Former Child Star Remembers Reading "Atrocious" Comments About Her Body at Age 6
MADISON DE LA GARZA PLAYED ONE OF GABRIELLE'S DAUGHTERS ON DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
Starting in Season 5, six-year-old Madison De La Garza began playing Juanita Solis, the daughter of Eva Longoria's character Gabrielle on Desperate Housewives. Now, the former child actor is 21 years old, and she has opened up about the body shaming she endured when the show was on the air and how it negatively impacted her health.
In a new interview with Elizabeth Vargas' podcast, Heart of the Matter, De La Garza said that reading comments about her weight online took a toll on her and led her to develop an eating disorder. She also reflected on the fact that her weight was written into Juanita's storyline. "The whole joke of my character was that Eva was this thin, beautiful model, and her daughter turned out to be quite the opposite," she explained. Read on to see what else the actor had to say about her experience, 11 years after the show ended.
READ THIS NEXT: Miley Cyrus Says "There's So Much She Doesn't Remember" About Being a Child Star.
De La Garza secretly read about herself online.
s_bukley / Shutterstock
On the podcast, De La Garza said that she secretly read chatter about herself online, even though she wasn't supposed to be on the computer unsupervised at her age. "I would spend hours and hours reading comments online," she explained. "I would just spend a crazy amount of time reading through these comments and most all of them were just atrocious."
"The reactions that I got to my character on Desperate Housewives, I mean, it was just shocking," she explained. "A lot of people came at it in a way that they were quote-unquote 'concerned for my health.' I personally believe that that's just not true. That it was a cover-up so that they could just judge a six-year-old."
People wished harm on her.
Joe Seer / Shutterstock
Explaining the worst of what she read, De La Garza continued, "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 six, seven, eight years old."
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
She developed an eating disorder.
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
De La Garza has suffered from an eating disorder for years, which she says directly stemmed from being body shamed when she was on Desperate Housewives. "Reading comments like that definitely affected my mental health and ultimately played into me developing an eating disorder at a very young age," she told Vargas.
The Bad Teacher actor remembered trying to starve herself starting when she was seven years old. She has been in and out of recovery over the years.
"Right now, I would like to say I'm about two years into recovery and things are going really, really well, which is great to be able to say that," De La Garza said. "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 [it] is the same as having an addiction."
She has also dealt with substance issues, in addition to her eating disorder. De La Garza is now sober, which she also discusses in the interview.
She said Longoria "went out of her way" to support her.
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Vargas asked De La Garza whether people working on the show were aware of her being the target of such judgmental comments.
"I think if they did, they never came out and said anything to me other than going out of their way to tell me that I was beautiful," De La Garza answered. She added that the wardrobe department made a point to make sure she felt comfortable and confident in her clothes.
She explained that Longoria didn't speak to her about the shaming explicitly but was supportive in other ways. "[S]he 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 felt so ashamed that these comments were even being written, I didn't even want to talk about it."
She is trying to change things for others.
John Sciulli/Getty Images for CBS Films
In a recent interview with E! News, De La Garza said that she is now working behind the camera and making a point to be inclusive in her casting and tell the stories she wants to tell. She recently directed the short film Delaying Angels.
"As a plus-sized Latina woman—those identities together and separate—there wasn't a place for us as the leading role," she said. "I was always going out as the best friend or the comedic relief, or even the token minority in roles. And I saw there were a lot of auditions that called for 'all ethnicities welcome.' To me, that just said, 'We don't care what kind of minority you are, as long as you're a minority and we can check that box off in our casting process.'"
But while De La Garza isn't acting at the moment—and had a tough experience with Desperate Housewives the first time—she said she would happily play Juanita again. "I always say, if I was asked to be in hair and makeup at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning for a reboot, I would be there absolutely 100 percent," she said. "I think it would be iconic."