A brilliant writer, a born actress, a quick-witted feminist and a staunch, outspoken advocate for mental health — the indelible Carrie Fisher was so much more than just the girl in the gold bikini.

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.

Carrie was born in Beverly Hills on October 21st, 1956. The daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, Carrie was straight into the spotlight. When she was only 2 years old, her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Later, Taylor would leaving him for Richard Burton, creating a very public scandal and divorce. Growing up in the spotlight was challenging, so from a very early age, Carrie found her escape in books, devouring everything from Truman Capote to Dorothy Parker. As she explained in an interview with Rolling Stone, “Books were my first drug. They took me away from everything and I would just consume them.”

When she was 15, Carrie dropped out of high school and joined the cast of Irene on Broadway, and in 1975, she made her film debut in a movie called Shampoo. Shortly after, she was cast as Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie, and from there, her life changed dramatically. Carrie never actually set out to be an actress – her plan had been to become a writer – but following the success of Star Wars, she felt she had no other choice.

Following the success of Star Wars, Carrie was catapulted to an all-new level of celebrity. Unfortunately, she was also struggling with a serious mental illness, and had begun self-medicating with everything from LSD to heroin. In 1983, she married Paul Simon, but the marriage collapsed quickly. By 1985, things had begun to spiral out of control, and a near-fatal overdose prompted her to seek treatment.

Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.

While Carrie went on to continue her career as an actress, starring in everything from Blues Brothers to When Harry Met Sally, her stay in rehab marked a return to her first love: writing. Her experiences there inspired her first book, Postcards from the Edge, which was later made into a movie directed by Mike Nichols, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

Following the success of Postcards from the Edge, Carrie went on to serve as a script doctor for a number of Hollywood hits, including The Wedding Singer and Sister Act. She also wrote two memoirs, Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist, and a one-woman show based on her life.

I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.

In her books, Carrie spoke frankly and wittily about her struggle with bipolar disorder, and the work she did to minimize the associated stigma made her a hero to many. She named her depression and mania ‘Pam’ and ‘Roy’ respectively, and she was quick to share her story with heart and humor. This willingness led her to speak about her illness with everyone from Barbara Walters to the California State Senate, and in doing so, she became a tremendously effective advocate for mental health.

On December 27th 2016, Carrie passed away. Her official cause of death was a heart attack, but, as we know from her writing in Wishful Drinking, she would prefer for us to report that she was “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.” She was cremated, and in one last act of witty, wonderful activism, her ashes were placed in her beloved giant antique Prozac pill. Millions of people around the world were rocked by news of Carrie’s death, although perhaps none so much as her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died the day after her daughter, shortly after uttering the phrase, “I want to be with Carrie.”

©The Heroine Collective 2016 – Present, All Rights Reserved. Every effort is made to ensure our articles are as accurate as they can possibly can be, but if you notice a factual error, please do be in touch. We only use images we believe are either in the public domain or images we believe we are able to use for illustrative, editorial and non-commercial purposes. If you believe one of our images is being used incorrectly, please be in touch. References include Rolling Stone, CNN, and the cited works of Carrie Fisher.
Amber Karlins

Written by Amber Karlins

Amber works as a professor in Florida, teaching writing, literature, and theatre. Her first book, a work of creative non-fiction, was published in 2011. She also enjoys academic writing and has published papers in such places as the African American National Biography and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies.

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By Riccardo Ghilardi photographer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons