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Little vixen Nellie Oleson grows up

In 1974, 11-year-old Alison Arngrim strategically positioned long golden curls under a frilly bonnet and morphed into 19th century brat Nellie Oleson for a new series called Little House on the Prairie.

For the seven years she was on the decade-long television phenomenon, viewers tuned in worldwide to see what Nellie, the town grocer's spoilt kid, would do next to antagonize the main child star, sweet little Laura Ingalls (played by Melissa Gilbert).

"I preferred playing Nellie to playing Laura," said Arngrim, who had originally auditioned for the starring role. "It suits me better...much more fun. It was quite freeing to [be] awful, do those terrible things."

Arngrim may have traded the curls for a short crop befitting her 45 years, but more than two decades after the series ended, the Nellie character still takes her around the world, including a visit to

Monaco for this past May's Monte Carlo Television Festival, where she rubbed shoulders with Prince Albert II and leading figures from today's hit television shows.

Little House on the Prairie got a new lease on life when it was brought out on DVD a few years ago, and is still aired on television in 140 countries. Arngrim, who was born in New York into a Canadian acting family, has kept Nellie Oleson alive with a stand-up comedy routine, which she performs in English and French on both sides of the Atlantic.

"She has stuck with me; as for her remaining, it's like having multiple personalities," Arngrim joked.

While she finds it bizarre that Nellie still has a "weird presence" in her life, Arngrim said: "She has been a bridge to other things. My fame has been useful. I've been able to raise a lot of money for charities, both fighting AIDS and fighting child abuse."

In 2004, Arngrim told CNN's Larry King that playing the little vixen on Little House... saved her life because it allowed her some release from a painful secret: "It was the most incredible therapy. I got to be horrible and scream; I didn't have to be nice to people; I could break things. I could let it all out."

Arngrim revealed on Larry King Live that she was a survivor of sexual abuse by a family member, which she endured when she was aged six to nine. Arngrim said she chose to publicly speak about being molested after having been inspired by seeing singer and actress Marie Osmond's own revelation on Larry King Live of having been subjected to sexual abuse as a child.

"I have avoided talking about this for years. I've seen a lot of celebrities go on television shows and come out about this kind of thing and I've always sort of cringed and said 'Oh, I just don't ever want to do that,'" Arngrim told King.

She, however, turned a negative experience into positive action by taking up a directorship with the lobbying group the National Association to Protect Children, also known as PROTECT.

"We've been changing legislation nationwide in the US to protect children," Arngrim told Monaco Revue during the Monte Carlo Television Festival. "Because of who I am, I've been able to go on tv and bring those messages to people where they wouldn't have heard about them otherwise. That makes me happy and I'm very grateful for that."

When she's not touring, Arngrim can be found at home in the wilds of Tujunga, in the northern reaches of Los Angeles, with her musician husband Bob Schoonover, (whom she married in 1993), and their two cats.

A Monaco Revue "Up Close And Real Interview"; filmed at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.

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Comments to date: 3. Page 1 of 1.

Jessica,  Ontario, Canada

Posted at 9:05am on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I think it's great and inspiring how she turned a negative experience into positive action!

Daryl,  Texas

Posted at 1:28pm on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Good to know Alison didn't let what happened in the past defeat her.

Vanessa,  Paris, France

Posted at 3:40am on Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I used to love Little House on the Prarie because I was the same age as Laura and Nelly. Had no idea the reality behind what it meant for Nelly. You go girl. Your courage is an inspiration.


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