Hip-hop violinist Lindsey Stirling overcomes anorexia, critics to find happiness, success
"It was a very unacceptable art form. I kept being told it was not marketable at all. 'A dancing, rock-star violinist is something we don't want to touch,' " Stirling recalled them saying. "Eventually I said, 'I love it. I'm just going to do it for fun.' That's when I started making YouTube videos and everything changed."
Stirling was introduced to Devin Graham, a Utah-based filmmaker who has a YouTube channel called "Devin Super Tramp." While Stirling collaborated with various artists like the Piano Guys, Alex Boye and others, it was Graham's assistance in making YouTube videos that really kick-started her career.
"He basically changed my life," Stirling said. "He taught me everything I needed to know about YouTube."
Today, Stirling's YouTube channel has almost 50 videos and more than 2 million subscribers. Her video "Crystalize" was the No. 8 top-viewed video of 2012, with more than 42 million views. It has more than 55 million views today.
But before her music topped the iTunes chart, she had to overcome an eating disorder.
Stirling worked at a treatment center for troubled teenage girls for several years. It was during this time that she realized she was suffering from anorexia.
One day she was on the phone with her mother, who had noticed signs that something wasn't right. She had encouraged Stirling to get help before.
"She’d been saying that for a while, and I said, 'No, Mom, I’m fine.' You don’t realize you have a problem, it’s in your head, that’s the way you think," Stirling said. "But I know it was the Spirit one day. I realized, 'Why am I not happy anymore? Why am I so sad all the time?' Talking to Mom on the phone, the Spirit overcame me and I realized I did have a problem. It was an aha moment, and it became clear to me that there was a problem. That’s when I decided I need to change and find help."
Anorexia is a disease that causes people to isolate themselves. They feel so alone and misunderstood, Stirling said. She prayed for increased faith and that she would feel self-worth again. Her prayer was answered.
"It was amazing for me to know, not just hope or wonder if someone understood how I felt, but to know that someone really understood and that I was never alone in this," Stirling said. "I still believed that I was a daughter of God, but I had to feel that again. That and my family were the biggest things that I think saved me from this downward spiral I had gotten stuck in."
Stirling talks about overcoming her eating disorder in her "I'm a Mormon profile" on Mormon.org.
Stirling served an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City. She described her experience as amazing, an "inundation of knowledge," she said. Those experiences helped her develop social skills that have served her well in the music business.
"You (learn you) can get along with anybody in life, you can make any relationship work, as long as you both have the right focus. Now that I live on the road in a small tour bus with 10 people, that’s huge," she said. "If we keep our priorities straight, we all have so much fun together, even though we all come from different backgrounds."
Stirling's mission experience has also helped her to maintain her values in the entertainment business. Despite her busy schedule, she is careful to maintain a scripture study routine with two other members of her crew.
"I have a full testimony that when we stay true to obeying the commandments, and keeping those things first in our lives, that we are entitled to blessings," she said. "I feel my mission was preparatory for my mission in life. It prepared me to do what I’m now doing and use it in a small way to try to bring light to people in whatever way they want to accept it. I will be forever grateful that I got to serve a mission."
Stirling recently returned from a long tour, and in May, she'll start again, making stops in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Russia, England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Norway. Along the way, she'll continue to share her message.
Everybody has unique talents and gifts, Stirling said, and when we’re not afraid to step outside the box and be ourselves, good things happen.
"I am so much happier when I am doing the things that make me me, and that’s living by my standards and doing the things I love, using my talents, however random they are, to share with other people," Stirling said. "That’s what makes me happy."
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