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For decades, the Disney Channel has been producing kid and teen icons through variety shows (like the Mickey Mouse Club), sitcoms, and Disney Channel Original Movies. And for almost as long as the channel has been a breeding ground for future superstars, performers have been speaking out about the negative aspects of both being associated with the network and becoming so widely recognizable at such a young age. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bella Thorne, whose career kicked off in earnest on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up with Zendaya when she was 13, shared what she sees as the biggest downside to Disney fame. Keep reading to learn what she said. And to see what more former kid actors like her are up to these days, check out The Biggest Disney Channel Stars, Then and Now.
Thorne says once you're a Disney Channel star, you're always a Disney Channel star—and that's not necessarily a positive thing.
Thorne is frustrated that performers who first rose to fame on the Disney Channel are subject to misconceptions about their level of talent and commitment. "No one gives Disney kids enough f****** credit," she told THR.
She used the star of the series Liv and Maddie and the musical TV movie franchise Descendants as an example. "Like, come on, Dove Cameron is one of the hardest workers I know, and she’s an amazing actress," Thorne said of the now 25-year-old star. "And people still wanna say, 'She’s Disney.' It's like an immediate 'X' mark that you have to work out of."
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Thorne has a lot of empathy for Britney Spears, who also started on the Disney Channel.
Thorne's comments were prompted in part by her impressions of the much-discussed New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears, which examines how a sexist and cruel celebrity culture contributed to and then mocked issues the pop star has faced in her personal life. And before Britney Spears was a pop star, she was also a "Disney kid," as a member of the '90s version of The Mickey Mouse Club.
"It made me so sad, just all the wrongs that society did to her," Thorne said of Spears. "It's disgusting what she went through, what she is still going through, the whole nine yards, it is literally terrible."
For more on the singer's trials, check out This Diane Sawyer Interview With Britney Spears Has People Outraged.
Thorne is far from the only Disney star who's spoken out about her experience.
During a 2016 interview with an Australian radio station (as reported by Seventeen), Wizards of Waverly Place star Selena Gomez opened up about missing out on a "normal" childhood. "There's a balance to life that I think is normal and I think what we do and what I love is, for me, normal," she said. "But it isn't actually when you look at it. That is not how people should be brought up or raised, especially if you're younger."
For more on Gomez's relationship with fame, check out 17 Major Celebrities Who Actually Hate the Spotlight.
Others claim the company kept them on a short leash.
The Jonas Brothers were signed to a Disney record label, briefly had their own show on the network, and appeared in the channel's hit Camp Rock movies. During an interview with James Corden around the time they reunited in 2019, the youngest member of the trio, Nick Jonas, revealed that the media training they received as kids representing Disney was a little much in retrospect.
"I took pride in it, until I watched those interviews back years later and was like, 'I sound like a robot,'" the star said.
For more on the negatives of finding fame young, here's How Mary-Kate&Ashley Stopped Elizabeth Olsen From Being a Child Star.