her to The Sisters of Quiet Mercy for gay conversion, a sad reality for many LGBTQ+ kids. Every Riverdale fan cheered when Cheryl and Toni had their first kiss after Toni rescued Cheryl from The Sisters of Quiet Mercy. In a recent interview with Wonderland, Madelaine said, “The amount of people who have reached out to me telling me that they had a similar story and their parents didn’t approve of it, or they have decided to come out to their parents and Riverdale gave them the courage to do so has been wonderful and life-changing. I meet fans now who are so overwhelmed with emotion because of what the show has done for them and what the character has done for them. I feel so blessed and honored to be able to bring that to television. It’s nice that I can meet a fan who’s like ‘I’m bisexual and it means so much to me to see a bisexual woman on TV because I’ve never seen it before and I feel like I can identify with your character.’ To me, that’s huge.”

The best first kiss ever? Credit: Riverdale Wikia

The second reason is how bravely she dealt with the difficult storyline of Nick St. Clair attempting to sexually assault her character. She posted a video on her Instagram account (below) and on her YouTube channel (watch it here) of her explaining to her fans that if they have been a victim of sexual assault, there are places that will give help.

As a Riverdale fan, I love each of these women equally not only because they are inspirations to us all, but also because they are so real and down-to-earth. None of them have let their fame go to their heads. It’s also really great to see women supporting each other the way Lili, Madelaine and Cami do. I really hope that season 3 of Riverdale showcases female friendship in the same positive light that these incredible women do!

Featured image credit: We Heart It

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I come from Cardiff, which is in the UK. Writing is one of my greatest passions, I just feel so happy when I'm writing. Camila Cabello and New Hope Club are my favourite artists. Tom Holland would be my favourite actor if he hadn't made me cry so much in Avengers: Infinity War! I am also a strong believer in equal rights for everyone, as I have a physical disability. You can follow me on Instagram @lucyparryyy and on Twitter @Lucy15Parry

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