Matilda Star Mara Wilson Recalls Being ‘Sexualized’ as a Child Actress: ‘I Felt Ashamed’

Naledi Ushe
·3-min read


Mara Wilson is opening up about the pitfalls of childhood stardom.

The Matilda star, now 33, wrote about her experience as a child actress in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday, revealing her "intentional" efforts to avoid being sexualized in the media to no avail.

"I saw many teenage actresses and singers embracing sexuality as a rite of passage, appearing on the covers of lad mags or in provocative music videos. That was never going to be me, I decided," she wrote. "I had already been sexualized anyway, and I hated it."

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Wilson wrote that like many other young women who became famous at a young age — including Judy Garland, Drew Barrymore and Britney Spears — she fell victim to the "narrative" that "famous kids deserve" the vitriol and scrutiny they often receive in the media.

Despite intentionally choosing roles in family movies, Wilson said that she was still "sexualized" from a young age and asked inappropriate questions by reporters.

"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," she wrote. "This was all intentional: My parents thought I would be safer that way. But it didn't work."

"It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me," Wilson continued. "It was not when 50-year-old men did."

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Wilson recalled, "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.."

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"My mom just didn't know what to do with me — I was doing drugs, I was out of control," Drew Barrymore recalled on her talk show

Wilson compared her experience as a child to star to Spears' — which has gotten renewed attention with the release of the documentary Framing Britney Spears — noting that the main difference in their stories was having her family's support.

"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," Wilson wrote. "But my life was easier not only because I was never tabloid-level famous, but because unlike Ms. Spears, I always had my family's support. I knew that I had money put away for me, and it was mine. If I needed to escape the public eye, I vanished — safe at home or school."

Now, Wilson is carving out her own path. The actress concluded her essay, "The Narrative isn't a story someone else is writing anymore. I can write it myself."