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Matilda child star Mara Wilson opens up about being sexualised aged 12: ‘I saw things that I couldn’t unsee’

Matilda child star Mara Wilson opens up about being sexualised aged 12: ‘I saw things that I couldn’t unsee’

Mara Wilson, the actor who shot to fame with her childhood roles in Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda, has opened up about being sexualised as a young girl.

Wilson, 35, has written a memoir – Good Girls Don’t – in which she navigates the social pressures on girls from early childhood through adolescence. The book studies the friendships that Wilson formed as a an infant in Hollywood and the complex family relationships that shaped her.

During an interview about the book, Wilson said she was “sexualised” by members of the public who had seen her in the Nineties films.

Explaining to The Guardian that adult men would try to contact her when she was a child, she said: “I had people sending me inappropriate letters and posting things about me online. I made the mistake of Googling myself when I was 12 and saw things that I couldn’t unsee.”

Wilson’s photograph was on pornography websites, with her head superimposed onto women’s bodies.

She also spoke about the impact of being in the media spotlight so young. “People don’t realise how much constantly talking to the press as a child weighs on you,” she said, adding that when she was seven, journalists would ask her if she knew what French kissing was, or which actor she found “sexiest”.

Wilson said: “When you have fans, you can no longer be yourself when you’re out in public, and there were times that I was having a bad day, because I was an emotional teenager, or because my mother had just died.”

The actor’s mother died when Wilson was nine years old. Wilson said that losing her mother, who had been protective of her and fought for her child to be treated well in the industry, left her “completely unmoored”.

Mara Wilson photographed in 2019 (Getty Images)
Mara Wilson photographed in 2019 (Getty Images)

In Mrs Doubtfire (1993), Wilson played Natalie Hillard – the daughter of Robin Williams’ character. In Matilda (1996), she played the title role of a young girl with neglectful parents who loses herself in books.

Wilson is now a writer – her previous memoir Where Am I Now? came out in 2016. She also does voice acting work, including audiobooks and the fiction podcast Welcome to Night Vale.