TW: mentions of rape, eating disorders, mental health illness, abuse
Despite the glamorous nature of their work and personal brand, child stars often go through a difficult childhood because most are forced to act like adults at such a young age. Although it can be a fun experience to be in the limelight, there will definitely be incidents along the way that will cause traumas to them in the future.
Thankfully, we have a handful of still-active, former child stars who are taking it upon themselves to try and break the cycle for newer child stars today.
Here are some of the former child stars who now use their platform today to shed light on what they have been through, in the hopes that more people will learn from them.
Miley Cyrus has always been an open book when it comes to her life. In her interview with Howard Stern, she confessed about the pressure she felt as a Disney Channel Star.
“Some of my audience was so attached to the character, which wasn’t me,” she said to Stern. “So then that does a lot of psychological stuff, where it’s like, ‘Am I valuable as myself?’ Okay, the whole show’s premise was that when I had my normal hair and looked like myself, no one gave a s–t about me. And then when I got all dolled up and put a wig on, all of a sudden, you know, I’m being chased by people chasing my tour bus. So, that’s a lot to put on a kid — to go, ‘When you’re self, no one gives a f–k.’ But then when they go and kind of groom you to look like something else, something that you’re not, and you’re really young, and it’s a lot of makeup and, you know, wigs, and all this stuff, it does something psychologically.”
Since then, the singer has put emphasis on taking care of mental health. She told British Vogue that she is not hitting the road for a tour of her album Endless Summer Vacation. “I can’t,” she told the publication, calling the stadium and arena performances “isolating” and “not natural.” “Not only ‘can’t’, because ‘can’t’ is your capability, but my desire. Do I want to live my life for anyone else’s pleasure or fulfillment other than my own?”
She wrote, “It isn’t what’s best for me right NOW, & if you’ve been following my career you know that I always change and the way I feel about that could too,” she added. “Love you forever, I’m just on my Endless Summer Vacation.”
Alyson Stoner was medically undernourished and chronically stressed at the age of 12. This is due to the “inappropriate and hazardous” set conditions that violated child labor laws. She still considers herself one of the lucky ones, noting that many other terrible things happened on all of those sets.”
The actress now uses her platform as a public figure to advocate for changes in the industry. She intends for young actors to have the protection she wasn’t granted as a child, such as having mental health professionals on set.
Demi Lovato revealed in her documentary, Dancing With the Devil, she lost her virginity in a rape when she was a teenager. She added, “My #MeToo story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me, and they never got in trouble for it. They never got taken out of the movie they were in. There’s the tea.”
The singer says that her teenage experience with bulimia was due to having to work alongside her rapist at the Disney Channel. “I had to see this person all the time, so I stopped eating and coped in other ways — cutting, throwing up, whatever. My bulimia got so bad that I started throwing up blood for the first time.” At her age, she’s finally ready to confront with that part of her life and hopes to encourage other sexual assault survivors to speak their voice in a culture that still struggling with how to listen to women.
In Jeanette McCurdy’s memoir, I’m Glad my Mom Died, the former actress opened up about the trauma that she faced throughout her childhood including the control from her late mother.
The overwhelming pressure she felt led the actress to suffer from eating disorders, addiction, and more. Her traumatic childhood stems from her mother’s control because she didn’t want to get into acting in the first place but she didn’t want to disobey her mother so she followed instead and at certain points, she had to follow a calorie restriction and check her weight every now and then.
Things started to change once her mom passed as she has now found her freedom. Following her death, McCurdy confesses that she has relapsed, battling anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating yet again. After having several therapists, she ultimately turned to one who helped her on her road to recovery.
In her memoir, she wrote “I want my life to be in my hands. Not an eating disorder’s or a casting director’s or an agent’s or my mom’s. Mine.” It was empowering for her to write her book as it has given her strength and her confidence back. This also helped her be more open and spreading the word to the public as narratives like these can be part of the healing process.
Christy Carlson Romano
Christy Carlson Romano shared with the public that what she experienced is not always what it seems. When her career skyrocketed after starring on Disney Channel’s hit TV series Even Stevens, she confessed about the personal turmoil she faced behind the scenes as she was a victim of bullying.
The Kim Possible actress discussed in a YouTube video the trauma that she experienced as a result of bullying and the healing she’s done to overcome the pain over the years.
“I got bullied by a lot of kids. Some of them were famous,” she said. “In fact one of my biggest bullies is a really huge star. Kind of weird to see them… doing huge franchise movies.” She said that they have squashed the beef but it sucks.
Closing out her video, the actress took a moment to express her support to anyone who was bullied and chose the path of healing.
“Grant yourself some peace,” she offered. “Peace from the trauma, peace from the bad memories. Just know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Just do a little work on yourself, do a little work on those memories. And I promise that it will feel so good coming out the other side with some closure.”
Raven Symoné opened up about the effects of body shaming she received as a child and how it affected her mental health. She had a hard time staying in the body shape of a teenager which was extremely difficult considering she was already an adult during the show.
The actress told ABC, “I was too big to be doing an hour-and-a-half concert. The production would say, ‘I don’t know how she can dance being that big.’ And I was like, ‘I still did it!’.” She added that even when she was seven years old, filming in The Bill Cosby Show, staff would ask her not to eat several foods because she would gain weight, which upset her considering that she was still a growing child at that time.
After years of pressure and body-shaming, she turned to self-care to be the best version of herself. Her wife, Miranda Maday, also helped her get in shape by being her accountability partner through her journey.
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