Jay Pharoah's incredible impressions made him a star on "Saturday Night Live" and in comedy clubs around the country, but the comedian told HuffPost Live that he was in a "constant state of depression" for years before he found the confidence that came with stand-up.
Pharoah told host Marc Lamont Hill that he was "massively overweight" when he was younger, which led to a miserable experience with peers who made fun of him. One of the things that got him through the pain was his bond with his mother.
"She was like one of the only people that really knew about it. ... At the time, when I was massively depressed like that, where I really didn't want my life anymore, I was 12," Pharoah said. "And I remember [my mom] came in and she stopped me from doing some stuff. It was crazy."
He eventually got to a healthy weight at 17, and along with the weight loss came an introduction to performing live comedy. In that, Pharoah said he found something significant.
"When I got to the stage, it was like a release, you know what I mean? Because it was like, 'Oh, people like me. People like me. They're listening to what I have to say. They're not judging me on how I look, they're judging me on what I'm saying.' So to me, that's what's worth it, and that's what comedians have," he said.
Through his journey, the comedian also learned to cultivate self-compassion.
"I feel like I appreciate and love myself a lot more than I used to," Pharoah said. "At one point I would look in the mirror I just hated what I saw ... and finally, when I was 17, I built some confidence and now I try to keep that confidence going."
Watch Pharoah open up about his depression in the video above, and check out the full conversation on HuffPost Live about his new comedy special, "Jay Pharoah: Can I Be Me?," which airs August 1 on Showtime.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
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