Ariel Winter said goodbye to Los Angeles for her sanity.
The actress appeared on modern family mom Julie Bowen podcast Quit to discuss how she recently sold her house, packed up a U-Haul, and left Hollywood with her boyfriend, Luke Benward, and dogs. The 24-year-old’s complicated relationship with fame is behind the move. She said spending most of her life in the spotlight had made her tired of being followed by paparazzi and the photos being used to fuel negative rumors about her.
“Part of the reason I’ve always hated LA is because I’ve been followed by paparazzi for a very long part of my life,” said Winter, who landed the role of Alex Dunphy at the 11 years old. “I really don’t like having my space invaded, I don’t like pictures of me [that] I did not register. I don’t like to feel observed. I always wanted to live a very normal life, to have a normal existence and I never really felt like I could do it. Everywhere I went, someone took my picture. I am not that person. Fame and all that doesn’t interest me. I just want to live as normal a life as possible.”
Winter traced the start of the negative attention from paparazzi and tabloids to 2012, when her then-mom Chrisoula Workman first lost custody of her due to allegations that she had been abusive. . The personal saga unfolded for years with Winter’s sister, Shanelle Gray, becoming his guardian before emancipating herself.
She called it “really traumatic” that 30 paparazzi followed her daily from the age of 14, shouting things and hoping to provoke a response for their photos. This trauma continued as she became a woman in the spotlight, having photos of her body scrutinized and shamed. She said the paparazzi continued to follow her today in hopes of catching her. She said everything had a “negative” twist and was turned into “lies”.
“I don’t feel comfortable walking my dog down the street” in Los Angeles, the dog lover said. “If my dog gets off his leash, I can’t say, ‘What’s it like to come back here!’ It will be [turned into]: ‘Ariel Winter, lifeguard, howling and abusive dog’ when in reality I’m just trying not to let my dog get hit on the street. Everything I do is controlled.”
Now that she’s officially moved to her new city, without tagging it to preserve her privacy, “It’s kind of the principle for me to be [like]: ‘Haha, you’re not going to fuck with me.’ What I want to put over there is what is going to be put over there. I never wanted everyone to know everything about my life. I’m not a particularly open person. I want privacy and I’ve never really had privacy to live my life.”
As for critics who will inevitably say that paparazzi and tabloid attention comes with being a star, “It sounds aggressive, but really f*** off,” she said. “Until you experience it, you don’t understand it…Just because you signed up to create something doesn’t mean you signed up to have your life invaded and taken away from you.” … You should be able to choose what you share.”
She added, “There are people who are willing to share everything in their lives — and I respect that. But it should be a choice. I want you to see my work and my characters. That’s what a lot of people get in the industry… Everyone deserves privacy and to share what they want to share about themselves… [People] think, Oh, you’ve got money…take that and accept it. No. I did myself a favor by leaving LA”
Winter also talked about being in therapy for 10 years, which helped her not only overcome her family trauma and her relationship with Benward, an old friend with whom she began a romantic relationship in 2020, but to unpack this what it was like to come of age on TV in the age of social media and, horribly, be ashamed at the age of 13.
She said the “fat bitch” comments people made about her led her to initially change things about herself. However, “once I turned 18, I realized that every time I changed there was still something new that [people] hated by me. I was just like, ‘Okay, so they’ll never be happy. It’s like that.’ As I got older, I kind of stopped giving a damn.”
But what stuck with her was how “people feel comfortable” making those mean comments in the first place. She now looks to her nieces – who are the same age when she’s been through a lot – and said it was “devastating for me to see the trickle down effect… to see them having the same fears and discomforts with them- same as I did. Even if it’s on a smaller scale, it doesn’t matter… It hurts my heart.”
Winter said she would return to Los Angeles when work called. In fact, right after her move, now two months ago, she was hired to replace Demi Lovato in the pilot. Hunger. She’ll probably even get an apartment there to stay when she’s in town for work.
As for life in her new town, Winter said, “It’s so different,” in the best way. “It makes me so happy to know that life is going to be the way I always hoped it would be.”
At 24, she “only now begins the journey of: What do I want? What do I need?” and in this “new chapter”, she doesn’t want to be “the person remembered for the outfit she wore”, but for the good things she does.
Also, “I don’t want to turn 30 and not feel healed and not feel peace within.”