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Worst-dressed lists and book excerpts: How Lena Dunham came out on top, again

Lena Dunham from the HBO series "Girls" arrives at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California August 25, 2014.


Who knew that one cupcake ensemble could do so much?

Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's hit show Girls, wore an outfit resembling a petit gâteau to the Emmys that landed her on worst-dressed lists everywhere – but all the negative publicity put what really matters in the spotlight: her talent.

An excerpt from Dunham's forthcoming memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" was published recently in The New Yorker and provides a glimpse into a the star's journey through therapy, while also reminding critics that she was first a writer before she became a celebrity.

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Dunham, who went to university for creative writing and has written several films in addition to episodes of Girls, begins the excerpt titled "Difficult Girl" by recounting the fears that overwhelmed her at age 8: "The list of things that keep me up at night includes but is not limited to: appendicitis, typhoid, leprosy, unclean meat, foods I haven't seen emerge from their packaging, foods my mother hasn't tasted first so that if we die we die together, homeless people, headaches, rape, kidnapping, milk, the subway, sleep."

The true story recounts her dealings with germophobia, hypochondria, anxiety and ultimately her realization that what she has is, indeed, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition that also affects Hannah, the character she plays on Girls.

Her writing is sad the way that life is sometimes sad, but Dunham isn't complaining about anything: She's strong and she doesn't make any apologies.

"My O.C.D. isn't completely gone, but maybe it never will be. Maybe it's part of who I am, part of what I have to manage, the challenge of my life. And for now that seems O.K.," she writes.

The excerpt is also about the value of female friendship, both with her therapists and her best friend Audrey Gelman.

Sure, that cotton-candy getup received a lot of criticism, but Dunham followed the sage words (and lyrics) of another good friend, Taylor Swift, whose newest song tells everyone to Shake It Off (because "the haters gonna hate" regardless).

"This massive skirt has created boundaries for me that I'm incapable of creating for myself. Thank you, skirt!" Dunham tweeted on Monday post-Emmys.

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And while the actress brushed off disparaging comments about her outfit, Dunham wasn't shy to speak up for creativity. "When someone grows, changes and shows their vulnerability and evolution publicly. … That's a gift they give to us that we should honor," she wrote in a tweet that appears to defend Taylor Swift and her new song, which is under fire by some critics for perpetuating racial stereotypes.

I admit, I wasn't partial to her dress, either. But after reading "Difficult Girl" I remembered that Dunham isn't a mannequin: She has a big, complicated, complex, beautiful mind.

In a world where women love denigrating other women, the actress is a spokeswoman for the kind of feminism that is inclusive and forgiving. (I hope she can forgive me.)

Dunham projects the image that she is completely comfortable with who she is – whether it's by wearing a dress that she says felt like sweatpants or by sharing the very personal story of her experiences in therapy. It seems she could not care less about the bad things anyone says about her or how she looks, and that is exactly what makes her fearless.

Her memoir is out at the end of September and the fourth season of Girls is set to air some time after the new year.

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