Jennifer Love Hewitt Slams Sexualization of Her Younger Self

Jennifer Love Hewitt shared that she was "so insecure and so confused" when she was sexualized in her teens and 20s. Read her fierce response to those that fixate on her past.

By Lindsay Weinberg Dec 19, 2023 11:07 PMTags
Watch: Jennifer Love Hewitt Says Aging in Hollywood is "Hard"

Jennifer Love Hewitt wants you to stop comparing her to her 20-year-old self.

The Tuxedo actress called out fans for fixating on the younger version of herself, which she said was sexualized in Hollywood. 

"She was a looker," Hewitt joked on a recent appearance of the Inside of You Podcast. "But also that 23- and 25-year-old wasn't in her body."

In fact, Hewitt didn't feel self-confident at that age.

"I felt watched. I felt like I had to be everything for everybody all the time," the Party of Five star continued. "I was called sexy before I ever knew what being sexy was. I was 17 years old on the cover of Maxim, and I had no idea why."

She recalled filming Heartbreakers when she was 23 years old and getting asked to "be sexier" in her scenes. So, she pulled the filmmaker aside and said, "'I know that I'm supposed to be this thing for people but I don't know what that means.'"

That's why she feels bothered when fans long for her to remain that person. 

Jennifer Love Hewitt Through the Years

"It's weird for me when people are like, ‘That's the girl that we wanted you to be,'" she noted. "That girl was so insecure and so confused and trying her best. But this girl—who may not look [that] way—I like who I am. I feel good. I'm fine."

Now, as a 44-year-old, Hewitt feels confident in her skin—most of the time.

"I mean, not every day, but you know, I have my moments," she teased. "There's definitely times where I look in the mirror and I'm like, 'Oh, dear god, what has happened?'"

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

But motherhood has changed her perception on appearance as well, as she raises kids Autumn James, 10, Atticus James, 8, and Aidan James, 2, with husband Brian Hallisay.

"I'm a mother of a girl, and it's dangerous what we put on people," the Ghost Whisperer star noted. "It's dangerous to say to women, ‘You can't look like you're not 22 to me anymore.'"

Her response to the haters? "OK, well that's your problem," she quipped. "Because I'm 44, and this is what I look like."

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Read on to see more child stars and where they are now.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

JTT rose to fame playing brainy and adorable middle child Randy Taylor on Home Improvement starting in 1991. His big-screen roles that decade included voicing young Simba in The Lion King (though that's not him singing) and starring with Brad Renfro in 1995's Tom and Huck and Devon Sawa in 1997's Wild America

He left Home Improvement in 1998 (Randy went to Costa Rica) to focus on school, but kept acting on his list of extracurriculars.

He had a recurring role on 8 Simple Rules in 2004 and in 2013 reunited with TV dad Tim Allen to direct (and appear in ) several episodes of Last Man Standing.

But though JTT backed away from the spotlight to live his life, which included graduating from Columbia in 2010, Thomas doesn't need to be onscreen to cause a splash: On the rare occasions the paparazzi snap him, the sightings go viral.

Jonathan Lipnicki

Few 6-year-olds have made splashier movie debuts than Lipnicki, who went toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise in the charm department in Jerry Maguire and got almost as many memorable lines. He went on to roles in the Stuart Little films, Doctor Dolittle (voicing Baby Tiger), The Little Vampire and Little Mike, and he guest-starred on Dawson's Creek, but took a break to have a normal high school experience.

He's still in showbiz as an adult, starring in the 2023 Lifetime movie Secrets at the Museum. The L.A. native is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and in May 2021 he volunteered to provide additional security outside a mid-city synagogue amid a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment. 

In 2017, Lipnicki opened up on Instagram about the bullying he experienced in middle school, hoping that sharing his experience could lend some comfort to others. 

He was "made fun of relentlessly" by some kids who then, down the road, must have forgotten their bad behavior and tried to friend him on Facebook. "I was told I was a has-been and would never book a job again," he recalled. He started having nightly panic attacks, anticipating the next day's humiliation. Yet he had survived, adding, "I am grateful for the amazing life I have and I hope I can pass on that it DOES get better."

Mara Wilson

Wilson starred in Mrs. Doubtfire at 6 and Matilda at 9 before putting acting on the back burner.

The writer and activist released her memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame in 2016 as well as appeared on Broad City and loaned her voice to the animated shows BoJack Horseman, Big Hero 6: The Series and Helluva Boss.

"Once, someone I'd considered a friend asked, with a big smile, 'How does it feel to know you've peaked?'" Wilson recalled in a February 2021 New York Times op-Ed about the perils of early fame for girls. "I didn't know how to answer, but now I would say that's the wrong question. I haven't peaked, because for me, The Narrative isn't a story someone else is writing anymore. I can write it myself."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Gordon-Levitt was a veteran actor by the time he starred as Tommy Solomon, a member of an alien fact-finding mission posing as an average human family, on 3rd Rock From the Sun. The show premiered when he was 14 in 1996, also the year he was seen as Demi Moore's son in the thriller The Jury.

Soon, he was the nice guy with a crush in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You, a hustler in 2004's Mysterious Skin and the determined teen sleuth trying to find out what happened to his missing ex-girlfriend in the 2005 noir drama Brick.

He could still pass for a teen well into his twenties, but once he started playing adults, his various highlights have included 500 Days of SummerG.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraInception50/50The Dark Knight RisesLooperLincolnDon Jon (which he also wrote and directed) and Snowden. Gordon-Levitt explored more real moments in history as a prosecutor in 2020's The Trial of the Chicago 7 and he played Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick in the series Super Pumped.

He quietly married Tasha McCauley in 2014 and they share two children.

Natalie Portman

Thanks to her preternaturally poised performance at the age of 12 in 1994's The Professional, Portman was tagged with a certain gravitas at an early age—and she's still living up to her reputation. Since her auspicious debut, she's starred in huge blockbusters (Star Wars: Episodes I through III; the Thor franchise and Avengers: Endgame), indie favorites (Beautiful GirlsGarden State), comedies (Mars Attacks!Your Highness), intense dramas (Closer, Brothers) and apocalyptic thrillers (V for VendettaAnnihilation).

She won the Best Actress Oscar for her turn as a ballerina who's losing her mind in 2010's Black Swan earned another nomination for channeling newly widowed Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie. She made her feature directorial debut with 2015's A Tale of Love and Darkness, adapted from Amos Oz's autobiographical novel.

She married her Black Swan choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, in 2012 and they're parents of son Aleph and daughter Amalia.

Angus T. Jones

Jones was best known as the son of Jon Cryer's sadsack divorcé (and nephew of Charlie Sheen's playboy songwriter) on the '00s hit sitcom Two and a Half Men. In 2012, a video of Jones trashing the comedy, calling it "filth," surfaced online. The footage was from a 15-minute religious testimonial for Forerunner Chronicles, an Alabama-based Seventh-day Adventist ministry.

Jones later apologized for "showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed."

The actor soon left the series, but returned for the finale in 2015.

Jones, who earned a reported $350,000 per episode during his final season as a full-time cast member on the CBS sitcom, told Houston TV station KHOU that the show "was making light of topics in our world that are really problems for a lot of people, and I was a paid hypocrite because I wasn't okay with it, but I was still doing it."

Until an uncredited 2023 notch on his IMDb from the Max series Bookie, his last acting credit was Louis C.K.'s 2016 limited series Horace & Pete.

Jones attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, living what he called a "normal existence," he told People in 2016. "I got pretty doomsday with my thinking for a long time, but now I'm having fun and enjoying where I'm at," he added. "I no longer feel like every step I take is on a land mine."

Daniel Radcliffe

Speaking of actors who could've been attached to one iconic role forever, Radcliffe has done an admirable job putting himself out there for anti-Potter parts—whether on stage in dramas like Equus and The Cripple of Inishmaan or the classic musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; on film as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings or a flatulent corpse in Swiss Army Man; or on TV as an opioid-addicted physician in A Young Doctor's Notebook.

Most recently he wrapped up a four-season run on MIracle Workers, played the title entertainer in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and returned to Broadway in Merrily We Roll Along.

On a personal note, Radcliffe is dad to a son with longtime partner Erin Darke.

Jodie Foster

She made her acting debut at around 6 in the Andy Griffith Show spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. and earned her first Oscar nomination at 14 for her turn as a girl being prostituted by a creepy pimp in Taxi Driver, her plight being what drives Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle to take violent action. Also in 1976, Foster starred in the original Freaky Friday, the tonal opposite of Taxi Driver, which made her more of a mainstream child star.

The serious student took a break to attend Yale, after which she re-broke through—and won her first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress—playing a gang-rape victim who presses charges against her attackers, not realizing that she'll end up on trial in a different way, in 1988's The Accused. She made her feature directing debut with Little Man Tate in 1991, then won a Best Actress Oscar for her turn as an intrepid FBI trainee in The Silence of the Lambs in 1992.

The actress and filmmaker was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for life achievement at the 2013 Golden Globes and in the last few years has done more directing for TV, helming episodes of House of CardsBlack Mirror and Orange Is the New Black. Her major big-screen credits in the 21st century include Panic RoomInside ManElysium, Hotel Artemis and The Mauritanian, which earned her a surprise Golden Globe win in 2021 for supporting actress.

In real life, she's a mother of two sons with ex-partner Cydney Bernard, and she married photographer and director Alexandra Hedison in 2014.

Kristen Stewart

It was natural for onetime child actress Jodie Foster to take Stewart under her wing when they played mother and daughter in David Fincher's 2002 thriller Panic Room. Like her mentor, Stewart has gone on to have a mixed-bag relationship with fame, but on a whole other Internet-enhanced level after winning the coveted, life-changing role of Bella Swan in the Twilight series when she was about 16.

"I remember her thinking there wasn't a chance I'd continue being an actor," Stewart said of Foster, talking to Stellar magazine in 2019. That, of course, had nothing to do with her talent, and everything to do with her very non-showboating personality. Stewart added, "I really love my job, but I understand why she would have thought that about me as a kid. I love her."

The actress and Chanel muse hasn't had trouble finding work since concluding the five-film Twilight saga, but other than the 2019 stab at reviving the Charlie's Angels franchise, she has preferred taking on more intimate films, including The Clouds of Sils Maria, for which she became the first American actress to win a Cesar Award (France's equivalent of the Oscars), the eerie drama Personal Shopper and the not-quite-biopics Seberg and Spencer.

After her much-chronicled relationship with Robert Pattinson ended, Stewart has primarily dated women, and she's been engaged to Dylan Meyer since 2021.

Josh Brolin

Several decades before he snapped his fingers and made half of Earth's population disappear, the son of actor James Brolin got his start playing the cool and exasperated but also protective and big-hearted big brother Brandon Walsh (yes, Brandon Walsh) in 1985's Goonies.

Brolin went on to do a few (dozen) movies, including Flirting With DisasterMimic, No Country for Old Men (which won the Best Picture Oscar and reinvigorated his career), American GangsterW. (playing 43rd President George W. Bush), Milk (he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Dan White, the San Francisco councilman who killed city official and gay rights activist Harvey Milk), Jonah HexTrue GritSicarioDeadpool 2 and, of course, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, cloaked in CGI as super-villain Thanos, and the sci-fi epic Dune (parts one and the upcoming two).

Brolin has two children from his first marriage, to Alice Adair, after which he was married to Diane Lane from 2004 until 2013. He and wife Kathryn Boyd, whom he married in 2016, welcomed daughter Westlyn Reign Brolin in 2018 and another daughter, Chapel Grace Brolin, in December 2020.

Christina Ricci

She was barely 10 when she made her movie debut alongside Cher and Winona Ryder in 1990's Mermaids and The Addams Family, co-starring Ricci as the amusingly morose Wednesday Addams, came out the next year.

More classic 1990s moments were made with Casper and Now and Then before Ricci embarked on a career peppered with complicated characters in films such as The Opposite of SexBuffalo '66Fear and Loathing in Las VegasSleepy Hollow, Prozac NationPumpkin and Monster, in which she played the girlfriend of serial killer Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron, in her Oscar-winning role). 

Whatever Ricci has been up to for the past 30 years, almost all of it has been adventurous, whether it's playing a glamorous '60s-era flight attendant in the short-lived Pan Am or being chained to a radiator in Black Snake Moan, or taking on fascinating real-life women, such as ax murderer Lizzie Borden in The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, author and literary muse Zelda Fitzgerald in Z: The Beginning of Everything.

Ricci is mom to son Freddie with ex-husband James Heerdegen.

In December 2021, the Yellowjackets star welcomed daughter Cleopatra with hairdresser Mark Hampton, whom she married that October.

Macaulay Culkin

The Home Alone star cemented his icon status in one fell scream when he was barely 10, but he had already been hard at work since around the age of 5 in TV movies, Uncle BuckJacob's Ladder and more. He gave it a nearly decade-long rest after 1994's Ri¢hie Ri¢h, but the musician and painter has bounced in and out of the acting game as he sees fit, mainly in small films with big cultural footprints such as Party Monster and Saved.

After providing his voice to Adult Swim's Robot Chicken and playing a barista version of himself on The Jim Gaffigan Show, and presuming all the pandemic protocol gets sorted out, Culkin will be joining the 10th season of American Horror Story, due to premiere in 2021.

The actor is engaged to Brenda Song and they share two sons, Dakota Song Culkin (named after Culkin's older sister Dakota, who died in a car accident in 2008) and another boy born in 2023 whose name is yet to be revealed but who made his public debut at his dad's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony on Dec. 1, 2023.

Dakota Fanning

It seems as if Dakota went from playing Ally McBeal's 5-year-old self and Sean Penn's 6-year-old daughter in I Am Sam to blazing a trail as the first female employee of the New York Police Department turned private detective in the period drama The Alienist overnight. But no.

She's actually just been working her tail off for more than 20 years, turning in memorable performances in Uptown GirlsMan on FireHide and SeekWar of the WorldsCharlotte's WebThe Secret Life of Bees, three Twilight movies, American Pastoral and Once Upon a Hollywood, playing real-life Charles Manson acolyte Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

In addition to starring in The Nightingale with little sister Elle Fanning, she's due to topline an adaptation of The Bell JarSylvia Plath's classic (and only) novel about a young woman battling mental illness in the 1950s.

Elle Fanning

She may have gotten her start playing "Lucy 2 years," a younger version of her sister Dakota's character in I Am Sam, but this Fanning has blazed her own acting and style trail apart from her also-very-successful sibling.

Elle amassed the usual roles as the child of the grown-up stars in various films (Daddy Day CareThe Door in the FloorBabelReservation Road) and guest-starred on multiple CSI franchises, Criminal Minds, HouseLaw & Order: SVU and more stuff she was probably still too young to watch when she was in it. But as a teen and into her twenties, her movie work continued to span genres, from family fare (We Bought a Zoo, Maleficent) and YA (Super 8Twixt) to prestige dramas (Trumbo20th Century Women) and disturbing fantasias (The Neon DemonThe Beguiled).

Along the way, she's played Mary Shelley in a film of the same name and Catherine the Great on the Hulu satire The Great. And next, she and Dakota are signed up to play sisters in the anticipated big-screen adaptation of Kristin Hannah's World War II-era epic The Nightingale.

Hilary Duff

The actress and singer has grown older since her star-making days on the Disney Channel's Lizzie McGuire, through which she seamlessly segued into family-friendly fare such as Agent Cody Banks, Cheaper by the Dozen and A Cinderella Story.

But, after a bit of a noticeable-role drought, Duff has excelled once again in Younger, playing the more-layered-than-meets-the-eye colleague of Sutton Foster's 40-year-old posing as a millennial in the critically acclaimed TV Land series, which is due to return for a seventh season. And though the prospect of a spin-off centered on Duff's Younger character Kelsey is exciting, O.G. fans really couldn't wait to see her return as Lizzie, though, in a reboot planned for Disney+. Unfortunately, the revival of the beloved series was shelved.

She has since starred in two seasons of  How I Met Your Father.

Duff and hockey player Mike Comrie, the father of her son, Luca Comrie, separated in 2014 after about four years of marriage and eventually divorced. She and songwriter Matthew Koma welcomed daughter Banks Violet Bair in 2018 and got married in 2019. In 2021, they welcomed another baby girlMae James Bair.

Candace Cameron

The younger sister of Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron became crimped-hair fashion inspo for 12-year-olds everywhere playing studious eldest Tanner sister D.J. on Full House, which ran from 1987 until 1995.

She has starred in a parade of TV movies, some with major messages to send, such as 1996's No One Would Tell, based on the true story of a high school student who was murdered by her 16-year-old boyfriend after she silently suffered his abuse for months. (Yes, we're still haunted.)

But more recently, after spending two seasons as a co-host on The View, and in addition to reuniting with almost the whole Tanner family for five seasons of Fuller House on Netflix, Candace has become queen of the Hallmark Channel Christmas lineup, as well as the star of the network's Aurora Teagarden murder-mystery franchise, based on the books by Charlaine Harris.

In 2021 she celebrated 25 years of marriage to former NHL player Valeri Bure, with whom she has three children.

Jodie Sweetin

After playing middle sister Stephanie Tanner on Full House for eight seasons, Sweetin struggled with drug and alcohol abuse—a journey she candidly described in her 2009 memoir, unSweetined.

Three marriages between 2002 and 2016 also added to the headline fodder, as did her brief engagement to Justin Hodak, who, among his various issues, ended up violating a restraining order she had in place against him and in 2019 was sentenced to more than six years in prison for possession of a deadly weapon and falsifying evidence.

Sober since 2008, the mother of daughters Zoie and Beatrix rejoined the Tanner family for five seasons of Fuller House on Netflix and has starred in several Hallmark Channel movies, including 2019's Christmas-themed Merry and Bright and the romantic comedy Just Swipe.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

It took two to play the role of Michelle Tanner, who grew from a wide-eyed baby to a precocious 6-year-old on the classic ABC sitcom Full House, after which the fraternal twins parlayed their success into a series of big-screen and direct-to-video movies, a production company, kids clothing lines, books and other products, making for a full-blown Olsen empire.

While Mary-Kate continued to act past 2004's New York Minute, joining the cast of Weeds for a season and appearing in the films The Wackness and Beastly, Ashley largely left it behind—and now both are merely fashion industry superstars as the co-founders of CFDA Award-winning The Row and Elizabeth & James.

Ashley quietly welcomed her first child with Louis Eisner, her partner since 2017, in 2023. Mary-Kate married Olivier Sarkozy in 2015 and filed for divorce in 2020.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Before the movie stardom, the production company, the activism, the Oscar for The Revenant, the model girlfriends, the perpetual yacht life... he was homeless teen Luke, who comes to live with the Seaver family on Growing Pains in 1991. Also an actor whose baby face made him appear extra youthful well beyond his teens (he was already 16 on GP and had been acting for years), DiCaprio earned his first of six Oscar nominations (for acting) for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and played a series of troubled kids, in A Boy's LifeThe Basketball DiariesMarvin's Room and—troubled by love, anyway—Romeo + Juliet.

He still kinda looked like a kid in Titanic, but at 22 he had reached full-on heartthrob status.

Over the past decade, DiCaprio has starred in films such as InceptionThe Wolf of Wall StreetOnce Upon a Hollywood, The Revenant (winning his first Best Actor Oscar) and Killers of the Flower Moon.

Emma Watson

Accio, adulthood!

Moving beyond her auspicious start as Hermione Granger in eight Harry Potter films, the English actress moved on to YA fare such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Bling Ring, co-starred with Tom Hanks in The Circle, and has dedicated her platform as a UN Goodwill Ambassador to empowering women and advocating for gender equality around the world.

Neil Patrick Harris

The New Mexico native hit the jackpot his first time out, earning a Golden Globe nomination at 15 for his debut role as a sullen kid who bonds with his family's housekeeper in the 1988 TV movie Clara's Heart. But it could've all gone wrong for the star of the dramedy Doogie Howser, M.D., in which he played a 16-year-old genius doctor—and NPH pretended that it did when he gleefully spoofed himself in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.

But though he had a dry spell while he unwound from overdoing it as a youngster adrift in Hollywood, he did tons of theater, including three Broadway shows, and the right TV role eventually presented itself in the form of genial playboy Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, for which he earned four Emmy nominations. In 2010 alone he was nominated for three Emmys and won two, for co-producing the 2009 Tonys and guest-starring on Glee

The quadruple-threat—acting, singing, dancing, magic!—entertainer has now hosted the Tonys four times (winning the Emmy for special class programing as a producer every time), as well as the Emmys twice and the Oscars once, in 2015. He also won a Tony in 2014 for Best Actor in a Musical as the star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Harris and longtime partner David Burtka welcomed twins Gideon and Harper via surrogacy in 2010 and tied the knot in 2014.


At the age of 4, she was ridiculously cute as the scene-stealing Olivia on The Cosby Show, after which she appeared in films such as The Little RascalsDoctor Dolittle and Doctor Dolittle 2. She landed her own beloved Disney Channel sitcom, That's So Raven, in 2003, and while playing the psychic teen with inimitable fashion sense she also popped up on a bunch of the network's other productions, such as The Cheetah GirlsThe Suite Life of Zack & CodyKim Possible and Sonny With a Chance.

Her TV work in the ensuing years after her show ended in 2007 included American DadNashville, State of GeorgiaThe Jim Gaffigan ShowMaster of None and Drunk History, and she's had a recurring role on Black-ish since 2015. Raven-Symoné also spent three seasons as a co-host on The View and, in June 2020, she married Miranda Maday.