Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (2024)

Brittany Furlan is used to working an audience.

For years, as the most-followed woman on the now-defunct Vine app, it was a virtual one, as she’d mastered the art of six-second slapstick for more than 9 million followers.

But now, after leaving the app at the height of her fame and settling into domestic bliss with Mötley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee, Furlan is easing back into the spotlight.

“A few months ago I said to myself, ‘What do I really want to do?’ Well, I want to perform. OK, what is stopping me? Well, I’m anxious to go put myself out there,” she tells PEOPLE on a recent phone call. “Then I thought to myself, ‘We’re all going to be dead one day. Who cares? Go do it. Live your life. What are you afraid of?’”

Facing her fears is something Furlan, 36, has been doing her entire life. She grew up in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Philadelphia; mom was a nurse and dad was a civil engineer who worked for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (1)

Furlan knew early that performing was in her blood. She’d put on shows in her room for her stuffed animals as a child, and enrolled in voice lessons. Though she had her sights set on becoming a star, her parents divorced when she was young, and her mom’s borderline personality disorder was “really hard to grow up with.”

“When my parents would fight, I would try to distract them by being funny. My dad had to work, make money and support us. [Stardom] wasn’t something he was focused on,” she says. “I knew ever since I was little that I was going to have to make it happen for myself — I wasn’t going to be able to rely on anybody to help me out.”

High school was difficult, and the anxiety attacks she’d had since she was younger didn’t help. Her mental health deteriorated to the point of self-harm, and Furlan says she would tie a belt around her neck until she passed out. She was eventually hospitalized and put on the antidepressant Effexor, which she is still on to this day and credits with changing her life.

“I just felt very alone when I was younger,” she says. “People in school were mean to me. I had one friend. Because depression runs in my family and the mental illness, I think it just hit me really hard when I was 16. I wanted to die, but I didn’t really have strength to fully kill myself.”

Though she felt “lonely, sad and stuck,” dreams of escaping to the bright lights of Hollywood kept her focused. At 17, she did just that, and even secured her dad’s blessing by enrolling in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising as a backup plan (She graduated with a degree in visual communications).

Though stand-up gigs helped her secure roles on prank comedy shows like E!’s Reality Hell and Lifetime’s Prank My Mom, the stardom she longed for remained out of reach — and as she struggled, her anxiety returned, often making it difficult for her to leave the house.

Enter Vine.

“I saw a Vine advertisem*nt on Instagram and was like, ‘What’s that?’” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this. This will be fun and I don’t even have to leave my house. Great. Love that for me.’”

Tommy Lee's Wife Brittany Furlan Responds to Criticism in the Wake of Pamela Anderson's Netflix Doc

Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (3)

Furlan started making videos, sometimes five or six a day, and before long, she was getting recognized in grocery stores and teaming up with brands like Benefit Cosmetics, Burger King and Pizza Hut. Though the app put her on the map, its luster soon wore off, and she stepped away from Vine in 2016, about a year before it shut down for good.

“It started to become a very negative place. Everyone was offended by everything, so I was just like, ‘You know what? I’m out of here,’” says Furlan, who was accused of racism after sharing videos in which she used words like “ghetto” and dressed up as the Latina character Dora the Explorer. “I get it now in this woke culture of everyone’s very protective of each other’s feelings, but back then it was so hard to be getting called racist when I wasn’t coming from a malicious place. In my head it was like, ‘Oh I’m just making a joke,’ and then people took it to such a dark place. I felt very misunderstood.”

As she took a breather, and tried instead to focus on growing her acting career, another app came along that would change her life once more: Raya.

“I got contacted by the people who created Raya, which is this celebrity dating app, which is so cheesy. I wasn’t on dating apps. I was like, ‘Oh boy, this is weird,’” she says. “[But] I signed up on there, and there are all these famous people on this dating app. I was like, ‘What the hell? This is so weird. Why do these people need a dating app?’”

Furlan went on two or three dates before she found exactly what she was looking for in drummer Tommy Lee, 60, in early 2017.

Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (4)

“I’ve always loved him. I used to watch him on MTV when I was younger. I wasn’t the biggest Mötley person, but I loved Methods of Mayhem, his other band,” she says. “I knew who he was and I always thought he was super hot, so I was like, ‘Yeah sure, why not?’ We matched and then we started talking. He was just so persistent, constantly. If I didn’t respond, he’d be like, ‘Hello?’”

For Furlan, it was the first time a guy wasn’t trying to be cool in order to impress her. Though she was interested, Lee did the heavy lifting, peppering her with questions about her everyday life, his music and when they were hanging out next.

“Very not chill, but I liked it,” she says. “Then we hung out for the first time at [a Pride event]. We just clicked. We have just hung out every day since then.”

Furlan and Lee — whom she says she helped get sober — were engaged in February 2018 and tied the knot a year later.

“He’s the first guy that treats me so well. He cooks for us,” the comedian says. “If his bonsai trees are blossoming, he’ll take me out and be like, ‘Look at the flowers,’ or he’ll pick a flower and put it in my car so when I get in, I see it. He just does all these really sweet things and I’ve never had anyone do that for me before. I can’t believe now when I look back on all of the bad relationships that I was in.”

Tommy Lee's Wife Brittany Furlan Says She's 'All Cool' with Pamela Anderson After Social Media Drama

Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (5)

Though Lee’s relationship with ex-wife Pamela Anderson has seen renewed attention from fans and from the media in the wake of the Hulu series and Anderson’s documentary Pamela, a Love Story, Furlan says it’s all just noise to them.

“We don’t live in thepast,” she says. “Everyone else seems to stay in the past and talk about the past all the time, but we’re living our life. This is our story. We don’t even have conversations about that because that’s not a part of our life. My husband’s just such a great guy. The fact that we get pulled into this stuff again and again is very exhausting. But it is what it is.”

Even so, Furlan has become “very close” with Lee’s other ex-wife Heather Locklear, to whom he was married from 1986 to 1993 and whom Furlan says was “the love of his life.”

“Tommy even says he messed up that relationship. He cheated on her. To this day, that’s why they’re still really good friends,” she says. “I love hanging out with her. She’s just a cool girl, honestly, and I feel for her because, I yell at my husband, I’m like, ‘I can’t believe you cheated on her. She’s so cool.’ That was a different time. Not to make excuses, but he’s a very different man now from all those years ago. You live and you learn.”

The two are currently dog parents, and Furlan says that’s fine by her, as she thinks it’d be “unfair” to have a child with Lee considering his age (Lee and Anderson share sons Brandon, 26, and Dylan, 25).

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“He definitely gave me the option,” she says. “He’s like, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ He was very sweet about that. I was like, ‘I just don’t feel like it’s something that I need to do personally.’”

She joins Lee on the road with Mötley Crüe when she can, but is currently content focusing on performing stand-up and continuing to act, which she says is the ultimate goal.

“I literally just joke about everything in my life. Some people will attack me for it and make fun of me, but I use comedy to cope with whatever I’m dealing with,” she says. “It just fulfills me in so many ways and it’s so nice to just get to do it. I’m just loving it and I’m just enjoying my life with it so much. There’s no better feeling to me than making people laugh.”

Brittany Furlan Talks Using 'Comedy to Cope', Life with Tommy Lee and Mental Health Struggles (2024)
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