Soleil Moon Frye opens up about her struggles growing up in Hollywood and her new doc Kid 90
"As a kid growing up, I had such an incredible life and family surrounding me, then I started developing, and developing rapidly," the actress tells EW. "I was going through puberty and it was this fascinating thing because so many people looked at me like I was this little girl, and as I started developing I was treated much more like an adult. It really felt like I was thrust into early adulthood."
Frye, now 44, takes a frank and revealing look back at her ups and downs as a young Hollywood star in the new documentary Kid 90 (streaming Friday on Hulu), featuring personal videos, diaries, and voicemail messages. In the exclusive clip above, Frye opens up about dealing with the rare medical condition gigantomastia, which causes excessive breast growth, and how it changed the way she was viewed in the entertainment industry.
"People treated me differently," Frye says. "Men would look at me in a different way, and they'd stare at my boobs. People would call me 'Punky Boobster.' It was so hard because I've always embraced Punky so much, she's such a part of my heart. So often it feels like people don't want to see that kid grow up. I think about this today and how relevant this conversation still is as young people are struggling while going through puberty."
Many of Frye's celebrity friends appear in the documentary through video footage she recorded during their heyday. Saved by the Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar recalls his teen years working on the popular Saturday-morning sitcom, where he says they were treated as adults. Gosselaar adds that he would never let any of his three children become actors.
"Everyone's experience was so unique to themselves," Frye says. "While working on Punky, everyone encouraged us to be kids. We always had our pogo sticks and our scooters around. My mom always made sure I went to summer camp every summer. I really don't think any two sets were the same. In many cases, some people felt like they were exposed to very adult experiences. I feel very fortunate that it wasn't the case on Punky, where those around us made sure we felt like kids first and foremost."
Kid 90 also offers a glimpse at what Frye's dating life was like in her post-Punky years, including juicy confessions of multiple crushes on some of Hollywood's most high-profile leading men. One of those men was Charlie Sheen, with whom she reveals she had her first consensual sexual experience when she was 18 and he was 29.
Frye, who recently revived Punky Brewster with NBC's streaming platform Peacock, refers to Sheen as both "Charles" and "Mr. Big" in the documentary (the latter being a reference to the Sex and the City character who turned out to be the lead protagonist's true love by series end).
"Again, I can only speak from my experience, which I revisited in my diaries," Frye says. "In the diaries, I wrote that he was so sweet to me and how our experiences together were fun and really beautiful. For me, looking back at it, it was more special than even I had remembered it. In speaking my truth, I shared what was in there."
Elsewhere in the documentary, a celebratory scene shows much of young '90s Hollywood hanging out together, including Corey Feldman. The onetime teen heartthrob has previously claimed there were predators attending such parties, many of who sexually abused him and other young actors. (He has also alleged that Sheen raped his late friend Corey Haim when Haim was 19. Sheen has denied the allegation.)
Frye says she didn't encounter the sort of predatory behavior Feldman has described. "Thankfully, I was not exposed to those things, and I don't want to be dismissive of anyone else's experiences by any means," she says. "I think there was a lot going on, and the industry has a dark side. My mom was always there for me [so] I wasn't involved in that side of it."
Kid 90 also reminds viewers of many actors who are no longer with us, including Jonathan Brandis, Andrew Dorff, and Kids stars Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter. Both Brandis and Pierce died by suicide.
"I'm still so close to Jonathan's parents, who love him with all their hearts," Frye says. "They're so amazing. We spoke about [his death]. Even though he had so much love around him, he was still struggling. That can happen to anyone anywhere in the world. I think there was a lot of pain under the surface for so many people that I didn't see at the time but now I can in hindsight, looking back 20 years later. We need to have more conversations about suicide prevention and mental health awareness all over the world. This isn't just a Hollywood issue."
It's clear that the memories weren't all pleasant, but Frye viewed countless hours of video and read stacks of diaries to bring Kid 90 to life, and she promises there's a lot more where that came from.
"I have hundreds of hours of footage that I would love to continue making lots of these documentaries," she says. "So much more."
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