Content warning: This story discusses eating disorders.
Madison De La Garza is looking back on the traumatic experience she faced as a child star.
The 21-year-old, who played Eva Longoria's daughter Juanita Solis on Desperate Housewives, got candid about the online hate she received over her physical appearance on the show, and how it led her to develop an eating disorder.
"I would spend hours and hours reading comments," she recalled on the April 11 episode of the Heart of the Matter podcast. "They said things like they wanted me to die because of what I looked like. It was like, ‘Ugly fat cow. And I hope you get cancer and die because you're so fat.' And just horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible things. And this is when I was 6, 7, 8 years old."
Madison shared that at the time, she wasn't allowed to use the computer unsupervised, but she snuck around her parents to go online.
"Reading comments like that definitely affected my mental health and ultimately played into me developing an eating disorder at a very young age," she shared. "My first memories of trying to starve myself, I was 7 years old. A lot of it came from reading those comments. My family had no idea that this was going on. My mom had no idea that I was seeing these things, that I was reading these things, because I was very, very sneaky about it."
She added, "I was also very good at hiding and throwing away meals then saying that I ate them. And a lot of this happened while I was at school, so there was no way for my parents to know that I was restricting."
Now, the Pink Elephant director says she is about two years into recovery. However, she feels it is a life-long process.
"I don't think it's something that will ever be completely gone or it will ever completely be fixed," she said. "It's something that you have to continue to work on for the rest of your life. It does get easier, of course, but it will always be there."
Looking back on working with her Desperate Housewives co-stars while receiving such hate, Madison shared that she and Eva never spoke out the online comments together.
"We never explicitly talked about it, but she definitely went out of her way to make me feel like I was pretty and like I was special," Madison said. "And she made me feel like I was family. And if I ever did want to go to her with these things, I absolutely could have."
But Madison shared that she did not wish to address what was being said online. "I felt so ashamed that these comments were even being written, I didn't even want to talk about [it]," she recalled. "On the off chance they hadn't seen the comments, I didn't want to be the one to bring it up."
Despite feeling that way then, Madison declared, "It's different now."
"I have learned to talk about it because I think it's incredibly important for people to know how bad cyberbullying can be and just how the unthinkable is actually happening today," she said. "And I think it's really important that people are aware of that so they can look out for it and protect this next generation of children."