Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert learned the hard way that Hollywood cares more about youth than true happiness. Gilbert became a break-out star at only nine years old. After earning the role of classic TV icon Laura Ingalls on what would become a consistent top 20 series, she quickly learned that the film world was obsessed with youth, beauty, and status above all else. And trying to keep up became an unhealthy obsession.
“I grew up in an industry that values the outside considerably more than the inside,” she told PEOPLE during an exclusive interview. “And I was caught in that wheel of trying to stay young.”
Melissa Gilbert managed to keep up with her career despite the stress. While many child stars fade away after their first taste of fame, Gilbert found consistent work in television and on the stage. And she also became a successful writer and overall idol for millions of women.
But keeping up with the esthetic demands of her work was an internal struggle that distracted her from real happiness. As she aged, the actress had plastic surgery, fillers, and Botox. But no matter how perfect she looked, it was never enough. And that’s when she had an epiphany.
“I finally woke up and went, ‘What am I doing? I look like a carrot top, and I’m not happy,’” she continued. “My mindset was, ‘You have to stay thin. You have to be seen in the right places, wear the right shoes and drive the right car.’ That was so drilled into me by all the outside forces. But it never sat right.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert Became an Advocate for Self Love
When she reached her 50s, Gilbert decided to be more outspoken about her identity struggles in order to help the countless women who were dealing with the same insecurities.
In 2015, Melissa Gilbert even went public as she went under the knife to remove breast implants she got after leaving Little House on the Prairie.
Using her blog as a platform, the star explained her path to self-confidence and acceptance. And she spoke on the unhealthy obsession plaguing women.
“Let’s face it, ladies, we are pressured and bombarded with messages from the moment we can read for ourselves,” she wrote using magazines that purely focus on weight loss and plastic surgery as examples. “And another thing…what’s with all the plastic surgery billboards? … This is our culture. It has been for a long, long time and I fell right into it.”
At 57, Gilbert has completely abandoned Botox and the strict beauty regimens. Instead, she focuses on what matters in her life. In her spare time, instead of obsessing over youth, she spends time with her husband of nine years and has found a “reawakened love for the outdoors.”