Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim Opens Up About How ‘Nasty Nellie’ Saved Her

‘Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim Opens Up About How ‘Nasty Nellie’ Saved Her

Little House on the Prairie actress Alison Arngrim had a much different experience with child stardom than most. Instead of losing herself in the limelight, she found herself.

The now 61-year-old experienced horrific trauma before joining the cast of the award-winning series, as she detailed in her 2010 memoir, Confessions of a Prairie B—-: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated. While talking to Fox News, Arngrim admitted that her on-screen persona, dubbed Nasty Nellie, allowed her to work through the anger she internalized because of that abuse. So strangely, the character saved her.

“As I talked about in the book, I was bullied. I was shy. I’d been abused as a child,” she shared. “And here I was … playing this horrible person. The yelling, the screaming, and the breaking [of] things, the smashing up of whole rooms and letting it all out.”

“Being able to release all of this anger, all of this rage. … Anyone who has survived any kind of childhood abuse knows. … Where do we put this displaced anger? Where do you put this rage? And this is what just kills people,” she continued. “It’s just awful. There’s nowhere for it to go, and [it takes] years of therapy to get that out.”

Alison Arngrim Was a ‘Lucky’ Child Star

Alison Arngrim recalled how cathartic it was to channel her real-life issues into Nellie. The character hadn’t been abused. In fact, her backstory was much different. Nellie was the spoiled child of the richest family on the prairie, but the symptoms of the experiences worked out similarly, so she was able to create a persona around her real-life history.

The actress explained that “getting paid” to yell, scream, and smash things was “rewarding” and “very freeing.” Looking back, she doesn’t believe she would have processed her emotions had she not worked on Little House on the Prairie.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done,” she added.

Angrim didn’t have much Hollywood success after the series ended. Playing Nellie got her typecasted as “Pioneer Barbie,” but she doesn’t have hard feelings about the situation. Instead, she feels grateful that she earned enough money to support herself as an adult. And she’s thankful she didn’t work with predatory managers or parents as many of her peers had.

“I was very lucky,” she confessed. “I had my money; I had a trust fund. My money was not stolen. The people I’ve talked to, the other child actors, have had severe challenges and really hard times. I noticed one of the most unpleasant factors is people who had all of their money stolen by their parents or by a manager.

“[Some] didn’t even want to be in show business or be an actor but were made to do so as small children. So, they told themselves, ‘Well, at least when I’m 18, I’ll get a check, and I’ll get out of here.’ And then they turn 18 and there’s nothing. … [Their parents or manager] spent it. … I didn’t have that [problem]. I knew where my money was.”