“Modern Family” star Ariel Winter is getting candid about her online body shamers and living with an abusive stage mom, opening up to The Hollywood Reporter about a “really bad chapter” in her life.
Cast as middle child Alex Dunphy at age 11 on the sitcom, Winter, now 19, kept quiet about her life at home with her mother, Crystal Workman. An aggressive stage mom with failed acting dreams, Workman was emotionally and physically abusive to Winter, constantly “slapping, hitting, pushing” her daughter, according to court documents. Eventually emancipating from her mother in 2015, the abuse she suffered while in her care included restrictive diet plans, a neglected education and sexualizing the growing teen.
“I went through a really rough period, a really bad chapter,” she explains.
Winter says her mother would make her stay out at parties and dress in “the smallest miniskirts, sailor suits, low-cut things, the shortest dresses you’ve ever seen. People thought I was 24 when I was 12. If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age, my mother would have a thousand per cent said yes,” she says. Cast and crew on the set of “Modern Family” noticed. “I would order a couple lunches in my name so Ariel could eat one of them. I could tell she was hungry. Boiled chicken and cucumbers isn’t going to do it for a growing kid,” says series creator Steve Levitan.
In 2012, Winter decided she was ready to let those adults close to her help her by calling Child Protective Services, eventually ending up in the care of her adult sister, Shanelle Gray. But while Winter’s home life was improving, puberty hit her hard, bringing an onslaught of online bullying.
“The first season I was very thin, no breasts, no hips. The next year, I had huge boobs and a butt,” Winter recalls, explaining the body shaming began when she was just 12-years-old. “It was automatically ‘You’re a fat sl*t.’ ‘You’re a wh**e.’ The actress tried to stave off the online hate by changing her appearance.
“I was like, ‘Maybe I’m going to lose some weight, dye my hair, change how I dress. … Maybe I’m doing something wrong,'” she explains. But says her attempts didn’t work: “I actually got more hate by trying to change.”
Now, Winter embraces her penchant for dressing provocatively, calling out haters on Instagram who criticize her outfits. “Why can’t people just let other people feel good about themselves and do what they want?” she posted to her over 4 million followers.
“If you want to wear a short skirt and show your body like I do, it doesn’t mean you’re a wh**e,” she says. “People call me stupid because I post photos of my butt when the real thing is, I love my butt. I love butts! Why stifle yourself because other people can’t handle it?”