Brie Larson may be one of Hollywood’s leading ladies now, but it wasn’t long ago that she was struggling to make ends meet.
The Oscar-winning actress, 27, opened up to Vanity Fair about her childhood — when money was extremely tight. For example, even though she was primarily home-schooled, Larson says she used to buy secondhand school uniforms from local thrift stores.
“It was easy because they were all the same color, and you spend less time making a decision, so you can spend that time on other aspects of your life,” she said.
Even a few years ago, Larson revealed she was “living off the food in the film-festival welcome gift bags.”
She’s also talked in the past about sharing a Murphy bed in the Los Angeles studio apartment where she stayed with her mother and sister after her parents divorced, and at one time being unable to afford a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Now that she has found fame, Larson says she still struggles with the spoils that come with it — continually refusing to spend a lot on clothes and feeling “really guilty” for shelling out $2,000 to fix her hot tub “because a hot tub’s a luxury item to me.”
But those close to her admire her down-to-earth attitude.
“Brie’s a bright, unaffected young woman who is in a wonderfully corrosive business that would ruin most people,” Samuel L. Jackson, a Kong: Skull Island costar, told the magazine. “But it’s not going to ruin her.”
Nowadays, the actress is starring in hit movies like Free Fire and the upcoming Captain Marvel — the first female superhero to get her own Marvel movie — and has found a friend group that includes fellow Oscar winners like Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence.
The A-list stars reached out to praise Larson’s work in Room, and the messages turned into a group text chat that also included Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer.
“That [group of friends] saved my life,” Larson said. “I was able to talk with them about everything that was going on in my life, and it was with people who had been through it before and are also hilarious. That support and acceptance was everything. I was home-schooled, so I didn’t have friends that had the same interests as me, and I found it to be absolutely incredible.”
Larson’s friendship with Lawrence blossomed when both women were in Montreal for work — Larson was working on the upcoming The Glass Castle and Lawrence on Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!.
“We just had a blast together, going to get dinner every Saturday night,” Larson said. “It gave us all a chance to connect.”
Larson and Stone’s tight relationship was evident when Stone won the Academy Award for her role in La La Land. Larson, who took home the same Best Actress prize the previous year, commemorated the moment on Instagram.
“You know what’s better than winning? Watching your friends win,” she captioned the photo.
Larson also said that Stone found her before the ceremony and gifted her with a book called I Can Fly, an elephant totem and a good luck card.
“It’s those little things,” Larson said of the gesture.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.