The Former Disney Star Spilling Juicy Secrets on YouTube

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·10 min read
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Christy Carlson Romano/Youtube
Christy Carlson Romano/Youtube

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

  • A full-on spiritual meltdown about Steve Martin’s TV show.

  • An untreatable addiction to a Disney star’s YouTube channel.

  • Diane Keaton singing “Thank U, Next” may have broke me.

  • The new Dancing with the Stars casting definitely broke me.

  • The only Real Housewives star I want to see from now on.

Help, I Can’t Stop Watching a Disney Star’s YouTube Channel

I am so fortunate to have piles of screeners for some of the best and most exciting TV series coming up—hours of them, more than there are hours in the day available to watch. And yet I have spent every moment of free time in the last week watching YouTube videos of a former Disney Channel star spilling secrets of all the ways childhood fame fucked up her life.

The videos are from Christy Carlson Romano, who is extremely famous to a very specific age of elder millennial (a phrase that makes my knees creak and hair go 10 percent more gray each time I type it) for starring on the Disney comedy Even Stevens. They are remarkable because she is essentially dishing all the stories you’d want to ask her about if you ever met her but, if you had a shred of grace and empathy, would never do so.

I think I stumbled upon these videos because of one in which she talked about having an acrimonious relationship with co-star Shia LaBeouf made headlines, and as a rule I click any and all stories about LaBeouf being a little shit.

In the video, called “Why I Don’t Talk to Shia LaBeouf,” Romano is candid about how the warped egos of childhood fame poisoned their relationship—she was especially hurt when he didn’t thank her after winning a Daytime Emmy for Even Stevens—and how she regrets that the schism between them kept her from recognizing the trauma and difficulty he was going through. (He’d dramatize some of that later on in the film Honey Boy.)

There are truths I just have to accept about myself, and one is that I am depressingly susceptible to YouTube rabbit holes. I don’t burrow my way through them so much as swan-dive right down them, like Pocahontas leaping off a cliff into a pool of nonsense content that will keep her up until 2 a.m. But there’s something about Romano’s videos that seem elevated from that nonsense.

At a time when getting a celebrity to be actually honest about an experience on a show or with fame is like asking that girl you went to high school with who now sells essential oils to stop posting anti-vaxx conspiracy theories on Facebook, Romano is doing some useful truth-telling. And it’s not being packaged as empty nostalgia like these “so-and-so actor from so-and-so TV show do a podcast talking about that TV show” that have become so popular and so useless.

Romano is rarely throwing anyone under the bus for attention. She’s centering all these stories, juicy as they may be, around her role in them and the lessons she’s learned, in hopes that they may be cautionary tales.

In “How I Lost All My Money,” she talks about how gratuitous spending, bad advice from parents and managers, and the delusion that she’d be working forever led to her burning through $1 million in a year. “What My Celebrity Bullies Taught Me” does tease that a “really huge star” who does “huge franchise movies” was a tormenter, but she doesn’t name names and instead focuses on how she worked to heal from the trauma.

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But what makes these videos all the more captivating is the way they’re shot. They’re not the classic YouTube vlog where someone sits at a desk and chats at the camera. In each one she’s, for some reason, walking outside while someone else seems to be walking backwards filming her, creating these unexpectedly cinematic tracking shots. Alfonso Cuarón is absolutely shook.

Anyway, we all have the craven, kind of gross curiosity over what happened to child stars and what led to their Hollywood “demise.” (We always assume it’s a demise.) To have the information delivered in this manner by someone who seems to have done the work to re-screw a good head back on her shoulders is fascinating. At least that’s the conclusion I came to after watching my ninth straight one of these at 1 o’clock last night.

Play Diane Keaton’s “Thank U, Next” Cover at My Funeral

My favorite kind of online content is when you can’t tell if someone is doing a bit or being aggressively earnest, and therefore I don’t know whether to laugh, cringe, or dial 911 to report an emergency. And so, I alert you to Diane Keaton, who posted a video on Instagram in which, over a montage of photos of Ariana Grande, she stammers about how “once in [her] stupid life” she wants to sing along with the pop star—and then she does.

As “Thank U, Next” plays, Keaton croons along, altering the arrangement haphazardly—taking a note up here, speak-singing there—like a legitimate duet partner would. This is all very on brand for Diane Keaton: batty, adorable, quirky, and that thing where she’s hyper-energized to the point of approximating human behavior, rather than reflecting it. Things that would be a little tragic to the ordinary among us become off-kilter genius in her hands.

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The entire post, from its all-caps caption to its crude collage of Grande photos (not to mention the vocals), carries strong TikTok tween energy. Truthfully, I can’t decide if the whole thing is deeply cursed or possibly healing. As the waters rose in New York and Diane Keaton scooping up a spoken-word “next!” on the first line of the chorus played in my head on a constant loop, I thought, “What if this is the last thing on my mind as I meet my demise?” It was chilling. Then again, a comfort.

Listen, Diane Keaton bashfully singing is quite possibly cinema’s greatest treasure. A recent movie night at a friend’s house began with my casual suggestion that we watch First Wives Club and quickly escalated from them being impressed that I could quote so many lines to abject horror as, without warning, I began performing the exact choreography to “You Don’t Own Me” at the end. I have had a pumpkin artist (real thing!) carve a still from that scene onto a jack-o-lantern. There’s an artist’s rendering of it hanging in my apartment, which I take down and put back up every few months based on how I’m feeling about it seeming “too gay for me.”

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This is to say that this “Thank U, Next” post should be my exact jam, and as such I am choosing to treasure it. I mean, Lindsay Lohan is the first comment I see on my Instagram. I’m compelled to love it.

If any other celebrity did this? My God, so embarrassing. But in this case, there is no choice but to rule it iconic.

Dancing with the Stars Is At It Again

It is that special time of year when summer turns to fall.

The temperature is so wildly different each day that I will never once be appropriately dressed for the weather. People start shrieking about their beloved pumpkin spice, and then others shriek in response about how much they dislike pumpkin spice, as if that makes them more interesting. The people who define their personalities by an obsession with Halloween begin their reign of tyranny. And the Dancing with the Stars casting directors return, as they do at this time every year, to terrorize me.

From the leaky-toilet visionaries who brought you Sean Spicer doing the salsa, waltzing Tucker Carlson, and Carole Baskin stretching the limits of the definition of “dancing” to its precarious extreme, we now get Olivia Jade as a cast member on the new season of the show.

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The Gen Z influencer, an icon of vlogging of scamming, is probably best known for being one of the students at the center of Operation Varsity Blues, in which her parents, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, reportedly paid $500,000 in bribes in order to secure her a spot at USC.

While pesky little things like nationwide moral outrage and a come-to-Jesus about entitlement, privilege, and access in academia meant that she never saw the halls of the university, she now joins the hallowed ranks of deplorable public figures seeking redemption in the ballroom.

I don’t know what it is about this show and its siren call that brings me back year after year. I genuinely enjoy it, proving that in the soul of every elder millennial gay there is a Midwest boomer housewife waiting to break free. But this annual trolling infuriates me. Moreover, I don’t see the draw here. Is Olivia Jade going to bring in viewers? Do most people even know who she is?

(There are also less substantiated rumors that Hilaria Baldwin may be joining the cast, and the chaos that portends Latin Dance Week already has caused my blood pressure to spike.)

In any case, if history has anything to tell us, it’s to look forward to Olivia Jade’s completely CGI’d foxtrot when Dancing with the Stars returns this fall.

A Reality Star Is Born

Obviously, Tammy Faye Girardi and her carefully-rehearsed ability to let one single tear drip down her cheek and stain her makeup is the source of all the drama on this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You know, with her shocking lawsuits, her apparent lack of empathy for victims, and the farce of uttering lines like “LOOK AT MY LIFE!” as if she’s Fantine in Les Miz while, in reality, she is sitting at a dinner in Kathy Hilton’s mansion wearing a designer outfit with full glam on a TV show eating caviar pie at a table decorated with $900 candlesticks.

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But on Wednesday night, a new star was born. His name is Patrick. He is on the staff at Hilton’s house and served the cast during the episode. He is French. More specifically, he is the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast come to life. He is an icon, and I demand a spin-off immediately. Attention: Andy Cohen, Bravo, NBC Universal, the Pope, Oprah, Emmanuel Macron. Whoever! Make it happen.

What to watch this week:

Worth: Does one truly “recommend” a drama about families of 9/11 victims? Either way, the acting in this—specifically from Stanley Tucci and Laura Benanti—is amazing. (Fri. on Netflix)

Impeachment: American Crime Story: It’s all over the place, and one of those places, occasionally, is really good. (Tues. on FX)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: My favorite kind of Marvel movie: One that doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie. (Fri. in theaters)

What to skip this week:

Cinderella: No amount of horse pills will save you from this movie. (Fri. on Amazon)

Frogger: In New York, we call this “crossing the street,” and no one gives me money when I succeed. (Thurs. on Peacock)

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