Lily Allen made her music debut with a bang when she released “Alright, Still” in 2006 and was immediately nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. Since then, she’s dropped three more records (her latest, “No Shame,” came out in 2018), toured the world, and amassed a $5 million net worth. But her career hasn’t been picture-perfect. In 2009, she took a five-year hiatus from making music and, when she finally returned with “Sheezus” in 2014, it had a devastating impact on her life.
While putting on a brave face and keeping her true feelings quiet, Allen was silently struggling with fame, addiction, the lasting effects of sexual assault at the hands of a record industry exec, and the PTSD she suffered following a stillbirth in 2010. Looking back at the “Sheezus” era, the singer told Vulture, “I lost my sense of self. I lost my identity. I was being a bad mum,” she admitted. “I was being bad at my job. I’d wake up on a tour bus in the middle of Wisconsin and be so hung-over,” she recalled. What’s more, Allen revealed she cheated on then-husband Sam Cooper while on the road, writing on Instagram that she “slept with female escorts when I was on tour, cause I was lost and lonely and looking for something.”
Speaking candidly about her spiral out of control, Allen told The Guardian that while she didn’t openly talk about her inner demons, she “was pretty brazen with all my behavior” because “maybe I did want to get caught, maybe I wanted Sam to rescue me. I wanted him to find out about these things and say, ‘Enough is enough, you’re coming home,’” she conceded. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the songstress was forced to make a tough decision: give up or learn from her mistakes. She chose the latter.
Here’s what we can learn from Lily Allen’s response to heartbreak and her journey to healthy love:
Lily Allen began dating builder and decorator Sam Cooper back in 2009 and it wasn’t long before the pair tied the knot in 2011. “She is very happy,” Delphine Manivet, who designed the singer’s wedding gown, told BBC at the time, adding, “It is something wonderful.”
But despite the happy occasion and their outward joy, Allen and Cooper were holding onto a secret pain: Allen had suffered a miscarriage in 2010 while six months pregnant with their son, George. The loss left her feeling nothing but “despair” to the point that she walked out of her house into “torrential, biblical rain,” took off her clothes and lay naked on the ground, howling, per The Guardian.
In time, she and Cooper seemingly worked through the trauma and didn’t give up on starting a family. They eventually had two more children — Ethel Mary (born in 2011) and Marnie Rose (born in 2013) — but even those joyous arrivals couldn’t stop the gradual demise of their marriage. That’s because the more the “Smile” singer refused to communicate, the stronger her inner turmoil became. As she told E! in 2018, “I hit a rock bottom because I didn’t talk to people about what I was going through. I dealt with things very much in my own brain and I guess when I came away to go on tour [in 2014] and I didn’t have Sam to lean on, it became even worse,” she said, advising, “I would just say be honest about your feelings, as soon as you can, get them out and talk about them. You can get some feedback and move on.”
Allen and Cooper’s lack of an open dialogue also led to resentment as Allen quietly blamed her partner for stealing valuable bonding time from her. Speaking with Cosmopolitan UK in 2018, she recalled wanting to tour with her little ones, but revealed that it was Cooper who forbade her from taking them on the road. “I had always assumed I’d chuck my kid over my shoulder and take them around the world,” she told the mag. “But Sam didn’t want that. He didn’t think it was a stable environment for them. I think it was quite selfish,” she said, adding, “He got to stay at home and have the family that I’d just spent three years making inside me. I had to go out and earn money and leave that family behind.”
Lily Allen got real with herself, and with everyone else
Lily Allen and Sam Cooper continued to struggle in their union and eventually split in 2016 before finalizing their divorce in 2018. It was a rude awakening, but Allen used it to her advantage. “I lost my marriage, I lost my house, I lost my mind,” she told Vulture, but admitting it helped her in the long run. “I literally had to hit rock bottom and build myself back up,” she declared.
But rebuilding wasn’t easy. Not only had she lost her husband, but most of her support system was also gone. Allen felt completely “isolated” because, as she told BBC, “when me and Sam got together, I very much attached myself to his life. His friends became my friends; his family became my family. So when that stopped, I felt at loss.” It was then that she suffered yet another shock when a stalker broke into her home while she was asleep and, at that moment, she “just shut down emotionally in every way. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about what I was going through. I just kind of sat at home being sad,” she recalled.
With time, Allen decided to turn things around and she began channeling her feelings into music (she spent four years writing No Shame) and what would eventually become her memoir, My Thoughts Exactly. Speaking with E! in 2018, the British singer revealed the powerful impact that finally being honest with herself — and with the world — had on her life. “I’m 33 now and I feel like I’m very much entering a new chapter in my life, but it’s been quite difficult to go into that chapter without putting some stuff to bed,” she began, explaining that “in order to move into this new period of my life I needed to just let everyone know what’s up.” She continued, “I wrote the book in a period of time where my marriage had fallen apart. Most of the friends I had were his friends and so I became isolated. I didn’t really have that many people to talk to. The book sort of became my friend.”
Lily Allen changed her approach to love
In embracing her newfound honest approach to life and love, Lily Allen was able to build a new relationship with her ex in which they share custody of the kids and are “both really friendly.” It also opened her up to a new way of dating in which communication and self-love were paramount.
Starting in 2015, Allen dated DJ Meridian Dan for three years and, when they broke up, she surprised herself in the best possible way. “I think the fact that I haven’t called him and been like, ‘Hey, wanna come around for a cuddle?’ means that it’s big for me,” she noted.
Because ordinarily when things get difficult, I need to have somebody around to share those problems. So the fact that I’m dealing with it all on my own, I’m growing up.
Jump to January 2019 and she was rumored to be dating Stranger Things actor David Harbour. Turns out, the speculation was true, but they didn’t go Instagram official until October 2019 when Harbour shared a selfie of them at Florida’s Disney Magic Kingdom and Allen shared a screenshot of Harbour’s SNL sketch in which she zoomed in on his bicep and wrote, “Mine.”
This time around, she was doing things differently. Sharing what she learned from “the deterioration of my last marriage,” Allen revealed, “I definitely had a sort of sexual awakening in my late 20s. And by the way, I’m not blaming this on my ex-husband; it absolutely wasn’t his fault. It was my fault because I wasn’t feeling empowered and I wasn’t able at that point to communicate my wants and needs, and so things broke down,” she admitted. But it taught her an important lesson.
I definitely don’t want that to happen again. I’m very much in love and happy in this relationship [with David], and communication in all areas is important.
Lily Allen and David Harbour’s love story is truly sweet
Speaking with The Sunday Times Style in October 2020, Lily Allen revealed that she met David Harbour in a not-so-romantic way (it was on the celebrity dating app Raya while he was in London shooting a film) but that their first date was oh-so-very-romantic. From the get-go, the “Hard Out Here” singer was pushed out of her comfort zone but she decided to go for it. “It was my first date ever,” she admitted. “I had never been on a date! I was so anxious.”
Dealing with those nerves sure paid off when they went for dinner at Wolseley “and there’s this table in the middle section that’s underneath a clock, and I remember looking at him, and it reminded me of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, you know? When she’s going to meet him under the clock,” she reminisced. And that wasn’t the only sweet, memorable moment of the night. Turns out Harbour bought a knock-off Lily Allen T-shirt on eBay before their date and proudly showed it off while cheekily telling the singer her real merch “was crappy quality.”
“We were on our first date in London and I went round to his place, he was like ‘Do you think I should wear this or not?’ I went in and he had this horrible green T-shirt on with a Lily Allen logo on it,” she recalled, laughing, “It was terrible. It wasn’t even Fruit of the Loom and it was green. I was like, ‘I am sure I have never approved that!’”
From there, their connection quickly blossomed and Harbour also managed to build an equally important bond with Allen’s daughters. As he jokingly told People, he knew from the start that being with Allen meant being in “a relationship with three women who all have very different opinions of me at various times.”
The Hellboy actor also shared how the relationship was different for him, telling the outlet that “making that kind of a commitment, which I haven’t for most of my life, was a huge thing for me.” But being “thrust into this family role” made him “feel a little bit more like an adult” while also exposing him to the joys of fatherhood. “It’s a cliché that we make fun of constantly in television and in books and I had always watched it with a grain of salt going, ‘Eh, whatever, it’s not the real deal.’ And now I am in it, that sort of hits it on the head.”
After a year of dating, Allen and Harbour (who both felt they had “grown up” and entered a new chapter in their lives) said “I do” in a surprise ceremony in Las Vegas. The ceremony, which happened in September 2020, was complete with an Elvis impersonator and post-wedding dinner at In-N-Out. Asked about the nuptials, the actor couldn’t help but gush about his new wife, telling People, “I married a beautiful, incredible woman who I love. I have never met someone who is so deeply kind as her. I’ve never felt so taken care of and cared for by another human being,” he said, adding, “She really is just a deeply kind individual and I love that about her.”
In her twenties, Lily Allen suffered through loss, heartbreak, and an inner battle that could have easily overpowered her. But when she lost everything she knew, she didn’t give up. Rather, she chose to take the hard road and rebuild while learning from her past mistakes. In doing so, she first needed to be honest with herself. As Allen shows us, open, honest communication (no matter how difficult) is the true key to happiness and it starts with you. It’s only once you figure out what makes you happy and fulfilled that you can go out and get it — unapologetically.
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