Naya Rivera may have played a bratty cheerleader on Glee, but off screen, her young life was anything but easy. The actress, 29, tells all about her painful years as busy child star, Hollywood reject and troubled teen in her new memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up.
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Born to a 20-year-old struggling actress, Rivera began acting in commercials and modeling at just seven months old. Eventually she starred in The Royal Family, and worked through 102-degree fevers. "Even though I was burning up, I nailed it," she boasts.
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Nightly rehearsals at home often ended in a "screaming match," she says, because she just wanted to play like normal kids.
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Here comes trouble: Rivera was constantly getting into fights at school, and was suspended twice before fifth grade. One time she was kicked out for making a "death threat" against another student. "Johnny smells so bad, sometimes I want him to die," she wrote in a note to a friend.
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Another time, she was suspended for biting a girl. "That b**** Sarah got off scot-free, even though she'd started it!" the star insists.
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Rivera's parents were off and on, and once separated because her father had an affair while her mother was pregnant with her younger sister.
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In junior high, the actress stopped getting roles, and in a state of depression, stopped eating. "It gave me something to think about all day, and it was a secret I could obsess over without anyone else knowing about it," she reveals. By high school, she had developed full-blown anorexia.
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Fortunately, by the end of sophomore year, she began eating healthily again. "I gained fifteen pounds and never looked back," she swears.
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AT 18, Rivera finally had access to her child acting money, and promptly bought breast implants against her parents' wishes. "I'd always been made fun of for being flat-chested," she remembers.
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When the star was 14, her father lost his job and the family struggled financially. "For a while, we applied for government assistance for health insurance, but then putting enough food on the table became a stretch," she says, adding that her mom would write checks she wasn't sure would clear.
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From age 15, Rivera began helping her family out with money from acting savings. "I just think they didn't have any other choice," she explains. "I wasn't bitter about it at all."
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After blowing all her money at 18, Rivera struggled to survive in her own apartment with various waitressing and sales jobs. She began to depositing empty envelopes for quick cash, but the banks caught on.
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At 20, Rivera got a job at Hooters, and began dating an older man named Barry who gave her money. When the man wouldn't leave her alone, her dad threatened him. "Watching my father do this, and knowing that I'd put him in a position that made him both angry and uncomfortable, was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life," she confesses.
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After a brief stint nannying and studying at a film school in New York, the star decided to quit acting and move to the Big Apple permanently. Her mother convinced her to give Hollywood six more months — and during this time, she landed her breakout role in Glee.
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