13 Child Stars Called Out Media Mistreatment

The media has not always been kind to children in the spotlight — especially young girls. However, quite a few have called them out on it, whether at the moment or decades later.

Here are 13 former child stars who criticized the media for the way it treated them:


When Billie Eilish was 17, she called out Nylon Germany for depicting her as a digitally rendered shirtless robot on its cover. In the magazine’s Instagram comments, she wrote, “You’re gonna make a picture of me shirtless?? That’s not real?? At 17? And make it the cover??? Even if the picture was supposed to look like some robot version of me…I did not consent in any way.”


16-year-old Millie Bobby Brown was “crucified” by the press over the outfit she wore to the 2020 SAG Awards. Recalling the backlash at 18, she told the Guilty Feminist podcast, “I thought ‘My, is this really what we’re talking about? We should be talking about the incredible people that were there at the award show.'”


When Natalie Portman was a teenager, she was continuously sexualized by the press, including movie reviewers talking about her developing body and a local radio station that did a countdown to her 18th birthday. At the 2018 Women’s March in LA, she said, “At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect.”


When 15-year-old Selena Gomez went to the beach with her family, she was followed by “grown men with cameras” from a distance. Thinking back on the incident nearly 15 years later, she told Elle it was a “violating feeling.”


When 17-year-old Harry Styles dated 31-year-old Caroline Flack, he was branded a “womanizer.” A year later, he told The Sun, “I don’t want to be viewed as a womanizer or whatever. I’m not quite as I’m made out to be. I have friends who are girl, and sometimes, even if I give them a lift home, I’m ‘dating them’, or whatever.”


In an interview Brooke Shields did when she was 15, Barbara Walters asked invasive questions about her sexual history and her body. Four decades later, she told the podcast, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepardthat the interview was “practically criminal” and “not journalism.”


When 16-year-old Courtney Stodden married 51-year-old Doug Hutchison, they were treated like the butt of the tabloids’ favorite joke. Looking back at old paparazzi pictures as a soon-to-be-divorced 24-year-old, they told BuzzFeed News, “If I was now, looking back on this, I would be concerned! Where’s [their] mom, where’s [their] dad, and who is this guy?”


As Emma Watson left her 18th birthday party, paparazzi “laid down on the pavement and took photographs up [her] skirt, which were then published on the front of the English tabloid [newspapers] the next morning.” Recalling the incident as a 26-year-old for HeForShe Arts Week, she said, “If they had published the photographs 24 hours earlier they would have been illegal, but because I had just turned 18 they were legal. “


In his 2013 tell-all Vulture interview, Joe Jonas recalled an interviewer who threatened the Jonas Brothers [when Joe was 18, Nick was 15, and Kevin was 19] that he could “write whatever [he] want[s]” when they declined to talk about their purity rings. Joe said, “Now I know that I don’t have to answer any questions I don’t want to. Like, why do you even care about my 15-year-old brother’s sex life?”


When Ariel Winter Was 15, E! News ran a story with the headline “Ariel Winter’s Cleavage Is Out of Control on the SAG Awards Red Carpet.” When she was 18, she said Good Morning America that the hardest part of public scrutiny she faced was “walking down the red carpet and seeing the photos afterwards and having every headline be about [her] cleavage and — not about my talent…not about what [she] was really there for or anything that [she] wanted to be put out there.”


At 16, Soleil Moon Frye spoke publicly about her breast reduction to help encourage others to have a healthy self-image. However, as she told People at 45, “the message was lost” in the resulting headlines, which focused more on the fact that she’d gotten the procedure rather than the fact that she decided to do it for health-related reasons.


The day after her 13th birthday, Mara Wilson made “one of the biggest mistakes of [her] life” by answering honestly when a reporter asked how she was. When the story ran the next day, it framed her response as “complaining to her staff” before the interview started. Reflecting on the piece, Mara told the New York Times, ” The article went on to describe me as a ‘spoiled brat’ who was now ‘at midlife.'”


And finally, when 15-year-old Miley Cyrus posed backless for Vanity Fair, the photos caused so much backlash that she released an apology statement and said she’d “learn from [her] mistakes.” However, 10 years later, she tweeted a picture of a headline shaming her along with the message, “I’M NOT SORRY. Fuck YOU.”

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