Mara Wilson is ready to open up about the most troubling parts of childhood stardom.
As a child star, Mara was one of the biggest in the ’90s — starring in Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and of course in the title role of Matilda from the heartwarming Danny DeVito film adaptation.
The now 35-year-old has previously been outspoken about the rampant sexualization of children — especially young girls — in Hollywood. In 2021, in fact, she opened up to The New York Times in an opinion piece and said she and Britney Spears “learned the same lesson” when it came to how the entertainment industry works with kids:
“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. Many moments of Ms. Spears’s life were familiar to me. We both had dolls made of us, had close friends and boyfriends sharing our secrets and had grown men commenting on our bodies.”
And now, in her new memoir Good Girls Don’t, Mara is laying her experiences out once again. While speaking to The Guardian on Monday, she said after the sudden death of her mother Suzie Wilson in 1996, things got more “inappropriate” between her and certain adults in the entertainment industry — and some “sketchy” things happened:
“I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online.”
Mara said when her mom was alive, she didn’t have any trouble making “her concerns known,” but after Suzie’s passing is when she discovered some troubling things on the internet:
“I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee.”
Many sites online had photoshopped her adolescent face onto that of NSFW pictures of grown women. Just disgusting. Being only a preteen and seeing something like that had to be beyond horrifying!
“I don’t think you can be a child star without there being some kind of lasting damage.”
The former child star explained how even though the film sets themselves weren’t necessarily awful for her, she did witness a lot of inappropriate things:
“The thing that people assume is that Hollywood is inherently corrupt, and there’s something about being on film sets that destroys you. For me, that was not necessarily true. I always felt safe on film sets. There were definitely some sketchy, questionable things that happened at times – adults that told dirty jokes, or sexually harassed people in front of me.”
The problem is, she had a job like all the adults — so immediately she was being treated like an adult, which was sometimes more inappropriate than others:
“People who did things like ask me if it was OK if I worked overtime, instead of asking my parents, but I never felt unsafe. I think that’s because I worked with a lot of really wonderful directors, who were used to working with children.”
Rocketing to stardom so quickly also caused her some distress, as the voice actress, whom you’ve probably heard in recent years on shows like BoJack Horseman (which also dealt frankly with the effects of child stardom), added she felt she couldn’t go out in public and be herself for a period of time. She said her fans expected her to be “smart, pretty, nice” like her character Matilda — whom she noted is “wonderful, but not real.” She said she developed a lot of anger because of the unrealistic expectations.
So much pressure on a young girl. She was only 9 years old at the time!
Mara went on to say whereas she never had trouble with drinking or drugs like many other child stars, she did spiral into self-hatred, often telling herself “you’re a loser, you’re a failure, you’re ugly.” Everything only got worse when she started getting older, too, because she was no longer considered “cute” by Hollywood’s standards. She even recalled one time she was asked to wear a sports bra while filming to cover her developing breasts when she was little. The message she got was:
“If you’re not beautiful, you’re worthless.”
So, so sad.
The A Simple Wish star started going to therapy after she directly associated her appearance and normal development with the demise of her career. She was diagnosed with OCD and was told she potentially has PTSD from her trauma as a child star — and she’s totally over being on the big screen because of it, not sure that Hollywood would even know what to do with a “short, curvy, Jewish brunette”:
“I don’t want anybody telling me, ‘You need to lose 30lb and get a nose job.’”
Now, even though she still dips her toes into entertainment with voice acting and podcasts, she’s taking time for herself outside of the industry:
“[I’m focused on] my own goals, my own relationships, my own life.”
Good for her! Whatever trauma she faced as a kid, it seems like she has a really healthy perspective on it these days.
It’s so sad how children have continually been mistreated and abused in Hollywood… What do U think about this, Perezcious readers? Let us know (below).