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published: 9/20/06
updated: 12/16/13

Evangeline Lilly





Evangeline Lilly on 8/27/06.
Steve Granitz / WireImage.com

Evangeline Lilly (b. 1979) became famous virtually overnight when she was cast in the lead role of Kate Austen on the hit television series Lost in 2004.

Known for her Christian moral standards and often-colorful language, tomboy antics and much-admired feminine figure, the Canadian actress admits she is a walking paradox.

The following article explores the spiritual side of Evangeline Lilly, including her beliefs about God, religion, and her purpose in life.

A Spiritual Biography of Evangeline Lilly

Nicole Evangeline Lilly was born on August 3, 1979, in the small prairie town of Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta, Canada. She is the middle child of three sisters.





Her parents worked to make ends meet, but "we lived on cabbage for a week at one point." However, they weren't poor at Christmas: every year, her father would take out loans in order to splurge on gifts for the children. 1

Lilly's father worked as the produce manager at Safeway; her mother was a clerk at Estée Lauder and ran a daycare center out of the family home for a time. The future actress supported herself financially from the age of 15.

Lilly's upbringing was religious and grounded. Raised Baptist and Mennonite, she taught Sunday school for eight years. 2

As a child, Lilly was an athletic tomboy known for climbing trees (an ability which has been written into her character on Lost and led to her nickname of "Monkey"). Puberty came relatively late — at 16 — but virtually overnight. Suddenly the freckle-faced, buck-toothed tomboy had become a beautiful, curvy woman. Her male playmates looked at her differently and her former girlfriends hated her. She was miserable.

I spent many nights crying myself to sleep wishing I was ugly because of the way men leered and disrespected me, because they assumed things about my mental capacity or my physical willingness based on the way I look. 3

But Lilly's beauty also attracted the notice of a woman from the Ford Modeling Agency, who encouraged Lilly to contact the company. She said, "No thanks, you're wasting your time." Neverthless, she held onto her card. Lilly recently reflected, "I think there's a part of everyone that's intrigued by the thought of being recognised." 4

Evangeline Lilly
Evangeline Lilly in Elle magazine. © Elle.

Although she enjoyed acting, Lilly had no interest in modeling or being a celebrity. Always interested in humanitarian work, Lilly studied international relations at the University of British Columbia. She worked various jobs to support herself, including waiting tables at Earls, a trendy Canadian chain. She finally quit when she could no longer endure being ogled by customers. "I felt like a whore," she says. "You feel like they're paying to stare at your ass when you're walking away from the table." 5

Needing steady work that could pay for tuition, Lilly called Ford eight months after being "discovered," hoping to appear in commercials. She found work immediately. Her first job was a late-night dating service commercial in which she had to say into the camera: "Where are you going tonight? I think you should pick up the phone and call me!" 6

The conservative young woman who had been trying so hard to avoid being treated as a sex object was devastated. "I cried when I saw it." 7 (David Letterman recently embarrased the actress by playing it when she appeared on The Late Show.) 8

Determined that Hollywood was not for her, Lilly nevertheless found contentment working as an extra on movies and television shows, sometimes playing a corpse. Among others, she appeared in Judgment Day, Smallville, and Stealing Sinatra. The income was steady and she could use the endless on-set waiting time to study. "I loved being anonymous and settled," she says. 9

In the meantime, her distaste for Hollywood only increased. "Whenever I turned up to castings I'd see all these women in trampy clothes, flirting with the male director. It was awful." 10 But despite her interest in acting and clearly bankable appearance, Lilly resisted shooting for anything higher than work as an extra.

"I avoided the industry for so long because I resent it for so many reasons. There was no way that my ideas about life and morality were going to coincide with that industry, so there was no point in even playing with fire." 11

Eventually, however, "a friend" (widely believed to be her then-husband Murray Hone, an amateur hockey player she married in 2003) challenged her to aspire for more. "I think you're afraid of your own success — but you're built for it." His words hit home and she broke down and cried. 12 Lilly recently reflected, "Ever since high school I had done things so people wouldn't just respect me because of the way I looked. I decided, to hell with it. I'm going to pursue mediocrity, and I'm going to be so happy." 13

Evangeline Lilly
Evangeline Lilly in UK Glamour magazine. © Glamour.

She went to her first speaking part auditions in January 2004 and by March 2004 she was making the pilot for Lost. 14 Producer J.J. Abrams saw Lilly's audition tape just two weeks before shooting was set to begin on the pilot, after rejecting countless actresses for the lead role of Kate Austen. He immediately proclaimed her to be both beautiful and goofy — exactly the girl he wanted. 15

When asked a year later how it felt to have landed the role, Lilly replied, "I love it. I LOVE it! I love acting, being paid to be creative. I've always been really passionate about the arts. But I also constantly yo-yo between wanting to do this for a long time, wanting to achieve a certain level of respect in this industry, and then at the other end of the scale wanting to run for the hills screaming "this is terrifying and I want out." She relates the anxiety that came with essentially learning how to act while shooting the pilot of a major TV show alongside experienced actors. 16

But the greater difficulty with her overnight success, it seems, was balancing her moral principles with the world of Hollywood. And although Lilly refuses to talk about any aspect of her love life, British tabloids reported that around the time she left Canada for the Hawaiian set of Lost, she split up with the man she'd married the year before. 17

She said in an interview at the time, "I'm doing everything in my power just to continue to tick along as a normal girl. And fighting the weird, surreal insanity of what my life has become in just a single year." 18

But the drastic change in Lilly's life finally came crashing down at the end of Season One, when she called her parents in a full meltdown. They told her, "Screw Hollywood — you come home and we'll feed you some chicken-noodle soup." Instead, Lilly escaped to Rwanda, where she helped a friend with missionary work. "I holed up and read and wrote and prayed," she says. "I just disappeared off the face of the earth." 19

Today, Lilly lives in a humble bungalow in Hawaii, where she is filming Season Three of Lost. She has long been rumored to be dating her costar, Lord of the Rings star Dominic Monaghan. For the future, Lilly hopes for a film career in "meaningful roles." The self-assured actress has learned how to delicately balance her beliefs and her job, and hopes to use her fame to make a difference (see below).

The outlook of the serious-minded Evangeline Lilly was well-summed up in a 2005 Rolling Stone interview, part of which took place on a thrilling glider ride. The talkative pilot was only interupted once by Lilly: when he declared, "Youth is wasted on the young," she countered, "It's not wasted on me." 20

Beliefs and Practices of Evangeline Lilly

A "Walking Oxymoron"

Evangeline Lilly has not often discussed her religious beliefs in interviews — perhaps because she has not been asked. Generally, though, both Lilly herself and her colleagues refer to her as a Christian and a Lost producer reports that she carries a Bible with her at all times. 21

These comments are frequently coupled with observations that she has a dirty mind and potty mouth — a fact that has given her a reputation as something of a paradox:

"She's a Christian, but she's a pottymouth" (Dominic Monaghan 22)

"There's a lot of that Christian good girl in her, but sometimes certain things come out of her mouth. She's got the devil mixed in there too." (Jorge Garcia 23)

"She has an absolutely filthy, filthy mouth. She can swear like a sailor and dress provocatively, but that doesn't reflect her beliefs. She's a walking oxymoron." (Bryan Burk, a Lost executive producer 24)

"Over and over again, I've been called a walking oxymoron. I do things that you wouldn't associate with a good little Christian girl. People say I'm half-boy, half-girl." (Evangeline Lilly 25)

Using Fame for the Greater Good

Potty mouth notwithstanding, Evangeline Lilly has deep religious and moral principles that she still struggles to uphold while pursuing a career she loves. Her solution has been to regard her newfound fame as a tool that she can use to make a difference in the world.

I actually feel like I'm more capable now of doing humanitarian work because I'm financially able to make a difference. You have to sacrifice something to get something. For me, fame is that sacrifice, because I never wanted it, and I still don't. It's something I have to live with. 26

Lilly has said that if she didn't try to help others, she'd be

no better than the Paris Hiltons of the world, waltzing around with their Louis Vuitton bags and their little dogs. Those people couldn't give a rat's ass if somebody was starving on the street next to them. 27

And her early impression of the entertainment industry has changed little, but she has been happy to discover some positive aspects:

Hollywood is the Sodom and Gomorrah of today. It's a world I avoid because it's destroying our culture. And yet, I've recently seen a turnaround. People like George Clooney and Michael Moore are using Hollywood as a platform to send out positive messages. 28

Another actor admired by Evangeline Lilly is Audrey Hepburn. Reading a biography of the actress, she thought, "Wow, that is the life I would kill to emulate." 29

The Anti-Starlet, Anti-Sex Symbol

In the meantime, Lilly battles against the trappings of her celebrity that she regards as immoral, particularly her image as a sex symbol. She famously refused to do a partial nude scene early in Season One of Lost — a gutsty move for a new actress. 30 She was less successful with an early magazine photo shoot, which made her weep when she saw it. "It was too sexy for me," she says. "It crossed my line." 31

In interviews, Lilly continually emphasizes her tomboy characteristics and her anti-starlet behavior. She says she tries make her image in photo shoots "portray strength or intelligence. I try not to be the sweet girl with perky boobs and make-up, because I'm not." 32 She insists, "I really don't want to be mysterious. Women in this business are expected to put forth a poised and perfect persona. I want people to see that I'm an ordinary-Joe girl. I blow my nose after work, I drool in my sleep and my shit stinks." 33

And she loves to tell the story of peeing in a garbage can on a $20 dare from Lost costar Jorge Garcia as well as in the jungle seconds before filming, just 15 feet from her shocked costar Matthew Fox. 34

Lilly also takes pride in living simply and privately, and remaining the same person she was before her big break. Lilly shares a modest whitewash bungalow with two stand-ins for her on Lost. She proudly pointed out to an interviewer (who she called with specific driving directions and advice to bring a sweater) the well-worn '70s-era brown leather furniture she picked up at a Salvation Army when she arrived on the island two years ago, boasting that she furnished her entire living room for $350. 35

Sources

  1. Andrew Goldman, "Paradise Found." Elle. Online at Elle.com.
  2. Gavin Edwards, "Little Girl Lost." Rolling Stone 984, October 6, 2005. Online at RollingStone.com.
  3. Elle.
  4. Glamour UK, September 2006. Online at Hollywood Gossip Whores.
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  6. pixelbomb
  7. Glamour UK.
  8. "Evangeline Lilly." Internet Movie Database.
  9. Glamour UK; Internet Movie Database.
  10. Glamour UK.
  11. Elle.
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  14. Glamour UK.
  15. Rolling Stone.
  16. Benjie Goodhart, "Evangeline Lilly Interview." Virgin.net.
  17. Elle.
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  34. Rolling Stone; Glamour UK.
  35. Elle.
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