Known for his incredible impressions, Pharoah told host Marc Lamont Hill that he was “massively overweight” when he was younger, which led to begin teased by his peers. Luckily, his mother’s love and their close relationship helped him cope through the pain.
“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.”
Once he reached a healthy weight at age 17, Pharoah said he found something significant in stand-up comedy.
“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.
Pharoah, who will kick off his sixth season on “Saturday Night Live” this fall, told Marc that his journey helped him to learn how to love himself.
“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 below, and check out his new comedy special, “Jay Pharoah: Can I Be Me?,” 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.