The stunning transformation of Ariel Winter

Growing up in general isn't easy, as we're figuring out who we are and how we want to show ourselves to the world. So being in the media spotlight during that time sounds near impossible. Yet, actress Ariel Winter shows us that's not the case. Even through some tough times in her personal life, Winter has handled things in stride and with a confident look that has evolved over the years. We know she's changed over the years, but just how dramatic her transformation has been may surprise you.

Starting young

2009 was a big year for young Winter. The then 11-year-old was not new to acting, with a small role on ER and voice-acting in Disney's Phineas and Ferb. But that year Winter's life changed big time with the successful premier of ABC's Modern Family. Winter plays Alex Dunphy, the wiser-than-her-years middle child who handles her family's antics day by day.

Similar to her character, Winter displayed maturity beyond her age at the time, but also sported a timeless, tween girl style. When interviewed by Blast Magazine, she described her experiences on the Modern Family set, and it's easy to see that Winter had been in this business for a while. "It's really exciting! It's different. It doesn't take that much time, everything is set, and everybody is like boom-boom-boom, let's get this done right now. It's really different than dramatic stuff where it's like, 'let's take this slow." It's clear this was just the beginning of Winter's success.

Confidence inside and out

12-year-old Winter continued to make big waves in 2010. Modern Family's success kept up, and Winter's spotlight in the media grew. She carried herself with more confidence and experimented with new looks and colors at various red carpet events. Her confidence also went beyond her looks, as Winter realized she could use her fame for good and make a difference.

When speaking with thestarscoop.com (via rightcelebrity.com), Winter chatted about her support of the green movement, saying "I conserve water, I unplug appliances when I'm not using them, and I use the three R's. Renew, Recycle, and Reuse." And the good became even better. Winter came together with fellow Modern Family co-stars to give awareness to anti-bullying and create a PSA for GLSEN's safe space campaign.

Taking on the teen years with class

With a super successful show on the air, it wasn't long until fancy award show invitations started rolling in. By 2011, an official teenage at 13 years old, Winter became a red carpet pro, and dared to take a few risks. Winter's most talked about look of the year came during the Emmys in September.

Some sources, including MTV and HollywoodLife.com, wrote that her dress was too mature for 13-year-old Winter. MTV's even went so far as to use the headline, "Ariel Winter's Emmy dress makes us feel uncomfortable." Winter heard the criticism and stayed a class act, showing her unusual maturity. She told Us Weekly, "I thought it [the dress] was very youthful, yet mature because I have the flowers and it's blush pink. I have a sort of body in a way that you can't really put a dress like this on without it looking older and more mature, so it's kind of not my fault!"

Staying strong during family drama

Winter's style continued to evolve in 2012 amidst some intense family drama that was featured right in the middle of the Hollywood spotlight. In November of 2012, it was announced that the 14-year-old had been removed from her mother's care due to accusations of physical and emotional abuse. According to E! News, Winter's older sister, Shanelle Gray, petitioned to be Winter's guardian due to their mother's "vile name calling, personal insults about [her and her weight]," and so forth. It was also mentioned that Winter's mother may have encouraged her daughter to dress more provocatively, which could explain some of Winter's previous outfits that had been described by media as too mature for her age.

Even with this stress at home Winter wowed with her looks and kept a good face on in front of the cameras.

Learning to love herself

After some intense family drama in 2012, a 15-year-old Winter was ready for a new year and a chance to finally be a teenager, starting with her style. Speaking with Teen Vogue, Winter described her intense past insecurities. "Because my mother wasn't supportive. Now, my sister is always making sure to tell me that I look beautiful."

So what makes Winter feel beautiful? The hair is key. Showing that bold is beautiful, Winter went bright red, then switched to her natural blonde locks later in the year. Winter's go-to hair colorist, Ashlee Zakar, told NBC's Today show about the star's lovely locks, saying "Ariel is young and fun, and the hair change is all due to her hiatus from Modern Family." She went on to say that with Ariel's "porcelain skin with dark features," she wanted something "more bright and fun."

Finding her signature look

At age 16, most teenage girls are still figuring out their style and what makes them feel good. Winter is no exception to that. In 2014, Winter was coming more into her own and had a better idea of what her style tendencies were, while still experimenting to find the perfect look. She told People, "I have more of an edgier style. I'm not pink, ruffled, preppy."

So what are her go-to looks? "I like the bodysuits. I love the color black. So the mature style and the more mature body goes with the age that I would like to be." The 16-year-old also worked closely with her stylist to make those mature looks a bit more age-appropriate. When she rocked her NBD x Naven Twins jumpsuit, her stylist added white piping along the bodice to make it even sweeter and a bit younger. Discussing her body shape, Winter said, "It's a blessing and a curse. I have to find things that are appropriate to wear but also fit my body well,so it still looks good."

Opening up about surgery

2015 was a big year for 17-year-old Winter. In May, she became officially emancipated, following years of family struggles. She also elected to have breast reduction surgery, going from a size 32F to 34D, and opened up to the public about her decision. She told Glamour in August, "I got it for myself. I can't even really put into words how amazing it feels to really feel right." A much more comfortable and confident Winter appeared on a post on Instagram thanking family, friends and fans for the support during her change.

Thank you so much @glamourmag and @JRadloff. I feel so blessed that you gave me a chance to share my story. I am extremely humbled. Jessica you are amazing!!!! To my fans, you guys have all been so supportive and I couldn't thank y'all more. You are all amazing human beings and I'm honored to have you. HUGE thanks go to the people who support me, love me, and take care of me in every way possible. To my incredible sister @shanelle_gray, her husband @davidbarrygray, my beautiful baby nieces, the love of my life @laurent_claude_gaudette and our furry babies Casper and Rocco, my father Glenn Workman, and my best friends @jessiebergg, @huntershocket, @ohmyskyy, and @music4joejoe who have been by my side through everything, THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! I love you all more than anything. I don't know what I'd do without you guys❤️ Thanks is also in order to my awesome team who works so hard for me all the time. I wouldn't be where I am without them!!! Thank you!!! Lastly, never be afraid to speak your mind. Always make decisions because YOU want to, and always do what makes YOU happy. Xx Hair by @bobbyeliot/Makeup by @kristeeliu/Styling by @Anita Patrickson & Jordan Wright/Photos by @collinstark and @jessicastark_ http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2015/08/ariel-winter-breast-reduction?mbid=social_fb_fanpage

A photo posted by ARIEL WINTER (@arielwinter) on Aug 12, 2015 at 7:35pm PDT

Winter shared that prior to the surgery, she often had trouble finding clothes that fit her appropriately. Now, things would be different. "Now I can wear all styles of dresses and all styles of things…I'm excited to finally actually feel confident and not just appear confident," she said. And that's just how she looked at the Emmys when she wowed in a bright red Romona Keveza dress, that even made the red carpet jealous. Celebrity stylist Anita Patrickson dressed Winter for the big night, telling International Business Times, "I'm trying to get her away from being a teenager. She's at that age where you're kind of grown-up, but also she's so young and fresh and gorgeous."

Showcasing her surgery scars

Winter has proven she has nothing to hide in 2016. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January, she pulled out all the stops with another fabulous Romona Keveza dress. This time opting for a strapless, backless black gown. Winter made quite the statement, wearing a dress that showed off the scars from her 2015 breast reduction surgery. Winter went to Twitter after the show to say, "Guys there is a reason I didn't make an effort to cover up my scars! They are a part of me and I'm not ashamed of them at all."

​Taking risks and not apologizing

Today, 18-year-old Winter is a pro at pushing the envelope. Critics continue to comment on her style and it's appropriateness, but Winter stays strong and true to herself. And she isn't afraid to tell it how it is. After she was criticized for her dress choice in a graduation photo she posted on Instagram, she fired back, posting on Twitter, "Dear sorry body-shamers, I looked HOT in that dress. And if you hate it, don't buy it. But please get a hobby. XOXO Ariel #EmbraceYourBody."

What's next for Ariel Winter?

And we never know what to expect next. In November 2016, Winter showed off a new, much-shorter hairdo, and looks as fabulous as ever. So what's next? All we know is that Winter is a fierce style-guru and soon-to-be an icon we need to keep an eye on.