From the moment Chrissy Metz came on the screen as Kate in This Is Us, we knew there was something special about her.
Suddenly, we saw a woman on television who didn’t just look like so many American women do — she felt like us. She looked in the mirror and saw someone who was less than. She struggled with the gaping hole of losing a loved one. She put her own dreams aside to empower someone close to her. She found love, only to push it away when it became overwhelming.
And while we have smiled through her character’s joy and cried through her sorrow, most of us probably don’t know much about the woman behind the character. But Metz recently sat down with Glamour for an as-told-to story of her life that is as relatable as it is eye-opening — and makes us connect with her that much more.
Raised by a single, working mother in Homestead, Florida, Metz says she knew from a very early age what it was like to go without. Her mother sacrificed in every way to give her and her siblings what they needed, but Metz was always hyper aware that they were struggling.
“There were times I’d be nervous walking home from elementary school, thinking, If that red tag from the power company saying our lights are turned off is on the door handle, I don’t know what I’ll do. And there were nights my mom wouldn’t eat dinner. She’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m not hungry.’ I knew she was giving up food to make sure we could eat, but when you’re 9 or 10 years old, you can’t help. It was devastating.”
Later, she would follow her dreams to Los Angeles, but would wait years for her big break. During that time, she lived in a two-bedroom apartment with five other girls, going on any audition she could while working odd jobs and nannying. At one point, when things felt especially bleak, she contemplated moving home to Florida and giving up on her dreams forever. But some wise words from her mother kept her from abandoning her dream.
“My mom said, ‘You can either be miserable here and not pursue your dreams, or you can be miserable in L.A. and at least pursue what you want.'”
So, she stayed.
She moved in with a friend who offered to let her live rent-free until she could pay. She lived off ramen noodles bought from the Dollar Store. She got by on the generosity of those closest to her, who fed her when she was hungry and helped run lines with her when she couldn’t afford acting class.
While she can now pay her rent without hesitation, she says she is still the same woman she always was — and will never forget what it was like when her checking account was nearly empty. “I am so grateful that I had such an amazing support system,” Metz but when I booked This Is Us, I had 81 cents in my bank account. I could cry right now just thinking about it.”
Now, as she basks in the success of her hit TV show, the most important thing to her is not the money and the fame, but that she is finally in a position to help those who got her to where she is. From her grandmother who would make her grilled cheese sandwiches after school, to her LA friends who believed in her all the way.
“Mainly, I hope I can be successful enough to provide for those who supported me when I thought, I can’t do this anymore … When you’ve been down on your luck, you can really see that [need] in other people. Now that I’m living more comfortably, how do I share with others? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
With her debts now paid and a fresh pair of never-worn Alexander McQueen shoes sitting her closet, Metz says she’s eternally grateful that she is finally able to look back on her journey and feel both relief and gratitude.
“I’ve had women — average women, older women, teenagers — who say to me, ‘Your role and this show has changed my life.’ That makes all the struggle, all the ramen noodles, all the times when I couldn’t pay my bills, all the times where I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’ worth it. Sometimes I cry on the way to the set still. There is something that happens when you are grateful: You continue to keep receiving blessings. So I will always be grateful.”
It turns out, you can take the girl out of Homestead, Florida, but you can’t take the Homestead out of the girl. And for that, we thank you, Chrissy.