While Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter were portraying the universal trials of growing up as characters on Modern Family, they were tackling their own once the cameras turned off.
When the hit sitcom first debuted in September 2009, the on-screen sisters were 17 and 11 respectively. With Hyland right in the middle of her teenage years and Winter barely of double-digit age, the young women were slingshot into national stardom.
As the show evolved, naturally, so did they. However, having to progress from puberty into adult life with cameras in their faces added another confusing element to an already difficult process.
“I was bullied for being super flat and super skinny when I was 11 years old and then I turned 12 and I suddenly was curvy and had this bigger body that I wasn’t prepared to deal with yet,” Winter says. “Photos came out of me on the Internet after my body had kind of blossomed and people were really hating on me for it,” she recalled. “I got a lot of comments like ‘You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re a slut…it was a lot coming from people I didn’t know at such a young age.”
That attention would have been challenging for anyone to juggle, let alone a 12-year-old star. “It was really difficult to grow up in the spotlight, but to grow up with that in the spotlight was quite possibly the worst thing for someone’s self esteem and confidence.”
As Winter put out the heat for showing what some considered too much, Hyland addressed fans’ accusations that she was too thin.
“I normally don’t comment on things like this because it draws attention to those trying to spread negativity but I’m here to explain a few things and spread love,” the actress wrote on social media, noting health issues. What people see is not an eating disorder, the petite 26-year-old said — it’s a down period in a lifelong health battle.
Here’s the thing: Hyland was born with a host of health issues, including kidney dysplasia; her dad donated one of his kidneys to her for a transplant in 2012.
She’s “basically been on bed rest for the past few months” and is trying to keep her weight up despite the fact that the medications she is taking have, in part, played havoc with her tastebuds (prednisone has a way of doing that). She’s been told she can’t work out, and she’s lost a lot of muscle mass.
So, now at 26 (Hyland) and 19 (Winter), it seems age has not freed them from the public scrutiny they were exposed to nearly a decade ago.
“It’s called being a woman in the industry,” Winter told Rogue magazine in September 2016 of the backlash she receives on social media. “It’s complete sexism. It’s really degrading, annoying and sad that this is what the media puts out, it’s disgusting to me.”