There was a time when Melissa Gilbert was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. The child actress was launched to superstardom when she was cast as Laura Ingalls Wilder in the beloved TV show Little House on the Prairie alongside popular actor Michael Landon. It's not easy growing up with the entire world watching, but fans definitely went wild when Gilbert started dating Brat Pack star Rob Lowe when she was 17.
Gilbert had already had a few high-profile relationships before meeting Lowe. She was attached to Cyril O'Reilly after filming the remake of Splender in the Grass and even dated Tom Cruise briefly, though they didn't have the sparks she was looking for.
"We went on a couple of dates and made out in my mom's living room," she wrote in her memoir Prairie Tale. "He was nice, funny, and sweet. But it wasn't like being hit with an arrow."
But it was totally different when the actress met Rob Lowe. Living in Los Angeles and working in Hollywood definitely made the young couple move fast and they quickly became one of the "it couples" of the 80s.
"I fell instantly, hopelessly and stupidly in love," she wrote in Prairie Tale, according to Today. "We went from first date to instant couple. I felt like I was starving for Rob."
After dating for a few years, Lowe proposed and Gilbert accepted. But when she became pregnant, Lowe got cold feet and just wasn't ready to be a father or get married. It was a tough breakup for Gilbert. Shortly after they called it quits, she had a miscarriage.
"We broke up. It ran its course. I think we were just too young," she said in an interview with Today's Erin Burnett.
"It was very, very painful. It was a very dark and difficult time for me... Now that I have children that are his age — my older boys are 28 and 23, the age he was when we were together — I understand it. But at the time it was devastating," Gilbert explained.
"Everything, no matter how painful, led me to this place I am right now, which is really an amazing place to be," she told Burnett. "I have a really peaceful, happy life. I have these great, confident kids. I'm married to a man I'm absolutely crazy about, who cherishes me. It's a real gift."
The role of Laura Ingalls on the classic NBC television series really defined Gilbert's acting career but the actress didn't let that stop her from pursuing new experiences. During her child actor days, she earned an Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, was Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, and Clara in Nutcracker Fantasy. As an adult, she competed on Dancing With The Stars, was President of the Screen Actors Guild for a few years, and appeared in numerous additional acting roles including Safe Harbour, as Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series, Sweet Justice, Choices of the Heart, Without Her Consent, and various other TV series and TV movies.
The actress is also vocal about her current happy home life. She has two sons, Dakota Paul Brinkman (from her relationship with Bo Brinkman) and Michael Boxleitner (from her relationship with Bruce Boxleitner). She's also happily married to actor Timothy Busfield. The couple left California together to live a low-key life up in Michigan for a few years before settling down in upstate New York. Gilbert has an estimated net worth of $500k. If this is lower than expected for a former child star don't forget that Gilbert had a rough patch with the IRS over some unpaid state taxes.
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