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Child stars captivate audiences with their adorable performances and innocent charm. Still, we tend to forget that their successful careers couldn’t be possible without long days on set, hours dedicated to practicing their lines or rehearsing for a song, and parents who decided that their children should have a career in entertainment.

While the desire to be in front of a camera may have been there for many of the young talents, their parents took advantage of their youth to control their careers, with direct consequences on the future of their child’s finances and mental health.

Below, Bored Panda presents 12 former child stars who were overworked or exploited by the people who were supposed to protect them the most.

#1

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson revealed that his father, Jo, would regularly pressure him and his brothers to work longer and harder, even using physical violence as punishment. 

“When he’d come to see me, I’d get sick,” the King of Pop told Oprah in a 1992 interview. “I’d start to regurgitate.”

Whenever the talented group would miss a step or note during rehearsals, Jo would strike them with an electrical cord or the buckle end of a belt.

“None of us can remember him holding us or cuddling us or telling us, ‘I love you,’” Jermaine Jackson said of her abusive father in a memoir.

But his father didn’t only exercise physical violence on his sons. He also sexually abused his daughters. 

The eldest daughters of the Jackson clan, Rebbie and La Toya, accused Jo of sexual abuse, saying their mother, Katherine, was complicit in the assaults.

“When your father gets out of bed with your mother and gets into bed with his daughter, and you hear the mother saying, ‘No, Joe, not ­tonight. Let her rest. Leave her alone, she’s tired,’ that makes you crazy,” La Toya wrote in a 1991 memoir.

The Ed Sullivan Show , Michael Jackson Report

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#2

Macaulay Culkin

Macaulay Culkin

While Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone family was loving—though somewhat absent-minded— the reality at home was much different.

The actor’s father was extremely controlling and had him on a busy working schedule, neglecting his desire to play and make friends with his peers.

At age 11, when Macaulay hosted Saturday Night Live, his dad, Kit—whom he described as a “crazy person”— forbade the use of cue cards and forced him to memorize every single line, something that seemed excessive even to adult hosts of the show.

According to Macaulay, his violent dad was “jealous” of him because “everything he tried to do in his life, I excelled at before I was 10 years old.”

The child star's strained relationship with his parents led him to pursue legal action, taking them to court to ensure they didn’t control his $17 million fortune. Since then, he and his father have been estranged.

“I learned how to read court papers at 14,” the actor, now 43 and a father of two, said in 2006.

Macaulay Culkin , 20th Century Fox Report

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Sunshine
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I just can't understand being jealous of your own child. I WANT my child to succeed and surpass anything and everything (if they choose to) thay I've ever achieved. I would be happy and full of joy for them. And I most certainly wouldn't abuse them in this way.

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#3

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields

At 12 years old, the supermodel played a child sex worker in the 1977 period piece Pretty Baby, which included a nude scene of her. 

Based on a real story, the movie is centered on a pre-teen girl who is raised in a brothel in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans, by her prostitute mother.

It was Brooke’s mother and manager, Teri Shields, who got her the role.

"I was such a naïve, innocent child. I wasn't Lolita. I didn't have that precocious understanding of my sexuality," the supermodel said many years later about the controversial film while promoting her memoir, “There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.”

Brooke dismissed her mother as her manager when she married tennis star Andre Agassi in the 1990s.

In 2018, when asked if she would let her daughter star in a similar film, the star answered, “In this environment and with social media and with the dangers on that level and just being a mom now, looking at my 11-year-old, I would not facilitate it.”

Brooke Shields , Paramount Pictures Report

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Bathsheba
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That film ain't the half of it. Google the Sugar & Spice photos. She was TEN. Everyone involved in that deserves to be on some sort of register.

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#4

Britney Spears

Britney Spears

It was clear that Britney Spears had a talent for show business ever since she starred in the Mickey Mouse Club at age 11. Since then, the 41-year-old singer has become one of the most successful stars in the world, with her name becoming synonymous with the pop genre as a whole.

Her father, Jamie, knew this all too well and took legal action to get a bigger slice of the multi-million-dollar pie.

In 2008, he was appointed as his daughter’s conservator shortly after Britney was taken to a hospital by ambulance for involuntary psychiatric evaluations.
 
Court documents obtained by the New York Times show that the performer “vehemently opposed” the conservatorship and questioned her father’s fitness for the role.
 
Britney believed the arrangement had become “an oppressive and controlling tool against her.” 

According to the legal documents, the songstress informed a court investigator in 2016 that she was “sick of being taken advantage of.” She also said she was “the one working and earning her money” while everyone else was “on her payroll.”

On November 12, 2021, Judge Penny formally terminated the conservatorship following Britney’s first public statement in which she accused her father of abuse, mistreatment, and coercion.

Star Search , https://www.instagram.com/britneyspears/?hl=en Report

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#5

Judy Garland

Judy Garland

Before she blew out three candles, Judy Garland’s mother had already found her a job: she would sing and dance with her oldest sisters before movie screenings at her family-owned theater.

Judy’s mother, a vaudeville performer, moved the family to California when Judy was 4, a decision that had profoundly negative effects on her mental wellbeing.

“From the day we arrived in Lancaster, all the wonderful carefree fun and joy in my family began to vanish,” the Minnesota-born star said.

“Suddenly, Mother decided we had to be stars. She started to drag us to any place someone important might see us.”

As a result of the pressure to entertain audiences, Garland said the only time she felt “wanted” as a kid was when she was performing.

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#6

Tatum O'neal

Tatum O'neal

At 10 years old, Tatum had already achieved what hundreds of actors spend their whole careers working exhaustively for, sometimes without result: an Academy Award.

But her recognition for “Paper Moon” didn’t come without a price. In fact, the gleaming statuette contrasted a childhood that was full of neglect and abuse—emotional, physical, and sexual.

By the time Tatum was eight, her mother, actress Joanna Moore, was so affected by her alcohol and drug addictions that she could no longer care for her children, leaving her young daughter alone with strange men who molested her.

She then went to live with her father, Love Story actor Ryan O’Neal, who, Tatum says, grew resentful of her success, fearing it would eclipse his own career. 

“People tell me that when I got the Oscar nomination, Ryan slugged me,” Tatum wrote in her memoir. “The feeling I associate most with winning the Oscar is an overwhelming sadness at being abandoned by my parents.”

“There was always a slugging thing. Or a backhand, or throwing out of the car, or whatever. It was rough, just rough around the house,” the actress told NBC.

Paramount Pictures , People Report

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Lisa Westerfield
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I read her memoir back in the day and the impression it left me with was that she had no idea how abusive her childhood was. I believe she wrote about going through a foreign airport in a non-English speaking nation at the age of ten-ish after she became famous - alone.

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#7

Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman

When he turned 18 years old, Gary Coleman found his accounts nearly empty, leading him to sue his parents and ex-manager. 
 
Gary accused his parents of misappropriating the multi-million dollar fortune he had generated while working as a child actor on the popular sitcom Diff'rent Strokes.

While Gary was awarded $1.3 million, the late actor filed for bankruptcy in 1999, ten years after the trial, after a series of bad investments, legal fees, and medical bills for his lifelong kidney condition.
 
He passed away in 2010 at 42 years of age after falling down the stairs at his Santaquin home and hitting his head, possibly after a seizure. At the time, he had not spoken to his parents in 20 years. 

The Hollywood Reporter , Midgetsvsmascots Report

#8

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple

When you think of Shirley Temple, you think of an adorable toddler with chubby cheeks and blonde curls who also happened to be Hollywood's number-one box-office draw in the thirties. But, in reality, Shirley’s life was far from sunshine and rainbows.

By the time Shirley was 12, she had already starred in 44 films.

Her mother, Gertrude, started her in the entertainment industry when she was a toddler, receiving a weekly $250 stipend from 20th Century Fox. Meanwhile, Shirley was only allowed to keep less than $20 in pocket money.

In her 1988 memoir, Child Star: An Autobiography, the actress and diplomat described the Baby Burlesks series as "a cynical exploitation" of her "childish innocence."

When she became an adult, Shirley saw that her accounts showed $44,000, a significantly small figure compared to the $3.2 million she had earned from her acting career.

Her father, bank employee George Temple, allegedly failed to place her earnings in a court-ordered trust, leaving Shirley with almost nothing compared to her generated income.

Larry King Report

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PrettyJoyBird
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

"Allegedly" come on he worked for a bank they stole all their daughters hard earned income!

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#9

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay can trace her claim to fame to when she was as young as 3 years old and signed to the prestigious modeling agency Ford Models. Of course, her breakout role came in 1998, when she played Hallie and Annie, the charismatic matchmaking twins from The Parent Trap.

For the Freaky Friday actress, spending her days on the Disney film’s set served as a way to escape the troubled life at home. 

Her violent father, Michael, had multiple run-ins with the law during Lindsay’s childhood.

“He’s put [me] and my mother and my mom’s parents through so much hell,” the NY-born actress told Vanity Fair in 2010 of her father. 

“From the death threats to throwing shoes at my grandfather’s head and giving him a concussion to threatening to kill my mother in front of my little brother Dakota.”

The trauma she experienced as a young girl, Lindsay said, forced her to “grow up really fast.”

“My mom would try to shield me from that as much as possible, but I chose to get in the middle [of her parents] my entire life.”

https://www.disneystudios.com/ , Paramount Pictures Report

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T0t@lly-f!ne!
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Love her. Her life has been pretty f****d so far, but genuinely just seems like a great person.

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#10

Ariel Winter

Ariel Winter

Ariel Winter didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an actress. That was more her mother’s wish. Given that she couldn’t accomplish that goal herself, she imposed that fate onto her daughter.

Unfortunately, living the dream involved strict control over what she ate and who she hung out with. Food was “very, very restricted” from the time she began acting, and her education was neglected, Ariel told the Hollywood Reporter.

Ariel also recalls being sexualized from age 7 and being dressed 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,” the Modern Family actress revealed.

The traumatizing childhood resulted in Ariel legally emancipating herself from her mother and moving in with her sister, Shanelle Gray, when she was 14, a decision that also helped her reconnect with her father.

20th Century Fox Television Report

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Averysleepypanda
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Her and her mothrr came into a retail store I was working at over 10 years ago - she was looking for a dress for award season for Modern Family. We were not a fancy store. The clothes were around $30-$50 at most. She picked a dress she really liked and showed it to her mom really happy. He mom called her ugly and said no.

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#11

Mischa Barton

Mischa Barton

You may recognize Barton for playing troubled teenager Marissa Cooper in The OC, but her career goes back to acting in Notting Hill and The Sixth Sense, released in 1999 when she was a little girl.

In 2015, the British-born actress sued her mother and former manager, Nuala Barton, claiming she bullied her, withheld earnings without her knowledge, and threw her out of her own $7.8 million Beverly Hills mansion that she convinced her to purchase.

The legal document describes “a greedy stage mother posing as a talent manager who, instead of acting in the best interest of her daughter/client, schemed to defraud her unsuspecting victim.”

The actress’s mother allegedly controlled her finances, providing Mischa with a “sporadic” allowance “at her sole discretion.”

She’s also thought to have lied to the actress about her earnings for the 2013 horror film The Hoarder, and she forged her daughter’s signature on documents “so that she could pocket the difference without Barton’s knowledge.”

Universal Pictures , ITN Films Report

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Xenon
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4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I'm not familiar with this actor but her mother is a pretty s****y person.

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#12

Taylor Momsen

Taylor Momsen

After receiving reports on her poor attitude on the set of Gossip Girl, Taylor Momsen immediately blamed her parents, who signed her up for Ford Modeling when she was only two years old.

“No 2-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice,” the then-17-year-old actress, who played Jenny Humphrey, told Revolver magazine at the time.

"My whole life, I was in and out of school," Taylor continued. "I didn't have friends. I was working constantly, and I didn't have a real life."

Many years before appearing on the teen drama series, 7-year-old Taylor portrayed Cindy Lou in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Taylor Momsen , Universal Pictures Report