10 Former Disney Channel Stars Who Spoke Out Against the Network

Rowan Blanchard, Demi Lovato, Bella Thorne
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Disney Channel might have established the careers of stars such as Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Bella Thorne, but not everyone has something nice to say about their experience. In fact, a majority of former Disney Channel stars have been open about their love-hate relationship with the network that made them. These ex–Disney Channel actors have some juicy stories to tell, from losing their senses of self to living under the pressure to be squeaky-clean and perfect.

MORE: What 25 Former Disney Channel Stars Look Like, Then and Now

We’ve rounded up quotes from 10 former Disney Channel stars who have either shaded or blatantly spoke out against the network. Though Disney Channel isn’t all bad—each of these stars has been adamant about the benefits their Disney Channel shows and movies have had on their careers—the network, like all things, isn’t perfect. To shatter the facade of perfectionism that Disney Channel has put up, these celebrities are getting real about their time as Disney Channel stars.

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Bella Thorne
Bella Thorne

In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, the "Shake It Up" star revealed that she was asked to speak in a higher pitch in interviews because the executives at Disney Channel didn't think that her naturally low voice would appeal to the network's younger audience. “I talked in a higher voice, in a completely different pitch,” she also told ABC News.

But one of Thorne's most memorable encounters with Disney Channel's strict rules was when she was almost fired from "Shake It Up" for wearing a bikini at 14 years old. In an interview with "Under the Influence," the actress revealed that a selfie of her in a bathing suit, which Disney Channel deemed too skimpy, almost cost her her career.

“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 thing, we will,'” she said.

Photo: Getty Images
Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato

Lovato, who is known for roles on Disney Channel's "Sonny with a Chance" and its "Camp Rock" franchise, compared working on the network to living with trauma. In an interview with Billboard, the singer opened up about how overworked she felt on Disney Channel and how whenever her schedule is too busy she experiences flashbacks to her Disney days.

"We joked around that it was Disney High, except we all were shooting shows and really overworking," Lovato said. "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."

The singer, who has also been open about her battle with an eating disorder, also called out Disney Channel in 2011 for joking about eating disorders on its show "Shake It Up."

"'I could just eat you up, well if I ate' - Disney Chanel's Shake It Up.... What are we promoting here? #notfunnyATALL," she tweeted.

Photo: Getty Images
Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus

After starring on "Hannah Montana" for five years, Cyrus revealed to Marie Claire that she began experiencing body dysmorphia. She revealed the constant hair and makeup affected her perspective on body image and what she should look like, especially because she was playing a character with the same name as her.

"I was told for so long what a girl is supposed to be from being on that show. 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 fuck am I?" Cyrus said.

In an interview with W magazine in 2014, three years after "Hannah Montana" ended, Cyrus opened up about the freedom she felt after she was no longer under Disney's control.

"I don't give a [crap]. I'm not Disney, where they have ... to be politically correct, and, like, everyone has bright-colored T-shirts," she said.

Photo: Getty Images
Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez

The "Wizards of Waverly Place" star has always been public about the doors that Disney Channel has opened for her. But even she has felt the pressure to be perfect. In an interview with The New York Times, Gomez opened up about a pressure to be a "good girl" on Disney Channel and how she would feel overworked.

"It's all part of my story. I'm growing and changing," Gomez said. "I was still under Hollywood and Disney, and I was being held to this expectation of being the good girl."

She added, "I knew deep down that this wasn't what I wanted to do—being exhausted of forcing something that wasn't right," she continued. "I had to have moments where I was crying, and I was like, 'Why am I not in love with what I do?' I was forced to get very uncomfortable for a while in order to make the decisions I made."

Photo: Getty Images
Dylan Sprouse
Dylan Sprouse

After the success of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," Dylan and his twin brother, Cole, signed on for a spin-off, "The Suite Life on Deck." However, the spin-off abruptly ended when the twins turned 18. In an interview with Vulture, Dylan revealed that the surprise ending was because Disney Channel refused to work with the brothers on where the show could go. Dylan called out the network for using them as faces for the franchise but refusing to work with them creatively.

"I mean, we had a really awesome idea for where the show needed to go," he said. "We were 18. If that isn't old enough to know exactly what the show needs, then … well, I would beg to disagree. I don't think [Disney Channel was] willing to work with us, really ever. So we stopped the show."

 

Photo: Getty Images
Joe Jonas
Joe Jonas

In an essay for New York magazine, the DNCE frontman didn't hold anything back when criticizing the writing on his Disney Channel show "Jonas." "The thing about the show was that some of the writing on it was terrible," he said. "It just ended up being some weird slapstick humor that only a 10-year-old would laugh at. They took out the kissing scene that Nick had."

Joe has also been open about Disney Channel forcing him to shave so that he could look like a teenager and cater to a younger audience.

"I had to shave every day because they wanted me to pretend like I was 16 when I was 20 (when the show was done, I cut my hair off and grew as much of a beard as I could)," he said. "We went along with it at the time, because we thought Disney was our only real shot, and we were terrified that it could all be taken away from us at any moment."

The Jonas Brothers member has also been vocal about feeling creatively stunted at Disney due to executives frequently telling him and his brothers to change their music to make it more kid-friendly.

"Because of Disney ... there were so many things throughout our career that we had to sugarcoat," he said. "If a lyric was slightly sexual, someone at the record company would tell us we had to change it.... It felt like we couldn't be creative, so we stopped listening to them and just started handing shit in."

He added, "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, ten years later, they're like, 'Oh! What do we do?' Come on, guys. You did this to yourselves."

Photo: Getty Images
Nick Jonas
Nick Jonas

Like his brother Joe, the "Jealous" singer also hasn't been quiet about the creative control that Disney Channel has over its musicians. In an interview with Now, Nick even went so far as to suggest that he was putting on a persona when he was on Disney Channel. "Disney doesn't create role models, it creates characters," he said, adding that the network "has its faults."

Photo: Getty Images
Rowan Blanchard
Rowan Blanchard

Though the "Girl Meets World" star didn't mention Disney Channel by name, fans believe that she shaded the network in an interview with W magazine. In the interview, Rowan spoke about feeling "silenced" on a network known for silencing its employees. The experience inspired her to become an outspoken activist and carve a name for herself outside of Disney Channel.

"I worked for a corporation for four years that is known for silencing and crafting your voice, so with that, I just had to very much stand my ground and separate myself, which I think I did," Blanchard said. "It’s nice now because now people don’t really recognize me from the show, they recognize me from my activism, which has been very comforting.

Photo: Getty Images
Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens

After the end of her third "High School Musical" movie, Hudgens opened up to Untitled magazine about the difficulty she had with casting directors seeing her outside her Disney Channel role. "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," Hudgens said.

But she reportedly made her real opinions about Disney Channel heard in 2015 when Page Six reported that she told fans waiting outside the theater for "Gigi," a musical she was performing in, that she wouldn't sign "High School Musical" memorabilia.

“I’ll only sign ‘Gigi’ programs. I won’t sign any of that ‘High School Musical’ stuff," she reportedly said.

Photo: Getty Images
Raven-Symone
Raven-Symoné

For many of us who grew up in the 2000s and '90s, Raven-Symoné was the face of Disney Channel. However, that didn't stop the "That's So Raven" and "Raven's Home" actress from experiencing the same pressures that her peers did. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the comedian opened up about the network pressuring her to lose weight.

“I lost weight to keep them people from talking to me,” she said. “I got tired and irritated. I was proud at the time. I was. And I am. I love my thicky, thicky self.  But now that I lost weight, it’s like, ‘OK, wait, let me go back in the gym and get it together.’”

She added, “As soon as I lost weight, it became thick-girl season. Everyone just started to be thick on television,” she says. “I’m like, are they getting the same backlash as I am? Because I was thick."

In the same interview, Raven also revealed that Disney Channel used to ask her to tan for the sake of her character. “When I had my own show, I used to tan three or four times a week in a tanning bed to get darker,” she said. "It's funny, one of the lighting guys came up—I love him to death; I love him, oh my goodness—he goes, 'Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You're getting too dark, and we have to relight the whole entire show,'" she said. "I was like, 'Sorry. I was just trying to be pretty.'"

Photo: Getty Images

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  • Bella Thorne
  • Demi Lovato
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Selena Gomez
  • Dylan Sprouse
  • Joe Jonas
  • Nick Jonas
  • Rowan Blanchard
  • Vanessa Hudgens
  • Raven-Symone
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