Alison Arngrim is an American actress, author, and activist. She is best known for her role as Nellie Oleson on the popular TV series Little House on the Prairie. But what has Arngrim been doing since the show?
She was born January 18th, 1962 in New York City to her parents Thor Arngrim and Norma MacMillan. Her father was a Hollywood manager and her mother was a popular voice actor. Some of her credits include the voice of Gumby and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Alison also has one brother named Matthew who worked in the entertainment industry when he was a child.
Arngrim’s career began when she was five years old and she started acting in commercials. Her first major role was in 1974 in the comedy film Throw Out The Anchor! She played Stevie, one of the children of the main character who traveled to Florida for a vacation.
Little House on the Prairie
Her career took off when she was cast for the role of Nellie Oleson in the hit TV show Little House on the Prairie. The show was based on a series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder that she loosely based on her own life. It follows the Ingalls family, a pioneer family in the 19th century settling in Wisconsin, and the trials they faced every day.
Nellie is widely credited as being the first major antagonist in Little House on the Prairie. She was the main character’s (Laura Ingalls) rival throughout their childhood, but as they matured they grew close. Nellie was the wealthy eldest daughter of a local grocery store owner and she was portrayed as spoiled and mean throughout most of the series. She gained the moniker “Nasty Nellie Oleson” from the role.
She was in 104 episodes during the eight years the show aired and even appeared in some of the made-for-TV movies in the franchise.
While the show was filming, Arngrim made guest appearances on a few TV movies and shows such as The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. She also recorded a comedy album called Heeeere’s Amy where she portrayed Amy Carter, the first daughter of President Jimmy Carter. Arngrim was also a regular panelist on the popular game show The Match Game.
A Break From the Spotlight
After the series ended Arngrim took a 14-year hiatus from film and television. She returned in the early 2000s, starring in a few low-budget short and feature films. She was awarded a Young Artist: Lifetime Achievement Award for Former Child Stars in 2002 for her time playing Nellie.
Arngrim transitioned her talent behind the camera to the stage in 2006 when she starred in several smaller theatrical productions in France. Now, she is still stage acting and you might even find her at the heart of a murder mystery dinner from time to time!
In 2011 Arngrim published her memoir, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, where she goes into detail about her childhood, her life with her parents, behind-the-scenes stories from the show, and even recounts some traumatic events from her life that sparked her philanthropic passion.
Two of her main goals now are advocating for AIDS awareness by volunteering at AIDS hotlines and working with the organization ACT UP. Her on-screen husband, and real-life best friend, Steve Tracy (Percival Dalton in Little House on the Prairie) died in 1986 after being diagnosed with AIDS. Arngrim talks about it in her memoir, but all that she does for AIDS awareness is in his honor.
She also revealed officially in her memoir that she suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of her brother when she was a child. This has encouraged her to advocate for survivors and spend time volunteering with PROTECT, an organization that aims to protect children from abuse.
Through her philanthropic work at an AIDS hotline in Los Angeles, Arngrim met her now husband Robert Paul Schoonover in 1993. He was working as the manager of the call center and they quickly became friends and fell in love. They have been together ever since then and together they raised Schoonover’s daughter.
Arngrim has described herself as a groupie for her husband’s band Catahoula and she even works the merch tables during their shows!
What is Alison Arngrim Doing Now?
While Arngrim has largely retired from acting, she is still very active online on her social media channels. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok and she has a podcast called The Alison Arngrim Show where she brings different guests on and discusses things that make them happy and tells stories to fans. She also has a series of food vlogs on YouTube.
Alison can also be found on the convention circuit, where she is delighted to field questions from and and take pictures and sign autographs.