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Evan Rachel Wood: Justin Bieber & Miley Cyrus Have a Right to Make Mistakes

The actress reflects on her own wild years and the hurtful judgment she received, including the "mean" commentary about her relationship with Marilyn Manson

Evan Rachel Wood InterviewJamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Story Highlights
Evan Rachel Wood says the public was extremely cruel to her when she got involved with Marilyn Manson as a teen
The actress believes we're too hard on young celebs who are trying to grow up in the spotlight
The real problem might be that we see Miley and Justin as superstars, not young people who will inevitably mess up

It wasn't so long ago that Evan Rachel Wood, now 26 years old, was just another teen star gone bad. The former child actress rocketed to fame with the 2003 indie hit Thirteen. She had the world at her feet. Then she decided to date shock rocker Marilyn Manson, who was 38 years old. She was 19. Wood is now married (to actor Jamie Bell) with a 4-month-old baby, but she vividly remembers the hurtful comments she received about her first real relationship. And it makes her feel for young stars like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.

"People were pretty mean," Wood tells the Daily Beast. "At the time I hadn’t yet been exposed to that kind of cruelty from strangers. ... I was never a Bieber or a Cyrus, but I think the judgment was there, sure."

A Belieber herself, Wood says she "can't imagine" the pressure Justin is under right now. "When you’re a teenager in an adult career, people expect you to be perfect and expect you to never make mistakes or to be a reckless teenager. And then when you are, they give you such a really hard time for it," she reflects. "You have to remind them that you’re still a kid."

It's true that Bieber, 19, and Cyrus, 20, are very young. If you believe the adage that celebrities remain emotionally "frozen" at the age they were when they became famous -- well, that makes them younger still. In many ways, Bieber's juvenile pranks (and bad-boy behavior) and Miley's sexual posturing are exactly the same things other young adults are doing, just on a much bigger scale.

We all want our favorite celebrities (and especially our kids' favorite celebrities) to be good people. But even good people make bad decisions, especially when they're young and trying to figure out their identities. That process has got to be extra hard when the press is judging your every move. Growing up in the public eye can be its own kind of torture.

Then again, the problem isn't really that Justin and Miley are making people angry. The problem is that their antics are headline news, which means we overestimate how much they matter. Miley's twerking is not the end of civilization. Bieber is not going to lead an entire generation of fans into the gutter. They're just kids growing up, and that's how we should be seeing them.

"If people were wondering why I was acting so-called crazy or like a teenager, it’s because I was," Wood says now. "People go through phases. People make mistakes. People go through life and don’t get it right every time. ... Like, do people remember when they were that age?"

Donna Kaufman is a freelance writer and iVillage contributor. Find her on Twitter and Google+

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Boys may have an even harder time growing up in Hollywood than girls.

Is transitioning into adulthood even harder for male celebrities than it is for female celebrities? Author Tom Hawking talks about how our ideas of "being a man" have made things extra hard for Justin Bieber. "The transition from boyhood to manhood carries connotations of aggression and unruliness, and that sort of thing is most definitely not what society wants from its cute little Biebers," Hawking writes. "[And so] a male child star trying to establish himself as an adult is often the object of ridicule and contempt."

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Wood's relationship with Manson actually helped her grow up.

In this interview, which took place a year after her break-up from Manson, Wood reflects on how the relationship helped her grow up. "I didn’t really get a normal childhood," she explains. "Manson gave me what I felt I’d missed out on, where you get to experiment and cut loose and change and grow. I lived 50 lifetimes in those four years."

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Sinead O'Connor (and most people) are wrong about Miley Cyrus.

Author Jessica Grose remembers her own 20s in this very candid personal essay, and urges the media to "cut Miley a little slack." "We were all trying on different personas and styles and doing embarrassing things when we were 20," she writes, "trying to figure out what our grown-up identities were going to be."

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One mom will "fight or die trying" to stop Miley Cyrus' influence.

This blog post, in which a mother warns her daughter never to act like Miley Cyrus, went viral after the MTV VMAs. The blogger admonishes Miley's parents for not saying "no" enough, and calls the singer "a desperate girl screaming for attention." "You probably know girls who will emulate this behavior at the next school dance," she writes to her daughter. "Don’t do it with them. You are far too valuable to sell yourself so cheaply. Walk away. Let the boys gawk and know in your heart that they see only a body that can be used for their pleasure and then forgotten."

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