Sydney Sweeney has a couple words of wisdom for her younger self (and for all of us, honestly). The youngest Women in Hollywood honoree this year dedicated her speech at ELLE’s Getty Center celebration to sharing the three big life lessons she wished she knew when she was a little girl.
But before she doled out that precious life advice, presenter and on-screen Euphoria sister Maude Apatow shared a story that spoke volumes about Sweeney’s dedication to her craft—and may actually change the way you see her performance as Cassie. Apatow recalled a time on set when a “castmate stepped on Sydney’s foot with a high heeled shoe and broke her toe. I’m not going to name names, but it was Alexa Demie.”
She continued, “When Sam [Levinson, Euphoria creator and director] said cut, Sydney grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the back hallway where nobody could see. She started silently screaming out in pain…begging for me not to tell anyone, which put me in the very difficult position of watching my friend suffer through what would end up being a scene that involved a large amount of physical activity, including running and leaping. Sydney wiped her tears and did the scene as if nothing was wrong. She didn’t even limp.”
According to Apatow, Sweeney ended up doing nine more takes through the excruciating pain without complaining, then went to the hospital in the evening, where she found out her toe was broken. “She then went straight back to work the next morning,” she added. The actress closed our her introduction with loving praise for Sweeney, saying, “Sydney brings that level of dedication and care to everything she does—and she can do a lot of different things.”
Sweeney thanked Apatow when she got to the mic. “Thank you so much,” she told her co-star. “You are the sister I’ve always wanted and I am so lucky to be able to play a sister on Euphoria with you, and you’re my best friend. And it’s such an amazing feeling because I always had a hard time having girl friends, and you’re just everything to me. So thank you so much for doing this.”
She also clarified the status of her toe: “Also my toe is totally fine. It heeled. The toenail did fall off, but she’s back.”
Sweeney’s dedication to improvement was apparent throughout her own speech. “I’m still learning today, and I’m going to be still learning tomorrow,” she said at the end of her letter to herself. “And that’s okay, because no one has it all figured out. And you’re going to be asked who you want to be when you grow up, and I really hope you’re proud of who we are now.” With White Lotus and Euphoria big successes under her belt and Barbarella, Madame Web, and more in her future, Sweeney has good reason to be.
Below, read Sweeney’s full speech:
Thank you, ELLE magazine, this is such an honor and I’m beyond grateful. Thank you for continuing to celebrate inspirational women like those who are alongside me in this room tonight. You have all inspired me to be a woman who is not confined by society’s standards and expectations. And I wish my younger self could see this right now because I’m surrounded by women who inspired that little girl to become an actress. I’m not the best at giving speeches, I have intense stage fright; I feel safer as a character than myself. I haven’t figured out how to get over that yet. So I thought I could best express myself by writing a letter to little Syd—that’s me. I wanted to write something my younger self needed to hear, and I hope it reaches others who might need it too. So, to those who might dream of these moments, of being surrounded by people with such strength, wisdom, and fearlessness. Of being a working actress, a story teller, or whatever their passion may be.
Dear Little Syd,
You would not believe what we are doing right now. So I need to thank you. Thank you for never giving up or accepting the answer no. You never let others discourage you from dreaming and believing in yourself. Even when it felt like no one believed in you. During this journey there’s three lessons I wish we would’ve learned earlier on, that I want to share with you now.
Lesson one: Never forget the importance of kindness and forgiveness—to yourself and others. I know you were scared when you left your small town, because usually people don’t leave. Not everyone will understand where you are going, or where you came from. Some people may be unaccepting and at times cruel, and every step of the way they will try to make you fearful of your dreams. But turn that negativity and pain into motivation. Be kind to yourself as you grow and allow forgiveness as you fail.
Lesson two: Live in the now. Mom always said to jump rope while you can, and we always thought it was because our boobs were going to get in the way, which they did, but it’s so much more than that. You love the chase, and you’re always looking towards the next thing, hungry for more. But slow down, and take it all in. Because you’ve worked so hard, and what’s the point if you don’t take those moments to enjoy the journey? I mean, this industry is nuts.
Lesson three: Fall in love with as many things as possible. Fall in love with art, music, travel, cars, sports, education, others, and yourself. Keep your heart open and curiosity alive. Always look for new possibilities to discover, don’t limit the bandwidth of love. And always share it. ‘Cause this world needs more love in it.
I’m still learning today, and I’m going to be still learning tomorrow. And that’s okay, because no one has it all figured out. And you’re going to be asked who you want to be when you grow up, and I really hope you’re proud of who we are now.
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.