Skip to content

See Nellie From "Little House on the Prairie" Now at 59

Alison Arngrim played the iconic villain for seven seasons.

Any fan of Little House on the Prairie will certainly remember Nellie Oleson. Played by Alison Arngrim, Nellie was a main character on the first seven seasons of the show, which ran for nine seasons from 1974 to 1982. Nellie was known for being a spoiled, sassy mean girl, who was the rival to Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert). In the years since the show ended, Arngrim has spoken out about what it was like to play the character and reflected on her time on the show. And, of course, a lot has changed in her own life over the past 40 years. Arngrim started the show as a 12 year old and is now 59. Read on to learn more about her life today.

RELATED: Erin Murphy Played Tabitha on Bewitched. See Her Now at 57.

Arngrim auditioned for other roles on the show first.

Bob Marsic and Alison Arngrim on "Little House on the Prairie"
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Arngrim made Nellie into an iconic villain, but she actually auditioned for different roles first. During a 2018 appearance on Megyn Kelly Today, Arngrim shared that she auditioned to play both Laura and Mary, "which would have been so wrong." When she was asked to then audition for Nellie, she explained, "I turned to my father and said, 'This is not a normal part, this girl is, well, she's the b-word.' He said, 'Read it just like that, don't touch a thing.'" She added with a laugh, "Well, I was hired on the spot, which says something about me. I'm not sure what."

She stayed in the entertainment business.

Alison Arngrim in Berlin, Germany in 2019
Tristar Media/Getty Images

After Little House on the Prairie, Arngrim appeared on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. She didn't act on screen for most of the '80s and all of the '90s, but she returned to TV and movie work in the 2000s. She's since appeared in several films and TV movies.

Arngrim also began performing a one-woman show and does standup comedy. Her shows have been particularly successful in France. "I am huge in France," she told Page Six earlier this year. "It's the nuttiest thing ever."

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

She wrote a book about her life.

Alison Arngrim at the Style Hollywood Oscar Viewing Dinner in 2017
Kathy Hutchins /

Arngrim's one-woman show turned into a 2010 book titled Confessions of a Prairie B****: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated. "I've been doing standup for years and it kind of became this one-woman show," she told Smashing Interviews in 2010. "I guess as I started telling more and more stories, I thought, 'You know, I should be writing more of these stories down.'"

Arngrim shared that people really do give her a hard time in real life, because they hate Nellie so much. Once, someone even threw a soda can at her during a Christmas parade. "I'll meet people now and they'll say, 'I hated you.' And I always say, 'Oh, you're too kind. Thank you," she said on Megyn Kelly Today.

She's an advocate for abused children.

Alison Arngrim on "Megyn Kelly Today" in 2018
TODAY / YouTube

Arngrim has said she was physically and sexually abused as a child, and it led her to work to protect other children today. She is the president of the board of directors of the National Association to Protect Children. Angrim told Megyn Kelly that playing Nellie helped her cope with the alleged abuse.

"Being Nellie Oleson was really helpful, because I was really shy and then I was bullied at school on top of everything else," she said. "So, then, suddenly I'm this character that everyone's afraid of, and it was this wonderful form of protection, really. And here I had this job where I could scream and yell and throw things and vent all of my anger. And then the cast, all of these wonderful people who were so kind and so protective of me, so really it worked out very well in my favor."

She's still close with Gilbert.

Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim at Gilbert's book signing in 2009
Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic via Getty Images

One cast member who people are surprised to hear Arngrim is close with is Gilbert, because they played rivals on the show who often got into fights. "We bonded right away, something about playing enemies and whacking each other around," she told Kelly.

When speaking with Smashing Interviews, the actor shared that even as an adult, people have been shocked that she and Gilbert get along. "Melissa Gilbert had a party a couple of years ago at her house," Arngrim said. "A grown woman who was in the industry—her husband was a big producer—actually stood there and said, 'It's so nice to see you two getting along finally.' Melissa and I thought, 'What is she talking about?' The woman said, 'Well, you made up.' Then Melissa said, 'Oh no, you mean on the show!' This woman had to have been 40 years old and she couldn't figure out why I was at a party at Melissa's house."

RELATED: Judy Norton Played Mary Ellen on The Waltons. See Her Now at 63.

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