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"Modern Family" Star Says Her Chest Was Strapped Down After She Went Through Puberty

Ariel Winter played Alex Dunphy on the show for all 11 seasons.

Ariel Winter was cast on Modern Family during a pivotal time in her life. At 11 years old, the child actor began starring on the sitcom as Alex, the book-smart middle kid of the Dunphy family. And, because she was going through puberty, her body changed early on in the show's 11-season run. Producers behind the show didn't find this acceptable for her character, so Modern Family used tricks to make Winter appear less mature.

Winter, now 25, has revealed that her chest was strapped down for filming and that she has conflicting feelings about this. Read on to find out more.

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Winter felt "torn" about having her body disguised.

Ariel Winter on "Modern Family"

In 2017, Winter spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about going through puberty while starring on the hit show.

"The first season I was very thin, no breasts, no hips," she said. "The next year, I had huge boobs and a butt."

THR notes that her character Alex was often dressed in big sweaters and baggy flannel shirts going forward, and that sometimes Winter's chest was strapped down.

"I understand it for the character," Winter told THR, reportedly with a "grimace." She added, "But I'm very torn."

She said she lost roles because of her appearance.

Ariel Winter at the 2011 GLAAD Media Awards
Photo Works / Shutterstock

Winter also opened up about the wardrobe choices for Alex on Modern Family with Glamour in 2015, not long after she underwent breast reduction surgery.

"They had to hide it on Modern Family a lot," she said of her body. "Big sweaters, [or] strapping me down—which is fine—I understand that it doesn't fit the character they have in mind. I understand that. But it was difficult to do that every day."

She also said that her appearance had a negative impact on her career.

"It did play a part in that I couldn't play younger roles anymore," she said. "Once I developed, I couldn't really play 12 or 13 or 14 anymore. They'd want to send me out for 18 or 19, but the problem with 18 or 19 is that I'm not 18 yet. So why would they hire me when they could hire someone that was 18 or 19? That was a problem I ran into. [Having large breasts] automatically makes someone look older and more mature. So it definitely was a problem."

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Having surgery eliminated a lot of pain.

Ariel Winter at the 2015 Emmys
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Winter explained to Glamour that she decided to undergo breast reduction surgery, not because of the reactions she received about her body in the media or how it was affecting her career, but because she was in pain.

"I had a lot of back problems. I really couldn't stand up straight for a long period of time," she said, and explained that large breasts run in her family. "It started to hurt so bad that I couldn't take the pain. My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine."

She said of having the procedure, "I got it for myself. I can't even really put it into words about how amazing it feels to really feel right."

Winter also said that her Modern Family castmates were supportive. At the time, the sixth season of the show had just finished airing. "Everyone is really happy for me and has been super supportive," she said. "They understand I've been struggling with this for so many years."

She was sexualized from an early age.

Ariel Winter at the premiere of "The Last Song" in 2010
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

Winter has been candid about her difficult childhood. The Sofia the First star's mother got her into acting at an early age, and Winter says that she didn't protect her. She ended up being taken in by her older sister and no longer has a relationship with her mom.

Getting into the business unfortunately involved being sexualized too soon. Winter told THR that she was put in "the smallest miniskirts, sailor suits, low-cut things, the shortest dresses you've ever seen. People thought I was 24 when I was 12. If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age, my mother would have a thousand percent said yes."

She grew more comfortable with her appearance.

Ariel Winter at the HollyShorts Opening Night Festival in 2021
Eugene Powers / Shutterstock

Now, though, Winter expresses herself through her clothing and has learned that a person's appearance does not speak to their character and should not make them a target for hate. This is something she says she's experienced. In 2021, Winter shared on Red Table Talk: The Estefans (via People) that she was called a "fat [expletive]" when she was 13, because of how her body had changed. Later, she received criticism for her fashion choices.

"If you want to wear a short skirt and show your body like I do, it doesn't mean you're a [expletive]. And it doesn't mean you're not one," Winter said in The Hollywood Reporter interview. "People call me stupid because I post photos of my butt when the real thing is, I love my butt. I love butts! Why stifle yourself because other people can't handle it?"

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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