The Tragic Truth About Michelle Trachtenberg

Film and television star Michelle Trachtenberg has been acting professionally since getting her start in television commercials when she was just a kid. "My first commercial was [a] Wisk detergent commercial," the young actor recalled while appearing on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" in the 1996. "I think I was like three or four." She went on to establish a successful career as a child actor, highlighted by her starring role in the 1996 motion picture "Harriet the Spy." That movie was a watershed moment for the young actor, and it remains a large part of her legacy. During an interview with "Entertainment Tonight," more than two-and-a-half decades later, Trachtenberg became emotional recalling the experience. "Don't you effing make me cry!" she said when asked about the film. "I turned 10 years old on the first day of principal photography of 'Harriet the Spy,'" she added.

While many former child stars have experienced difficulties making the leap from childhood roles to teenage ones, Trachtenberg avoided that with aplomb when she was cast as Dawn Summers, younger sister of the title character in cult-hit TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Further roles followed, including portraying a high-profile recurring character in another TV hit when she was cast as Georgina Sparks in "Gossip Girl."

Yet, interwoven with all that Hollywood acclaim has been heartbreak and pain. To experience more about that side of her life, read on to learn the tragic truth of Michelle Trachtenberg.

She endured 'tortuous' bullying because she was a child star

While young Michelle Trachtenberg gained Hollywood fame as a child star during the 1990s, she was being relentlessly bullied at school. In a 2020 Instagram post, Trachtenberg recalled the awful behavior she experienced from her classmates. "The kids were cruel," she wrote. "There is no need to harp on the past. But I still have scars from being thrown down stairs and slammed into lockers head first."

Sitting down for an interview with "Talk Stoop," she looked back on her painful school days. "I had a really, really horrible time in school. They were terrible, and tortuous, and evil," she added. "They really made fun of me and tortured me — but ha-ha, look at me now!" Trachtenberg joked.

In 2010, Trachtenberg told Complex that the bullying she endured was fueled by the other kids' jealousy. "People were envious of me, but they took it to a nasty place, like, 'Let's mess her s*** up,' as opposed to, 'Yay! So cool!'" she explained, recalling one incident in particular that left her with lasting mental and physical scars. "When I was in elementary school, this one girl threw me down a flight of stairs, fractured my ribs, punched and fractured my nose, and told the principal I used the word 'b***h' and got me [sent to] detention — the only time I've ever been thrown in detention in my life," she said.

Being excluded from school activities because of her fame was hurtful

While describing the bullying she'd endured, Michelle Trachtenberg also recalled one particularly hurtful experience that took place on Valentine's Day. As she wrote on Instagram, all of the kids in her class were instructed to write Valentine's Day cards to their classmates, so everyone would receive a card. However, no one in Trachtenberg's class wrote one to her. "I never got one on purpose, everyone got a valentine card," she wrote. "No one ever gave me one and they thought I didn't need the attention. The kids and staff all laughed and thought everyone else should get one, being an actress since I was 3, apparently I didn't need one."

As she explained, the other kids at school only saw the glitzy movie premieres and talk show appearances, but not her hard work and sacrifices. "No one gave a thought I was helping my family pay bills," she added. "I was just the girl on the tv ..."

In that post, Trachtenberg revealed that she's often contacted by people on social media who tell her that their siblings or friends recalled going to school with her, and claimed to have been her friends. "False," she wrote. 

The bullying continued in school

Sadly, the bullying that Michelle Trachtenberg was subjected to in elementary school didn't stop once she left. In the aforementioned interview with Complex, she related further incidents that took place throughout her time in school. "When I was in junior high school, there was a whole gang of girls who would push me into lockers and steal my clothes after gym, so I wouldn't have anything to wear," she said.

That abuse continued unabated in high school, with one girl in particular who made it her mission to create problems for her. "She'd tell the teacher horrible lies about me; she dated a couple of my friends and when we were all out one night, she took someone's vodka bottle and chucked it at me," Trachtenberg recalled. "So yeah, I guess I harbor resentment towards kids from high school ..."

Karma made an appearance years later, when Trachtengerg happened to encounter the girl who'd hurled her down the stairs way back in elementary school. "We were coming out of a restaurant and there was a wall of like 20 paparazzi. They were probably waiting for Paris Hilton and I just happened to come out," Trachtenberg said, revealing she uncharacteristically chose to seek revenge. "I have never before or since said something like this, because it's so disgusting, but I turned to her and was like, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I'm really famous. They need to take my picture. Sucks for you,'" she said.

She felt Buffy the Vampire Slayer stifled her creativity

Michelle Trachtenberg was best known for "Harriet the Spy" and "Inspector Gadget" when she was cast in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," a role that propelled her to a whole other level of fame. Joining the show in 2000 at age 14, Trachtenberg played the younger sister of "Buffy" star Sarah Michelle Gellar in 66 episodes until the cult hit's run ended in 2003.

During a 2004 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Trachtenberg stated the grind of churning out episodic television wasn't scratching her creative itch. "Well, honestly when I left 'Buffy,' I never thought I'd go back to TV, because I've done it," she explained. "I'm not a person to repeat myself creativity-wise. And I found TV to be rather stifling, especially 'Buffy.'" 

A part of that, she added, was that playing the same character for such a long period of time. "Three years as one character — where they're not changing the character and your abilities aren't being tested or challenged — gets very repetitive," she said. However, in the years that followed, more news would come out that would explain Trachtenberg's excitement to move on to different projects.

She experienced online hate from Buffy fans

Since the Internet exists, it should come as no surprise that Michelle Trachtenberg suffered online abuse from hardcore "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans. During a 2017 "Buffy" reunion for Entertainment Weekly, Trachtenberg opened up about the nasty comments thrown her way. "I still get comments like, 'Oh my God! I think Dawn is so annoying!' I get it. It's fine," she said. "It used to be a 60-40 'I hate Dawn.' Then, it became 50-50. Now, I think it's 60-40 being supportive of Dawn. Maybe even 70-30."

Her response to those keyboard critics? "Hi, were you a teenager? Oh, you were docile, sitting in the corner, doe-eyed and happy to be there? No," she said. "There's a reason why teenagers have a stigma and that is what [series creator] Joss [Whedon] wrote."

Whedon commented on the anti-Dawn backlash in a 2012 interview with IGN, saying: "I sort of scratched my head. I was like, 'Excuse me, she's been abandoned by about six parental figures. The girl has huge issues.'" That said, Whedon did admit that he'd "run the same note for a while" with Trachtenberg's character for a while. "I'd hoped to be able to do more with Dawn this year, and the bigger picture just got so g*****n big, that it was hard."

She implied she was abused by Buffy creator Joss Whedon

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon quickly became a revered figure among the show's fanbase. However, as the years passed, Whedon faced allegations from his ex-wife and actors who've worked with him regarding his on-set behavior. In 2021, in a show of support for Ray Fisher's allegations of abusive behavior against Whedon during reshoots of "Justice League," Charisma Carpenter (who played Cordelia Chase on "Buffy") tweeted similar claims, stating that Whedon "abused his power on numerous occasions" during her time on the show.

Fellow "Buffy" castmate Amber Benson tweeted a response, writing, "'Buffy' was a toxic environment and it starts at the top." In turn, Sarah Michelle Gellar, wrote an Instagram post in support "of all survivors" who were allegedly abused by Whedon. Michelle Trachtenberg responded to Gellar's post, sharing it with her Instagram followers while offering some further allegations that were as disturbing as they were shocking. "Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior .... very. Not. Appropriate," Trachtenberg wrote on Instagram. "So now. People know. What Joss. Did. The last. Comment I will make on this. Was. There was a rule. Saying. He's not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again."

That wasn't all she had to say. According to People, Trachtenberg reposted Gellar's statement on Instagram Stories, along with some further comments. "We know what he did. Behind. The. Scenes," she wrote.

Training for Ice Princess left her severely injured

Once "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ended its run, Michelle Trachtenberg turned her attention to the big screen. After starring in the raucous teen comedy "Eurotrip," she portrayed a figure skater with dreams of competing in the Olympics in Disney's "The Ice Princess."

"Before this film, the only ice skating experience I'd had was when I was a kid. I'd watch those films and go, 'I wanna be an ice skater!'" she told Campus Circle. While there was initial talk of having a stunt double perform Trachtenberg's figure skating, she instead underwent a grueling training regimen in order to convincingly play an Olympic-caliber athlete. "I worked really, really hard and definitely have the injuries to prove it," she explained.

During a 2005 interview with Blackfilm, Trachtenberg listed those injuries, including a dislocated knee and torn ligaments. Despite the physical toll on her body, Trachtenberg took it all in stride. "It sounds really bad, but those are all things that happen to athletes," she added. "I mean, I'm very lucky because I didn't get any stress fractures which is one of the hugest things ..."

She mourned the death of her close friend, Nick Ackerman

In 2017, Michelle Trachtenberg shared a heartfelt tribute on Instagram to a close friend who had recently passed away unexpectedly. "I don't normally like to share personal heartbreak on social media. But I had to share the story of one of my closest dearest friend [sic], Nick Ackerman."

Trachtenberg described Ackerman, who was a New York City-based musician and bassist for The Virgins, as "a unique soul, a true friend and someone who was always there for me." She added, "He inspired the path my life took in so many ways."

The "Black Christmas" star revealed she and Ackerman had spoken a few weeks earlier and even made plans to get together. Sadly, Ackerman died before they could. "I will forever miss this opportunity to say to you I love you, one more time," she added, sending her thoughts and prayers out to his grieving family. She ended her post with advice for anyone reading: "Be grateful for the magic that is being alive."

Another injury left her requiring a cane in order to walk

The dislocated knee and torn ligaments she experienced while filming "Ice Princess" were, sadly, not the only injuries that Michelle Trachtenberg has suffered over the years. In 2019, she shared a photo of herself walking with a cane, with one of her feet encased in a medical walking boot. "Dear 2019. My broken ankle can still kick your ass out the door," she wrote in the caption to the pic, which she posted on Instagram. "Cuz in 2020, I'm going to be 100% that b***h."

She was no longer using the cane when she walked the red carpet at Elton John's annual AIDS gala, but probably should have. When asked by "Entertainment Tonight" correspondent Lauren Zima about the flat, bedazzled shoes she was wearing, Trachtenberg responded, "They are comfort and bedazzlement, but I also have a broken ankle." Asked if she was wearing a cast, Trachtenberg replied, "No, because I was a little bit too shallow. I couldn't wear a gown with a full train to Elton, and a full brace cast. But I'm here." Zima wanted to know whether her doctors had approved attending the gala sans-cast. "Well, I mean, I have Hollywood doctors, right? So they're like, 'Yeah, we get it," she quipped.

Fans expressed their alarm at her appearance

In addition to her acting career, Michelle Trachtenberg is also a force to be reckoned with on social media, where her Instagram account boasts close to 800,000 followers. In her posts, Trachtenberg keeps her fans updated on her upcoming projects, while also sharing details about her personal life. This also includes posting photos of herself, but it was one selfie with a friend in particular that caused fans to worry about her health.

Numerous followers were quick to point out that they felt something seemed to be wrong with her appearance, with some speculating she'd had some kind of unspecified plastic surgery. Others advised her to seek medical attention. "Yellow eyes or jaundice, and falling hair (like that spot in the middle = cirrhosis)," one of her followers wrote in a comment. Another commenter wrote, "Yellowing eyes, hair loss, and sunken features aren't normal for a 38 yo," recommending she undergo testing for a potential autoimmune disease.

Trachtenberg pushed back, posting a selfie that was accompanied by a blunt caption. "I've received several comments recently about my appearance," the actor wrote. "I have never had plastic surgery I am happy and healthy. Check yourself haters." She followed up with another selfie, along with more scolding. "Fun fact," she shared. "This is my face. Not malnutrition no problems. Why do you have you hate? Get a calendar."