Alexa PenaVega is only 27-years-old. The child star is probably best known for her role in Spy Kids, a film franchise that began when she was a mere 13, but Alexa started in movies at the tender age of 6. And sometime during her young career, a movie producer told PenaVega over and over again that she was “too fat.”
The result? Alexa developed bulimia, which plagued her for six years — a struggle PenaVega brought to life during an emotional contemporary dance routine on Dancing with the Stars. Despite a perfect score, PenaVega was booted from the competition, E! News reported.
Despite that, Alexa said that she and her husband, Carlos PenaVega, joined DWTS to work through the emotional residue of that long struggle. And now that she has finally shared her experience with the audience, PenaVega feels the experience was worth it.
“When Carlos and I joined the show, like one, it was a journey together. If we could just be a light for people, shine a light on marriage, shine a light on life… I feel like there’s so many things out there that are so negative. This is the one show where you can show something so positive and have fun and show a journey. If we could do that, that was our main goal, and I really felt like we did that.”
PenaVega revealed her bulimia during rehearsals with her partner, Mark Ballas — and she pointed to movie producers as the catalyst for her insecurity and pain, the Huffington Post added. Alexa didn’t specify which film she’d been working on at the time or how old she was when her illness began.
So why talk about it now? Before the emotional reveal on this weeks’ show, Alexa said she didn’t want people to associate her “with a problem.” Now, PenaVega has decided to embrace herself and to be proud of the fact that she overcame bulimia. Admitting her struggle, Alexa added, may help others who are coping with the same issues.
“I wish I had somebody to be real with me who was just so open about it,” PenaVega said.
And to People, Alexa added, “I was so afraid to talk about before, but this show has given me so much confidence. I went through a big battle and all I wanted to do was move and inspire people and show them that bulimia is something that you can get over.”
Though Alexa has moved past that time in her life, insecurities remain. The harsh truth about bulimia is that on some level, it’s satisfying, PenaVega said. The fact that “in a strange way, you enjoy it” was one barrier Alexa said she faced in trying to overcome the eating disorder. Getting over the compulsion is more difficult than it sounds.
Alexa’s performance this week gave form to that dark past in a dramatic dance that brought the audience to its feet and inspired the judges to gush PenaVega with praise. Choreographed by Alexa’s partner, PenaVega’s performance on the show was danced to “Make It Rain” and meant to represent her bulimia battle.
According to Cosmo, Mark — dressed all in black — represented bulimia and Alexa played herself, fighting against it. When it was over, the judges sprung to their feet and praised PenaVega for the raw, emotional performance. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said it was “more than dance, that was healing.”
“You really danced like a woman possessed,” added judge Bruno Tonioli. “It had all the torment and emotional turmoil of a dark psychodrama — images out of American Horror Story.”
For Alexa PenaVega, thrusting her bulimia battle onto the stage was difficult because people don’t often like to talk about eating disorders.
“With issues like that, you have to be bold, you have to have courage and you have to put it out there… as long as we can help one person, that’s all that matters. Tonight’s dance was bigger than the show. It was about a bigger message… to help people and to inspire.”
What did you think of Alexa PenaVega’s performance?
[Photo By Araya Diaz / Getty Images]