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Before she even turned double digits, Alyson Stoner was a star. During the early 2000s, she acted in movies like Cheaper by the Dozen and Camp Rock and appeared in music videos alongside Missy Elliott and Eminem.
But the smile she displayed on camera didn't always reflect how she was truly feeling offscreen. In an op-ed penned for People titled "The Toddler to Trainwreck Industrial Complex," Stoner looks back at her career as a child star and advocates for change in Hollywood.
Stoner defines the "toddler-to-trainwreck pipeline" as "a notorious and thriving industrial complex around child entertainers."
"It is expertly constructed and bolted in place by censoring the harm happening behind the scenes," she explains, "manicuring aspirational lifestyles and outcomes, and then watching young lives tragically implode."
Looking back at her own career, Stoner writes "it's been a harrowing 80 years," noting she's only 27. She then uses her experiences to exemplify what steps the industry needs to take.
For instance, she remembers auditioning for a scene in which her character is kidnapped and raped and then rushing off to try out for a princess toy ad immediately after at age 6. She calls for there to be mental health professionals on all sets, especially those with minors, to help stars "in regulating, shifting between identities and discharging residual inner turbulence after emotional performances." She also notes mental health professionals can be a source for people to report misconduct or harassment or to talk to about any mental health struggles.
In addition, Stoner recalls working to complete "multiple overlapping projects" at age 12 and advocates for Basic Industry and Media Literacy courses, which she writes would be required for guardians and reps and would determine set protocols.
"Zero productions acknowledge that after their shoot, I will go to another, record an interview during my lunch break, train for multiple hours, skip dinner, and meet for a late-night rehearsal," she states about this time in her piece for People. "After all, their responsibility is to deliver a product on time and in-budget, not to babysit. Meanwhile, agents are encouraging me to look at early emancipation so I can work longer hours. This will increase my hire-ability."
She also details the impact this had on her life. "My body is medically undernourished and chronically stressed, which later will evolve into severe eating disorders, adrenal fatigue and mandatory bedrest," she continues. "The onset of puberty has turned my waist and bust into the main objects of attention and inspection. This will also categorize my career trajectory."
At age 17, Stoner seeks treatment. "The grief, trauma and stress overtake me like a tsunami, and I admit myself to rehab against the guidance of my team. (They continue to send me auditions while I'm on bedrest.)," she writes. "I'm not here for drugs or alcohol. I'm here because I'm at least 20 pounds underweight and I'm daring to believe that my health matters, even if it feels like I'm the only advocate for it."
Today, the Movement Genius co-founder continues to speak out for the youth in the industry and urges the public to pay attention. "For the folks who click on 'Where Are They Now' articles, I am here," she writes. "We are here. This is your first time reading my story, but it is our millionth time asking you to listen."
Read her full article here.