Comeback queen! Winona Ryder was the “It girl” of the ‘90s, and after a hiatus from the industry, she proved she could still hold her own years later.
The actress was born Winona Horowitz on October 29, 1971. She landed her first role in the 1986 film Lucas at age 14, which led to her being cast in 1988’s Beetlejuice by the time she was 17. From there, her career skyrocketed with parts in 1988’s Heathers, 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, 1994’s Little Women and more.
Soon, Ryder felt the pressure of being a Hollywood A-lister. “There were times where people might have seen me and said, ‘Wow, she’s so lucky.’ But I was depressed, I was going through something,” she told Time in June 2016. “That time I went through led me to make Girl, Interrupted. Most girls go through that at around that age — 20, 21.”
The Stranger Things star poured herself into the 1999 film, but her career stalled anyway. “You can’t look to the industry to validate you as a person because that can just lead to incredible disappointment,” she noted. “I will admit I was guilty of that when I was younger because you get caught up in it, surrounded by people that are telling you that it’s the most important thing, and you’re young and you believe it.”
Ryder found herself overtaken by a scandal in 2001 when she was arrested for shoplifting. She subsequently retreated from the spotlight, sharing with Time years later that it was “really important for me to get out.”
The Oscar nominee used the time to grow without the eyes of the world watching her. “I took some years off, and I didn’t realize that was very dangerous in terms of my career. I was constantly being told, ‘You have to keep working so you stay relevant.’ When I was ready to come back, I was like, ‘Oh, where did everyone go?’” she recalled. “A lot of actors have ups and downs. I think mine were — people might see them as awful — but I learned, and I appreciated the time away.”
Ryder referred to her 30s as “a little bit tough” because she was typecast as an “ingénue.” However, she eventually broke through the stereotypes and booked her role on the Netflix hit Stranger Things.
“I started acting so young, I secretly wanted to be older,” she explained to Time. “I know there’s a lot of conversations right now about ageism, and I know a lot of actresses who have a tough time, and I’ve gotten offered those mom parts. But you can make something of it. For me, I’m finally getting to play my own age, and it’s liberating. I would not want to go back to playing the ingénue.”
Scroll through the gallery below to see Ryder’s life in photos.