Unfortunately, many stars who grow up in the spotlight don’t turn out to be the best role models for their young and impressionable fan base. In recent years, it seems the great majority of former Disney stars have made unfortunate choices that led to media scandal. Of course, young Disney stars are subject to particularly heavy scrutiny in the media, which isn’t surprising, given that these child stars’ “clean” image is easily tainted by the inevitable maturations and mistakes that come with adolescence and young adulthood.
Perhaps most infamously, actress Lindsay Lohan and singer Britney Spears both had very publicized breakdowns. Lohan, who starred in movies such as Disney’s remakes of The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday was charged twice for driving under the influence, and has been in and out of rehab for the past few years. Former Mickey Mouse Club star Britney Spears suffered a public breakdown in 2007, which occasioned her entering a drug rehabilitation center and losing custody of her two young children. More recently, Miley Cyrus has caused uproar with her highly provocative music videos and open endorsement of marijuana – a far cry from her alter ego, Hannah Montana. Even High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens wound up in trouble for a slew of naked pictures that appeared online.
Despite these transgressions, some well-known Disney child stars have successfully repaired their lives or even rarer, have managed to stay out of trouble completely. Disney actress Demi Lovato, for example, continues to be a good role model despite some rough patches along the way; she remains open about her problems and has made an effort to speak out to fans about eating disorders and other mental health problems.
Given the pressures of constant exposure, it isn’t surprising that so many child actors face psychological or behavioral challenges when they enter adulthood. Growing up in the spotlight is hardly an easy feat; after all, we all make mistakes but we don’t all have our mistakes publicly and sensationally documented. In a tell-all letter about his fame, Joe Jonas recalls his media training and the expectations of his role in the Disney world. He says, “We were just kids. That’s the reality… you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect.” Stars are only human, after all.
It appears, however, that the following five one-time Disney celebrities have (so far!) done an extraordinary job of keeping their lives in order. Despite the trials of a public life, they have managed both to retain a positive image and find a place in a competitive and difficult industry. What makes these five child stars different from so many of their peers who went off the rails? Read on to find out.
5. Raven Symoné
Raven Symoné is probably best known for playing Olivia on The Cosby Show (1989) and the titular character on the Disney Channel series That’s So Raven (2003). Since then, Raven has starred in a number of films aimed at younger audiences such as Dr. Dolittle 1 and 2, College Road Trip (2008), The Cheetah Girls (2003), and Revenge of the Bridesmaids (2010). In her leading role in the ABC Family comedy series, State of Georgia in 2011, she played an aspiring actress who moves to New York to pursue her dream. In 2012, she made her Broadway debut in the musical Sister Act as Deloris van Cartier. Recently, Raven announced that she enrolled at the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco. She is one of the few Disney ladies to make this laudable choice.
4. The Jonas Brothers
The JoBros, who split in 2013, formed in 2005 and gained fame through the Disney Channel. They released four albums, all of which were hugely successful. In 2008, the group was nominated for the Best New Artist Award at the Grammys, and won Breakthrough Artist at the American Music Awards. They have sold over 17 million albums worldwide. Considering these guys are young, rich, and famous, they’ve handled their privilege with notable tact. For instance, they consistently contribute to philanthropic organizations. The JoBros earned an estimated $12 million in 2007, and have donated 10% of all their earnings to their charitable fund, Change for the Children Foundation, an organization that supports a number of important charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Diabetes Foundation. Nick Jonas, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, partnered with Bayer Diabetes Care as an ambassador to help young people with diabetes manage the disease while still living a normal, happy lives.
3. Ashley Tisdale
Ashley Tisdale was one of the most hard working child actresses: she appeared in over 100 TV advertisements and even had roles in Broadway productions. Fans might remember her from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, or as the diva, Sharpay Evans, from the High School Musical series. She also has a central voice role in the Disney Channel series Phineas & Ferb. Currently, Tisdale works as a producer, actress, and recording artist. She recently announced to MTV that her next album is expected in 2014 and will feature a ‘dance-pop’ sound.
In terms of her personal life, Tisdale has largely stayed out of trouble. She told “Blender” in 2007 that she does not smoke or use drugs and alcohol. Her most scandalous decision was a nude photoshoot in Allure (but, c’mon, it’s Allure). In explaining her decision, Tisdale expressed a belief that the shoot would show people that she is “not just the young girl everyone thinks [she is].” In December 2012, she began dating musician Christopher French, and they became engaged in 2013.
2. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez made her debut at the age of ten on Barney and Friends. Since then, you may remember her from the Disney Channel Series, Wizards of Waverly Place. She has also branched into acting and appeared in the films Princess Protection Program, and Beezus and Ramona, one of her first roles outside Disney. Gomez has also excels at singing: her song, “Love You Like a Love Song,” was certified 4x Platinum by the RIAA. Her 2013 single, “Come and Get It,” became a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified double platinum. Despite growing up in the chaotic climate of show biz, Gomez has consistently remained professional and passionate about her work. (She dated Justin Bieber, but we won’t hold that against her).
1. Hilary Duff
Many of us remember Hilary Duff from her lovable role in the hit show Lizzie McGuire. Over the years, Duff has done well maintaining her positive image. She has appeared in several feature films including Agent Cody Banks, Cheaper By The Dozen, and A Cinderella Story. She also won an award for her role in the third season of Gossip Girl! In addition, she has gained significant recognition as a singer: her second album, Metamorphosis (2003), went triple platinum.
Despite a recent – reportedly temporary – split from hockey player husband Mike Comrie, Hilary continues to lead a successful and productive life. She has even remained on good terms with her ex, and is a proud and responsible mother of her 2-year-old son, Luca. Her recent involvements with philanthropic organizations and outreach programs include the Think Before You Speak campaign, and the Stomp Out Bullying campaign, for which she starred in a short public service announcement. Though many of her contemporaries have struggled to keep a clean image, Duff has grown up into a successful and admirable young woman.