The Reason Why Dakota Johnson’s Parents Sent Her To Therapy At Age 3

We treat celebrity scandals by and large as a source of entertainment. People read about them, laugh at them, follow them closely, and then they move to the next one to fill their appetite for gossip. But rarely do they stop to consider how these scandals inflict lifelong embarrassment and possibly trauma on the celebrities’ family members. 

Dakota Johnson lived through media attention and public scrutiny through no fault of her own. She’s what you’d say a “celebrity offspring,” so naturally, the media and the public assumes that she’s had nothing but a life of privilege, luxury, and entitlement. 

She indeed grew up wealthy and likely leveraged her parents’ fame for opportunities in the industry, but the perpetual drama surrounding her parents did no favours for her mental wellbeing. Yet, despite the turmoil and the instability, Dakota managed to heal and build fulfilling bonds with her family members. At the same time, she’s made it her mission to avoid making their mistakes when it comes to her own personal life.

Here’s what we can take away from Dakota’s relationship with her family:

Dakota’s famous parents had a chaotic marriage, and suffered from addictions

Dakota Johnson parents
Actress Melanie Griffith and actor Don Johnson (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Dakota was born to actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. Her mom and dad were 14 and 22, respectively, when they’d first met. What’s unusual about their marriage, among other things, is that they’d been married to each other not once but twice. Melanie was only eighteen when she married Don the first time. Their first marriage lasted for six months only, between January to July 1976, and the two went on to date other people afterward. 

Melanie became one of Hollywood’s most admired actresses in the eighties, though she suffered from crippling alcohol and drug addictions for a while. Meanwhile, Don dated a string of famous women in the early eighties, including Barbara Streisand and Uma Thurman. He subsequently became known as a Hollywood sex symbol and had gained a reputation of a playboy.

Melanie and Don reconciled in 1989 and remarried — Dakota was born the same year. Melanie and Don remained married for six more years and divorced in 1996. Melanie co-starred with Antonio Banderas in the comedy film Too Much and promptly began a relationship with him, marrying him the same year she finalized her divorce from Don. In the meantime, following his second divorce from Melanie, Don dated actress Jodi Lyn O’Keefe for two years and then went on to marry a school teacher, Kelley Phleger, in 1999. 

As a result, Dakota grew up without an “anchor” 

Dakota Johnson parents, Melanie Griffith
2ND ‘HUMANE FROM HOLLYWOOD’ CHARITY EVENING (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)

Young Dakota had to acclimate to growing up in the spotlight. She spent a large chunk of childhood on movie sets, which is what sparked her love for acting. Her parents’ choice to live in different cities also removed any semblance of stability from her life, as she spent her years going back and forth between Colorado and Los Angeles. 

All of these factors in conjunction forced Dakota to attend therapy at the age of three.

My parents had some problems of their own that put me in a position of having to deal with very grown-up stuff at a very young age. I needed some help with that, therapy-wise. And in turn, as a child, you trust someone, and then they f*ck you over.

Dakota Johnson on Elle

To make matters worse, Dakota was diagnosed with depression at the age of 14. For a while, she blamed herself and assumed that “there was something wrong with [her] brain.” She couldn’t attend school like other kids her age and was whisked off to foreign locations regularly due to her parents’ work. 

I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated. I didn’t have an anchor anywhere. 

Dakota Johnson to Vogue

Her stepfather Antonio Banderas “changed” her life and was her “bonus dad”

Actor Antonio Banderas with his step-daughter Dakota Johnson on a yacht during the Copa del Ray regatta. (Photo by Dusko Despotovic/Sygma via Getty Images)

Even if her childhood was rocky and tumultuous, Dakota found hope through her stepfather Antonio Banderas. He married Melanie in 1996, so Dakota was only a young girl when he entered their lives. Melanie and Antonio were married for nearly twenty years, so Dakota was a grown woman when their marriage ended. So, undoubtedly, he left an indelible impact on her life, and she still considers him her family. 

In 2019, Dakota presented Antonio with a Hollywood Actor Award for his performance in Pain and Glory and nearly cried while speaking about the influence her former stepfather has had in her life. 

There are infinite possibilities for how relationships and family dynamics play out when parents re-marry […] I come from a family of many a marriage, and I got very lucky. I got a bonus dad, who I realized that, over time, is actually one of the most influential people in my whole life. 

Dakota Johnson at the Hollywood Film Awards

In the speech, Dakota also said that Antonio’s love for his craft nurtured her own passion. He taught her how to experience “true passion” and apply “discipline” in the arts, but at the same time, he, as well as Melanie, discouraged Dakota from jumping into acting as a teenager. Like any other kid, she was told to finish school and then pursue acting. 

Dakota Johnson and Antonio Banderas at the 11th APJ Festival Gala on September 07, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ryan Emberley/Getty Images for Artists For Peace And Justice)

Antonio, to no one’s surprise, shares the same emotions towards his step-daughter. He said that the love he gets from the Johnson family makes his decision to marry Melanie “worth it.” 

Dakota maintains terrific relations with her step-family, including Gwyneth Paltrow

Dakota and Antonio’s unshakable bond proves that it’s not blood that determines family but the people that come into our lives and fill it with light, hope, and joy through and through. In Antonio, she found a father figure, someone she could trust and love and learn from while struggling with feeling disillusioned and misunderstood. The Johnson-Banderas clan demonstrates the strength of a blended family, and it’s a tradition Dakota is keen on continuing with her partner Chris Martin and his family. 

Though the two have been famously silent about their relationship, they’ve been going steady fairly steady since at least 2017. Dakota has been spotted with Chris’ kids multiple times, and even his ex-wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, adores the young actress. They’ve been on double dates together, and when asked about Dakota, Gwyneth didn’t hold back from her admiration. 

“I love [Dakota]. I can see how it would seem weird because it’s sort of unconventional. But I think, in this case, just having passed through it iteratively, I just adore her.

Gwyneth Paltrow on Harper’s Bazaar 

Don’t feel shy in embracing your chosen family 

Dakota has had her troubles with her family, but she’s also experienced so much love and elation. Sometimes our family circumstances bring a lot of stress into our lives, and we have to find coping mechanisms. At the same time, we will also encounter people who’ll change our lives for the better, becoming our “chosen” family. The key is to keep embracing the good moments and appreciating those who make a huge difference in our lives. As for the bad moments, we’ll just have to try our best not to have them repeat or recur. 

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