Slut, fat, trashy, ugly. The cruel words litter Ariel Winter’s Instagram feed every time she proudly posts a photo of her 5-foot-1 frame. For years, admits the Modern Family actress, the taunts cut deep — “It was really disappointing that people would hate me so much for dressing how I wanted to,” she explains — until she found a clever way to dress down her haters.
“It’s difficult to not write something sassy, but I feel better when I write something positive,” she tells Us. “Maybe they’ll not write something hurtful next time.”
The good-vibes move never fails to boost her spirit, she adds: “It makes you feel better about yourself.”
These days, the 19-year-old is riding pretty high. Though the child star admits, “I still get insecure all the time,” she finds ways to tap into her confidence. Sometimes that means remembering how proud she is of her shape (“I like showing off my butt”) or listening to the endless stream of compliments from her boyfriend of one year, actor Levi Meaden. Or it’s as basic as repeating her personal mantra. “The only person that matters is yourself,” she told Us at a November 8 LaPalme Magazine bash. “If you’re happy, if you’re confident, that’s all that matters.”
Mastering her do-you attitude was an eight-year journey. Debuting on the ABC hit as a skinny 11-year-old, “I was completely flat and would get ridiculed for that,” recalls the L.A. native. The situation deteriorated when she developed curves at age 12. “I started trying to dress for my body and was called a slut or a fat hooker,” she says. “It got even worse as I was turning 13, 14, 15. It really took so much of my self- esteem.”
After years of fruitless crash dieting, she realized she was done trying to please others. Along with a 2015 surgery to reduce her size-32F chest, she began analyzing the comments: “I would say to myself, ‘Do you really feel this way about yourself?’ And the answer was always no.”
Should she need a reminder, she turns to her team of cheerleaders. Costars such as Sarah Hyland strive to surround her with positivity — “We’re there for her regardless of anything,” Rico Rodriguez tells Us — and Meaden, 30, doles out niceties. “He always tells me how special I am inside,” Winter gushes. “He loves me through thick and thin. He’s always telling me no matter what I’m wearing, no matter what I’m doing, that I’m beautiful.” Most important, she believes him.
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