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At age 10, Melissa Gilbert landed her Little House on the Prairie role, and then she grew up in Hollywood. But she’s happier now living outside that coveted spotlight, which she said comes with standards that are hard to obtain, much less maintain.

What realization did Gilbert have about the unhealthy expectations she was trying to live up to? And what affordable way did she find to get away?

Melissa Gilbert, pictured at an event in 2020, left Hollywood for a quieter life
Melissa Gilbert | Lars Niki/Getty Images for BAM

Melissa Gilbert grew up in Hollywood on the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

After starting on Little House when she was 10, Gilbert came of age in Hollywood. She told PEOPLE she “grew up in an industry that values the outside considerably more than the inside,” and she was “caught in that wheel of trying to stay young.”

Gilbert now recognizes dangerous messages, and she called Kim Kardashian out over publicizing her Met Gala weight loss. But she didn’t always see it that way.

“I was always trying too hard to fit the mold that someone else wanted,” she explained, and “outside forces” convinced her she needed things that never “sat right” with what she desired — like to be thin or be seen in the right places, clothes, and cars.

According to Gilbert, she tried to fight against aging until she became a person she could no longer recognize.

Melissa Gilbert felt like she was wearing a ‘shell’ after Botox and fillers

In an interview with Yahoo! Life, Gilbert recalled a time she didn’t even recognize herself in a photo due to Botox and fillers. “It was a red carpet for the Season 4 premiere of Nip/Tuck,” she shared. “And I was all done up. And I, it was at the height of all the fillers in the Botox and my hair was very, very colored …”

She continued, “… That really knocked me for a loop, because I was looking at [myself] thinking, ‘Who’s that person? That’s not me. That’s like a shell over what the real me is.’”

Gilbert came to a place where she “was having a real hard time living … life from a place where the external mattered more than the internal,” she said.

“I really wanted to reverse that,” she offered. “I wanted to become more spiritual, more grounded, more at peace, more connected to my community, to my family, to my friends.”

But she concluded there’s a problem bigger than her that still needs to be addressed, despite having that epiphany about herself. “There are so many things we need to do to allow women to age. It’s so systemic and endemic and so much a part of the fabric of who we are,” she lamented.

Melissa Gilbert left Hollywood for New York, and she doesn’t miss it


‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Melissa Gilbert Put Off Seeing the Real-Life Walnut Grove Until She Was an Adult

Gilbert and her husband Timothy Busfield sold their million-dollar home in California and moved to a one-bathroom house on 14 acres in the Catskill Mountains of New York which they purchased in 2019. “This is what I’ve always wanted,” she told PEOPLE.

She cut off her hair, “quit doing Botox and all that stuff,” and “reawakened” her childhood love for the outdoors. “I’m finally happy in my own skin. I’m so grateful and relieved and so much happier,” she concluded.