12 Child Stars Who Included Jaw-Dropping Revelations In Their Memoirs

    Child stars are getting more comfortable sharing their truth, and growing up in the industry isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

    Content warning: This post contains mentions of eating disorders, mental illness, rape, and abuse.

    When you're a kid who sees other kids on TV, you can't help but get the teeniest bit jealous. After all, who wouldn't want all the perks of fame without any of the responsibilities of adulthood?

    While that's what it might look like to those on the outside, a lot of celebrities who began their careers as kids have spoken up about how the experience is not what anyone would imagine.

    Here are some of the child stars — in their own words, from their memoirs — who shared harrowing stories about their experiences.

    1. Jennette McCurdy's memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died is full of revelations about the industry, as well as her mother's abuse. The actress recalls her body beginning to change from puberty and how it made her panic, thinking she'd lose out on roles for not being small.

    Jennette McCurdy, 30, a former Nickelodeon star, poses for a portrait at a studio in Downtown Los Angeles, California on August 1, 2022

    Her mother, in turn, introduced her to restricting calories, beginning a pattern of disordered eating that left McCurdy still requiring a booster seat at 14.

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    "Mom showers me with Scotty sometimes. He's almost 16 at this point. I get really embarrassed when she showers us together,” Jennette writes in the book. "I can tell he does, too. We usually just look away from each other."

    Jennette McCurdy (R) and mother arrive at The 16 Annual Entertainment Industry Foundation Revlon Run/Walk for Women held at The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on May 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California

    2. Janet Jackson's role on Good Times started her acting career, but it also added to her emerging body image issues at age 10, she explained in her book, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself.

    Good Times episode: 'The Evans Get Involved: Part 3'. From left, Chip Fields as Mrs. Gordon, Janet Jackson as Penny Gordon

    "Before production began, I was told two things: I was fat and needed to slim down, and because I was beginning to develop, I needed to bind my breasts. In both cases the message was devastating — my body was wrong," she wrote. "The message was also clear — to be successful, I had to change the way I looked."

    American actresses Janet Jackson (left) and Ja'net DuBois in a scene from the television series 'Good Times,' Los Angeles, California, late 1970s

    "I didn’t even know what it meant to 'bind my breasts.' At first, I was frightened. Were they talking about some kind of operation? For a girl so young, this was confusing. Naturally, I kept the confusion to myself," she continued. "'It means we need to tie down your breasts, so you appear flat-chested,' the wardrobe woman explained. So, each day of shooting, I went through the ordeal of having wide strips of gauze tied across my chest to hide the natural shape of my breasts. It was uncomfortable and humiliating. I never discussed this with anyone. Never said a word to my parents, sisters, or brothers. I kept it all hidden inside. I didn’t know what to do with my feelings of fear and embarrassment. So, I hid them. I was ashamed of them."

    Janet Jackson performs at the Fox Theatre on August 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan

    3. Mara Wilson was asked about Hugh Grant's 1995 arrest on a red carpet...when she was 8.

    Actress Mara Wilson attends the 'Nine Months' Century City Premiere on July 11, 1995 at Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinemas in Century City, California

    "'I, uh… Yes, I heard he was arrested.' It was all over the news," she recalls in her memoir, Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. "'So what’s going on there, huh? What happened? What do you think?' 'I…' All I knew was that it had something to do with sex. Suddenly, I felt very small. I looked away, trying to see if I would find my mother. 'I don’t know.'"

    Mara Wilson arrives at the premiere of Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at the Regency Village Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Westwood, California

    4. Melissa Joan Hart started acting when she was 9 and grew up around a lot of other child stars. She was with NSYNC and Tori Spelling partying in the Caribbean when a life-changing event happened.

    Melissa Joan Hart during Nickelodeon's 10th Annual Kids Choice Awards at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States

    In her memoir Melissa Explains It All, she reveals she found herself partying with her friends on an island in September 2001, during the 9/11 attacks, which was jarring for the native New Yorker. "No travel memory, however, compares to when NSYNC, who did a cameo on the show in 1999, asked me to join them in Turks and Caicos at the end of their 2001 summer tour."

    Melissa Joan Hart during Los Angeles Mission's Thanksgiving Meal for the Homeless of L.A. at Los Angeles Mission in Los Angeles

    "In the Caribbean, we had a great time sipping fruity drinks and partying with some other celebrities like Tori Spelling and Olympic medalist Tara Lipinski," she wrote. "The boys took off for the States on September 10, while the rest of us hung back to worship the sun a little longer. The next day, planes hijacked by terrorists struck the Pentagon and New York City's Twin Towers."

    Portrait of Melissa Joan Hart

    5. Ron Howard had been in the spotlight since he was 5, but nothing could prepare him for the stress of Happy Days fame — especially when Fonzie seemed more popular than his own character, Richie.

    Henry Winkler and Ron Howard in "Happy Days'

    "The biggest stressor of all was Fonzie. Not Henry [Winkler], but Fonzie. It did not escape my notice that as the season went on, the Fonz was getting more and more screen time,” Howard wrote. "I didn’t handle my stress particularly well. I probably would have benefited from seeing a psychotherapist."

    "Welcome Home" 10/25/83 Ron Howard, Henry Winkler

    "Instead, I kept everything inside. Then, I started breaking out in eczema rashes all over my body, most acutely on my eyelids. And my hair started thinning. Looking at the men on both sides of my family, I knew it was inevitable. But it started coming out in alarming clumps during this time."

    Don Most, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross and Anson Williams attend Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala Honoring Original "Happy Days" Cast at The Jonathan Club on November 13, 2019

    6. Mackenzie Phillips — famous for being the daughter of John Phillips of the band the Mamas and the Papas before venturing into acting as a child — got real about her incestuous relationship with her dad in her memoir, High on Arrival.

    Mackenzie Phillips with her father John Phillips her half-brother Tamerlane and John's wife Genevieve Waite; circa 1980

    "On the eve of my wedding, my father showed up, determined to stop it,” she wrote about the first incident, where she was raped by her father at 19. “I had tons of pills, and Dad had tons of everything, too. Eventually, I passed out on Dad’s bed."

    Actress Mackenzie Phillips and musician John Phillips attend Electra Asylum Party for Richard Perry on November 2, 1981

    "My father was not a man with boundaries. He was full of love, and he was sick with drugs. I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father. Had this happened before? I didn’t know. All I can say is it was the first time I was aware of it."

    John and Mackenzie Phillips at the Mackenzie Phillips party at Limelight. February 1984

    7. In Jodie Sweetin's memoir, UnSweetined, she opened up about her struggles with addiction, recalling supporting Full House costars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at the premiere of their film New York Minute.

    Mary-Kate Olsen, Jodie Sweetin, Candace Cameron Bure and Ashley Olsen

    "I knew I couldn't last a New York minute without doing more meth," she said of her drug of choice at the time. "I had it in my purse, with a straw, in a little baggie inside a lip-gloss container. Often I would do meth quickly in public bathrooms, blowing the smoke into wet paper towels so you couldn't see it. At the premiere, though, I just snorted it because I knew I couldn't bring a whole pipe."

    Actors Mary-Kate Olsen, Jodie Sweetin, Candace Cameron Bure and Ashley Olsen attend the Los Angeles premiere of the Warner Brothers film "New York Minute" on May 1, 2004

    8. Jinger Duggar revealed she quietly battled an eating disorder while she was on reality TV in her memoir, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear.

    The Duggar family visits "Extra" at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City

    "For years, I thought the best way to please others was to hide my imperfections," the reality star wrote of the time in her life. "Convinced my body was an embarrassment, I ate very little. I'd go days hardly consuming any calories. My weight dropped, but my body image didn’t improve. It almost never does in those situations because the weight isn't the problem."

    Jeremy Vuolo and Jinger Duggar Vuolo attend Discovery's "Serengeti" premiere at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on July 23, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California

    9. Brooke Shields was a child star who touted the importance of abstinence, which made it hard for her to be fully present when she decided to take that big step with then-beau, Dean Cain.

    In her memoir, There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me, she recalled running away after the deed was done. "I actually kind of tumbled off [the bed] and started running," she wrote. “I was buck-naked, streaking down the hallway and running like I had just stolen someone’s wallet."

    Actress Brooke Shields on-set as Violet, a child prostitute, filming "Pretty Baby" in New Orleans, LA during Weekend's segment "Everybody Loves A Baby That's Why I'm In Love With You"

    He followed her with a comforter and asked if everything was okay, to his credit. "I didn’t know where I began and where my mother ended," she recalled. "And that meant I didn’t know how to fit Dean in."

    Dean Cain and Brooke Shields at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California

    10. Drew Barrymore first smoked weed at the age of 10, after a friend's mom offered it to her, which she recalled in her memoir, Little Girl Lost.

    Drew Barrymore in 1985

    "When I was 10 and a half, I was sitting in the backseat of a car driven by a friend's mother. She started smoking pot. I'd wanted to try marijuana for a long time, but I was afraid if I asked, she'd say, 'No way, Drew. You're too young.' However, she offered me some, and I said, 'Sure, I'll try it,'" the actress recalled. "I was shocked. But she had a look that seemed to say, 'Isn't it cute, a little girl getting stoned?'"

    Drew Barrymore in 1986

    "Eventually, that got boring, too, and my addict mind told me, 'Well, if smoking pot is cute, it'll also be cute to get into heavier stuff, like cocaine.' My usage was gradual… What I did kept getting worse and worse, and I didn't care what anybody else thought about me," she admitted. "The higher I got, the happier I imagined myself, the more miserable I actually was."

    Actress Drew Barrymore attends the "Big" Century City Premiere on May 31, 1988 at 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City, California

    11. Tori Spelling recalled making a spicy home movie with her husband Dean McDermott back in 2009, but it wasn't the most securely stored.

    Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood 2009

    "Dean said, 'We should tape ourselves having sex.' He had a little portable tripod, and he set up his video camera on it," she wrote in her memoir, Spelling It Like It Is. "Afterward, I checked my angles, and they were good, so I allowed him to keep it."

    Actress Tori Spelling (L) and actor Dean McDermott (R) arrive at the Azure pool at The Palazzo on September 5, 2009

    Later, she was "horrified" to discover a friend managed to get it off their home computer. After sending a cease and desist, "we never heard from him again, and the incident went away."

    TV personalities Tori Spelling and husband Dean McDermott attend a book signing of "Mommywood" by Tori Spelling

    12. Keke Palmer revealed she was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin in I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice.

    Keke Palmer attends the 29th Annual ELLE Women in Hollywood Celebration on October 17, 2022

    "I couldn't label it then, but I came to realize that what was being done to me was sex play, immature sex play," she explained of the experience. "As an adult now, I realize my cousin was only regurgitating the things she'd seen. We were children that had seen too much and were trying to live out the things we saw without any concept of what they meant."

    Actress Keke Palmer attends the Q & A with the cast of "Akeelah And The Bee" during the 5th Annual Tribeca Film Festival April 26, 2006

    What child star's memoirs truly shocked you? Which are your must reads? Dish in the comments.