‘Little House on the Prairie’ Saved Alison Arngrim From Painful Childhood


Alison Arngrim had her Hollywood debut at twelve when she starred as “Nasty” Nellie Oleson on the TV series Little House On The Prairie, which ran from 1974 to 1983. For the child star, securing a role in the ’70s series was timely, as she was in a dark phase in life and was able to stay strong by playing a character that helped her express her frustrations.

Alison was subjected to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse while growing up, and her mean-girl character in the series gave her the means to give voice to her anger. The actress shared more about her painful childhood experience in her 2010 memoir, Confessions of a Prairie B—-: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated.

‘Little House On The Prairie’ was a saving grace for Alison

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, Alison Arngrim, 1974-1983.

Ahead of the Golden Jubilee reunion of Little House On The Prairie in March 2024, Alison, who is on tour with her one-woman show, told Fox News about how she felt on the set of the series. “As I talked about in the book, I was bullied. I was shy. I’d been abused as a child,” she reflected. “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 asks, where do we put this displaced anger? Where do you put this rage? And this is what just kills people,” Alison added. “It’s just awful. There’s nowhere for it to go, and [it takes] years of therapy to get that out. Well, here I was going to work every day and yelling and screaming and smashing stuff up and getting paid for it and rewarded for smashing everything in this room. It was a very freeing feeling. I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

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11 February 2023 -Santa Barbara, California – Alison Arngrim. the 38th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Jamie Lee Curtis held at Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Photo Credit: AdMedia

‘Little House On The Prairie’ was a therapy

Alison further shared how she was able to channel her anger to her character and how that made her sane. “It was so helpful to [me] as a teenager, which is the hardest period for everybody, especially if you’re an abuse survivor, to have this outlet … to [take] all my anger and angst and tension and let it all out,” she revealed. “I have to admit, it did absolute wonders for me. It really did.”

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LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, Alison Arngrim, Season 6, 1974-1983

Years after filming the ’70s series, Alison found herself to be typecast and earned the moniker ‘Pioneer Barbie.’ However, all that didn’t bother her as she was happy that she was finally back on her feet mentally from playing Nasty Nellie and able to see past the childhood abuse she suffered.


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