Amber Tamblyn Reflects on the Pain of Show Business Parents in Britney Spears Essay

Amber Tamblyn's parents played a major role in her Hollywood career. In light of news surrounding Britney Spears and her conservatorship, the actress shared her deeply candid perspective.

By Samantha Schnurr Jun 28, 2021 3:59 PMTags
Watch: Would Amber Tamblyn Direct "Traveling Pants 3"?

To a degree, Amber Tamblyn understands what Britney Spears has had to face. After all, Tamblyn was also a female child star managed by her parents. 

In a newly published op-ed for The New York Times, the actress, who rose to fame first on General Hospital and then in Joan of Arcadia and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, reflected on what it was like to have her mom and dad at the helm of her career and the dynamic that resulted. 

"My money paid for our vacations, dinners out, and sometimes even the bills," she shared. "When it finally came time to disentangle our personal and professional relationships, it was deeply painful for all three of us."

While it's unclear when that time officially came, Tamblyn disclosed that her parents were managing much of her professional life up until she got engaged to her husband David Cross. She was 28 at the time. 

While Tamblyn prefaced that her parents were "supportive and ethical in every way" and described her dad as a "fiercely protective advocate," the dynamic had still taken a toll. 

"Having my parents on payroll was damaging to our relationship, whether we understood that or not," she wrote. "I couldn't shake the feeling that every time I had a conversation with my parents about money it felt as if I was asking for an allowance — only the allowance came from money I'd earned."

Child Stars Then and Now

In addition to their conversations revolving around her career, Tamblyn's income became a major factor in her interactions with those closest to her. 

"As I made more and more money, the circle of those I supported opened up to include extended family members and friends. I was the one they came to for a small loan or in an emergency, the one who always picked up the check," she explained. "At one point when I was 21, I even bought an ex-boyfriend a new car in an attempt to break up with him; I was that used to using money to make people happy, or fix problems, or appease my guilt."

As she put it, "I was everyone's A.T.M.: a bank that was, nonetheless, unconditionally loved. Still, as I got older, it got harder to trust the source of that love."

And while the actress repeatedly acknowledged that her and Spears' situations are not the same, she can relate to having her body policed by forces outside of her control. While the pop star recently spoke out about her desire to have another child and wanting to have her current IUD removed, which is allegedly being prevented by her conservatorship, Tamblyn recalled how her weight was a subject of fixation and a gatekeeper to her next paycheck. 

Presley Ann/Getty Images for EMILY's List; Craig Sjodin/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

"Growing up, my weight was openly discussed by everyone, from family members to Hollywood creatives," she wrote. "I'd grin and bear it, because staying silent—and thin— meant I would get hired again; getting hired again meant people would be proud of me and that I would have the money that was needed to keep the ship afloat."

"In these situations, some kind of damage is invariably done," Tamblyn noted, "a stunting of the ability of an individual to grow and make the most basic of decisions, or practice good boundaries. When I finally parted professional ways with my parents, they couldn't help but feel as if they had done something wrong. But they hadn't. Money had."

Read Tamblyn's full op-ed here

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