What 'Matilda' Actress Mara Wilson Has Said About Being a Child Star

Mara Wilson has opened up about being a "sexualized" child star in a powerful op-ed about her career.

The 33-year-old former actress played the eponymous Matilda in the 1996 adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic and starred in Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street.

"Our culture builds these girls up just to destroy them," Wilson wrote for The New York Times in a harrowing opinion piece. She recounts, among other experiences, how she had been photoshopped into child abuse images before she was 12, despite "never appearing in anything more revealing than a knee-length sundress."

She explained: "This was all intentional: my parents thought I would be safer that way. But it didn't work. People had been asking me, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' in interviews since I was 6. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant's arrest for soliciting a prostitute. 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."

"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," she added.

Mara Wilson
Former child star Mara Wilson arrives at the premiere of "Knives Out" in Westwood, California, on November 14, 2019. Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Wilson is now a writer and activist and wrote that she "turned out OK" because she hasn't yet peaked.

"Once, someone I'd considered a friend asked, with a big smile, 'How does it feel to know you've peaked?' I didn't know how to answer, but now I would say that's the wrong question," she wrote. "I haven't peaked, because for me, The Narrative isn't a story someone else is writing anymore. I can write it myself."

The former actress also expressed solidarity with Britney Spears, after the release of a damning documentary about the singer's treatment in the media.

Drawing comparisons between her experiences and Spear's life, Wilson wrote: "We both had dolls made of us, had close friends and boyfriends sharing our secrets and had grown men commenting on our bodies."

She added: "Her story is a striking example of a phenomenon I've witnessed for years: our culture builds these girls up just to destroy them. Fortunately people are becoming aware of what we did to Ms. Spears and starting to apologize to her. But we're still living with the scars."

Wilson said her life had been "easier" than the pop star's because she was "never tabloid-level famous."

"Unlike Ms. Spears, I always had my family's support," she added. "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."