By the time the Virginia native landed the role of Phil (Ty Burrell) and Julie Dunphy’s (Julie Bowen) middle child, she had already appeared in shows including ER, Bones, Nip/Tuck and Monk. In 2009, however, she landed the role that made her a household name.
Modern Family ran from September of that year to April 2020, with the cast winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series four times before the finale. Winter was only 11 years old when she was cast as Alex, so when the show ended, she’d spent nearly half her life playing the same character.
While the Criminal Minds alum’s career was flourishing, however, her personal life was falling apart. In 2014, Winter was placed in the custody of her adult sister, Shanelle Workman, after years of accusations that their mother, Chrisoula “Crystal” Workman, had abused Ariel physically and emotionally.
The actress later claimed that her mom sexualized her from a very young age, dressing her in “the smallest miniskirts” and “low-cut things” from the time she was 7. “People thought I was 24 when I was 12,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2017. “If there was going to be a nude scene when I was that age, my mother would have a thousand percent said yes.”
Chrisoula has always denied her daughter’s allegations, but the two never reconciled. “I went through a really rough period, a really bad chapter,” Winter said in the same interview.
The former Phineas and Ferb voice actress has also been open about how much she’s struggled with body image over the years. During a December 2021 interview on Red Table Talk: The Estefans, the SAG Award winner remembered how tough it was to grow up in the public eye while starring on Modern Family.
“I got called a fat slut when I was 13,” she recalled. “That was rough. Because I gained weight and my body changed, I had to wear different outfits.”
While many of the show’s fans were supportive, she remembered that others were upset that she “didn’t look like Alex” in real life. Her struggles continued after she started medication that made her gain weight and social media trolls flooded her accounts with comments about her appearance.
With help from a therapist, she eventually learned how to quiet the voices telling her she wasn’t good enough, but she noted that self-love isn’t a one-and-done task. “I’m definitely still on a journey,” she explained in December 2021.
Keep scrolling for a look back at Winter’s life and career: