The Walt Disney Company–better known as Disney–is a multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate. Its headquarters is located at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. It ranks second among media conglomerates in terms of revenue, just one rank shy of global telecommunications company, Comcast.
Disney established itself as a leader and branched out into live television, film production, and theme parks. It eventually weaved its way into American pop culture as many people follow Disney stars even after they have “graduated” from the channel. You can thank the Disney brothers–Walt and Roy–for creating the conglomerate, which now has divisions and subsidiaries worldwide. The founding of Disney dates back to October 16, 1923, in Los Angeles, California.
Over the years, we’ve watched so many Disney stars grow, but not all of them had the chance to live the happy lives that were portrayed in the shows and movies they used to star in. Many of them had to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. As a result, their fame was tainted, and in some instances, they lost their own lives.
The Disney family hasn’t always been functional. Just like every other family, some people dealt with illnesses, struggles, and tragedies. But, not all Disney stars have gone off the deep end. Some of them left the channel and continued their success in the entertainment industry. Fans may bring up toxic relationships and failed marriages, but their records are pretty clean. From Cole and Dylan Sprouse to Selena Gomez, you’re able to recognize some, if not all, of these former Disney stars. Their careers may not be as big anymore, but you can give them credit for not giving in. Now, let’s look at them one by one.
15. Brenda Song
Brenda Song is an American actress, model, and spokesperson from Carmichael, California. She first worked as a child model and graduated to children’s television with roles in the shows Fudge and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd. In 2000, she won a Young Artist Award for her performance in the Disney Channel original movie The Ultimate Christmas Present. In 2002, she signed a contract with Disney Channel, starred in the Disney Channel original movie Get A Clue, and later starred in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck as London Tipton.
In 2010, Song transitioned to conventional movies when she starred in The Social Network and First Kiss. In 2012 and 2013, she had recurring roles in Scandal and New Girl. She starred in the short-lived FOX sitcom, Dads, from 2013 to 2014. She then signed a talent-holding deal with 20th Century Fox Television and eventually appeared in various NBC and CBS pilots. She joined the cast of CBS comedy pilot Real Life as Lauren, Nora Rittenhouse’s best friend and roommate, in March 2017.
Song continues to strive to be a role model for young people. In 2008, she filed a libel suit for $100,000 against an escort agency in LA Weekly for the unauthorized use of one of her pictures. The following year, the settlement was confirmed.
14. Hilary Duff
Hilary Duff is an actress and singer from Houston, Texas. She’s the younger sister of Haylie Duff. She was dubbed as a “teen idol” when she starred in the Disney Channel comedy series Lizzie McGuire as Lizzie McGuire from 2001 to 2004. In terms of Disney-related projects, she also starred in the Disney Channel original movie Cadet Kelly and worked on a Walt Disney Records album Santa Claus Lane. She then signed with Hollywood Records and released her second studio album Metamorphosis in 2003. She later created her own merchandise such as clothing, fragrances, and dolls.
Duff eventually dived into theatrical films with leading roles in Agent Cody Banks, A Cinderella Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Cheaper by the Dozen 2. She continued to have success in music with her self-titled album, Hilary Duff, and followed up with Most Wanted and Dignity. She also appeared in independent films such as War, Inc., According to Greta, and Bloodworth.
Duff released three novels—Elixir and its sequels, Devoted and True. She currently stars in the comedy drama series, Younger, as Kelsey Peters. She married former NHL player Mike Comrie and the couple had a son named Luca. Although her divorce from Comrie would receive an F on a report card, she managed to continue her career. She released her fifth studio album, Breathe In. Breathe Out., in 2015 and co-starred in comedy-drama pilot Younger as Sutton Foster.
13. Tahj Mowry
Tahj Mowry is an actor, voice actor, singer, and dancer from Honolulu, Hawaii. He’s the brother of the identical twins—Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry. He’s best known for playing child prodigy T.J. Henderson on the sitcom Smart Guy. He also played Michelle’s best friend, Teddy, in the ABC sitcom Full House.
When it comes to movies, Mowry has starred in Disney Channel’s original films such as Hounded, The Poof Point, Kim Possible: A Stitch In Time, and Kim Possible: So The Drama. He has also starred in the fantasy-comedy film, Seventeen Again, and the family comedy film Are We Done Yet?
Mowry has also dabbed into the music industry. He collaborated with electronica/rock duo Boom Boom and rapper Flo Rida on a new version of their single “Kick It Out” in 2009. He also sang “Shine Your Light On Me” for School’s Out! Christmas and “Circle of Life” for the Disney Channel Circle of Stars’ recording of The Lion King.
12. Aly And AJ Michalka
Aly and AJ Michalka are sisters who are members of the pop rock duo Aly & AJ, but they were also Disney stars. Let’s take a look back at their careers. Aly gained fame for playing Keely Teslow in the Disney Channel series Phil of the Future, whereas AJ made her Disney Channel debut as Courtney Callum in the Disney Channel original movie Cow Belles.
After leaving the Disney channel, Aly and AJ starred in the MTV film Super Sweet 16: The Movie. In addition, both sisters had other roles in film and television. Aly had major roles in the cheerleading drama series Hellcats and films Easy A and The Roommate. She also made a guest appearance on CSI: NY in 2011. AJ appeared on the science-fiction thriller Super 8. She got her first big screen role in Christian musical drama Grace Unplugged.
11. Emily Osment
Emily Osment is an actress, singer, and songwriter from Los Angeles, California. She gained fame for co-starring in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over as Gerti Giggles. She went on to co-star in the Disney Channel sitcom Hannah Montana as Lilly Truscott. She also starred in the series’ comedy-drama musical film Hannah Montana: The Movie.
Osment began her musical career recording soundtracks for Disney albums. She reportedly wrote some songs with rapper Eve in 2008. She signed with Wind-up Records label in 2009 and released her first single “All the Way Up” from her debut EP All the Right Wrongs. The EP debuted at the Billboard 200 and was promoted by the 2010 Clap Your Hands Tour. The EP’s songs reached the top positions on the Radio Disney and Canadian Hot 100 lists.
Osment’s debut album, Fight or Flight, was released on October 5, 2010. The lead single, “Let’s Be Friends,” was released on June 8, 2010, and the second single, “Lovesick,” was released on October 19, 2010. She began the Fight or Flight Tour following the release of the album.
She starred in the ABC Family original movie, Cyberbully, in 2011, the action series, Cleaners, from 2013 to 2014, and the Lifetime movie, A Daughter’s Nightmare, in 2014. She also starred in the Studio Universal movie Kiss Me and produced content for online distributor Crackle. She currently stars in the Freeform television series, Young & Hungry, as Gabi Diamond.
10. Christy Carlson Romano
Christy Carlson Romano is an actress and singer from Milford, Connecticut. She’s the youngest of four children. She got her start in the industry when she was cast in various Broadway shows such as Annie, The Will Rogers Follies, and The Sound of Music. She’s best known for starring in the Disney Channel sitcom, Even Stevens, as Ren Stevens and as the voice of the titular character in the Disney Channel action-comedy series, Kim Possible.
Romano first sang in a musical episode of Even Stevens. She also recorded songs for the Kim Possible soundtrack. Walt Disney Records released her debut album, Greatest TV & Film Hits, in 2004. She later signed a record deal with Atlantic Records.
Romano also narrated audiobooks like Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin, Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne M. LaFleur, To Catch A Killer by Sheryl Scarborough, and Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong.
Raven-Symone is an actress, singer, songwriter, television personality, and producer from Atlanta, Georgia. She got her start in television in 1989 on The Cosby Show as Olivia Kendall. She released her debut album Here’s to New Dreams four years later.
Raven-Symone starred in the Disney Channel series That’s So Raven as Raven Baxter from 2003 to 2007. During that time, she released her third studio album, This is My Time, which was her best-selling solo album to date.
After the end of That’s So Raven, Raven-Symone released her fourth studio album, Raven-Symone. She participated in four Disney soundtracks 2 That’s So Raven, That’s So Raven Too!, The Cheetah Girls, and The Cheetah Girls 2 from 2003 to 2006. These soundtracks sold a combined 4.1 million copies in the United States.
Raven-Symone transitioned to a film career, starring in several films such as Dr. Dolittle, Dr. Dolittle 2, and College Road Trip. She also starred in television films like Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, The Cheetah Girls, Cheetah Girls 2, For One Night, and Revenge of the Bridesmaids. In 2015, Raven-Symone joined the cast of the hit primetime drama Empire as Olivia. She also joined ABC panel show The View in the same year.
8. Dylan And Cole Sprouse
Dylan and Cole Sprouse–better known as the Sprouse Brothers–are actors and twins that were born in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy and raised in Long Beach, California. In 1999, they began their career, co-starring with Adam Sandler in the comedy film, Big Daddy. They later appeared in television sitcoms and starred in straight-to-DVD films.
The Sprouse Bros got their big break when they starred in the Disney Channel sitcom The Suite Life of Zack & Cody from 2005 to 2008. The following year, they launched the Sprouse Bros brand and appeared on The Suite Life On Deck, the retooled version of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, until 2011. They also starred in The Suite Life Movie in the same year.
The Sprouse Bros didn’t face many challenges in their path to adulthood. In 2009, they starred in the independent theatrical suspense film The Kings of Appletown. In 2010, they were both accepted to New York University and eventually enrolled in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Cole studied archaeology and the humanities while Dylan focused on video game design and served as the president of the Third Avenue North residence hall. Both brothers graduated in 2015.
7. Margo Harshman
Margo Harshman is an actress who was born in San Diego, California and spent most of her early life in nearby Carlsbad and Orange County. She’s best known for her role on the Disney Channel series, Even Stevens, as Tawny Dean. She’s also known for her roles on The Big Bang Theory as Alex Jensen, the assistant of Sheldon Cooper, and on NCIS as Delilah Fielding, a wheelchair-bound analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense and the wife of Timothy McGee.
Harshman is a woman of many talents. It all started when her grandmother entered her in a beauty pageant at age two. She became involved in dance and gymnastics at age three. She learned to play piano at age five and then began acting at age eight, where she reportedly met her first manager.
6. Raviv Ullman
Raviv Ullman is an actor and musician who was born in Eilat, Israel to American parents. His mother, Laura, worked as a teacher, while his father, Brian, worked as a printer. He grew up in Connecticut and was raised in the conservative and orthodox Judaism household. He continues to keep a kosher kitchen up to this day.
Ullman’s first professional role came in the touring company The King and I as Louis alongside Jesse McCartney. However, he’s best known for playing Phil Diffy in the Disney science fiction sitcom, Phil of the Future, from 2004 to 2006. He used his stage name Ricky from 1997 to 2006 and has reverted back to Raviv ever since. He also starred in the Disney made-for-television film Pixel Perfect as Roscoe and the ABC television film Searching for David’s Heart as Sam.
Ullman knows some things about music too. He created a parody hip-hop video called Pointy Hat (The Boat Song) with some of his friends in 2006. The group released two other music videos called “Refrigerator (Gangsta’ Way)” and “Bop It (Webee Anthem).” He and Douglas Smith released their debut album, Field Guide to the Wilds, under the name His Orchestra in 2009.
5. Kyla Pratt
Kyla Pratt is an actress from Los Angeles, California. She’s the eldest of five children. She got her start in acting by appearing in television commercials. She’s best known for her roles in the Disney Channel series The Proud Family as Penny Proud and One on One as Breanna Latrice Barnes. Both shows aired from 2001 to 2005. She played Maya Dolittle, the daughter of Dr. John Dolittle, in the fantasy comedy films Dr. Dolittle, Dr. Dolittle 2, Dr. Dolittle 3, Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief, and Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts.
Pratt made appearances in Lizzie McGuire, Friends, Family Matters, Moesha, Smart Guy, Sister, Sister, and The Parkers. She also recorded a cover version of “Circle of Life” for the Disney Mania 2 album with the Disney Channel Circle of Stars.
4. Ashley Tisdale
Ashley Tisdale is an actress, singer, and producer from Monmouth County, New Jersey. She was raised with a little bit of two religions, as her father is Christian and her mother is Jewish. She reportedly met her first manager in a New Jersey mall. As a result, she was featured in more than 100 television advertisements as a child. She was cast to play in the musical Les Miserables as Cosette at age eight. She toured with Les Miserables for two years before landing a role in the Broadway musical, Annie.
At the age of 12, Tisdale sang for former President Bill Clinton during an event at the White House. She then moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue an acting career. She guest-starred in Smart Guy and 7th Heaven in 1997. The following year, she appeared as a voice actor in An All Dog’s Christmas Group and A Bug’s Life.
Tisdale got her big break when she joined The Suite Life of Zack & Cody as Maddie Fitzpatrick and starred in the show from 2005 to 2008. She also released two albums Headstrong and Guilty Pleasure. More recently, she launched her own clothing, sportswear, and makeup lines.
3. Jesse McCartney
Jesse McCartney is an actor, singer, and songwriter from Ardsley, New York. His fame grew when he starred in the daytime drama, All My Children, as JR Chandler and joined the short-lived boy band, Dream Street. He enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing four albums—Beautiful Soul, Right Where You Want Me, Departure, and In Technicolor.
McCartney toured with the musical The King and I with Raviv Ullman at age 10. He fostered a relationship with Disney as he starred in the teen sitcoms Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. He also voiced Terrence in Tinker Bell.
McCartney appeared in mainstream shows such as Law & Order: SVU, Summerland, and Greek. He released a women’s fragrance, Wanted By Jesse, in 2011. He also participates in charity-oriented activities like Come Together Now, Little Kids Rock, Kids For A Drug-Free America, Hope Rocks, and SPACE. He remains a good guy who gives back to those in need.
2. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato is an actress, singer, and songwriter. She started out as a child actress in Barney & Friends with Selena Gomez. She achieved fame in 2008 when she starred in the Disney Channel television film Camp Rock and released her debut single “This Is Me” featuring Joe Jonas. She later signed a contract with Hollywood Records, released her debut album Don’t Forget, and followed up with Here We Go Again, Unbroken, Demi, and Confident.
Yes, Lovato struggled with addiction, self-harm, and an eating disorder, but she put her career on hold and entered a treatment center, where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After she completed treatment, she continued working in acting and music.
Lovato won many awards, including 13 Teen Choice Awards, five People’s Choice Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, an ALMA Award, a Latin American Music Award, and a Grammy Award nomination.
Lovato has been involved with several social and environmental causes since the start of her career. She served as a mentor to teens and young adults with mental health challenges. She also became an LGBT and women’s rights advocate. In 2014, she became the face for the Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Marriage Equality Campaign. In 2016, she won the GLAAD Vanguard Award for making a difference in promoting equal rights for LGBT people.
1. Kyle Massey
Kyle Massey is an actor, singer, and rapper from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the younger brother of Christopher Massey, who played Michal Barret in the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101. He’s best known for starring in the Disney sitcom That’s So Raven and its spin-off, Cory in the House, as Cory Baxter. He starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Life is Ruff, in 2005. He also voiced Milo in Disney Channel’s Fish Hooks. In addition, he played a role in the PBS children’s educational program The Electric Company.
Massey made musical appearances on the Disney Channel Holiday soundtrack and the Shaggy Dog soundtrack. He also sang the theme song for Cory in the House.
Like other fading celebrities, Massey joined the cast of Dancing With The Stars. He and his professional partner, Lacey Schwimmer, finished as the runner-ups. The judges dubbed him as the “Fresh Prince of DTWS” despite not winning first place in the 11th season of the competition.
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