Natalie Portman Said It Was “An Accident Of Luck” That She Got Out Of Child Acting Unharmed After Sharing Her Coping Mechanisms For Being Sexualized As A Kid

Natalie, who shot to fame at just 12 years old, previously opened up about how “afraid” she felt when she was sexualized as a child star.

Natalie Portman was just 12 years old when she landed her breakout role in the hit movie Léon: The Professional, and she has been vocal about the impact being a child star had on her over the years.

closeup of her character with a bloody nose

In 2018, the star reflected on the hype around her 18th birthday at a Women’s March, telling the crowd: “A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday — euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews.”

closeup of natalie on the red carpet

“I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually I would feel unsafe and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort,” she went on to add at the time.

young natalie behind the scenes of leon

And during a 2020 appearance on Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Natalie opened up some more as she admitted that she was “aware of the fact” that she was being “portrayed as this Lolita figure.”

This is in reference to the 1955 book about an older man’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl. Interestingly, Natalie ended up turning down the role of Lolita in the 1997 movie adaptation.

natalie as a preteen

"Being sexualized as a child, I think took away from my own sexuality,” she explained. “Because it made me afraid and it made me like the way I could be safe was to be like, 'I'm conservative,' and 'I'm serious and you should respect me,' and 'I'm smart,' and 'don't look at me that way.'"

young natalie with a twitty bird mascot

“Whereas at that age, you do have your own sexuality and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things and you do want to be open,” Natalie added. “But you don't feel safe, necessarily, when there's older men that are interested, and you're like, 'No, no, no, no.'"

Discussing the coping mechanism that she developed as a result of the interest that she was receiving from older men during this time, Natalie said: “So many people had this impression of me that I was super serious and conservative, and I realized I consciously cultivated that because it was always to make me feel safe.”

young natalie in an oversized jacket at an event

“Like, 'Oh, if someone respects you, they're not gonna objectify you,’” she continued. "When I was in my teens I was like, 'I don't wanna have any love scenes or make-out scenes.’ I would start choosing parts that were less sexy because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt."

closeup of a younger natalie

And Natalie has now said that, in hindsight, she was lucky to get out of child acting unscathed as she admitted that she would never encourage other young people to enter the industry.

In a new interview with Variety, the Oscar-winning actor said: “I would not encourage young people to go into this. I don’t mean ever; I mean as children. I feel it was almost an accident of luck that I was not harmed, also combined with very overprotective, wonderful parents.”

closeup of her and her parents at an awards event

Referencing the way that her parents looked out for her, Natalie added: “You don’t like it when you’re a kid, and you’re grateful for it when you’re an adult.

“I’ve heard too many bad stories to think that any children should be part of it,” she went on. “Having said that, I know all the conversations that we’ve been having these past few years, it’s made people more aware and careful. But ultimately, I don’t believe that kids should work. I think kids should play and go to school.”

And while Natalie is right to say that there has been more conversation about the way that child stars are treated in recent years, there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference in the way that young women in the industry are still being sexualized to this day.

Just last year, Millie Bobby Brown opened up about the dark side of child fame as she reflected on the public reaction to her 18th birthday. Millie was just 12 years old when she shot to fame on Stranger Things in 2016, and — as with Natalie — there were online countdowns to the day that she would legally become an adult.

closeup of millie

In addition, the photos that Millie posted to her Instagram page to mark her special day were flooded with sexually explicit comments and lewd emojis from her followers in another example of the unsettling public reaction to her age.

Speaking on the Guilty Feminist podcast just two months after her birthday, Millie said that she was “definitely seeing a difference between the way people act and the way that the press and social media have reacted to me coming of age.”

closeup of millie

“I believe that shouldn’t change anything, but it’s gross and it’s true,” she added. “It’s a very good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized. I have been dealing with that — but I have also been dealing with that forever.”

younger millie at an event

Mara Wilson and Emma Watson are also among the former child actors to have spoken out against the way that they were treated, while Dylan and Cole Sprouse have admitted that their girl costars had a much worse experience than they did.

closeup of young mara

The brothers were just months old when they first started acting, and enjoyed a prestigious career throughout their childhood that culminated in their own Disney sitcom, The Suite Life Of Zack & Cody.

closeup of the twins

Speaking to the New York Times last year, Cole said: “The young women on the channel we were on [Disney Channel] were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences.”

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