10 Former Child Stars Who Rose To Fame But Paid The Price With Their Childhood

Many kids are exposed to stardom way too soon, and the consequence can be ugly. These child stars have risen to fame, but they also had to pay a very hefty price: Their childhood. Along with fame comes the constant attention of the press, and suddenly everything you do or say will be judged by millions of strangers. Nobody should have to go through that terrible feeling of being watched all the time, let alone a child.
These child stars have taken a step out in the light and shown us how it felt like when you became a celebrity too young. Some suffered severe depression and other mental problems, and some were still haunted by their past until these days. Let’s look past all Hollywood’s glam and reveal the real stories behind the glory.

1. Selena Gomez

child stars Selena GomezSource: Getty Images

Selena Gomez’s childhood was violated by the paparazzi. She was only 15 when people started taking pictures of her everywhere she went, including the beach. "I felt very violated and I didn't like it or understand it, and that felt very weird because I was a young girl and they were grownup men. I didn't like that feeling,” she said.
Gomez also shared about the insane amount of stress she was facing since she was 7. She had to be away from her family and moved from place to place. The young star also was confused by what being famous meant while trying to grow up and get over her awkward teenage years.

2. Cole Sprouse

child stars Cole SprouseSource: Getty Images

There is no doubt that the Disney series Zack & Cody is funny to watch on screen, but it is a nightmare for Cole Sprouse in real life. He was working on the set for nine years and it made him forget what real life was like. Sprouse thanked his break as a student at New York University for keeping him grounded.
His time studying here allowed him to regain a semblance of his anonymity. This was really important to the actor as he thought anonymity was what allowed you to enter into “a human space with an open heart.”

3. Daniel Radcliffe

child stars Daniel RadcliffeSource: Getty Images

The Harry Potter star struggled with drinking towards the end of the franchise and quickly became an alcoholic afterward. Daniel Radcliffe claimed that he used alcohol to cope with being recognized and feeling watched in public. He was trying to forget about all the unwanted attention by drinking and getting drunk. It took a few years and some attempts, but he seemed a lot better now.

4. Natalie Portman

child stars Natalie PortmanSource: Getty Images

To this day, Natalie Portman is still haunted by her role in Léon: Professional. She was only 12 back then and the movie really sexualized her character. "Being sexualized as a child took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid," she said. In her following teenage years, the actress refused to have any love scenes or make-out scenes.
By doing so, Portman believed she was being conservative and serious so people should respect her. It was her only way to protect herself and make herself feel safe from all the perverts who sexualized her.

5. Kirsten Dunst

child stars Kirsten DunstSource: Getty Images

Dunst started her road to stardom at a quite young age. She was only 11 years old when she took the role of Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. At 27, Dunst checked herself into the Cirque Lodge treatment center in Utah for depression. The actress shared about her mental health back then, saying she was struggling with all the attention focusing on her. Thankfully she pulled through with the help of her friends and family.

6. Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson MatildaSource: Getty Images

Wilson was just 6 years old when she first appeared on the screen in the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Nowadays she is an author and journalist and she shared her stories back then with many of her readers. Wilson’s childhood was ruined by creepy grown-ups as they constantly asked the 6-year-old child did she had a boyfriend or not.
Reporters even asked her who she thought was the sexiest actor. On top of that, there were many photoshopped images of her on erotic websites and foot fetish forums before she turned 12. “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,” Wilson said. The former actress also said she was never harassed on set, only at the hands of the media and the public.

7. Hilary Duff

Hilary DuffSource: Getty Images

Hilary Duff is famous for her role as Lizzie McGuire in the Disney series of the same name. Growing up as a child actress who had to get used to being in the public eye at a very young age, Duff struggled with an eating disorder when she was 18 or 19. The actress admitted that she was trying to fit in an image of a perfect girl who was not her.
Luckily, she had gotten over her struggles with food. Nowadays she is a proud mom who loves cooking for her family.

8. Macaulay Culkin

Macaulay CulkinSource: Getty Images

Macaulay Culkin became one of the most well-known child stars thanks to his role as Kevin in Home Alone. In 2005, the actor pled guilty to two misdemeanor drug possession charges. In a 2020 interview with Esquire, he admitted it was a hard time for him, but thankfully everything was not so bad that he had to go to rehab.

9. Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay LohanSource: Getty Images

Lindsay Lohan became a big star after her amazing performance in The Parent Trap and her way to stardom seemed like it was only gotten brighter after Mean Girls. However, the actress quickly got herself in a lot of trouble messing with the laws and had to spend a lot of time in and out of rehab.
After disappearing from the spotlight for several years, Lohan opened up about her past in a 2019 interview. She recalled the first time she saw herself in a tabloid she felt like Britney Spears. Lohan was a young girl back then and she thought it was cool. She regretted her mistakes in the past and had changed a lot since then.

10. Miley Cyrus

Miley CyrusSource: Getty Images

Miley Cyrus’s rebellious phrase after she left Disney caused a huge controversy. Her new image was completely different from the beloved Hannah Montana we all knew and loved. However, the story behind her transformation was quite heartbreaking.
The famous singer admitted Hannah Montana had robbed her of her childhood. She was constantly put into glittery costumes and had to look pretty all the time with makeup. She barely recognized herself in the mirror and had a lot of mental issues back then. "It should be more shocking that when I was 11 or 12, I was put in full hair and makeup, a wig, and told what to wear by a group of mostly older me," Miley said.
These child stars surely have it tough. However, they aren’t the only ones who are robbed of their childhoods. If you pay attention to the press, you probably will notice that a lot of Disney child stars seem to change into completely different people after their time working for Disney is over. What leads them to choose such extreme makeovers over their popular Disney star images?
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