Ariel Winter became an emancipated minor at 17

Credit: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

Nearly a year has passed since Ariel Winter became legally emancipated, and she has come a long way.

During an appearance on Monday’s Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Modern Family star opened up about how she has handled the experience.

“You have been through a lot,” host Ellen DeGeneres said. “You were emancipated from your mother. Explain what [that means] for people [that] don’t know.”

“Well, emancipation is basically you become your own entity. Nobody controls you anymore. You handle your own business affairs, your own living arrangements, your own money. Everything is sort of in your own hands,” said Winter, now 18, who became an emancipated minor last year after a long court battle during which the Department of Children and Family Services found evidence of her mom Chrisoula Workman emotionally abusing her.

The star also praised her older sister Shanelle Gray, who became her guardian in 2012.

“She’s been the best part of my life. She really is my best friend,” Winter said. “She’s the most important thing to me. She’s been there for me through absolutely everything. And I just love her so much. I count on her more than anything.”

As for whether the two sisters have a relationship with their mother, Winter said neither does. (Earlier this month, Winter told Good Morning America she hasn’t spoken to her mother in three and a half years.)

When DeGeneres, 58, asked why Winter made the decision to emancipate, the teen explained she doesn’t like to go into specifics but that she’s in a better place now.

“It’s most definitely hard to grow up in the industry, but just [to] grow up in any instance without a mother from a very young age,” Winter said. “And it has been very sad for me, but at the same time it’s been much better for me emotionally and physically to be on my own and have a better, safer household and support system. I don’t really talk about the reason that I don’t speak to my mother. It’s kind of been publicized, but the reason I don’t really share that is because I want to give her the respect that she didn’t give to me publicly.”

Of her mother’s decision to go on Dr. Phil a couple of years ago, Winter said “it just really didn’t try to fix anything with me.”

“It just tried to make herself look better and I’m not interested in that,” Winter continued. “People can make their own judgments – I did what I had to do for myself.”

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When asked how she handles everything that’s been thrown her way, the actress said it’s been about surrounding herself with the right people.

“At the end of the day, it was what I needed to do,” she said. “The people who supported me are the people that matter in my life and that’s what I just kind of had to train myself to remember – that the people that love me and support me, their opinions matter.”

The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays (check local listings).