13 Famous Women Who Were Treated Absolutely Disgustingly In The Media As Child Stars

    Counting down the days until a female star turns 18 is so, SO creepy.

    1. Brooke Shields has recently opened up about the sexualization she faced in Hollywood from an extremely young age. She portrayed a child prostitute in Pretty Baby at age 11, then starred in The Blue Lagoon, which depicted the sexual awakenings of two teenagers. Shields said that "They wanted to make it a reality show. They wanted to sell my actual sexual awakening. The irony was, I wasn’t in touch with any of my own sexuality."

    Closeup of Brooke Shields

    In 1978, when Shields was still a preteen, journalist Ed Dwyer wrote: "She's a sweet temptation to all but blind men and eunuchs. She's sister, daughter, sex object, victim, lover, tramp." Shields has also spoken about the Calvin Klein ad she shot at 15, when she said, "You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."

    Closeup of Brooke Shields

    According to Shields, she was just "a kid" and "naive" and didn't understand the degree to which she'd be sexualized by the ad. “What was shocking to me was to be berated by ‘Oh, you knew this was happening,'" she told Vogue. "'This is what you thought. You were thinking these thoughts.’”

    Closeup of Brooke Shields

    2. While speaking to Shields about her experiences as a child star on her daytime TV show, Drew Barrymore also opened up about being sexualized as a child, but not feeling like she could speak up in the #metoo era. “I didn’t feel like I could speak to it because I experienced so many things that were so inappropriate at such a young age that I was so confused about what was I accountable for, what did I put myself into, where was I, was I a part of things. We were children," she told Shields.

    Closeup of Drew Barrymore

    Barrymore — who rose to fame as a young kid with films like E.T. — had previously claimed not to have experienced sexual harassment in Hollywood, but her interview with Shields suggested she was in denial. “I felt like I couldn't speak to the movement, and I was so happy that it was happening, but I felt like I experienced too many things that were so gray and so awkward and I didn't know were wrong at the time,” Barrymore said.

    Screenshot from "E.T."

    Whether or not Barrymore felt mistreated by the industry, it's no secret that she was heavily sexualized as a teen following her role in Poison Ivy and posing nude (with her 23-year-old fiancé) at 17.

    Drew Barrymore in "Poison Ivy"

    3. Christina Applegate dealt with a ton of sexualization when she started appearing on Married... with Children at just 16. "Looking back on it in hindsight, it’s pretty gross. Yeah, that part of it kind of sucked. Men had posters of this little 17-year-old, with me holding pearls. Like, who let me do that? I didn’t even know what the connotation was," Applegate said.

    Screenshot from "Married... with Children"

    Applegate spoke, too, about how being sexualized and objectified at such a young age has made it even harder to watch her body change after her recent MS diagnosis. "It's really, really hard for me because so much of my life was my image, and then I see this person, and I'm like, Who is this person with 20 chins?" she told Vanity Fair. Applegate received many negative comments about her appearance changing after her diagnosis.

    Closeup of Christina Applegate

    4. Mara Wilson (best known for Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda) was hated by some for her "cuteness" as a child actor. One journalist complained about her "tiresome" cute act, and said that when she saw Mara smile, she wanted “to shake her by her tiny adorable shoulders until her little Chiclet teeth rattle."

    Mara Wilson in "Matilda"

    As she got older, she struggled with aging out of being "cute" — like when she was asked to start wearing a sports bra on the set of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. When she was 12, she stumbled upon an article that said she was entering "the awkward years, when she’ll be old enough to have breasts, but not old enough to show them legally." Soon after, she started seeing advertisements for (fake) pictures of her nude, discovering she was listed on a foot fetish site, and receiving creepy letters from an adult male fan.

    Screenshot from "Thomas and the Magic Railroad"

    "I never appeared in anything more revealing than a knee-length sundress. This was all intentional: My parents thought I would be safer that way," Wilson wrote in another op-ed. "But it didn’t work. People had been asking me, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' in interviews since I was 6. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute. ... Every time, I felt ashamed."

    Closeup of Mara Wilson

    5. Alyson Stoner is another child star who later wrote an op-ed about the effect it had on her. Stoner first achieved widespread fame after starring in Missy Elliott's "Work It" music video. She also co-starred in Mike's Super Short Show on Disney Channel and as one of the kids in Cheaper by the Dozen. While her essay didn't focus exclusively on sexualization in a child, she, like Wilson, also touched on the result of hitting puberty in the public eye.

    Closeup of Alyson Stoner in "Cheaper by the Dozen"

    "The onset of puberty has turned my waist and bust into the main objects of attention and inspection," she wrote. "This will also categorize my career trajectory. I've learned that it is safer to dissociate in order to survive what my mind and body are subjected to daily. I'll be numb for another five years, but all you will see is the ever-highly-functioning, Smiling Girl #437."

    Closeup of Alyson Stoner

    6. Mary-Kate and Ashley shot to fame from a super young age when they were cast on Full House. They then became preteen royalty as they appeared in a number of films together that were beloved by anyone growing up in the 2000s...and, apparently, grown men. Multiple websites were dedicated to counting down to the twins' 18th birthday.

    Closeup of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

    Just before their birthday, NBC News wrote, "They contain the innocence of children and the sultriness of sexpots," and "We are jealous of Mary-Kate and Ashley, of the way they seem always to be touching in photographs — Mary-Kate kisses Ashley's shoulder; Ashley smushes her forehead against Mary-Kate's cheek. ... Their constant touching of each other seems seductive, but unintentionally so." The article does mention the countdowns to their 18th birthday, and takes care to point out that in some states, the age of consent is younger.

    Closeup of Mary-Kate and Ashley

    At 17, they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, captioned "America's Favorite Fantasy." Their own publicist pointed out, "They're a fantasy if you're a 6-year-old girl, and perhaps they're a fantasy if you're a 50-year-old man."

    Closeup of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

    7. There was also a countdown for Natalie Portman: “A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday — euphemistically, the date that I would be legal to sleep with,” Portman said during the 2019 Women's March. “Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort.”

    Closeup of young Natalie Portman

    She also later talked about the experience of being sexualized at a young age, especially after appearing in Beautiful Girls at age 12, in which she portrayed a 13-year-old who was with an older man. "Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid, and it made me, like, the way I could be safe was to be like, 'I'm conservative,' and 'I'm serious and you should respect me,' and 'I'm smart,' and 'Don't look at me that way,'" Portman told Dax Shepard on his podcast.

    Natalie Portman in "Beautiful Girls"

    “At that age, you do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things, and you do want to be open. But you don’t feel safe, necessarily, when there’s, like, older men that are interested, and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, no,’” she continued.

    Closeup of Natalie Portman

    8. Millie Bobby Brown was similarly sexualized directly after turning 18, noting that she'd noticed a difference in the way people and the media treated her after her birthday, calling it "gross." She continued, "I think it's just a very good representation of what's going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized. And so I have been dealing with that, but also have been dealing with that for forever."

    Closeup of Millie Bobby Brown

    She had formerly spoken out about being sexualized when she was just 16, writing on Instagram, "The last few years haven't been easy, I'll admit that. There are moments I get frustrated from the inaccuracy, inappropriate comments, sexualization, and unnecessary insults that ultimately have resulted in pain and insecurity for me."

    Closeup of Millie Bobby Brown

    Brown, who had been famous since she first began starring in Stranger Things at age 11, was also only 13 when she showed up on W Magazine's list about why TV was "sexier than ever."

    Screenshot from "Stranger Things"

    9. Britney Spears has possibly faced the worst treatment in the media of any modern female star, especially considering she was so young when she skyrocketed to fame. Interviewers asked her a number of inappropriate questions, including about her virginity and her breasts. She was relentlessly criticized for sexual lyrics and her fashion sense.

    Britney Spears in an interview

    10. A few years back, Chloë Grace Moretz (perhaps best known for her role in Kick-Ass at age 12) talked about feeling sexualized when she was asked to wear a push-up bra with chicken cutlets on a movie set at age 16. The experience also made her insecure about her body. "It was the first time I really felt insecure, I would say. It was the first time I looked at myself in the mirror and I was like, 'Well, is it not right?'" she told the Inclusive.

    Closeup of Chloë Grace Moretz

    11. This year, former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne told the story of being sexualized by male fans, who pushed her "sexy" magazine covers from when she was a minor in front of her and asked her to sign them. She also said she wouldn't have posed for those pictures if she could go back, and touched on the pressures she was under as she matured in the limelight. "I also think when you’re growing up, now you have boobs all of a sudden, and everything’s growing and become more and more intense. You start liking people, and everything changes."

    Closeup of Bella Thorne

    She's also spoken about how she was sexualized after a photo of her in a bikini at age 14 went viral, and how Disney Channel was even apparently under pressure to fire her from her show Shake It Up because people's reactions were "How dare this little girl do this. This is so disgusting." She said Disney told her that she needed to wear boy shorts and a loose T-shirt the next time she went to the beach.

    Screenshot from "Shake It Up"

    12. Scarlett Johansson said she was "hyper-sexualized" early in her career (despite sex never being "a huge part of her actual personality") because people thought she was older than she was. She also said she "definitely was in different situations that were not age-appropriate," and was lucky to have her mom to protect her, "but she can't do that for everything."

    Closeup of Scarlett Johansson

    In fact, she was afraid she'd been pigeonholed into sexual and mature roles and would be cast out of Hollywood when she hit a certain age. For context, Johansson was only 17 when she played a dissatisfied young wife in Lost in Translation — though at that point, she'd been in Hollywood for many years.

    Screenshot from "Lost in Translation"

    13. Finally, Mischa Barton wrote about her experience as a child actor for Harper's Bazaar in 2021, saying, "The truth is that sexuality has always been a component of my career. Even from a young age, I was sexualized." She spoke about becoming a "strange sex symbol" in Asia after the release of her coming-of-age film Pups when she was just 13.

    Screenshot from "Pups"

    As she passed 18 and began starring on The O.C., she says she was "pursued by older men in their 30s" and felt pressure to lose her virginity that she says she eventually gave into. Her dating ended up leading to a whole new onslaught of unwanted media attention.

    Closeup of Mischa Barton

    Barton ends her essay on a positive note: "From the teenage girl who did a lot of her sexual firsts in front of the world, her first kiss, her first period, her first sexual experience, I have finally learnt what it means to be in control of my own sexuality," Baton finished. "I'm not just a headline, I am a woman, a human being, and I have a story to tell. I can’t stay quiet anymore, because these things are still happening — the exploitation of young girls, to people of color, to all women, sexualized while being picked apart and shamed for being alive in their own bodies. If my story can help even one young girl stand up for herself and not let the world tear them down, then all of this will be worth it."

    Closeup of Mischa Barton