Every time Ariel Winter stepped onto a red carpet, she knew what was coming: the stares, the whispers, the rumors. But for the 17-year-old star of Modern Family, she had a job to do—act. Act, and pretend she didn’t notice. But even though from the outside it looked like the attention didn’t bother her, there was an emotional and physical battle that she struggled with deeply inside. At 5’1, the petite star was dealing with more than an awkward growth spurt. “It really did happen overnight,” Winter says of her breast development. “I remember being in my sister’s wedding and being so flat and thinking, ‘I just wish I would grow boobs!’ and then overnight I did. But then they kept growing and growing and growing and it didn’t seem like they were going to stop.” It’s hard enough being a teenager in life, but being on one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed sitcoms drew heightened interest. “I was 15 years old with [size] F [breasts],” recounts Winter. “It’s like, ‘How do you navigate that?’”
And yet, navigate she did—at least to the best of her ability. Finding bras and clothes that fit was more than difficult emotionally but nothing that compared with the physical pain she endured on a daily basis. Noting that standing up straight for hours at a time proved difficult, Winter often found herself hunched over on set. “It started to hurt so bad that I couldn’t take the pain,” admits the young star. Noting that the female side of her family has a “history of large breasts,” several family members were not shocked when Winter confided her thoughts about eventually undergoing breast reduction surgery. “A few of my cousins have had breast reductions, so it wasn’t a shock when I decided to get one.” Still, Winter stresses that the decision was entirely her own and not the result of online bullying. “I got it for myself. I can’t even really put it into words about how amazing it feels to really feel right.”
On the morning of June 4—a little more than two months ago—Winter woke up ready to put the physical and emotional pain behind her. Having only told a select few family and friends, the Modern Family star underwent breast reduction surgery to reduce the size of her chest from a 32 F to a 34 D. The result for Winter was noticeable right away. Throughout the course of our exclusive sit-down interview, she mentions frequently that she “feels like a new person.” Winter knows the physical difference is what everyone will be talking about, but it’s the emotional change that’s most evident.
Having interviewed Winter many times over the course of her young career, it becomes evident that the star has never been so happy or at ease. “It’s amazing to finally feel right,” she shares exclusively with Glamour. “This is how I was supposed to be.” Here’s her story:
Glamour: When did you decide to have breast reduction surgery?
Ariel Winter: I went to a swimsuit store with my cousin a few months ago and couldn’t find a bathing suit that fit me. I really felt bad about myself. I didn’t feel happy. I just kept saying, “What am I going to wear? There’s nothing for me to wear at the beach, at the pool.” I can’t go to a party with my friends and wear the same thing as them. I have to be completely covered up otherwise I’ll look a certain way that I’m not intending to look.
Glamour: On red carpets, you appeared very confident and self-assured with your curves and breast size. Did you feel confident?
Ariel: Definitely not. We live in a day and age where everything you do is ridiculed. The Internet bullies are awful. I could post a photo where I feel good, and 500 people will comment about how fat I am and that I am disgusting. On [red carpets], I just said to myself, “You have to do your best to look confident and stand up tall, and make yourself look as good as you can in these photos,” because everyone is going to see them. I definitely seemed confident; I’m an actress, that’s what we do. But on the inside, I wasn’t feeling so happy.
Glamour: You wear a lot of formfitting designs at award shows. How difficult was it to dress for formal events?
Ariel: It was really hard. There was so little that I could wear that was age-appropriate. I’d have to wear the dress that was super tight and formfitted everywhere because if I didn’t, it didn’t look good. I didn’t really have an option other than to wear fitted clothes. Everyone would [say], “Why is she dressing so mature? That’s so inappropriate for her age!” I understood what they were saying. It’s not like I wanted to pick out those inappropriate dresses, it’s just that I didn’t really have another choice, or I was going to get ridiculed. It’s hard when you’re a teenage girl and you already have a lot of ridicule and then you pile on more, and it’s kind of…it just gets too much.
Glamour: How often would you read what people were saying about you? It wasn’t just message boards—well-known outlets were writing about your cleavage in their headlines.
Ariel: That’s pretty much all I was known for and that upset me. It made me feel really uncomfortable because as women in the industry, we are totally over sexualized and treated like objects. Every article that has to do with me on a red carpet always had to do with ‘Ariel Winter’s Crazy Cleavage!’ Or ‘Ariel Winter Shows Huge Boobs At An Event!’ That’s all people would recognize me by, not, “Oh, she does great work on Modern Family.”
Glamour: Did you have a lot of physical pain due to your large breasts?
Ariel: It was so painful. I had a lot of back problems. I really couldn’t stand up straight for a long period of time. It started to hurt so bad that I couldn’t take the pain. My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine. I had been discussing my chest with doctors for many years, but when I finally said, “I’m thinking of doing this,” he said, “Your back is going to thank you so much.”
Glamour: How did you settle on a D-cup?
Ariel: [My doctor and I] did. I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to go bigger than a D because the whole point was to get rid of it! I was a 32F and that was too big for me! My doctor said we shouldn’t go bigger than a D, and I agreed. He said he didn’t think we should go smaller than a C, and I agreed. And the reason I said that was because I have always been a curvier girl. Always. And I enjoy being a curvier girl. I don’t want to be disproportionate again. I have a big butt, I like having a big butt. I didn’t want to have a big butt and no boobs!
Glamour: Did you tell your Modern Family costars or the producers about the surgery?
Ariel: I [only] told Julie Bowen because I had talked to her before about my desire to have the surgery. She was really supportive and understanding. I just saw Sofia [Vergara] the other day and she was like, “Oh my God! I love them! They’re great!” I was like, “This is hilarious.” It’s funny, it’s like the guys don’t want to say anything, so they don’t and they just are like [thinking] “There’s a change.” Which is good I mean [laughs], but it’s funny now for them to notice and see the reactions. Everyone is really happy for me and has been super supportive. They understand I’ve been struggling with this for so many years.
Glamour: Did you worry that having such a voluptuous chest would affect the acting roles offered to you?
Ariel: It did play a part in that I couldn’t play younger roles anymore. Once I developed, I couldn’t really play 12 or 13 or 14 anymore. They’d want to send me out for 18 or 19, but the problem with 18 or 19 is that I’m not 18 yet. So why would they hire me when they could hire someone that was 18 or 19? That was a problem I ran into. [Having large breasts] automatically makes someone look older and more mature. So it definitely was a problem.
Glamour: Did it present wardrobe challenges on Modern Family?
Ariel: They had to hide it on Modern Family a lot. Big sweaters, [or] strapping me down—which is fine—I understand that it doesn’t fit the character they have in mind. I understand that. But it was difficult to do that every day.
Glamour: You have been through so much in your young life so far and you’ve handled it so well in the public eye. How have you done that?
Ariel: I honestly don’t know. Thank you for that. You kind of learn to just deal with it and go with the flow. I’ve learned from the people who have made a lot of mistakes around me. I’ve seen young actresses have major falls from their career, and that’s just not what I want. I’m very conscious about the way I treat people because I was never really taught to treat people in a respectful or kind way. I never really saw that role model, so for me, that made me just want to be the opposite of what I had, and treat people the opposite of the way I saw other people treat other people.
Glamour: Who do you consider your support system?
Ariel: My sister, Shanelle, is so supportive and loving. She’s my best friend in the world. My friends have also been wonderful, and my boyfriend is wonderful to talk to. He and my sister were there for the surgery and in the recovery center. My brother-in-law, my nieces, my dad…everyone was so wonderful for me during that time. I felt so lucky because I never had that before. And now being in a place where I’m so loved and so lucky is really a blessing. When I moved in with my sister, she and I decided that I should go to therapy, and it has been life-changing for me.
Glamour: What made you decide to open up and share your story?
Ariel: I didn’t want to not tell anybody and then have another million stories [say], “What happened to Ariel? She looks so different.” And I also think there’s some good that can come from [telling] my story. It’s something that I did to better my life and better my health and I think that that can benefit a lot of young girls. I have felt more happy with myself than I ever have. I am living a dream that a lot of girls my age would love to be living, and I’m aware of that. I’m really grateful that I’m able to do that and have a voice that I’m able to speak to teenagers. I don’t want to do anything to mess that up.
Glamour: Have you noticed a change in how people treat you since the surgery?
Ariel: People start looking me in the eye. Guys I’m friends with can start looking me in the eye. Other people I know can finally not turn around and whisper behind my back about, “Are those real? Are those fake?” I’ve heard that for so many years. Even at 14, people would ask me, “Do you have fake boobs?” But we live in a society that that’s what they think about.
Glamour: Before you went in for the surgery, was there any concerns or second thoughts?
Ariel: I wasn’t hesitant at all. I wasn’t sad. I was really so thrilled about it and the idea of not being burdened with these any longer. I think going into the surgery that morning was the only time I ever felt nervous or a little scared, just because I had never had surgery before, not because of what I was about to get done. But I also have so much support in my life now.
Ariel: She and I don’t speak. She will find out by reading it and that’s the way that is. And that’s fine. I’m in such a happy place now, and in such a better place now surrounded by people who love me and really support me, and that’s all I need.
Glamour: On a lighter note, the Emmys are coming up next month and Modern Family is nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. Have you put much thought into what you’d like to wear?
Ariel: It will be my first [public] appearance, but I don’t know. I’m just excited to try on all the dresses! Now I can wear all styles of dresses and all styles of things! I don’t always have to pick the tightest, most formfitting dress I can find. I can pick something else and still feel good about myself. I couldn’t do that before. I’m excited to finally actually feel confident and not just appear confident.
Glamour: Will your style change on Modern Family?
Ariel: I don’t know. We’ve gotten rid of some of the flannels, though I love me some flannels sometimes! I don’t really think her style is going to change that drastically, and I’m OK with that. As long as there is a variety in her wardrobe, I’m fine with it!
Glamour: And physically, how are you feeling now, post-surgery?
Ariel: I feel great. It was such a quick recovery for me. I was up and running within five days. The feeling of not having so much there was such a relief! Once the surgery was completed, I can’t even explain the feeling. [A week later], I was buying clothes and crying as I put them on, I was so happy. You just feel so relieved and excited. You feel like a new person. You feel like this is how I was supposed to be.
Full Article / Article Credit: http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2015/08/ariel-winter-breast-reduction
Photos: Collin Stark and Jessica Stark; Getty Images; Bob D’Amico/ABC; Hair, Bobby Elliot; Makeup, Kristee Liu Styling, Anita Patrickson and Jordan Wright