Skip to content

Emma Watson Said Paparazzi Took Photos Up Her Dress After 18th Birthday Party

The Harry Potter star has been outspoken about being sexualized as a young actor.

After being cast as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series at the age of 10, Emma Watson spent her preteen and teen years in the public eye. The franchise remains massively popular and turned all of its young stars into big names. So Watson knows firsthand what it's like to grow up in the spotlight, especially as a girl and then a young woman, from the good and the downright despicable. The former child star has spoken out about being sexualized by the public and the press from an early age. In fact, in one shocking speech, she revealed that when she turned 18, paparazzi were laying on the pavement outside of her party and waiting to take photos up her dress.

Read on to see what else the now-33-year-old had to say about the disturbing experience and about sexism in the industry in general.

RELATED: Former Child Star Says She Was Exposed to Hard Drugs on Set in New Interview.

Watson said invasive photos of her hit the tabloids the next morning.

Emma Watson at the premiere of "The Tale of Despereaux" in 2008
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

As reported by Marie Claire UK, while speaking at an event for the United Nations' gender equality initiative HeForShe in 2016, Watson recalled paparazzi accosting her after her 18th birthday party, which took place in 2008.

"I remember on my 18th birthday I came out of my birthday party and photographers laid down on the pavement and took photographs up my skirt, which were then published on the front of the English tabloid [newspapers] the next morning," she said.

"If they had published the photographs 24 hours earlier they would have been illegal," she pointed out, "but because I had just turned 18, they were legal."

In 2019, the U.K. passed an "upskirting" law, which made it illegal to take a photo underneath women's clothing without their consent, as reported by Reuters. Anyone convicted of the crime faces up to two years in prison. (In the U.S., the laws vary by state, as reported by Vice; though the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004 protects those who had a "reasonable expectation of privacy.")

Watson pointed out the difference in the way her co-stars were treated.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint at Grauman's Chinese Theater in 2007
s_bukley / Shutterstock

At the HeForShe event, Watson noted that dealing with paparazzi trying to take lewd photos of her as soon as they legally could was as aspect of fame that her Harry Potter castmates didn't need to deal with.

"Obviously Dan [Radcliffe] and Rupert [Grint], who were my male co-stars, don't wear skirts," she said, "but I think that's just one example of how my transition to womanhood was dealt very differently by the tabloid press than it was for my male colleagues."

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

She was also subjected to a demeaning hoax.

In 2014, Watson, a UN Global Goodwill Ambassador, gave a speech at the UN to launch HeForShe. She detailed some of the sexism she experienced that inspired her to take part in the campaign.

"I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called 'bossy,' because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not," she said. "When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press."

Something happened in the aftermath of the speech that only underlined her points.

"After I gave my speech in September, there was a website set up threatening to release naked photographs of me with a countdown," she said during a Q&A at London's Facebook office in 2015, as reported by The Daily Beast. "I knew it was a hoax—I knew the pictures didn't exist—but I think a lot of people close to me knew gender equality was an issue, but they didn't really think it was that urgent … If anything, it made me so much more determined. I was just raging. It made me so angry that I was just like, 'This is why I have to be doing this!'"

RELATED: Former Child Star Danielle Fishel Says Exec Told Her He Had a Photo of Her in His Bedroom.

Other former child stars have shared similarly upsetting stories.

Millie Bobby Brown at the premiere of "Stranger Things" season 3 in 2019
Tsuni-USA / Shutterstock

Many other female stars have shared similar stories about being sexualized, especially around their 18th birthdays.

"I have definitely been dealing with [being sexualized] more within the last couple weeks of turning 18," Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown said on the podcast The Guilty Feminist in 2022. "Definitely seeing a difference between the way people act and the way the press and social media react to me becoming of age." She continued, "In my life, in my opinion, I believe that that shouldn't change anything. But it's gross and it's true. And so I think it's just a very good representation of what's going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized."

BuzzFeed News reported that a site appeared on Reddit that was tagged "NSFW" and counting down to Brown's 18th birthday. Sadly, these online countdowns have also been established for other stars, including Kendall Jenner and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, according to an article published on Medium.

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
Filed Under