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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

Former Disney Channel child stars such as Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron and Demi Lovato have all separated themselves from the place they got their start and many have even criticized the network for the way they were treated as children on set. 

It’s well known that Disney Channel enforced strict rules on all of their stars to keep the clean family image of Disney in the early 2000s. The network enforced a strict dress code on their child actors to make sure their appearance always matched the Disney image, even off set. Young stars were also told to speak a certain way and play dumb in interviews to avoid controversial topics. Since the stars left Disney, many of them have reported poor treatment from Disney Channel and expressed how happy they were to leave the network.

What happened to your favorite stars?

Zac Efron spent time in rehab in 2013, and since then has said it was so difficult to handle all the attention and lack of privacy he had at such a young age, that he turned to drugs to help him cope. Efron has since gotten clean and starred in many very successful movies, but other former Disney stars were not able to recover as quickly as Efron. 

Demi Lovato recently released a documentary detailing her struggle with addition that started when she was only 17, still working for Disney Channel. In the documentary, Demi Lovato, Dancing with the Devil, Lovato describes the years she was addicted to cocaine, her recovery, and her almost fatal overdose in 2018. Demi Lovato has also struggled with an eating disorder, which she said Disney Channel reinforced since she was a teenager on the network.  

Miley Cyrus, who created a new reputation for herself in stark contrast to the good girl image Disney forced her to maintain, also struggled with dependency on drugs and alcohol for years. Cyrus starred in Hannah Montana from ages 14-19, and she is now open about how those years under Disney’s control have affected her. 

While the stars’ struggles with addiction cannot be blamed solely on Disney Channel, the network’s harsh rules enforced on actors at such a young age was detrimental. Although Disney’s reputation was not heavily impacted due to the actors’ complaints, it seems the network has made a change in the way they treat their young stars.

Olivia Rodrigo, current Disney star who started on Bizaardvark and now stars on High School Musical: The Musical – The Series (HSMTMTS) seems to have no obligation to keep a family friendly image while working for Disney. This year, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour came out, in which she sings about mistreatment from her Disney costar and ex-boyfriend. Rodrigo recently attended the Met Gala in an outfit unlike anything former Disney stars ever wore in public while in partnership with the channel. It also appears that Disney has stopped censoring their actors, as Rodrigo is open about her political views, (she even appeared at the White House and gave a speech on how important it is to get vaccinated) and many of her songs are explicit. It seems as though, after much harm was already done, Disney has finally started holding their actors to a much more attainable standard. 

Annabelle Evans

American '24

Belle is a Senior at American University majoring in literature with a focus in creative writing. She is from the Philadelphia area and loves to read. She enjoys writing on current events, pop culture phenomenons and especially issues impacting women.