Former Child Stars Say They Received Creepy Fan Mail From Inmates
Disney Channel alums Christy Carlson Romano and Alyson Stoner opened up about the unsettling experience.
It's common knowledge that child stars typically go through a lot, both as young performers and in the years that follow. Two actors who know a lot about this firsthand—and are trying to change things for future kid stars—are Christy Carlson Romano and Alyson Stoner, who recently talked about their experiences on Romano's podcast, Vulnerable. The host of the show is best known for her work on the Disney Channel, including the shows Even Stevens and Kim Possible and the TV movie Cadet Kelly. Stoner came to fame first as a dancer in music videos—including and most notably for Missy Elliot—and she's acted in Cheaper by the Dozen, the Step Up franchise, the Camp Rock movies, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
On the podcast, Romano and Stoner opened up about one disturbing aspect of child stardom that people might be unaware of: receiving letters from fans who weren't their peers. Read on to see what they had to say.
They both received letters from prisoners.
During their conversation, Stoner, 29, and Romano, 38, talked about how being a child star and, now, speaking out about their experiences, affects their concept of safety. Romano shared, "When you grow up fearful, I guess for your life—I mean, like, how many times did you get ex-convicts or people in jail actually writing you letters saying they love your work?"
Stoner replied, "Yes, and 'please sign this,' so it helps them with bail money."
Romano's dad confronted a man who was sending her mail.
Romano shared that her dad intercepted the fan mail that was sent to her when she was younger, so he saw anything inappropriate. In one case, he went so far as to travel to another state to confront someone about what they were sending.
"I guess somebody was saying some crazy stuff, and my dad, without my knowledge, went down to Florida and had a talk with this guy or something. And he was a bad dude," the actor said. "My dad did a lot of things wrong, but I knew I was in the sort of, like, hands of this person who would do anything, reckless or otherwise."
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Other child stars have spoken out about receiving fan mail from adults.
Stoner and Romano aren't the only former child performers to have dealt with this side effect of fame. For instance, in a February 2021 op-ed for The New York Times, Matilda star Mara Wilson shared that she received fan mail from older men.
"It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did," Wilson wrote.
Romano and Stoner talked about the ethics of putting kids into the business.
The two actors also reflected on whether or not it's an ethical choice for a parent to put their child into the entertainment business. Stoner doesn't plan to have children, but Romano has two kids with her husband Brendan Rooney.
"I have been toying with just the concept of improving conditions, but simultaneously, I'm asking myself the ethnical questions of: Is there legitimately an ethical way to do this if all of these factors coexist? And I'm not sure," Stoner said. "If it were a different experience, sure. But with the current circumstances, and current conditions, and current system, can you justifiably say this is an ethical and healthy decision to make as a parent for your child?"
"No," Romano quickly answered. "I'll say that as the parent in the room. It's not ethical."
Stoner added, "I'm not trying to say no one should do this ever, because I don't think that's going to stop anything … But I've been asking myself more and more as I get in touch with my own anger and healing process, of like, did I have agency over my decision to be in the industry? Was it really me? Was it my family? As I come to terms with a lot of things, I'm like I don't know … I don't know that there's a healthy way to do this."