Renée Zellweger was 'devastated' by a breakup, then tabloids made it worse: 'None of it true, all of it humiliating'

Renée Zellweger has taken six years out of the spotlight where she’s been enjoying a private life away from the convoluted world of the entertainment industry. But the 50-year-old actress, who recently returned to the big screen as Judy Garland in the Judy biopic, tells InStyle that reemerging into her public life is something that was made easier from the lessons that she learned through her 26-year-career.

“Different hardships that are unexpected can sort of assist you moving forward. With this job, it's peculiar because you're not born with the faculties to know how to handle the things that come your way,” she said in her December cover story. “But I learned pretty early on.”

Fabricated tabloid stories, for one, are something that the Bridget Jones actress says she’s dealt with enough throughout the years to now realize that it’s up to her to not engage. It took made up coverage of a hard breakup, however, to help her learn that.

“I was devastated about a breakup, and it was plastered all over the tabloids. None of it true, all of it humiliating. Never mind that living the experience [of the relationship] was plenty,” Zellweger explained. “I was at a supermarket with my brother. And he saw some of those magazines, and, unbeknownst to me, he bought them.”

While on the way home, Zellweger said her brother started reading one of the magazines and suddenly burst into quiet laughter.

“He's reading my quotes from this supposed interview I had done. Things I supposedly said about this personal relationship that I have never talked about and never will. And he was reading them in a voice that he imagined this fictional person to be,” she recalled. “And then we were both laughing, because of the tone of voice and the delivery of these lines.”

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Actress Renee Zellweger attends the 2001 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards on October 19, 2001 at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 21, 2001 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the Nurse Betty New York City Premiere on September 6, 2000 at Loews East Cinemas in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actor Jay Mohr and actress Renee Zellweger attend the 16th Annual MTV Video Music Awards on September 9, 1999 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends The Bachelor Hollywood Premiere on November 3, 1999 at Pacific's Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the One True Thing Century City Premiere on September 16, 1998 at Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinemas in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the One True Thing New York City Premiere on September 13, 1998 at Sony Theatres Lincoln Square in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the Jerry Maguire New York City Premiere on December 6, 1996 at Pier 88 in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actress Renee Zellweger attends the Jerry Maguire Westwood Premiere on December 11, 1996 at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
American actress Renée Zellweger and Japanese artist, singer, and peace activist Yoko Ono attend the preview for the Matt Nye Spring 2000 collection, New York City, USA, 1999. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
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HOLLYWOOD - DECEMBER 20: Actor Jim Carrey and actress Renee Zellweger attends the 'Man on the Moon' Hollywood Premiere on December 20, 1999 at the Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Renee Zellweger is on hand for the New York premiere of the movie 'Nurse Betty' at the Loews Cineplex 19th St. East Theater. She stars in the film. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Jim Carrey & Renee Zellweger (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger at the photo call for the film 'Nurse Betty' at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, 5/12/00.Photo: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect
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Renee Zellweger and director Neil Labute at the premiere for the film 'Nurse Betty' at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, 5/12/00.Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect
Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger at the premiere of 'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas' at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles Ca. 11/8/00. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
383127 11: Actress Renee Zellweger arrives at the 10th Annual Fire & Ice Ball December 11, 2000 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Chris Weeks/Liaison)
Renee Zellweger (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
LONDON - MARCH 10: American actress Renee Zellweger, British actor Hugh Grant and British pop star Geri Halliwell arrive at the UK premiere of the film 'Bridget Jones' Diary' at the Empire Cinema Leicester Square on March 10, 2001 in London. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19: Renee Zellweger is on hand for the 2001 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards at the Manhattan Center's Hammerstein Ballroom. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, : US actress Renee Zellweger arrives at the 74th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA, 24 March 2002. Zellweger is nominated for Best Actress for her role in 'Bridget Jones's Diary.' AFP PHOTO/Lucy NICHOLSON (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Renee Zellweger relaxes after her 22-minute run during 5th Annual New York Revlon Run/Walk for Women - to Raise Funds for Women's Cancer Research, Awareness & Prevention at Time Square & East Meadow of Central Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger during Chicago Press Conference with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Bill Condon and Rob Marshall at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger wearing Jil Sander during Anna Wintour and Harvey Weinstein Co-host Screening of Chicago at Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger during Sundance Film Festival Archives by Randall Michelson in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by Randall Michelson/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger during Chicago Special Screening to Benefit GLAAD and Broadway Cares - Outside Arrivals at The Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LONDON - DECEMBER 19: American actress Renee Zellweger poses at Cafe Royal in London in occasion of the UK 'Chicago' Premierr on December 19, 2002. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 10: *** EXCLUSIVE *** (ITALY OUT) Actress Renee Zellweger carries bottled water as she leaves her hotel January 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger (wearing Chanel) at the 2002 National Board Of Review Of Motion Pictures Annual Awards Gala at Tavern-On-The-Green in New York City. January 14, 2003. Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images
Renee Zellweger at the 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, Ca., 1/19/03. Zellweger won 'Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy' for Chicago. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect)
ITALY - FEBRUARY 10: Renee Zellweger in Rome, Italy on February 10th, 2003. (Photo by Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: Renee Zellweger in the press room at the 55th Annual Directors Guild Awards at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, CA 03/01/03 (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 9: Actress Renee Zellweger poses backstage with her Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Performance by A Cast In A Theatrical Motion Picture awards for 'Chicago' during the 9th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on March 9, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Renee Zellweger during Miramax 2003 MAX Awards - Inside at St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger wearing a Neil Lane ring at the The Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger during Renee Zellweger Promotes 'Down with Love'Boutique at Bloomingdales at Bloomingdale's in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Renee Zellweger during 2003 Tribeca Film Festival - 'Down With Love' World Premiere at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
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Her brother’s laughter and dramatic reading helped Zellweger to adopt a new perspective about the stories that she was unwillingly dragged into, and realizing that they don’t have anything to do with who she really is.

“I found that shifting your perspective is really important. I don't internalize things, and I don't personalize things, and I don’t engage,” she said. “This is not a proper representation of you and how you live your life. The choices you make, this is not. It is entertainment, and it's funny if you look at it in the right way.”

Still, the star enjoyed living her most authentic life over the past few years, which included studying, traveling and falling in love.

“It was nice to have authentic exchanges with people for a while. When you're not on the radar, people don't clock who you are; you're just a person at the coffee shop ordering a coffee,” she said. “Slowing down and working on building a life for myself. Trying to not have a relationship when I'm leaving town every two weeks. You know, getting to know somebody. Falling in love.”

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