Millie Bobby Brown on being sexualized at a young age: ‘It’s gross and it’s true’

A woman with long brown hair posing in a white dress
Millie Bobby Brown arrives at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.
(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)

English actor Millie Bobby Brown has noticed a shift in the way people and the media have treated her since she turned 18 in February.

On Monday’s episode of the “Guilty Feminist” podcast, the “Stranger Things” star opened up about being sexualized as a child celebrity and the “overwhelming” experience of growing up in the entertainment industry.

“Any 18-year-old is dealing with navigating being an adult and having relationships and friendships and ... being liked and trying to fit in,” Brown told “Guilty Feminist” co-hosts Deborah Frances-White and Susan Wokoma.


“It’s all a lot, and you’re trying to find yourself while doing that. The only difference is that, obviously, I’m doing that in the public eye, so it can be really overwhelming.”

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When “Stranger Things” premiered on Netflix in July 2016, Brown was 12 years old. She soon became one of the world’s most famous children, known for playing telekinetic wunderkind Eleven on the streaming giant’s most popular new series at the time.

Six years and nearly three seasons of “Stranger Things” later, Brown is still processing her fame as she enters the next chapter of her life.

“I have definitely been dealing with that more within the last two weeks of turning 18 — definitely seeing a difference between the way people act and the way that the press and social media have reacted to me coming of age,” Brown said.

“I believe that that shouldn’t change anything, but it’s gross and it’s true, and ... it’s a very good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized.”

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But Brown has “been dealing with that forever,” the “Enola Holmes” star and producer said. On the podcast, she recalled daring to wear a slightly lower-cut gown to an awards show when she was 16 after years of “poofy dresses” — only to get “crucified for looking like a 60-year-old.”


“I was like, ‘What’s wrong with a 60-year-old?’” Brown said. “I thought ‘My, is this really what we’re talking about? We should be talking about the incredible people that were there at the award show.’”

In a recent interview with the New York Times, former “Suite Life of Zack & Cody” star Cole Sprouse similarly reflected on how his female counterparts on Disney Channel were sexualized as child actors.

Millie Bobby Brown, Paige Brown and Harry Bradbeer talk about Netflix’s “Enola Holmes.”

Sept. 23, 2020

“The young women on [Disney Channel] were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother [Dylan] and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences,” Sprouse said.

“Every single person going through that trauma has a unique experience.”

Brown’s remarks came a day before Netflix released the first full-length trailer for the fourth season of “Stranger Things,” also starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke and Priah Ferguson.

In February, the creators of the period thriller announced that Season 4 would be released in two parts — on May 27 and July 1. In Tuesday’s new preview, Brown’s Eleven struggles to regain her powers as ominous creatures from the Upside Down threaten to destroy the small town of Hawkins, Ind.


“I don’t know how to say this other than just to say it,” scientist Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) tells Eleven in the trailer. “Without you, we can’t win this war.”