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11 Child Stars Who Opened Up About The Exploitation And Mistreatment They Faced From Their Parents

Ariel Winter said, "If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age [12], my mother would have a thousand percent said yes.”

Becoming famous at a very young age is usually overwhelming for celebrities, and for many child stars, their career in entertainment was chosen for them by their parents. Because of their youth, they can easily get taken advantage of. Many former child stars have shared how their parents overworked them or took advantage of their fame and money. These are some celebrities who have opened up:

Warning: This post contains mentions of eating disorders and abuse. 

1. When Taylor Momsen was asked to explain her "bad attitude" on the set of Gossip Girl, she answered that her parents signed her up with Ford Modeling when she was just 2 years old.

She said, "No 2-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice. My whole life, I was in and out of school. I didn't have friends. I was working constantly and I didn't have a real life."

2. In 1989, Gary Coleman sued his parents for misappropriating his multimillion dollar fortune while he was working as a child actor on Diff'rent Strokes.

When he turned 18, he found his accounts basically empty, so then in 1989, he sued his parents and ex-manager. Gary was awarded $1.3 million, but after legal fees, bad investments, and medical bills for his lifelong kidney problems, he filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

By the time he died in 2010 at 42 years old, he had not spoken to his parents in about 20 years.

3. Brooke Shields' mother was her manager at the start of her career, and she received a lot of backlash for letting 12-year-old Brooke play a child sex worker in Pretty Baby, which included a nude scene of her.

Brooke has expressed that she doesn't regret doing the film, saying, "I was such a naïve, innocent child. I wasn't Lolita. I didn't have that precocious understanding of my sexuality." She's often defended her mother for letting her participate in the film. In 2014, she defended her mother, saying that she considered the movie mild for what's acceptable in films now.

When Brooke went to Cannes Film Festival, the film caused an uproar, and someone trying to cut Brooke's hair with scissors had to be restrained. She expressed how traumatic this was, saying, “I had never seen frenzy like that. It was so obscene but absurd. I couldn’t identify with it...the magnitude of the attention was really scary.”

She still has no regrets about doing the film. In 2018, when asked if she would let her daughters be in a movie like Pretty Baby, she said, “In this environment and with social media and with the dangers on that level and just being a mom now, looking at my 11-year-old, I would not facilitate it."

4. Judy Garland's mother made her start performing when she was only 2 years old. She sang and danced with her sisters before movie screenings at the local movie theater her father owned.

When Judy was 4, her mother moved the family to California. “From the day we arrived in Lancaster, all the wonderful carefree fun and joy in my family began to vanish,” Judy said. “Suddenly mother decided we had to be stars. She started to drag us to anyplace someone important might see us.”

By the time she was 7, she was performing with her siblings every night. “The only time I felt wanted when I was a kid was when I was performing,” she said.

5. Macaulay Culkin's father Kit managed him during his childhood career. Macaulay has shared that his father was controlling and had him on a very busy filming schedule in the early '90s. He added his father made him stay up every night to study the lines he would have to say the next day.

Macaulay asserted that his father was "such a crazy person" that he forced him to do SNL without cue cards when he hosted the show at 11 years old.

Macaulay has explained that he felt his father was jealous of him because “everything he tried to do in his life I excelled at before I was 10 years old.”

When Macaulay stopped acting after his 1994 movie Richie Rich, he told his parents, “I’m done, guys — hope you all made your money because there is no more coming from me.”

His parents were never married and after he stopped acting, his mother filed for custody. Macaulay ended up taking his parents to court to stop them from controlling his $17 million in earnings. Since then, he and his father have been estranged.

6. Jennette McCurdy has been very open about how her mom, Debbie McCurdy, became determined to make her famous when she was 6 years old. She said, "My mom had always dreamt of being a famous actor, and she became obsessed with making me a star."

Jennette revealed that when she was 10, her mother started bleaching her hair, whitening her teeth, and teaching her how to count calories. By the time she was cast in iCarly, she was struggling with eating disorders.

Jennette's mother died of cancer in 2013, and Jennette went to therapy to help recover from her eating disorders in 2018. She stated, "I know if my mom were alive, I'd still have an eating disorder."

7. Drew Barrymore's mom Jaid got Drew started in acting at 11 months old in a dog commercial.

Drew became globally famous at 7 years old after starring in E.T. Drew's mom managed her career and took Drew out with her friends multiple times a week.

After Jaid divorced Drew's dad, she took 9-year-old Drew to Studio 54, where Drew was first introduced to and encouraged to dance with other young male celebrities. Drew was first exposed to drugs here, and by 12 years old, she'd been in rehab. When Drew was asked if she felt exploited by her parents, she answered, “I mean, well, yeah, I think with my mother, it was definitely too out there."

8. The Jackson 5 experienced physical abuse from their father. Michael Jackson revealed that their father, Joe Jackson, would physically abuse the group to work longer and harder.

He stated that if there were any mistakes during the group's rehearsals, Joe Jackson would beat them with a tree branch, a belt, or an electrical cord.

9. Ariel Winter has spoken out about how acting wasn't her choice, but it was her mother's. Ariel shared that her mother, Crystal Workman, had dreams of being an actor herself. Ariel said that with Crystal as her stage mom, she dealt with a lot of abuse and exploitation.

Once Ariel's acting career began, she said her mom put her on a strict diet and neglected her education. Her mother also had her dress in outfits that sexualized her. Ariel claimed her mom put her in “the smallest miniskirts, sailor suits, low-cut things, the shortest dresses you’ve ever seen. People thought I was 24 when I was 12. If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age, my mother would have a thousand percent said yes.”

Sharon Sacks, Ariel's on-set teacher, said that she got so concerned by the intense diet Ariel was on that she started sharing food with her. She also said that Ariel's mom would keep her out late at parties when she was just 12 and 13 years old. Ariel legally emancipated herself at 14.

10. Aaron Carter claimed that as a teen musician, his family spent $500 million of his money on 15 houses and 30 cars. He claimed that when his parents sold the houses, he didn't get a cut of the profits.

He also alleged that his dad shot a .44 magnum near his ear — which resulted in him going 70% deaf in one ear — to force him into signing a $256,000 check.

11. And lastly, Shirley Temple's mother Gertrude started her in the entertainment industry when she was a toddler, and by the time Shirley was 12, she had starred in 44 films.

Shirley was making over $200 a week from 20th Century Fox Studios, but she kept $20 a week after her parents took their share.

By the time Shirley was an adult, she had earned $3.2 million, but she only found $44,000 in her accounts because her father allegedly didn't put her money as a child star in a court-ordered trust.