Natalie Portman Said "Being Sexualized as a Child" Made Her Feel "Afraid"

Portman said the perception "took away from my own sexuality."

Natalie Portman is opening up about the effects of having been "sexualized" as a child when she began acting.

Portman, who broke through at the age of 12 in Léon: The Professional, told Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast that playing sexualized characters at the start of her career had a negative impact on her mental health.

Portman discussed her role in the 1996 film Beautiful Girls, in which her 13-year-old character Marty develops a relationship with a man played by Timothy Hutton, telling Shepard that she was portrayed as a "Lolita figure."

"Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid, and it made me like the way I could be safe was to be like, 'I'm conservative,' and 'I'm serious and you should respect me,' and 'I'm smart,' and 'Don't look at me that way,'" she said.

"But at that age, you do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things, and you do want to be open," she added. "But you don't feel safe, necessarily, when there's, like, older men that are interested, and you're like, 'No, no, no, no.'"

She went on to say that she realized she began to "consciously cultivate" an image of herself as "super serious and conservative" in order to make herself feel safe.

"Like, 'Oh, if someone respects you, they're not gonna objectify you,'" she said. "When I was in my teens I was like, 'I don't wanna have any love scenes or make-out scenes.' I would start choosing parts that were less sexy because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt."

In 2018, Portman told People that she eventually realized, "I know I was sexualized in the ways that I was photographed or portrayed, and that was not my doing. That becomes a part of your public identity."

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