It is sadly nothing new that Disney stars (or Disney Dynasty as we’ve called them) have had issues in their life – from relationships, health to constant paparazzi pressure and attention. It is also not news that Disney is not great with their young stars and does not prepare them for fame and attention. Sometimes it can appear all they care about is the money that a young star will make. For example, when Miley Cyrus was on Hannah Montana, she was filming in white jeans and came on her period. Understandably she was mortified and broke down crying. Miley begged her mother and the producers, to let her go home. The producers though did not care and wanted to continue filming. Unexpected periods are embarrassing enough, but white jeans must have made it 100 times worse to come on your period.
Disney cannot be sorely to blame for their stars’ behaviour but they can be blamed for their response. Take Demi Lovato. They have recently come out and said they lost their virginity at the age of 15 through rape. Whilst Demi did not name the culprit, they did say they tried to tell producers what had happened but it was ignored and the person in question got to keep their job.
From a younger age, Demi has battled mental health including a crippling eating disorder that still affects them to this day. At the age of 18, they were misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and were thought for a very long time, contributing to their mental health. It would later be diagnosed as ADHD. It is fair to say that they have not had the best management team for the majority of their career.
Demi was then clean from alcohol and drugs for nearly six years, but they were miserable by their own admission. This all led to a nearly fatal drug overdose in 2018. The most worrying thing for fans and more importantly their family and friends, the clues were there. Many in their close circle stated that Demi was really good at hiding things, but a month before their overdose, they had released a song called Sober – documenting their troubles. I remember personally, thinking the song sounded recent but then looking back, it was a cry for help.
Demi’s approach to life now is what they call ‘California Sober’. This approach includes weed and alcohol in moderation. Whilst some may judge this, I can understand why they have this approach. As someone who has also suffered from an eating disorder too, to get your mind around the fact you still need food to survive and you can diet but you can’t stop eating altogether without risk of being ill. To apply the same logic to alcohol and drugs is difficult, to say the least. You are accepted to go cold turkey on that addiction but you cannot apply the same logic to food. Do I think it is a long-term solution? Probably not but it is working for Demi now. They have said it works but it does not stop them from wanting the hard stuff. Because as Taylor Swift once said ‘just because you’re clean, don’t mean you don’t miss it.’
Another one from the same generation as Demi that is worth a mention is Ms. Miley Cyrus. For me, a word that comes to mind is ‘Icon’ but that doesn’t mean she has not struggled. I think a lot of that struggle comes from the media response to Miley.
Miley was an overnight success. Hannah Montana was that show. It broke records and made Miley a star. I think though, a lot of the time, it was forgotten that a young girl growing up was at the heart of this. Miley had her first ‘scandal’ at 15 when photos of her wrapped in a sheet made headlines. At the time, she apologized but has said since Disney made her say sorry when really she was not. This reaction from Disney is not anything new. Vanessa Hudgens risked being dropped from High School Musical twice after pictures of her topless surfaced. Bella Thorne was almost fired from Shake It Up for wearing a ‘sexy’ bikini when she was 14. The only reason Bella was not fired was because of her huge fan base and Disney could not afford to fire her but Disney did threaten that if anything else happened, she would be gone.
Then in 2009, Miley performed her single ‘Party In The USA’ at the Teen Choice Awards where during the performance she danced atop an ice-cream pushcart with a pole (which was suggested to be a dance pole by numerous critics). It was met with a media uproar and Disney issued a statement distancing themselves from the performance instead of supporting her. She was also compared to Britney Spears. Miley was just a teenager expressing herself but was met with negativity because of her Disney role. In 2010, Miley performed ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ on Britain’s Got Talent and was met with criticism again as, during the performance, she simulated a kiss with a female dancer. Miley was forced to make a statement about it and say sorry (she probably wasn’t even sorry again). Around this time, Miley had begun heavily smoking weed.
It was in 2013 that really shocked the world. She broke off her engagement with Liam Hemsworth and cut her hair off (but in her defence, it was mainly hair extensions). Her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards of her song ‘We Can’t Stop’ raised eyebrows (including mine) and was joined on stage by Robin Thicke. She suggestively danced with him in a way we were not used to seeing Miley perform.
Looking back and hearing what she has said, Miley was so desperate to shred the ‘Hannah Montana’ image and was being constantly judged for her performances, she had to do something so out there to fully get rid of that stigma. However, during the last few months, we’ve really seen Miley embrace her roots of Hannah Montana and how this has given her the success she has today.
The final name from the late 2000s that is worth a mention is Selena Gomez. She is less controversial than Miley and Demi but there is one common theme in the press – her past relationship with Justin Bieber. In 2010, when their relationship was first made public, Selena received death threats from fans as well as the paparazzi constantly stalking her. The relationship has played out through the media; the highs and the lows. Justin cheating on her, the constant on and off, and finally Justin marrying Hailey Baldwin within two months of ending his relationship with Selena. Her heartbreak has been on a world stage. To make it worse, Selna has had to cope with lupus and having to have a kidney transplant. Tours have been cancelled due to the physical and mental strain of having the illness – but again, the press have always found a way to make it a negative spin. However, it seems through it all despite being one of the 00s Disney Child Stars; Selena has surrounded herself with a great team of friends and colleagues to pull her through each of her battles.
Miley, Demi and Selena have all lived in the shadow of Lindsay Lohan and her rise and fall. They have constantly been compared to her when something goes wrong. Lindsay, herself, has been through it.
Lindsay has worked since she was 3 and got her ‘big break’ in The Parent Trap at the age of 12. Her success continued into films that defined the early 2000s – and on a personal note, my childhood – Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, Just My Luck, Herbie: Fully Loaded and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. A fun fact is she was actually originally supposed to play Regina George in Mean Girls but feared that the ‘mean girl’ role would harm her reputation. Under all this success though, was the cruel reality of too much, too young.
By the age of 21, Lindsey started to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and had become a prominent fixture of the Los Angeles late-night scene, where alcohol and other drugs were often present and on hand for her. She started to receive more attention for her late-night persona than for her film work, and faced the beginning of what would be a long series of run-ins with the law. Describing herself as an “addict” in her 2014 interview with Oprah, stating that alcohol was a gateway drug to other substances that would become an addiction.
In May 2007, Lindsay was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. In July, less than two weeks out of rehab, she was arrested a second time on charges of possession of cocaine, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. In August, Lindsey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine use and driving under the influence. In November, Lohan served 84 minutes in jail and was released due to overcrowding. Her explosive behaviour contributed towards being fired from multiple movies.
Another star from the same time as Lindsay is Shia LaBeouf. His breakthrough came from Even Stevens then had continued success in films Holes and the Transformers series. He had been hit with a few minor controversies in his career but it has only been in the last 5 years that Shia has had dealings with the law.
On June 26, 2014, LaBeouf was arrested and subsequently charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, and criminal trespass. Following the arrest, he voluntarily entered into alcohol treatment. On July 8, 2017, LaBeouf was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and obstruction. Bodycam footage showed LeBeouf making “profanity-laced racial remarks” towards police officers during his arrest and later claimed his behaviour was down to his on-going alcohol issues.
In 2020, it started to get worse for the actor. In September, LaBeouf was charged with misdemeanor battery and petty theft for his involvement in an altercation with another man. In December, he was sued by his ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs, for sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress.
This has now led to LeBeouf being removed from leading roles in films; with the most recent being the recasting of his leading role in Olivia Wilde’s new thriller Don’t Worry Darling; now being played by Harry Styles. It’s clear that Shia’s actions are being held accountable by those around in the industry proving that women’s voices are being heard when coming forward with their abuse stories.
In reality, we’ve only mentioned a handful of Disney Stars that have had their issues from growing up in the limelight; the list is long and unnerving. From Britney Spears’ current conservatorship to Zac Efron’s secret drug past to Vanessa Hudgen’s nudes being leaked to Bella Thorne’s controversial image overhaul.
It is very clear there is a link between Disney Stars, law issues and ‘scandal’. You can easily say Disney does not offer support when it goes against their ‘family values’ and would rather dismiss and distance themselves from the issue. Whilst their target audiences are children and young teens, they fail to realise their artists are human beings and are going to make ‘mistakes’. Miley Cyrus herself even wrote a song called Robot with lyrics including “I’m not your robot. Stop telling me I’m part of the big machine I’m breaking free. Can’t you see? I can move, I can speak without somebody else operating me” – which could be argued to be the inner monologue for all Disney Stars – past, present and sadly the future.
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