Alison Arngrim is an actress, author, stand-up comic and activist, who is popular for portraying the character of Nellie Oleson on ‘Little House on the Prairie’, a NBC TV series in which she portrayed the role from 1974 to 1981. Merely, 12 years of age, she was so thorough in her acting playing the mean and snobbish girl that she was feared by the public off-screen as well. She has an amazing sense of humor and a natural talent for portraying emotions, which makes her a successful performer. Having been an incest abuse survivor in her childhood, she spends an ample amount of time working with organizations to bring awareness towards child abuse and other important causes close to her heart. Known by her family, friends and co-actors to be an exact opposite of her on-screen villainous character, Alison has not let her tragedies overpower her, rather used that rage and aggression to uplift her work and tirelessly engage herself towards helping others.
Alison Arngrim was a child actor and had done commercials and a movie ‘Throw Out the Anchor’ before she auditioned for the part of Laura and Mary Ingalls, and finally landed the role of nasty Nellie in the television show ‘Little House on the Prairie’. She remembers a time when during a parade someone threw a cup of orange soda at her face, and feeling happy about it eventually, because she was obviously playing her role convincingly to be hated by so many people. Alison Arngrim has confessed that she gets surprised with how popular ‘Little House on the Prairie’ still is with its reruns and it was a pleasant surprise for her to know that Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein also watched and loved the show.
She has acted in shows like ‘The Love Boat’, ‘Fantasy Land’, ‘The Comeback Kids’ and done movies such as ‘Make the Yuletide Gay’, ‘The Last Place on Earth’ and ‘Le Deal’. She has written a memoir and a stage version of the book, which she has performed as a one-person show. She does comedy stage appearances with her director and comedian friend Patrick Loubatière, and is very popular in France, also having an eponymous French website.
You May Like
Continue Reading Below
Family & Personal Life
Alison Margaret Arngrim was born to actress, Norma MacMillan, and talent manager, Thor Arngrim, on 18 January 1962, in New York. Her father was born in Canada and her mother hailed from Vancouver in British Columbia. While her mother was a popular voice over artist, having lent her vocals to characters like Casper in the animated series ‘New Casper Cartoon Show’, Davey, in ‘Davey and Goliath’, ‘Underdog’s’ girlfriend ‘Sweet Polly Purebred’, and voicing the title role in ‘Gumby’; her father was an actor, producer, manager, and the founder of the Totem Theatre company.
She has an older brother Stefan Arngrim, who is also and actor and a musician. In her autobiographical book ‘Confessions of a Prairie Bitch’, Alison has revealed it was her brother Stefan who sexually abused her. Alison was married to actor Donald Mark Spencer from 8th April 1989 to 8th April 1993, and is now married to musician Robert Paul Schoonover since 6th November 1993.
Controversies & Scandals
As the daughter of two successful entertainment professionals, Alison’s childhood was not a regular one. Although her book is mostly humorous incidents written in a light-hearted narrative, it highlights her personal tragedy of facing physical, emotional abuse and incest.
She has identified her brother Stefan Arngrim to have been her abuser since she was six years old. This lasted for a period of six years and finally stopped when Alison started her role as Nellie Oleson in 1974. By then, Stefan had already exploited her to do drugs like LSD, cocaine and marijuana, along with the sexual abuse.
According to Alison Arngrim, playing the character of Nellie was therapeutic for her and it helped her gain her confidence back. The role not only gave her a physical escape route, but also provided her with a much-needed emotional outlet during that time of her life.
Alison Arngrim wanted to press charges regarding her abuse when she realized that the law prohibited a prison sentence for sexual abuse, if the abuser is a member of the child’s family. This was applicable to 26 states in the USA and was the reason she could not press charges. However, she has been going to each state and presenting her case in front of the governments, working towards convincing them to getting this law changed, so other children do not have to suffer. She is associated with the non-profit organization called PROTECT, which works towards protecting children from neglect, exploitation and abuse.
Another cause she is closely associated with is AIDS awareness. Alison’s on-screen husband Steve Tracy’s death in 1986 due to AIDS was a huge blow for her, which led to her want to become an activist in the first place. She has worked at AIDS hotline and is involved with the ACT UP organization.