"It was just really moving to see so many girls share what I went through," Winter tells PEOPLE
“I thought I would get a lot more criticism about, ‘Oh, you did surgery. You changed yourself, blah, blah, blah … ‘ Which a lot of people say, but I received so much support from women and young girls ” Winter told PEOPLE at Teen Vogue‘s celebration of their 13th Annual “Young Hollywood” issue on Friday.
“Girls are tweeting me and saying like, ‘Oh, this wouldn’t be accepted where I am, but now that you did it and opened a conversation about it, I can actually like talk to my friends and family about the possibility of this.’ Or, ‘I’ve been living with so much back pain, and I’ve been so humiliated so many times when I had to wear something that was so baggy because I couldn’t wear the things my friends were wearing because it was inappropriate on me.’
“It was just really moving to see so many girls share what I went through and then be considering making a difference because I did,” the 17-year-old star said.
Winter arrived at the event – which was also attended by her Modern Family costars Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez – on the arm of her boyfriend and high school sweetheart Laurent Claude Gaudette. The pair met in via text message.
“I received a text from her. That’s the first interaction I remember with her and I send very short responses, and her first thing that she sent to me was a giant, long, paragraph,” Gaudette tells PEOPLE.
“I sent this giant, long paragraph about like, ‘Hi, I’m Ariel. Nice to meet you.’ Like just all this stuff about myself,” adds Winter.
The techie introduction worked. The pair have been together for two years.
Says Winter: “It’s so awesome to be in love with somebody who’s so supportive and wonderful and just somebody who’s also your best friend.”
• Reporting by REAGAN ALEXANDER