- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
Madison De La Garza is reflecting on her time as a child star on Desperate Housewives and how cyberbullying from viewers led to her “developing an eating disorder at a very young age.”
The actress — who was as young as 6 years old when she portrayed Juanita Solis, the daughter to Eva Longoria’s Gabrielle “Gaby” Solis, on the ABC series — appeared on the most recent episode of Elizabeth Vargas’ Heart of the Matter podcast to talk about her journey to sobriety. During the 45-minute episode, De La Garza opened up about her personal drug use and experiences with addiction, as well as the decision to turn to her sister Demi Lovato after De La Garza sought treatment.
Toward the end of the discussion, the Bad Teacher actress touched on her time starring on Desperate Housewives with Vargas, recalling how she experienced cyberbullying about her weight under the guise of concern for her health.
“The reactions that I got to my character on Desperate Housewives, I mean, it was just shocking. A lot of people came at it in a way that they were quote-unquote ‘concerned for my health,'” she said. “I personally believe that that’s just not true. That it was a cover-up so that they could just judge a 6-year-old.”
De La Garza went on to reveal that although her parents limited her online activity, she would frequently sneak on a computer and while visiting sites like TMZ, teen gossip site OceanUp and YouTube, would “spend a crazy amount of time reading these comments” that spoke about her in an “atrocious” way.
“They said things like they wanted me to die because of what I looked [like]. It was just horrible, like, ‘ugly fat cow,’ and ‘I hope you get cancer and die because you’re so fat.’ Just horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible things and this was when I was 6, 7, 8 years old,” she recalled. “Reading comments like that definitely affected my mental health and ultimately played into me developing an eating disorder at a very young age.”
The Desperate Housewives actress said that her family had no idea that “I was seeing these things and I was reading these things” or that she had begun “trying to starve myself” in response — something she remembers doing as early as 7 years old.
When Vargas asked about whether the actress told any of the Desperate Housewives creative team or if they were aware of the online harassment, she noted that they all had to be at least somewhat in the know as they had written her weight and looks into the show as part of Longoria’s character’s plotline.
“There was one episode where I went to school with a bunch of makeup on because girls in my class said that I wasn’t pretty enough to be her daughter,” De La Garza said. “So this was talked about literally in the script of the show. The whole joke of my character was that Eva was this thin beautiful model and her daughter turned out to be quite the opposite.”
While the actress said “they never came out and said anything to me,” those working on the show did “go out of their way to tell me that I was beautiful.” De La Garza recounted how the show’s cast and crew would frequently compliment her and that the wardrobe department made sure she felt comfortable in her clothing and in her own skin, something she “appreciated.”
“I was able to speak up and say, ‘Hey, I really don’t like the way I feel on these clothes. I feel very uncomfortable,'” she recalled. “At one point, they let me bring in my own jeans because I kept telling them the way that these jeans [fit] — this fabric, this texture, it’s really bothering me. I can’t focus on my lines and they would let me bring in my own clothes to wear, so I would feel more comfortable.”
The Desperate Housewives star also said she and Longoria “never spoke about it,” but that the older actress would frequently compliment her. “We never explicitly talked about it, but she definitely went out of her way to make me feel like I was pretty and like I was special,” De La Garza said. “She made me feel like I was family and if I ever did want to go to her with these things, I absolutely could’ve. I just — I felt so ashamed that these comments were even being written, I didn’t even want to talk about it.”
De La Garza added that her eating disorder morphed over time. She recalled entering recovery for a few years before the disordered eating would come back, with the actress starving herself before going “into months of struggling with a binge-eating disorder.”
“Right now, I would like to say I’m about two years into recovery and things are going really, really well,” she told Vargas. “Which is great to be able to say that, but I don’t think it’s something that will ever be completely gone or it will ever completely be fixed in that I think [this] is the same as having an addiction.”
Still, she’s speaking up because she believes that telling her story can help protect other kids from the effects of online bullying. “I think it’s incredibly important for people to know how bad cyberbullying can be, and just how the unthinkable is actually happening today,” De La Garza explained. “I think it’s really important that people are aware of that so they can look out for it and protect this next generation of children.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day