Amanda Bynes seemed to have it all when she first came onto the scene. She was pretty, she was accessible, and she was clearly a talented actress. Bynes quickly established herself with well-received films such as Hairspray and Easy A. But suddenly her behavior started to change. She posted bizarre things on social media. The arrests and the accusations started to mount up. And the media presented the results as a joke – just another child star gone off the rails, they said. But they had it all terribly, terribly wrong.
Amanda Bynes started acting aged just seven, doing TV advertisements and stage work. Her big break came in 1994 when she was cast in the Nickelodeon show All That, a sketch comedy that soon became wildly popular. After that she joined the game show Figure It Out and then her own comedy series. Aged just 13, she was the star of The Amanda Show.
The Amanda Show was another huge hit, and it propelled its leading lady ever further into the spotlight. In 2002 she won her first lead role in a movie, the teen comedy Big Far Liar. Network executives sung her praises as well. In a 2002 New York Times article titled “A Proud Product of the Nick Pipeline,” All That co-creator Dan Schneider happily described Amanda Bynes as “clean-cut and wholesome.”
Though “wholesome” is an almost impossible label for anyone, let alone a teen actor, to live up to, Bynes did seem to give it a very good go. For the next few years, indeed, her career continued to be successful. She appeared in Love Wrecked, starred in She’s The Man and was named one of the “Hottest Stars Under 25” by Teen People. Then in 2007 came the smash hit musical Hairspray.
Bynes’ performance in Hairspray, a movie based on the musical of the same name, won her rave reviews. People were starting to take her seriously as an adult actress. After that came the film Sydney White, followed by the Lifetime movie Living Proof. And in 2009 Bynes signed a two-picture deal with Screen Gems. Her first film for the company, Easy A, was another hit. The second, however, never came to fruition.
As 2010 rolled on, Bynes’ behavior suddenly started to become strange. Tweets that she posted to her personal account were unnecessarily confrontational or made no sense. She was fired from the Owen Wilson film Hall Pass, reportedly because of her paranoid behavior. Perhaps she could have bounced back from that, but over the next few years things became much worse.
The year 2012 was a particularly bad one for Bynes, in fact. She committed no fewer than seven traffic violations, including driving while under the influence, driving while using a cellphone and driving with a suspended license. Just one of those incidents would have raised eyebrows, but so many so close together were a sign that something was dreadfully wrong. Her postings on social media were extremely concerning as well.
Throughout the next couple of years, Bynes’ Twitter feed was a bright, shining signal that she desperately needed help. She tweeted cruel things at other celebrities in what seemed like strange attempts to get their attention. “Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough,” she wrote to singer Rihanna, a reference to the domestic abuse the singer had suffered. Later, homophobic and racist slurs also made their way into the mix.
As Bynes lashed out at everyone and everything, nobody seemed particularly willing to do anything about it. US Weekly ran a piece in 2013 titled “Amanda Bynes’ Craziest Tweets.” It included incidents such as when she’d asked President Obama to fire the cop who arrested her, or when she’d said that she was now estranged from her parents. Indeed, some felt that the media’s treatment of her had degenerated into a freak show.
In July 2013 Bynes’ mother was granted conservatorship of her, after Bynes had begun a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. It was clear to everyone at this point that Bynes was ill, not simply acting out. Countless articles were written about these episodes. Some people judged Bynes for the racism and homophobia in her tweets. Others, however, just made her into a figure of mockery.
On October 10, 2014, it became very obvious indeed how serious things were. That day, Bynes posted a series of disturbing tweets claiming that her father Rick had wanted to sexually abuse her when she was a child. Three hours later, she tried to take it all back, however. “My dad never did any of those things,” she tweeted. “The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he’s the one that ordered them to microchip me.”
Her mother Lynn subsequently came to the defense of her husband in a statement. “Rick has been the best father and husband a family can ask for. He has never abused Amanda or our other children physically or sexually,” it read. “These allegations stem from Amanda’s mental state at the moment. They have no basis in reality.” A few days after that, Bynes was admitted to a mental health facility.
No official diagnosis had yet been made, but the media speculated that Bynes had bipolar disorder. A tweet from her the following month seemed to confirm that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive. Bynes then quickly claimed, however, that her account had been hacked by “one of my friends.” After that her Twitter account became quieter and quieter, and by the next year she had stopped tweeting entirely.
Gradually the media that had followed her story so intently moved on to other things. Nonetheless, whenever Bynes made a public appearance, they were there. In July 2015 ET Online reported that she “looked to be in good spirits as she stepped out for a fashion event on Thursday night.” A month later, The Mirror noted that Bynes had become “overwhelmed” by the paparazzi during a shopping trip and consequently went to the nearest police station.
Her road to recovery, it seemed, would be a long one. And the constant presence of journalists and photographers wasn’t helping. She was staying off Twitter, however, and in fact seemed to be staying out of the public eye as much as she could. And in August 2015 her lawyer, Tamar Arminak, was interviewed by Fox411. “She is doing extremely well and everyone is so proud of her,” Arminak said.
Bynes did return to Twitter eventually, although she took things very slowly. Thankfully, the abusive tone of old had gone. She instead posted pictures of herself with her friends or with new haircuts. And she seemed to be focused on her education – she was attending the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). “I’m really appreciative of all that FIDM is giving me. I’ve been in school learning about the fashion business so I don’t have time to tweet,” she posted in August 2016.
It was in July 2017 that Bynes gave her first interview for four whole years, with Diana Madison of Hollyscoop. Although the interview was criticized by many viewers for being tasteless – at one point Bynes was asked to judge whether old pictures of herself were “hot or not” – it did reveal some tidbits about how Bynes was doing after her painful journey and where she planned to go next.
Bynes revealed that she was in fact thinking about returning to her former line of work. “I do miss acting and I have something surprising to tell you: I’m going to start acting again,” she told Madison. “I want to do TV. Maybe a few guest spots on some shows that I’m a fan of and maybe another TV show where I’m the star of it.” Bynes had other plans, too. She discussed her work at FIDM, for instance, and said that she wanted to start a clothing line in the future.
Perhaps most important of all, though, Bynes said that she was three years sober and feeling “great.” When asked what she was doing with her time now, she said, “I hike, I go spinning, take spinning classes and I feed the homeless.” And although it wasn’t brought up in the interview itself, her lawyer also subsequently mentioned to ABC News that Bynes was complying fully with her probation conditions.
Bynes will have bipolar disorder for the rest of her life – it doesn’t go away. Symptoms of the condition include psychosis, depression and mania. And, as is obvious, these can be extremely hard to deal with. It can be controlled with the proper medication, however, and that’s clearly what Bynes is doing now. Though her journey isn’t over yet, she seems to be out of the woods – and hopefully she has better things to come.