Imagine not knowing how old you are until you're nearly 20. That was the case for Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the woman currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for her mother's murder after being convinced by for the majority of her life that she was fatally ill. Her story is the inspiration behind the new Hulu series, The Act. It's thought that Dee Dee, Gypsy's mother, suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy. In addition to being told she had leukemia, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy, Gypsy Rose Blanchard (opens in new tab)never even knew her real age.
You'll see in the trailer a fictionalized moment when her mother Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Patricia Arquette) is asked Gypsy's age. "Oh, she's 15, born in 1995," Dee Dee says. And Gypsy responds, "I thought you said I was born in 1993?"
The scene is inspired by some of the lies Dee Dee told about Gypsy's age. According to a BuzzFeed longread about the case, on Gypsy's 18th birthday her father Rod Blanchard called to wish her a happy birthday. But before he could talk to his daughter, Dee Dee intercepted the phone call to remind Rod that Gypsy doesn't know her real age. “She thinks she’s 14," Dee Dee said (opens in new tab). She told Rod that telling Gypsy the truth would only upset her.
According to Inside Edition (opens in new tab), Dee Dee told people that Gypsy had the mental capacity of seven-year-old. But Dee Dee couldn't hide the truth forever. In a 2017 interview (opens in new tab)with Dr. Phil, Gypsy reveals the moment she discovered the truth. By this time, she was already 19 years old.
SIGN UP FOR HULU TO WATCH 'THE ACT' (opens in new tab)
"I found a couple bits of paper in my mom's safe, things that stated I was born in 1991 made me question my real age. I asked her about it, she said that it was a typo," Gypsy said. "I had taken those papers and the Medicaid card that I found with my actual real birthday on it, and I ran away from home."
Gypsy didn't get very far. Her mother brought her back, smashed her laptop with a hammer and threatened to do the same to her fingers, according to Gypsy. Gypsy says that Dee Dee then tied her to the bed for two weeks as her punishment.
The real Gypsy Rose Blanchard (opens in new tab)is now well aware of her age. She's 27 years old and currently serving a 10-year prison sentence from the Missouri Chillicothe Correctional Center. But she could be out on parole as early as 2024.
You can stream the The Act (opens in new tab) on Hulu now.
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Alexis Jones is an assistant editor at Women's Health where she writes across several verticals on WomensHealthmag.com, including life, health, sex and love, relationships and fitness, while also contributing to the print magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, lives in Brooklyn, and proudly detests avocados.
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