Mara Wilson has made a powerful statement about the dangers of child stardom.
No-one would be better informed on the topic, since Wilson starred in ’90s classics Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire as a child.
In a powerful piece for The New York Times named The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls, Wilson discusses the media narrative about Britney Spears and her own experience in the industry.
Wilson, now 33, documents the way she was “sexualized” from a young age after appearing in hit films. Her words come after new documentary Framing Britney Spears was released, which details the pop star’s conservatorship.
Wilson wrote: “I had already been sexualized anyway, and I hated it. I mostly acted in family movies — the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire. 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. 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.
“It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did. Before I even turned 12, there were images of me on foot fetish websites and photoshopped into child pornography. Every time, I felt ashamed.
“Hollywood has resolved to tackle harassment in the industry, but I was never sexually harassed on a film set. My sexual harassment always came at the hands of the media and the public.”
After starring in movies as a child, Wilson took a break from acting and focused on a career as an author and journalist.
‘Puberty in the public eye’
She penned a book named “Where Am I Now?” which Penguin published in 2016.
In a piece she wrote for the Guardian, Wilson wrote: “The next time someone hiding behind a username decides to tell me what would make me prettier, I’m going to propose the following: I will meet them in person and ask them to listen,
She writes: “I will tell them about going through puberty in the public eye after my mother died of cancer. I will tell them how it feels to find a website advertising nude photos of yourself as a 12‑year‑old.
“I will tell them I’ve looked at “cute” from both sides now, and in both cases it just made me miserable.”
She continues: “I will tell them how fitting it is that the only real acting I do these days is voiceover, where no one can see me. I will tell them how my mother wanted me to prove myself through my actions and skills, rather than my looks. Now I believe I have, and I am happier than ever.”
We hope Mara’s words are heard loud and clear. Let’s respect young actors and their childhood…
Image via Alamy