Daenerys Targaryen has had one of the more dramatic character arcs over her eight seasons of Game of Thrones. Beginning as the reserved, meek sister of House Targaryen’s wretched heir, she quickly grew into the powerful Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains that she is today. She also enjoys the occasional very viral cup of coffee.
Emilia Clarke, the actress behind the dragon queen, has undergone her own journey of hardships as well. In 2011, after finishing she collapsed from a subarachnoid hemorrhage and had to endure several surgeries to stem the hemorrhage and stop the bleeding, but during the procedure, doctors found another, smaller aneurysm on the opposite side of her brain. This one in particular did not warrant further surgery at the time, but after two years it had doubled in size and required attention.
During the second operation, her brain began to bleed at an alarming level which required another, more dangerous procedure.
“The second one – there was a bit of my brain that actually died,” Clarke told CBS Sunday Morning. “If a part of your brain doesn’t get blood to it for a minute, it will just no longer work. It’s like you’ll short-circuit. So I had that.”
Recently, Clarke spoke with Stylist about how she struggled with her self image after the procedures.
“After my operations I didn’t want to look at my own face. I was so full of drugs from being in the hospital that I had a lot of water retention, and one half of my face was quite swollen. I felt so deeply unattractive. What I can see now is that I could see the pain behind my eyes. And no amount of anything can cover that.”
She went on to explain how taking time to work on herself eventually improved her self-esteem and helped boost her happiness.
“(Today) I always err on the side of wearing less make-up. My face didn’t change, but my feelings about myself changed. When you can look at yourself in the eyes and feel OK with what’s looking back at you, then what more do you need?”
Clarke also said that she’s totally fine with never looking as good in her everyday life as she did as Daenery Targaryen.
“I had the best professionals in the world doing my hair and make-up and costumes, and there is really not much I can do about it,” she said. “I can’t ever get my hair to look like Daenerys. It’s a heartbreak, but I’ve had to come to terms with that.”
She also revealed that the hair required for Daenerys’ braids is more than seven people’s worth and that unbraided it’s longer than her butt. That’s quite the head of hair!
Thankfully she’s made a full recovery and has since developed SameYou, a charity organization that aims to provide treatment for folks recovering from strokes or other brain injuries.
While Daenerys journey is about to come to an end on Game of Thrones, I’m very excited to see Emilia Clarke’s bright future ahead, both on-screen and off.