By Jonathan Lemire
The 19-year-old daughter of New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio opened up Tuesday about her personal struggles, saying she spent years battling substance abuse and depression.
Chiara de Blasio, a college sophomore who had a central role in her father's campaign, appears in a surprise four-minute video released by the incoming mayor's transition team. In it, she looks into the camera and says she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana to deal with clinical depression and anxiety.
"It made it easier, the more I drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people," she said, speaking under soft lights with piano music tinkling in the background. "It didn't start out as, like, a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me."
She said that she thought she could escape the problem by leaving for college in California, but her sense of "physical insecurity" only grew worse.
"My mom was trying really hard to help me and my dad was doing the same, but obviously he was really busy," she said. "They were both very emotionally committed to trying to find out some way to get me better."
De Blasio said she eventually found success in group therapy at a treatment center in New York.
"Removing substances from my life opened so many doors for me. I was actually able to participate in my dad's campaign," she said in the video. "Getting sober is always a positive thing, and by no means is it easy — it's the hardest thing I've ever done — but it's so worth it."
In a statement accompanying the video, Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said they were "so proud of Chiara and love her deeply."
"As parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle," they said in the statement. "But not only has Chiara committed to her own health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges."
The campaign did not say what prompted it to release the video on Christmas Eve, a day when many news consumers are more concerned with travel or shopping than current events. The announcement was framed as a way to help others struggling with depression and substance abuse during the holiday season.
Rumors swirled during the mayoral primary campaign that Chiara had battled drug issues. But the de Blasio campaign fiercely beat back reporters who pursued the topic, saying that his two children were off limits from the press. No media outlet published a story.
Yet even as the campaign pleaded for privacy, de Blasio's family played a key role in his campaign. De Blasio was frequently joined at campaign events by his wife, and McCray is considered his top adviser who will wield considerable influence at City Hall.
Both Chiara and her brother stumped for their father and appeared in television ads. Dante's appeared first, and the teen's soaring Afro and heartfelt descriptions of his father was the most effective ad of the campaign, helping de Blasio surge in the polls.
Chiara de Blasio's ad appeared closer to Election Day and she gave a sunny description of her dad's vision "that leaves no one behind." She also introduced her father at his raucous primary night party.
She gave one hint about some of her struggles after being spotted in tears at a parade in September. She told reporters that she sometimes suffered from anxiety.
In the hours after the video was released, de Blasio briefly appeared outside his Brooklyn home and, flanked by the other three members of his family, repeated how proud he was of his daughter. The mayor-elect did not take questions.
During the campaign, de Blasio spoke about his father's substance abuse, particularly with alcohol. His father later committed suicide.