When Desperate Housewives first hit our screens back in 2004, it was all about the four leading ladies: Susan Mayer, Lynette Scavo, Bree Van de Kamp and Gabrielle “Gaby” Solis. But as the show progressed, an unexpected fan favorite emerged. And that was the character of Juanita – Gaby’s sassy daughter.
Expertly portrayed by Madison De La Garza, Juanita can make audiences laugh and cry in equal measure. For instance, one of the youngster’s most moving storylines involves bullying. The little Solis girl becomes insecure after her classmates claim that she can’t be her model mother’s daughter since she isn’t attractive enough.
Sadly, De La Garza also knows what it’s like to be bullied because of how she looks. During a 2012 episode of The Ricki Lake Show, the teen star admitted, for example, that she’d received mean-spirited comments online criticizing her weight. But now, just a few years later, De La Garza is all grown up – and completely transformed.
Desperate Housewives first aired on ABC in October 2004. Set on a suburban American street called Wisteria Lane, the drama revolves around a group of female neighbors. And the story is told from the perspective of the recently deceased Mary Alice Young, whose mysterious death sets the tone for the first season and beyond.
Yet while Desperate Housewives itself ran for eight consecutive seasons between 2004 and 2012, the plot of the show actually spans 13 years. The show often uses flashbacks and flashforwards to tell its stories, you see, and these reveals revolve around the secrets, lies and crimes that are hidden beneath the seemingly perfect facade of an idyllic suburban neighborhood.
At the heart of the Desperate Housewives narrative, meanwhile, are four female characters: Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria). And the show sees the women navigate the common struggles of suburban family life while also being embroiled in some more outrageous plotlines.
During its eight-year run, the drama also bagged a number of prestigious Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Yet Desperate Housewives wasn’t just a critical darling; it was also seemingly loved by audiences. In 2007 the series was apparently the most popular show of its kind, with an approximate global audience of 120 million.
In fact, between the years of 2006 and 2012, Desperate Housewives was the most-watched comedy show internationally, according to Eurodata TV Worldwide. It was also 2010’s third highest-earning show, taking in over $2.7 million every 30 minutes. Not only that, but the drama also came in at number 56 in a list of “New TV Classics” compiled by Entertainment Weekly.
Then, when Desperate Housewives finally came to an end in 2012, it boasted the title of the longest-running hour-long TV show to feature exclusively female leads. The record had previously been held by fantasy drama Charmed, which had also run for eight seasons between 1998 and 2006, although the tales of Wisteria Lane’s women beat this run by a full two episodes.
And while the show was loved as a whole, it’s safe to say that some fans had their favorites among the housewives. Each of the main women had their own unique character traits, after all, meaning they were relatable to different kinds of people. Susan, for instance, is a hopeless romantic – albeit with the emphasis on hopeless.
Bree, meanwhile, is known for being strong-willed and independent, even though she has a reputation for being a bit of an ice queen. Then there’s mom of four Lynette, whose drive and ambition would probably be better suited to life in an office rather than as a housewife. And finally, Wisteria Lane is also home to fiery Gabrielle “Gaby” Solis.
When we first meet Gaby, she’s struggling to adjust to life in the suburbs. The former model previously enjoyed an exciting life in the city, you see, but she traded it all in to marry her high-flying husband, Carlos. And she soon finds herself unfulfilled by the role of trophy wife. So, with Carlos often away from home on business, she embarks on an affair with her hunky teen gardener, who’s portrayed by Jesse Metcalfe.
But Gaby’s indiscretion is merely the first in a series of ups and downs in her marriage. For instance, during season one, Carlos is caught importing illegal products, which in turn plunges the couple into financial difficulties. And as a result, he physically forces his wife’s hand when she signs a post-nup agreement promising that she won’t leave him once he’s locked up.
At the same time, Carlos grows impatient for children, despite the fact that the couple agreed kids were not in their future when they got married. He even goes as far as to tamper with his wife’s birth control pills, leading her to become pregnant. Sadly, Gaby subsequently suffers a miscarriage, but the experience causes her to reconsider her stance on motherhood.
Yet Gaby and Carlos’ path to parenthood doesn’t run smoothly. As Desperate Housewives unfolds, the couple endure an unsuccessful adoption, a botched surrogacy attempt and a bitter divorce. And while Gaby later marries for a second time, she has an affair with her ex-husband. The pair officially get back together in season four, then – but not before Carlos is blinded in a tornado.
However, season five of Desperate Housewives fast-forwards half a decade into the future. In this time, Carlos’ eyesight still hasn’t returned, Gaby’s looks have started to fade and the couple have become parents to two unruly daughters, Celia and Juanita, who are played by Daniella Baltodano and Madison De La Garza, respectively. And it didn’t take long for Juanita to establish herself as a firm favorite among fans of the show.
When we meet Juanita, it’s clear that she’s a mischievous older sister who likes to lead little Celia into trouble. She’s definitely a “daddy’s girl,” too, and often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her mother. But not all of the youngster’s storylines are lighthearted. There’s a focus on Gaby and Juanita’s differing looks, for one, with the girl being portrayed as something of an ugly duckling.
In season five of Desperate Housewives, for instance, Gaby becomes upset when she realizes that Juanita is too big to fit into a children’s costume for an upcoming princess party. And while at first the mom is in denial that her daughter is larger than other kids her age, she subsequently tries to trick Juanita into exercising – much to the annoyance of Carlos.
In another heart-wrenching storyline, Juanita is caught at school wearing her mom’s makeup. And when Gaby asks her daughter why she stole the cosmetics, the little girl confesses that she was trying to emulate her. It seems some students had spotted Gaby and Juanita together, and they cruelly told her that she wasn’t beautiful enough to be her mother’s child.
Plus, Juanita’s insecurities about her looks intensify when it emerges that she actually isn’t Gaby and Carlos’ biological child. She was in fact switched at birth with the couple’s genetic daughter, Grace, who lives with Juanita’s biological parents, Carmen and Hector Sanchez. And as the series progresses, the two families strike up a friendship – although things don’t always go smoothly.
When the Solises and the Sanchezes come face to face, it’s clear that Juanita and Grace are extremely different. The former is spoiled and unruly, for instance, whereas the latter has been taught kindness and manners. And given the similarities and shared interests between Gaby and Grace, the mother can’t help but grow feelings for her biological daughter – much to Juanita’s distress.
That said, Gaby and Carlos decide to put Juanita before their desire to get to know their biological daughter. And just like Desperate Housewives fans, they learn to love and accept Juanita for who she is. The young character remains in the series until the very end, in fact, and often provides moments of comedy in the midst of the Wisteria Lane drama. So, who’s behind this lovable character?
Well, throughout Desperate Housewives, Juanita is portrayed by Madison De La Garza. The actress was born in Dallas, Texas, in December 2001 to parents Eddie and Dianna, and she has two half-sisters from her mother’s first marriage. Interestingly, one of these siblings is Disney-star-turned-singer-songwriter Demi Lovato.
Then, after De La Garza landed the role of Juanita on Desperate Housewives, her family relocated from Texas to California, where Lovato would also soon star in TV show Sonny with a Chance. De La Garza was just six years old when she first appeared on screen as Gaby’s daughter, and it was her first big role after realizing that she wanted to be an actress from an extremely young age.
Following the end of Desperate Housewives, however, De La Garza largely disappeared from the public eye. That was despite the fact that the young star was still only ten years old when the last episode of the well-loved drama aired in May 2012 – meaning she had her whole life ahead of her.
After Desperate Housewives, then, De La Garza seemingly concentrated on school while also landing some small TV and movie parts. But it wasn’t until the young star established her eponymous YouTube channel in 2015 that she attracted the public’s attention again in a big way. And she has since clocked up over a million views on the platform.
What’s more, even in the few years since we’d last seen De La Garza on Desperate Housewives, it was clear from her YouTube clips that she had blossomed. While the actress’ character on the show was spoiled and childish, she appeared grounded and grown-up. And this observation didn’t go unmentioned in the comment section of her videos.
Posting beneath a video entitled “About Me,” which De La Garza shared on YouTube in 2016, one user said, “You’re so cute! I loved this. You are really mature and down-to-earth for your age, and you’re really fun to watch. I can’t wait for more videos from you.” Another internet user, meanwhile, commented, “Wow! She’s very beautiful, and she’s really chill.”
Interestingly, in one of of De La Garza’s uploads, she opens up about her time on Desperate Housewives. In the video, which was shared on YouTube in 2016, the young star and her mom reveal how she landed the role of Juanita as well as how the show affected their lives. “Today, I’m going to be telling the story of how I booked Desperate Housewives,” she announces in the opening seconds of the clip.
During the video, De La Garza explains that her Desperate Housewives journey began when she sent an audition tape to her talent agency. Apparently, they in turn gave it to the show’s casting department. And clearly, the people in charge of handing out the roles liked what they saw, as they then asked the pre-teen to fly out to Los Angeles to read for the part as soon as possible. So, within just two days, De La Garza and her mom were on their way to California.
Plus, De La Garza reveals how she felt about the prospect of such a life-changing role. “I was so young, and this was my second audition ever. I didn’t really expect that I was going to be on [Desperate Housewives]. My mom was obviously not expecting me to get it,” she added. “She will tell anyone that to this day. It’s not that she didn’t believe in me. It’s just [that] people will be in the entertainment industry for years and never book anything.”
And De La Garza’s mom opens up about the experience, too. “It was a one-in-a-million shot, and we knew that,” she says in the video. Yet despite the young actress’ inexperience, she did indeed bag the role. “I got a phone call that said, ‘Congratulations! Madison made the show!’” her mother reveals on camera. “And I was like, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ And he was like, ‘No, I’m not kidding.’”
De La Garza, by contrast, learned that she’d got the part later during a conference call with her agency. “Basically, they were telling me a bunch of stuff and talking a lot and [using] a lot of formal words. And I was six,” she said. “They were like, ‘Do you know what that means?’ And I was like, ‘No!’ And they were like, ‘It means you booked it. You got the part. You got the role!’”
Of course, De La Garza’s young age meant that she couldn’t comprehend exactly what landing the role of Juanita would mean for her. “At the time, I didn’t understand how much it would affect my life and how much it would change everything,” she reveals in the clip. The entire family would relocate to California, for one, while De La Garza would ultimately become a star of one of the era’s biggest TV shows.
Nevertheless, it seems that De La Garza wouldn’t change any of it for the world. “It was great, and it was awesome,” she says during the YouTube video. “To this day, Desperate Housewives was the greatest experience ever. Being on the show at such a young age was hard at times, and I had to sacrifice a lot of things. But I don’t regret it.”
In the clip, De La Garza continues to praise her time on Desperate Housewives, adding, “I miss it so much. God, I miss that set so much every day. But I’m so thankful for that whole experience. I owe so much to that show; I really do. Everyone there, the crew, everyone who helped shape me as a professional actor.”
But of course, De La Garza’s life has moved on since Desperate Housewives. In 2017 – which just so happened to mark the fifth anniversary of the show’s end – the actress celebrated her Sweet 16, for instance. And she rang in the significant birthday in style, partying with her family and friends, including her famous sister Lovato.
Furthermore, judging by photographs and videos from the night, it’s clear that De La Garza is all grown up. She stuns in snaps sporting a white one-piece and a tiara while dancing to party tunes and posing alongside Lovato and her friends. And like most teenagers, De La Garza made sure to document the events of her Sweet 16 on her social media accounts.
Since De La Garza’s big party, she has of course continued to grow up. And in 2019 she ticked off another milestone: graduating from high school. In June of that year, she shared a picture from the occasion on her Instagram page, and the snap sees her sport a white cap and gown and a nose ring. The graduate captioned the grown-up shot, “Mama, I did it. #ClassOf2019.”
So, while De La Garza may still be Juanita Solis to many of us, there are even more exciting things in store for her. The actress’ Instagram bio reveals, for instance, that she has a place at Chapman University and that she’s also proved herself as a budding screenwriter. Chances are, then, that we haven’t seen the last of her yet.