You’ve probably heard of the child star curse, where successful young people throw it all away in a haze of drugs, alcohol, and general bad behavior. While there are many child stars who have fallen victim to the perils of young fame, others have continued to find success in either the film and TV industry or in different occupations altogether. Some do a little bit of both. But what about these child stars? What are they doing, and what do they look like, today?
You probably first remember Lindsay Lohan in the dual role of Hallie Parker and Annie James in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. After that film’s success, she really hit it big in the early 2000s. In 2003 she starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday before starring in both Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and the oft-quoted Mean Girls in 2004. In 2007, after a string of TV appearances and video shorts, she made her way back to film. That year she starred in Chapter 27, Georgia Rule, and I Know Who Killed Me.
Unfortunately, that year was also the first time she was arrested for driving under the influence. With mandatory court appearances and house arrest to contend with, Lohan’s career stalled. She spent the next few years partying until she decided she “needed to grow up” and moved to London. She says it’s the best thing she’s ever done and seems to be doing well. She recently launched a lifestyle site and has started acting again. Get ready, LiLo may be making a comeback.
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Lohan is far from the only young female star to struggle in recent years and no one knows that better than Amanda Bynes. In 1996, Bynes made her debut on the Nickelodeon show All That, where her “Ask Ashley” sketch showed off her ability to play a range of emotions. In 1999, she starred in The Amanda Show alongside All That before branching out into movies with Big Fat Liar in 2002, What a Girl Wants in 2003, She’s the Man in 2006, and Hairspray in 2007. All that, while she starred on the TV series What I Like About You.
But just when her career was at its peak, Bynes hit rock bottom. In 2010, she retired (and then unretired) from acting. Between March and September of 2012, she was arrested for two hit-and-runs, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license. From there her behavior became more bizarre and erratic, with media outlets citing mental illness and dubbing it a complete breakdown. In 2014, she revealed via Twitter that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since then, she seems to be doing better and in a June 2017 interview said she is sober and ready to return to acting.
No, he isn’t dead. After starring in Home Alone in 1990, Macaulay Culkin became arguably the most famous child star ever. Starring in everything from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and My Girl, to the ultra wealthy kid in Richie Rich and the partially-animated bookworm in The Pagemaster, Culkin was everywhere. He even played a violent and pretty much legit evil kid in The Good Son. Oh, and he was in Michael Jackson’s music video for “Black or White” after which the two became close friends and Culkin became the godfather to Jackson’s kids.
Then he kind of just disappeared, resurfacing briefly in the early 2000s with a role in Saved! From 2005 to 2010 he primarily voiced characters on Robot Chicken, and beginning in 2013, put his focus on his band The Pizza Underground. You may have also seen the drug rumors, that weird photo inception incident with Ryan Gosling, or the video short he did in 2015 where he played grown up Kevin McAllister suffering from the trauma of being left home alone.
Mara Wilson is known for playing the adorable and precocious little girl in tons of ’90s movies. From her role as the youngest daughter in 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire, the wise-beyond-her-years skeptic in 1994’s Miracle on 34th Street, and the title character with telekinetic powers in 1996’s Matilda, Wilson seemed poised to be the next big thing. Then she quit acting, officially retiring after her role in Thomas and the Magic Railroad in 2000.
Instead, she’s been pursuing her passion for writing. Not only does she have a website dedicated to her literary endeavors, she released her book Where Am I Now? in September 2016. Wilson does, however, still have a passion for voice acting and in 2016 voiced Jill Pail on the TV series BoJack Horseman. She has also been vocal about her struggles with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression and is very active on Twitter, if you want to find out what she’s up to next.
Drew Barrymore’s successful career has spanned so many decades, it’s easy to forget she started as a child star. In 1982, she stole hearts as the adorable little sister in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, then played Charlie — the little girl with pyrokinesis — in 1984’s Firestarter, before following up with the 1985 horror film Cat’s Eye.
Still, Barrymore dealt with her share of child star troubles, including drugs and alcohol, but kept working while in and out of treatment. With more than 20 credited roles between 1985 and 1995, it was her role in 1996’s Scream that served as her second breakout. From rom-coms like Never Been Kissed and The Wedding Singer to her roles in the cult classic Donnie Darko and as one of Charlie’s Angels, Barrymore stayed busy.
Now clean and sober, Barrymore has said that her battles with both addictions, as well as her parents, have made her a better mom. These days, you can watch Barrymore on the horror-comedy series The Santa Clarita Diet, for which she also serves as an executive producer.
Haley Joel Osment
You probably recognize Haley Joel Osment as the little boy who sees dead people in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, but prior to that 1999 breakout role, he had made guest appearances on many TV shows, including Walker, Texas Ranger and Murphy Brown, as well as several TV movies.
While The Sixth Sense netted him many awards and nominations, as did his 2002 role in AI: Artificial Intelligence, Osment spent the next several years after his 2003 role in Secondhand Lions primarily doing voice acting for TV shows and video games, including Kingdom Hearts.
Along the way he also made his Broadway debut and graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2011. While he has made a return to acting with bit parts in the short-lived series Alpha House and the movie Entourage, his biggest project now is playing Keenan Feldspar on Silicon Valley, with Vanity Fair suggesting his character could be the next big thing for the series.
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After playing Vada in My Girl and My Girl 2, you probably saw Anna Chlumsky in a lot of places, but you may not remember them. While her role as Vada was by far her most visible until recently, Chlumsky appeared in many TV movies and series between 1994 and 2012, including Early Edition, 30 Rock, Law & Order (twice, each as a different character), Covert Affairs, and White Collar along with acting on and off Broadway through 2015.
But it was landing the role of Amy Brookheimer in Veep alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus starting in 2012 that has given Chlumsky her second big break. Chlumsky’s performance as the “Vice President’s troubleshooter” has garnered her four Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. In fact, it is a scene in which Chlumsky’s character goes off on Louis-Dreyfus’ character that many call the greatest Veep scene ever.
Tia and Tamera Mowry
Tia and Tamera Mowry are the twin sisters who took the ’90s by storm on their hit sitcom Sister, Sister. The series premiered in 1994, and despite a network change, continued until 1999. During that time the sisters also made appearances on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Smart Guy. After Sister, Sister ended, together they also starred in Seventeen Again, The Hot Chick, Twitches, and Twitches Too, but from that point forward, their careers took different paths.
Tia starred as Melanie Barnett on the TV series The Game from 2006 to 2015, then from 2015 to 2016 lent her voice to Fresh Beat Band of Spies and had an arc on the TV series Mistresses. She also wrote a cookbook to accompany her show Tia Mowry at Home on the Cooking Channel. She is set to star as Tonya Lewis in the upcoming movie Indivisible.
Tamera, on the other hand, played shorter-lived roles on TV series Roommates, Things We Do For Love, and Melissa & Joey. Most recently Tamera appeared on the reality series Daytime Divas in addition to her role as a co-host on the syndicated talk show The Real, which she’s been part of since it premiered in 2013. Miss seeing the Mowry sisters together? Have no fear! Tia told Wendy Williams that a reboot is “closer than ever.”
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Whether you know her best as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family, Kat in Casper, or young Roberta in Now and Then, it’s safe to say the ’90s were also kind to Christina Ricci. And her career certainly didn’t stop there. Ricci is one of the few stars who has consistently worked ever since her big break, with multiple acting credits nearly every single year since 1993.
From her roles in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 200 Cigarettes, Sleepy Hollow, Prozac Nation, and Black Snake Moan, to her TV appearances on shows such as Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Good Wife, among others, Ricci has been busy. She was also one of the stars of the short-lived Pan Am, before playing Lizzie Borden in the 2015 mini-series of the same name.
Since 2015, she has starred as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald on Z: The Beginning of Everything (which she also executive produces), and is currently filming Distorted set to be released in 2018. While she hasn’t stopped acting, Ricci has said that since she got married and had a baby, her most important role now is a mom and that she’s a completely different person than she was before she had her son.
You probably know Jaleel White as Steve Urkel, the annoying, cheese-loving, nerd-next-door on Family Matters, but after nine years on the show, from 1989 to 1998, White mostly made guest appearances on single episodes of TV series with occasional longer arcs here and there (like his eight-episode run on Fake It Til You Make It). He also appeared on several reality competitions, including Celebrity Family Feud, Dancing with the Stars, and Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition.
In addition to a role in the upcoming Me, Myself and I television series, White has five projects in the works, including voice work on the animated Guardians of Luna, drama The Choir Director, mockumentary The Bobby Roberts Project, and the comedy 5th of July. White is clearly ready to show us what he’s made of and we’re ready to see it!
If you didn’t grow up in the ’90s, chances are you may not know who Edward Furlong even is. His big breakout was in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day where he played John Connor, the son of Linda Hamilton’s character Sarah Connor. Together with Arnold Schwarzenegger, they work to save themselves (and the world) from an evil cyborg. And it made Edward Furlong a certified ’90s heartthrob. He was in all the girls’ magazines at the time — you know, Teen Beat, Bop, and the like.
Furlong followed T2 with mostly smaller movie roles and appeared in Aerosmith’s music video for “Livin’ on the Edge“. Then, in 1998 he starred as Danny Vinyard in American History X alongside Edward Norton and in 1999 as Hawk in Detroit Rock City. Poised to make a comeback, he found himself hospitalized in 2001 of a suspected overdose. Drug abuse, arrests, and restraining orders defined the next several years while he occasionally took on smaller acting projects. A pivotal role in 2011’s The Green Hornet could have been a turning point, but he once again found himself in jail. He does, however, currently have two projects in the works, The Reunion and Karma. Here’s hoping he can get out of his own way.
Soleil Moon Frye
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While her breakout was playing the title role in the TV show Punky Brewster, Soleil Moon Frye may be most recognizable today from her role as Roxie King in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In between, she was in several TV movies and series, but after Sabrina, she primarily focused on voice acting, working on The Proud Family, Bratz, and Robot Chicken.
These days her focus is a bit different. She founded the children’s DIY website Moonfrye and hosted Home Made Simple on OWN from 2013 to 2014. She has had four babies and very publicly used Nutrisystem to lose weight following her pregnancies. In a 2017 interview with ET, she said she currently feels like her best self and wants to raise daughters who feel like their best selves. She also teased a Punky Brewster reboot — because what isn’t being rebooted these days?
Remember the days before DVRs and on-demand television when you actually had to watch commercials? If so, you probably remember Hallie Eisenberg as the Pepsi girl from the ’90s.
While the younger sister of actor Jesse Eisenberg used her Pepsi success to nab roles in Bicentennial Man and How to Eat Fried Worms, after a small role in 2010’s Holy Rollers, alongside her brother, Eisenberg has seemingly retired from acting. If her Twitter and Instagram accounts are any indication, she’s leading a pretty normal life these days and is relishing being an aunt to Jesse’s son.
The too-cute-for-words little boy from Jerry Maguire is all grown up. Even though the adorable little Lipnicki also had roles on Dawson’s Creek and The Jeff Foxworthy Show, much of his immediate work after Jerry Maguire was of the voice work variety, on Doctor Dolittle, Stuart Little, and Stuart Little 2, but you may also remember him from Little Vampire.
The early 2000s brought mostly small roles and bit parts on TV series, along with his suffering from depression and the effects of bullying. But in 2012, Lipnicki had a six-episode arc on the series MotherLover followed by eight episodes in 2016 on Interns of F.I.E.L.D. It seems like 2017 may be the year for Lipnicki, as he has no fewer than ten projects in the works for the year according to IMDb, including horror movies Beware the Lake and Circus Kane.
I guess nothing scares you when you’ve survived being a child star.
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As one half of “The Two Coreys” of the ’80s and ’90s, Corey Feldman — alongside the other Corey (Haim) — was a huge star. While Feldman appeared in several TV series in the late ’70s and early ’80s, his role of Tommy in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, followed by his role as “Mouth” in The Goonies, set him up for superstardom.
He went on to appear in more than 30 movies and TV shows in the ’80s and ’90s, including seven during those years with Haim. But by the 2000s, Feldman was relegated to mostly small parts until starring alongside Haim in the reality show The Two Coreys, which was canceled before the end of the second season. Once again back to bit parts, Feldman returned into the spotlight after Haim’s death when he spoke out about alleged sexual abuse he and Haim suffered at Hollywood parties.
In 2016, Feldman appeared on the TODAY show to promote his album — a performance that was dubbed “bizarre”. Just a few weeks later, Feldman and his band returned to the show to defend the performance saying they were “not letting the bullies get to us.” In 2017 the band set out on a summer tour, proving that they really aren’t letting anyone hold them back.
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Who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda! But where in the world did Kel Mitchell go after his widely successful early career on All That, Kenan and Kel, and Goodburger? While his comedic partner Kenan Thompson found success on Saturday Night Live, Mitchell’s success was harder earned. He lent his voice to T-Bone on Clifford the Big Red Dog from 2000 to 2003, then spent the rest of the early 2000s making mostly small guest appearances on TV series and movies.
During his hardest times, Mitchell turned to drugs and alcohol and battled suicidal thoughts. But Mitchell made it through, crediting a return to his faith (he’s the grandson of a preacher), as well as his relationships with his wife and kids (he’s expecting his third child in 2017). The return to faith has also coincided with a return to work. Since 2015 he has starred as Double G on the Nickelodeon show Game Shakers.
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Even if you don’t know her name, you definitely know her face. Depending on where you first saw her, Tina Majorino may be best known as the young Enola (alongside Kevin Costner) in Waterworld, the adorable Toni (alongside the titular seal) in Andre, or as little Molly (alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta) in Corrina, Corrina. Regardless, the early ’90s were good to her. But it wasn’t until her 2004 role as the glamour shot taking, handicraft-wielding Deb in Napoleon Dynamite that fans were left asking, “Where have I seen her before?” and then, “What ever happened to the girl that played Deb?”
True fans will know that between her child-actor blockbusters and her appearance as Deb, Majorino was in an assortment of TV movies and, after her Dynamite fame, she played Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie on Veronica Mars from 2004-2007. Along the way she continued to make multi-episode appearances on other TV shows like The Deep End, Big Love, Bones, and True Blood. But it was perhaps her run on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Heather Brooks that thrust her back into the spotlight, which she reportedly left to reprise her role as Mac on the Veronica Mars movie along with the short-lived TNT series Legends. Whether that was the right or wrong decision is debatable. Majorino hasn’t done much acting since Legends, though she does maintain an active Twitter presence.
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While it’s possible you remember Tom Felton as little Peagreen from 1997’s The Borrowers, chances are you know him best as the cunning and despicable Slytherin student Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter film franchise. Oh Draco, how we love to hate you. The role earned Felton two MTV Movie Awards for Best Villain and, weirdly, inspired would-be real life Pansy Parkinsons who love the villain. Notably, even Harry Potter author JK Rowling has said how unnerving it is that teenage girls fall for the villainous Malfoy.
Still, if you kept up with Felton’s recent works, it’s easy to ask whether these ladies were falling for Malfoy or perhaps for Felton himself. While he continued to play a villain whose death we couldn’t wait for in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, his television appearances in the past few years have seemingly culminated in his role as Julian Albert on the CW’s The Flash, a role that finally sees him (spoiler alert) overcoming his villainous turn as the Barry-Allen-hating, supervillain-possessed jerk and becoming the lovable scientist who falls in love with Caitlin Snow. Unfortunately, he won’t be returning as a season regular on season four of The Flash, so we’ll just have to wait for the 2018 re-imagining of Hamlet called Ophelia that will see Felton in the role of Laertes to see him again. Until then, we always have Malfoy, right? Oh, wait.
The life of a child star isn’t easy
It may sound cliché, but it isn’t easy being a child star. While it’s entirely possible to experience childhood fame and go one to be completely well-adjusted and successful, there’s a reason the “child star curse” is still something we talk about.
Lucky for these child stars, the future still holds promise, whether they’re acting or pursuing something else entirely. Let’s hope it stays that way.