10 Former Child Stars Share Their Experiences of Exploitation and Mistreatment by Parents

10 Former Child Stars Share Their Experiences of Exploitation and Mistreatment by Parents
Cover Image Source: (L-R): Brooke Shields/ Macaulay Culkin/ Jennette McCurdy | Getty Images

Former Child Stars Speak Out: Exploitation and Overwork by Their Parents

Image Source: Tomalz/Getty Images
Image Source: Tomalz/Getty Images

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Becoming famous at a very young age can be overwhelming for celebrities, especially when their parents make career decisions for them. Because they are young, they can easily be taken advantage of. Many former child stars have spoken out about how their parents either worked them too hard or exploited their fame and money. Some of these child stars have sued their parents to claim back what was theirs, others weren't so lucky. Here are some celebrities who have shared their stories.

1. Taylor Momsen

Image Source: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless / Tim Mosenfelder/ Getty Images
Image Source: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless / Tim Mosenfelder/ Getty Images

When Taylor Momsen was questioned about her perceived "bad attitude" during her time on the set of "Gossip Girl", her response shed light on the early start of her career. She revealed that her parents had enrolled her in Ford Modeling when she was only two years old. In her explanation, she stated, "No 2-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice. My entire life, I was in and out of school. I didn't have the opportunity to make friends. I was constantly engaged in work, leaving me without a typical childhood or a genuine personal life."

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2. Gary Coleman

Image Source:  Actor Gary Coleman arrives at Video Games Live / Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Image Source: Actor Gary Coleman arrives at Video Games Live / Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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In 1989, Gary Coleman took legal action against his parents for allegedly mishandling his substantial multimillion-dollar earnings during his time as a child actor on the TV show "Diff'rent Strokes". Upon turning 18, he discovered that his financial accounts had been severely depleted. Consequently, in 1989, he initiated a lawsuit against both his parents and his former manager. Eventually, Gary was granted $1.3 million in damages, but after accounting for legal fees, poor investments, and medical expenses related to his lifelong kidney issues, he was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1999. Tragically, by the time of his untimely death in 2010 at the age of 42, Gary Coleman had not maintained any contact with his parents for approximately two decades.

3. Brooke Shields

Image Source: Brooke Shields attends Victoria's Secret's celebration / Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Image Source: Brooke Shields attends Victoria's Secret's celebration / Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Brooks' involvement in "Pretty Face" as a child sex worker and a nude scene received huge backlash as she was just a 12-year-old child. Her mom being her manager also received a lot of hatred. "I was such a naive and innocent child. I wasn't like Lolita, and I didn't possess that precocious understanding of my own sexuality." She has frequently defended her mother's decision to allow her to participate in the film. When Brooke attended the Cannes Film Festival, the screening of the film stirred up controversy, leading to a distressing incident where someone attempted to cut her hair with scissors but was fortunately restrained. In 2018, when asked if she'd allow her daughters to act in a similar project, she expressed concerns due to today's environment, social media's influence, and heightened risks. As a mother, she acknowledged, "Looking at my 11-year-old now and considering today's world's dangers and challenges, I wouldn't actively support such a choice."

4. Judy Garland

Image Source: Bettmann/ Getty Images
Image Source: Judy Garland | Bettmann/ Getty Images

Judy Garland's journey into performing began at the young age of two, orchestrated by her mother. She, along with her sisters, would sing and dance before movie screenings in their father's local movie theater. However, when Judy turned four, her family relocated to California, and things changed. Judy recalled, "From the day we arrived in Lancaster, all the wonderful carefree fun and joy in my family began to vanish. Suddenly, Mother decided we had to be stars, and she started taking us to places where influential people might notice us." By the time Judy reached the age of seven, she was already a nightly performer alongside her siblings. Reflecting on her childhood, she remarked, "The only time I felt truly wanted as a child was when I was on stage performing."

5. Macaulay Culkin

Image Source: Macaulay Culkin attends the LA Premiere of Gravitas Ventures / Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Image Source: Macaulay Culkin attends the LA Premiere of Gravitas Ventures / Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Macaulay Culkin's father, Kit, managed his early acting career, but Macaulay has revealed his father's controlling behavior, including a demanding filming schedule in the early '90s. This included late-night memorization sessions and an instance where he performed on "Saturday Night Live" without cue cards at just 11 years old, which Macaulay described as his father being "such a crazy person." Macaulay believed his father's jealousy stemmed from his own lack of success compared to Macaulay's early accomplishments. When Macaulay decided to quit acting after the 1994 film "Richie Rich," he made it clear that he wouldn't be earning any more money, leading to a legal battle with his mother, as his parents were never married. This legal dispute ultimately caused estrangement between Macaulay and his father.

6. Jennette McCurdy

Image Source: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'Passengers' / Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images
Image Source: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'Passengers' / Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Jennette McCurdy has been open about her mother, Debbie McCurdy's, early ambitions for her. She revealed that her mom was determined to make her famous from the age of six, which led to changes like hair bleaching, teeth whitening, and calorie counting when she was 10. This resulted in her struggling with eating disorders during her time on the sitcom "iCarly". Tragically, her mother passed away from cancer in 2013. In 2018, Jennette started therapy to help her recover from eating disorders. She believes that if her mom were still alive, she would still be battling these issues, underscoring the lasting impact of her mother's ambitions on her life.

7. Drew Barrymore

Image Source: Drew Barrymore attends the 2023 Time100 Gala/ Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
Image Source: Drew Barrymore attends the 2023 Time100 Gala/ Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Drew Barrymore's journey into acting began incredibly early, at just 11 months old when her mother, Jaid, got her a role in a dog commercial. Her global fame came at the age of seven with her role in "E.T." Jaid managed her career and often took her out with friends several times a week. After her parents' divorce, Drew, at the age of 9, was taken to Studio 54 by her mother. It was here that Drew was introduced to young male celebrities and exposed to drugs for the first time. By the age of 12, she had already been in rehab. When asked if she felt exploited by her parents, Drew replied, "I mean, well, yeah, I think with my mother, it was definitely too out there."

8. The Jackson 5

Image Source:  Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Image Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Jackson 5 endured physical abuse from their father, Joe Jackson. Michael Jackson disclosed that their father would physically mistreat the group to push them to work longer and harder. According to Michael, any errors made during their rehearsals would result in Joe Jackson using items like a tree branch, belt, or electrical cord to discipline them. Michael revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that his father was a strict disciplinarian and was very strict and stern, and Michael was scared of him.

9. Ariel Winter

Image Source:  Ariel Winter arrives at 17th Annual Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival / Michael Bezjian/Getty Images
Image Source: Ariel Winter arrives at 17th Annual Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival / Michael Bezjian/Getty Images

Ariel Winter has discussed how her mother, Crystal Workman, drove her into acting instead of it being her own choice. Ariel explained that her mother had dreams of becoming an actor and acted as her stage mom, where she dealt with abuse and exploitation. Ariel also mentioned that her mom put her on a strict diet and neglected her education. Her mother also had her dress in outfits that sexualized her.  Ariel claimed her mom put her in “the smallest miniskirts, sailor suits, low-cut things, the shortest dresses you’ve ever seen. If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age, my mother would have a thousand percent said yes.” Eventually, Ariel took legal steps to emancipate herself at the age of 14.

10. Aaron Carter

Image Source: Singer Aaron Carter performs at Gramercy Theatre/ Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Image Source: Singer Aaron Carter performs at Gramercy Theatre/ Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Aaron Carter asserted that during his teenage years as a musician, his family spent a substantial portion of his earnings, approximately $500 million, on acquiring 15 houses and 30 cars. He further alleged that when his parents eventually sold these properties, he did not receive a share of the proceeds. Additionally, Aaron claimed that his father discharged a .44 magnum firearm close to his ear, resulting in a 70% loss of hearing in one ear. This act was reportedly an attempt to coerce him into signing a $256,000 check.

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