Modern Family actress, Sarah Hyland, speaks out on life in the spotlight with a chronic illness.
By her count, Sarah Hyland, 28, has had about 16 surgeries. Six in the past 16 months or so—including a second kidney transplant, laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, and surgery to correct an abdominal hernia.
Her first kidney transplant from 2012 was already public knowledge—her dad gave her one of his when she was 21. But much of the rest of her health history is not. After a few years of occasionally referencing medical issues without going into specifics, she is ready to share more. I’m in Los Angeles to interview her about it.
We’re tucked away in a back booth on the patio of the Polo Lounge. Magenta bougainvillea dot the space, but tree trunks wrapped in fairy lights and a slight bite in the air hint at autumn. Many of the Polo Lounge’s diners are familiar enough to make my brain itch. Hyland fits right in, having become a household name years ago thanks to her role as Haley Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family, the award-winning ensemble comedy that has been running for nearly a decade.
Our conversation, in many ways, is like any other conversation in which a writer (me) interviews a famous 20-something (her) for a celebrity profile (this one). We go to a fancy restaurant for an hour, and talk about the usual things that you’d expect from a story like this: career, love, family, body image, workouts, beauty routines. You know the drill—those mundane (yet somehow fascinating!) details of daily life for a normal celebrity with millions of Instagram followers.
In some important ways, though, this conversation is different. For Hyland, it is impossible to discuss the standard celebrity profile details without also discussing her lifetime of living with chronic illness, which has colored every facet of her life.
About that luminous career: When she started dialysis in February 2017, she chose a center near the Modern Family set, so she could more easily balance work and life. About that love: She met her current boyfriend in person for the first time just three days before undergoing a second kidney transplant in September 2017. About those beauty routines: She’s big into skin-care, and always trying out the newest beauty gadgets that might help with her facial swelling, a side effect of the medication she has to take for the rest of her life. Her health conditions don’t define her, of course. But they certainly have had an impact on the day-to-day.
As we talk, I keep noticing Hyland’s enormous eyes, framed in a fan of long, glorious lashes. Her large gold glasses magnify them, making them look even bigger. She reminds me of a woodland creature that has evolved to peak cuteness as a survival mechanism. I imagine David Attenborough narrating a nature show about life and death in an unforgiving landscape.
But being cute as hell and strong as hell aren’t mutually exclusive, an obvious fact that resonates more deeply the longer we talk. Hyland’s body has put her through the wringer, forcing her to confront her own lack of control and adjust her goals, expectations, relationships, and self-image to make space for her medical needs. Throughout it all, she has exhibited near-superhuman strength and perseverance. And yet, as Hyland points out, something she wishes more people would understand: “I’m just a human being.”
|Read on: Sarah Hyland On Her Second Kidney Transplant, Dialysis, and Living with a Chronic Illness|