"Growing up in the spotlight was quite possibly the worst for my self-esteem," she says. "When I started [Modern Family], I had a completely different body than what happened overnight at 12 years old. I was stick thin, I had no chest, I had no butt -- I had nothing. I was totally flat, and I was so sad about it. Then automatically, overnight, my body changed drastically. I was a D cup and had a bigger butt, and my waist was expanding. Everything was getting bigger. I automatically got this hate and judgment online."
Winter says it was her co-star, Sofia Vergara, that helped her come to accept her body transformation. "I had a great role model in Sofia growing up, with her being a curvy woman that was super proud of who she was and what she looked like,” she shares. “[Sofia] could see that I was struggling a little bit with how to deal with my body, and was always trying to give me advice, like, ‘Here are some brands that would look good on our body type,’ or ‘Wear whatever you want, and feel good about yourself.’”
Winter also credits her older sister, Shanelle Workman, whom she lives with, for encouraging her to be comfortable in her own skin. “I look up to her so much," she gushes. "I would listen to her talk to me, saying, ‘It doesn’t matter what other people think. You are who you are. It’s not going to change. Love yourself for who you are. People are going to hate regardless of what you do. You could conform to everything they say, and they’re still going to find something to pick. Or you could be yourself and be happy and not listen to what they say.’”
Winter decided to get a breast reduction when she was 17 -- her surgical scar can be seen in the photos for SELF -- and since then, has been outspoken on social media about loving one's body. "I think people make a lot of judgments about me based on what I wear and all the things that I do," she explains. "They kind of glorify and objectify a lot of the things that I do, and I wish people would just see me as the normal 18-year-old that I am. I’m doing the same things that everybody my age is doing."
When speaking to ET, Winter further defended the risque selfies she shares on Instagram and Snapchat. "Everybody is so hyped up on the fact that I post photos where my butt's out. It's a butt. Everyone has a butt," she said. "It's like, 'Let me live! I'm enjoying my life, you're enjoying your life, you should be posting your butt if you like it, too!'"