Former Child Star Danielle Fishel Says Exec Told Her He Had a Photo of Her in His Bedroom
The Boy Meets World actor opened up about being sexualized early.
As one of the stars of Boy Meets World, Danielle Fishel came to massive fame at a very young age. She was 12 when she began starring on the '90s family sitcom as Topanga Lawrence and remained on the series throughout its entire run, which ended when she was 19. This means that Fishel spent the entirety of her teenage years on the show and in the public eye. And while most fans were happy to watch her act in the coming-of-age story with her castmates while growing up herself, some adults treated Fishel inappropriately when she was a teen star, including sexualizing her to her face.
On a recent episode of Pod Meets World—the Boy Meets World rewatch podcast Fishel hosts with co-stars Rider Strong (Shawn) and Will Friedle (Eric), she opened up about adults, including one man involved with the show, who treated her in ways that continue to impact her years later. Read on to see what the now-42-year-old actor had to say.
An executive had her photo in his bedroom.
On the podcast, Fishel said that she found out that there were people who were counting down the days until she turned 18 years old. Sadly, this isn't an uncommon practice for young stars to deal with.
"I had people tell me they had my 18th birthday on their calendar," Fishel shared. She also said that an executive told her that he had a photo of her in his bedroom from a photoshoot that she did.
"I had a male executive—when I did a calendar at 16—and he specifically told me he had a certain calendar month in his bedroom."
She didn't realize it was inappropriate at the time.
Fishel said that she didn't know it was wrong for a grown men to be sexualizing her, because she thought of herself as mature.
>"As a kid, I always wanted to be older. I always wanted to be an adult. I wanted to be seen as an adult," the former child star said. "And so getting adult male attention as a teenage girl felt like… I didn't think of it as being creepy or weird. I felt like it was validation that I was mature and I was an adult and I was capable, and that they were seeing me the way I was, not for the number on a page. And in hindsight, that is absolutely wrong."
Strong added that Fishel was "very mature and confident" at the time, and she added, "I've always been able to hold a conversation with an adult. I can look you in the eye. I've always been those things. But in a romantic, male-gaze sense, I should not have been outwardly talked about at 14, 15, 16 years old. And I was, even directly to me."
When the unnamed executive made the comment about her calendar photo, she said her initial, gut response was surprise, but added that "the immediate thought after that was, "'Yes, because we are peers, and this is how you relate to peers.'"
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Her male co-stars struggled with teen stardom, too.
The conversation on the podcast came up when the episode's guests, the hosts of the podcast Bruh Meets World, asked Fishel, Friedle, and Strong how they felt about becoming teen idols. While Fishel had the most inappropriate experiences with adults, the other two actors confessed that they didn't enjoy the attention they received, either.
"I hated it. I think I've been pretty open about that," Strong said. "When I felt reduced to that sort of teen idol thing, it just made me so uncomfortable … It made me go inward, it made me shyer than I probably would have been." He said it affected him in his relationships for years to come and is one of the reasons he's a "serial monogamist."
Friedle shared that being popular on the show caused a "juxtaposition," because in his hometown, no girls wanted to date him. But in the environment of the show, other young stars were interested in him. "It must be just because I'm on TV," he said he felt about girls saying they liked him.
It took years for Fishel to realize how much the experience affected her.
Fishel shared on the podcast that she didn't understand how much being a teen star impacted her life until she was in her late 30s.
"I didn't really process how it affected me as a teenager—or how it affected me in my 20s or even in my 30s—up until the last few years. And then I was really able to look back on it and connect the dots," she said.
She explained further, "What it really did was it made me bad at boundaries. I was so focused on not wanting people to think that I thought I was too good for them, that I had absolutely no expectations of how you're supposed to talk to me, of how you're supposed to treat me. I would stick it out for the sake of sticking it out, because I didn't want anyone to think I was better than them or they were not good enough for me." She said that in her late 30s, she began reflecting on her relationships and found that her lack of boundaries was a common theme in them not working out.
Today, Fishel is married to Jensen Karp. They wed in 2018 and have two children. She was previously married to Tim Belusko from 2013 to 2016.
It's not the first harrowing story Fishel has shared.
Fishel has shared other troubling stories from her child star days on Pod Meets World. As reported by BuzzFeed, she previously revealed that an adult man pretended to be a young girl in fan mail he sent to her. She and the person she thought was a young girl bonded and had a regular correspondence, which was overseen by Fishel's mom. But, eventually, they realized that the person sending the letters was actually an adult. She said he began showing up at her school and claiming that he was there to pick her up.
Fishel also said that she was humiliated on set by series creator Michael Jacobs, who reportedly called her out on her performance in front of the cast on her first day and threatened to fire her. She said that she was "sweating profusely" just talking about the situation all these years later. Best Life reached out to Jacobs at the time the podcast was released but did not receive a response.