Madison De La Garza, who gained television fame as a child star thanks to her role on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” opened up to journalist and former “20/20” anchor Elizabeth Vargas on the “Heart of the Matter” podcast about battling cyberbullying and an eating disorder following her run on the show (via Entertainment Weekly). De La Garza appeared on four seasons of “Desperate Housewives” as Juanita Solis, the daughter of Eva Longoria’s character, Gabrielle Solis.
De La Garza took over the role of Gabrielle’s daughter in Season 5, when the show jumped ahead five years from the previous season. She was only 6 years old at the time. The actor stayed in the role through the final season of “Desperate Housewives,” which ended in May 2012.
Although she was just a child, De La Garza told Vargas she would often sneak onto the computer and check websites like TMZ and YouTube for hours, where commenters made “atrocious” comments about her weight.
“The reactions were just shocking…They said things like they wanted me to die because of what I looked like,” De La Garza said. “It was just horrible, like, ‘ugly fat cow,’ and ‘I hope you get cancer and die because you’re so fat.’ Just horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible things and this was when I was 6, 7, 8 years old.”
“Reading comments like that definitely affected my mental health and ultimately played into me developing an eating disorder at a very young age…my first memories of trying to starve myself, I was 7 years old.” the actor added.
As De La Garza noted, her weight as a child actor was often the butt of jokes on “Desperate Housewives.” In fact, the very existence of her character was a gag that the supermodel Gabrielle had a chubby daughter.
“This was talked about literally in the script of the show,” De La Garza said. “The whole joke of my character was that Eva was this thin beautiful model and her daughter turned out to be quite the opposite.”
De La Garza stressed that Longoria “went out of her way to make me feel special” when she endured cyberbullying. The actor is currently two years into recovery from her eating disorder. She’s also eight month sober and credits her older half-sister, Demi Lovato, for helping her stay clean and talk about her addiction struggles.