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LI's Natalie Portman: Being sexualized as a child star made me 'feel unsafe'

Natalie Portman attends the premiere of "Vox Lux"

Natalie Portman attends the premiere of "Vox Lux" on Dec. 5 in Hollywood. Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images / Alberto E. Rodriguez

Natalie Portman, who plays the adult version of a sexualized teen music star in the new film "Vox Lux," is reflecting on her similar experiences as a child star.

"I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually I would feel unsafe and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort," Portman, 37, who was raised primarily in Jericho, says in the new issue of People magazine. "I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I'm someone worth of safety and respect."

The "Black Swan" Academy Award-winner added that, "I know I was sexualized in the ways that I was photographed or portrayed, and that was not my doing" but nonetheless it "becomes a part of your public identity."

The young-teen version of her pop-star character Celeste Montgomery in "Vox Lux," played by Raffey Cassidy, "is packaged into this brand, and it's kind of separate from her," said Portman. That resonated on a personal level, she said. "I experienced a different degree of it, in a different way, and obviously I have [a] very different support system than the character in the movie, but you see what the culture wants from you, or demands from you and wants to put out there."

Syosset High grad Portman turned 12 during the production of her film debut, Luc Besson's 1994 cult-hit "The Professional." She played Mathilda, a troubled girl whose family is killed by a corrupt DEA agent (Gary Oldman) who becomes the protégé of a slow-witted but sweet-natured hit man (Jean Reno) through whom she hopes to gain vengeance. Janet Maslin's New York Times review said Portman's character "sits smoking pensively, wearing the bobbed hair, black choker and striped jersey that make her look like a mini-Parisian streetwalker and certainly like a pederast's delight."

At the Women's March in Los Angeles on Jan. 20, Portman said that upon the release of that film, her first fan letter was a "rape fantasy" from a man. Presaging her remarks to People, she told the crowd that even at 13, "I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I'm someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism."

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