Remember Penelope "Punky" Brewster from the 1980s sitcom about a young girl starting a new life with a foster family? Punky is a pretty standout name, but astonishingly the actress behind the character had one that is even more unique – Soleil Moon Frye. However, Soleil Moon isn’t as well-known as the pigtail-wearing preteen she played on television. Begging the question, whatever happened to Soleil Moon Frye?
Frye was born on August 6th, 1976, in Glendora, California. The daughter of a talent agent mother and actor father, she was practically destined for the silver screen from birth. After her parents divorced when she was a toddler, Frye was sent to a private school in Los Feliz, California, before going to San Fernando Valley Professional School in Burbank.
While that may seem like a relatively normal upbringing, her extracurriculars were anything but. At a young age, Frye started auditioning for roles. She earned a supporting role at seven in the for-television movie Who Will Love My Children?. A year later, she would appear in two more television movies, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter and Invitation to Hell.
With a few acting credits under her belt, Frye’s parents decided she was ready for something bigger and better. In 1984, eight-year-old Frye beat out over three thousand other girls (one of them Melissa Joan-Hart, Frye’s future co-star on Sabrina the Teenage Witch) to receive the part of Penelope "Punky" Brewster and NBC sitcom’s Punky Brewster.
Punky Brewster detailed the life of a young girl, Punky, starting life with a new foster parent. Along the way, she meets new friends from various backgrounds and finds a soft spot in her foster dad, the sometimes grouchy widowed building manager. The show initially struggled to maintain positive ratings. However, Punky was a hit with younger audiences.
Overall, Punky had dismal ratings. Nevertheless, it was the highest-rated show watched by children 2 to 11 years old after its first season. So, it was renewed, ultimately airing for four seasons on NBC and Columbia Pictures Television. When it ended in 1988, Frye was twelve years old.
Frye jumped straight into the lead role of a television series called Cadets, though the pilot wasn’t picked up after airing. Next, she hosted Girl Talk, a talk/variety show that featured co-hosts, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rod Brogan. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season, and her next endeavor, on the pilot of Where’s Rodney?, was similarly short-lived.
Over the next few years, the child star’s acting career continued to ebb and flow. She received multiple guest roles on television series, like Saved by the Bell and even did plenty of voice work, such as for The Ren and Stimpy Shoe. Frye had a few movie screen appearances, too, acting in films like The Liars’ Club and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings.
In 2000, things were looking up when she won the role of Roxie King in the final few seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, starring Frye’s longtime friend Melissa Joan Hart. Frye would play the role of Roxie for three years, appearing in sixty-six episodes in total. She also voiced the character Zoey Howzer in The Proud Family, a Disney television series during this time.
Frye largely stuck to voice work for the remainder of her career, lending her talents to characters like Jade in the Bratz series and films. That is, until 2021, when she reprised her role of Punky in the Peacock revival.
What is Soleil Moon Frye Doing Now?
In 2021, Frye revisited her iconic role of Punky Brewster. The reboot flashed 33 years into the future (since the show last aired), allowing us to see the life of an all-grown-up Punky as a single mother of three. The show aired on the Peacock network and only ran for 1 season and 10 episodes.
Frye has also recently voiced the character of Zoey in the Disney+ animated series, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
Also in 2021, Frye released a documentary called Kid 90. The compilation of the star’s home movies, answering machine recordings, and diary entries explores the hallowing experience of sexual assault she faced as a youth. She spares no detail in her graphic retelling of a non-consensual encounter with a boyfriend and another involving a potential date rape drug.
Acting and voice work were never Frye’s sole endeavors. She has also directed films, one of them winning Best Documentary at the San Diego Film Festival.
She opened an LA-based eco-friendly children’s boutique called The Little Seed, which has since moved from a brick-and-mortar store to an online business. Other ventures include Gain’s "Better Together" campaign alongside Melissa Joan Hart, releasing two books, hosting a web series and blog, and founding a party decoration kit company.
However, these things pale in comparison to what Frye considers one of her most important roles, being a mother.
Frye married television producer Jason Goldberg on October 25th, 1998. The couple shares four children, two daughters, and two sons. In 2020, Frye and Goldberg separated after twenty-two years of marriage.
Before meeting Goldberg, Frye was romantically involved with Danny Boy O’Connor, a hip-hop artist, and the two still remain friends to this day. Other romantic interests from her past include Mark Wahlberg and Eddie Furlong. At age 15, Frye had to undergo breast reduction surgery for a condition called gigantomastia. She had stated that before the procedure, she faced ridicule from boys, teasing her with the name "Punky Boobster."
Today, Punky Brewster is all grown up and thriving. She has a wonderful family, various partnerships, and businesses and is, for the most part, still as relentlessly upbeat as the rainbow-wearing little girl she once played.
You can keep up with Frye on Instagram, where she regularly posts about her family, life, and hobbies.