What Bella, Demi, Selena, Miley, and more have said about being Disney child stars

Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo Entertainment

Many celebrities who got their big break on the Disney Channel view it as the best of times and the worst of times. Here’s what Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and other stars have said about being a Disney kid.

<p>The <i>Shake It Up</i> actress butted heads with Disney after the network scolded her for posting a bikini photo when she was 14. Thorne <a href="http://www.revelist.com/celebrity/disney-almost-fired-bella-thorne/11816/thorne-stayed-on-with-the-disney-channel-for-a-year-and-a-half-after-the-experience/3" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:claims" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">claims</a> that Disney threatened to terminate her contract over one post: “They said, ‘You’re lucky that Bella has such a fan base that we can’t afford to fire her at this moment in time, but if she does one more other thing, we will.'” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Bella Thorne

The Shake It Up actress butted heads with Disney after the network scolded her for posting a bikini photo when she was 14. Thorne claims that Disney threatened to terminate her contract over one post: “They said, ‘You’re lucky that Bella has such a fan base that we can’t afford to fire her at this moment in time, but if she does one more other thing, we will.'” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Cyrus <a href="https://www.thewrap.com/miley-cyrus-says-playing-disneys-hannah-montana-caused-some-body-dysmorphia/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:compared" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">compared</a> her time on <i>Hannah Montana</i> to “f****** <em>Toddlers & Tiaras</em>,” claiming that it may have led to “body dysmorphia” issues. “I was told for so long what a girl is supposed to be from being on that show,” she reflected. “I was made to look like someone that I wasn’t, which probably caused some body dysmorphia because I had been made pretty every day for so long, and then when I wasn’t on that show, it was like, ‘Who the f*** am I?'” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Miley Cyrus

Cyrus compared her time on Hannah Montana to “f****** Toddlers & Tiaras,” claiming that it may have led to “body dysmorphia” issues. “I was told for so long what a girl is supposed to be from being on that show,” she reflected. “I was made to look like someone that I wasn’t, which probably caused some body dysmorphia because I had been made pretty every day for so long, and then when I wasn’t on that show, it was like, ‘Who the f*** am I?'” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>The former <i>Wizards of Waverly Place</i> star has often referred to Disney as being like a big high school. “It was a blessing,” she <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/movies/disney-stars-throw-off-their-past-in-spring-breakers.html?hpwamp_r=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a> of her time on the network. “It was beautiful and tragic. It was everything that every teen goes through, just on a bigger scale. It literally was like high school… Disney is a machine, and I’m grateful for it, but I feel like being part of that environment made me crave the reaction from other projects even more.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Selena Gomez

The former Wizards of Waverly Place star has often referred to Disney as being like a big high school. “It was a blessing,” she said of her time on the network. “It was beautiful and tragic. It was everything that every teen goes through, just on a bigger scale. It literally was like high school… Disney is a machine, and I’m grateful for it, but I feel like being part of that environment made me crave the reaction from other projects even more.” (Photo: Getty Images)

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<p>Lovato, who appeared on <em>Camp Rock</em>, agrees with pal Selena Gomez about the Disney Channel being like high school. “We joked around that it was Disney High, except we all were shooting shows and really overworking,” she told <a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/magazine-feature/7445798/demi-lovato-nick-jonas-billboard-cover-interview-friendship-touring-pop-stardom" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Billboard" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Billboard</em></a>. “I joke that I sometimes have PTSD after leaving the channel, because if my schedule starts to get too busy, I rebel and I get bitchy.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Demi Lovato

Lovato, who appeared on Camp Rock, agrees with pal Selena Gomez about the Disney Channel being like high school. “We joked around that it was Disney High, except we all were shooting shows and really overworking,” she told Billboard. “I joke that I sometimes have PTSD after leaving the channel, because if my schedule starts to get too busy, I rebel and I get bitchy.” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>While Nick usually takes the politically correct route when talking about his time on the network, Joe has gotten more real. “Because of Disney… there were so many things throughout our career that we had to sugarcoat,” he wrote in a piece for <a href="http://www.vulture.com/2013/11/joe-jonas-talks-jonas-brothers.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vulture" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vultur<em>e</em></a>. “Being a part of the Disney thing for so long will make you not want to be this perfect little puppet forever. Eventually, I hit a limit and thought, ‘Screw all this, I’m just going to show people who I am.’ I think that happened to a lot of us. Disney kids are spunky in some way, and I think that’s why Disney hires them. ‘Look, he jumped up on the table!’ Five, six, 10 years later, they’re like, ‘Oh! What do we do?’ Come on, guys. You did this to yourselves.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
The Jonas Brothers

While Nick usually takes the politically correct route when talking about his time on the network, Joe has gotten more real. “Because of Disney… there were so many things throughout our career that we had to sugarcoat,” he wrote in a piece for Vulture. “Being a part of the Disney thing for so long will make you not want to be this perfect little puppet forever. Eventually, I hit a limit and thought, ‘Screw all this, I’m just going to show people who I am.’ I think that happened to a lot of us. Disney kids are spunky in some way, and I think that’s why Disney hires them. ‘Look, he jumped up on the table!’ Five, six, 10 years later, they’re like, ‘Oh! What do we do?’ Come on, guys. You did this to yourselves.” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>The <em>That’s So Raven</em> star <a href="http://people.com/tv/raven-symone-hid-sexual-orientation-over-disney-brand/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:revealed" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">revealed</a> that she hid her sexuality because of the Disney brand. “I knew I couldn’t say it out loud because ‘Oh, my God, little Olivia is gay? This is crazy!'” she <a href="http://deadline.com/2016/10/raven-symone-thats-so-raven-sequel-series-disney-channel-1201843624/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a>. “I had the No. 1 show on Disney, I had multiple albums, I was on tour with NSync. People had bucket lists, my bucket list was finished at 18. I didn’t want to deal with that.” Clearly, her experience working with the network wasn’t all bad. She’s headed back to Disney for a <em>That’s So Raven</em> sequel. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Raven-Symoné

The That’s So Raven star revealed that she hid her sexuality because of the Disney brand. “I knew I couldn’t say it out loud because ‘Oh, my God, little Olivia is gay? This is crazy!'” she said. “I had the No. 1 show on Disney, I had multiple albums, I was on tour with NSync. People had bucket lists, my bucket list was finished at 18. I didn’t want to deal with that.” Clearly, her experience working with the network wasn’t all bad. She’s headed back to Disney for a That’s So Raven sequel. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Hudgens also found that while Disney opened doors, it closed a lot of them too. “<em>High School Musical</em> was incredible, and it was so fun, and it gave me so many fans, which I’m very, very thankful for, but it also closed people’s minds up as to which characters I could portray,” she <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2203993/Vanessa-Hudgens-talks-transitioning-Disney-princess-screen-siren.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:explained" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">explained</a>. “So for a while I was kind of struggling and fighting for these roles that I just desperately wanted. It was hard and it was a struggle, but then again life is always a struggle.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Vanessa Hudgens

Hudgens also found that while Disney opened doors, it closed a lot of them too. “High School Musical was incredible, and it was so fun, and it gave me so many fans, which I’m very, very thankful for, but it also closed people’s minds up as to which characters I could portray,” she explained. “So for a while I was kind of struggling and fighting for these roles that I just desperately wanted. It was hard and it was a struggle, but then again life is always a struggle.” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>The <em>Riverdale</em> star <a href="http://ew.com/article/2016/05/17/cole-sprouse-disney-channel-automaton/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a> he felt like an object while starring on Disney’s long-running <em>Suite Life</em> franchise with his twin brother, Dylan. “There was a feeling of machination; I felt like an automaton,” he exclaimed. “I needed to take a break and step outside myself… I needed a dose of reality, and I needed to see myself in a more objective point of view. And now I think I can enjoy [acting], which is a really fundamental part about being an actor.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Cole Sprouse

The Riverdale star said he felt like an object while starring on Disney’s long-running Suite Life franchise with his twin brother, Dylan. “There was a feeling of machination; I felt like an automaton,” he exclaimed. “I needed to take a break and step outside myself… I needed a dose of reality, and I needed to see myself in a more objective point of view. And now I think I can enjoy [acting], which is a really fundamental part about being an actor.” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>LaBeouf, who starred on Even Stevens, <a href="http://www.northbynorthwestern.com/story/disturbia/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> the experience “debilitating” professionally. “It’s debilitating for an actor, because there’s not many places you can go,” he said. “There are not many textures and shades you can go as an actor on Disney Channel. It’s like vaudeville… It’s very big and broad. Life’s not like that.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Shia LaBeouf

LaBeouf, who starred on Even Stevens, called the experience “debilitating” professionally. “It’s debilitating for an actor, because there’s not many places you can go,” he said. “There are not many textures and shades you can go as an actor on Disney Channel. It’s like vaudeville… It’s very big and broad. Life’s not like that.” (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Overall, Duff looks at the milestone in her career fondly. “As torturous as it has been at some points in my life to be Lizzie McGuire, I think that when that show came out, it was such a part of who I was, I didn’t feel like I was playing a part,” she <a href="https://pridesource.com/article/72139-2/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a>. “The writers all knew me so well and were writing things that were happening in my life and things that I would say, and I was dressing exactly like I wanted. It was so me.” (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Hilary Duff

Overall, Duff looks at the milestone in her career fondly. “As torturous as it has been at some points in my life to be Lizzie McGuire, I think that when that show came out, it was such a part of who I was, I didn’t feel like I was playing a part,” she said. “The writers all knew me so well and were writing things that were happening in my life and things that I would say, and I was dressing exactly like I wanted. It was so me.” (Photo: Getty Images)

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