The decade's most triggering comedy
Dubbed the “Disney Curse” are the many documented cases of former Disney child stars left troubled by drugs, disorders and other long term mental and physical damage. While this list includes only 11, it could have mentioned many more, like Aaron Carter, Bella Thorne, Jake T. Austin, Kirsten Storms, Dutch Whitlock, and Debby Ryan.
Perhaps one of the most grievous cases is Lee Thompson Young, who tragically committed suicide at age 29 in 2013 after starring in Disney’s “The Famous Jett Jackson” for more than three years. Lee had struggled with depression and bipolar disorder since he was a teen, but mental illness following the Disney years is unfortunately not rare. (Disclosure: The Daily Wire has announced plans for children’s entertainment content.)
Jeffrey Rabhan, former chair at NYU’s recorded music school has described the dark phenomena, saying, “Being part of the Disney machine can be a dream and a nightmare…. even new artists can find themselves working as hard as seasoned superstars from the beginning: between the network, touring, theme parks and film, it’s like graduating fifth grade and jumping to an 80-hour-a-week job.”
Is it a coincidence that all these stars have a Disney start in common? Regardless of their Disney connection, we’re all rooting for a better future for these celebrities. Some have turned things around better than others.
11) Adam Hicks
Hicks was all over Disney Channel from 2009-2013. He starred in “Zeke and Luther,” “Lemonade Mouth,”“Jonas,” and “Pair of Kings.” In 2018, like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, Hicks and his girlfriend, Danni Tamburo, stuck pistols in people’s faces while demanding money and other valuables. His attorney claimed mental health issues to explain the three attempted robberies and two felony counts of second-degree robbery.
10) Shia LaBeouf
You may remember LaBeouf as Louis from the Disney show “Even Stevens.” Post-Disney, LaBeouf was charged after attempting to stab his neighbor, which was followed in subsequent years by misdemeanor criminal trespassing and drunk driving … several times. Then there were the bar fights, disorderly conduct, obstruction, plagiarism, and appearance on the red carpet with a paper bag over his head and the words “I am not famous anymore” written on it. When asked why he was donning the paper bag he answered, “I am a bag. Ask me a bag question.” And during the filming of the movie “Fury,” he bizarrely refused to shower for a week.
9) Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez starred as Alex on Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” In an interview in 2017 at 25 years old, she told InStyle, “I think it is really dysfunctional to be in this industry at a young age where you’re figuring out who you are.” Gomez has been open and honest about her battles with anxiety and depression. When diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Gomez said, “I felt a huge weight lifted off me when I found out. I could take a deep breath and go, ‘OK, that explains so much.’” She has been on the road to healing and appears to be continuing on it.
8) Orlando Brown
Brown played Eddie on the Disney show “That’s So Raven.” He now has a rap sheet longer than a Sugarhill Gang lyric. His arrests include multiple DUIs, public intoxication, domestic battery, threatening to murder a woman, felony drug possession (meth), and burglary. Since his felonious charges, he has started a music label and appears to be turning his life around. In the song titled “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” Brown shares how he handed his life over to God after his dark times.
7) Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa was the face of “High School Musical.” After leaving Disney, she took some different roles from the more wholesome ones she’d had before in films like “Spring Breakers.” When Coronavirus hit, she took to Instagram to tell fans, “Even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible… but inevitable?” She quickly apologized.
6) Zac Efron
Efron’s role as Troy Bolton made him a teen heartthrob — and a millionaire. He hasn’t had a public meltdown like many others on this list, but he did get into a fight with a homeless man. He also battled alcoholism and spent time in rehab for a cocaine addiction. The help he sought must have paid off because Efron says he feels healthier and happier than ever and has since starred in numerous hit films, including The Greatest Showman.
5) Britney Spears
Britney got her start on the “Mickey Mouse Club” with Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Aguilera. She famously had her major breakdown in 2007, but there was more: She also overdosed on amphetamines and was placed under psychiatric hold. She shaved her head days later and spent time in and out of treatment centers for a while. Today, Spears seems to have gotten her life back together. In November of 2021, a judge ended a conservatorship that had controlled Britney Spears’s life and money since 2008.
4) Joe Jonas
Jonas (and his uber-famous brothers) have navigated their Disney days and subsequent fame fairly well. But a few years ago, Joe Jonas wrote a revealing essay about his life growing up as a Disney star and the drug abuse that followed. He shared the tremendous pressure he and his brothers endured while trying to live up to the high standards of the Disney brand. After the essay came out, Ashley Lee of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Joe observed that the network pulls ‘spunky’ stars into the spotlight, and then pushes them off the edge.”
3) Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato starred in Disney Channel’s movie “Camp Rock” and the show “Sonny With a Chance.” In the documentary series ”Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” she shares the details of her 2018 overdose, her three strokes, heart attack, brain damage, and rape — by a Disney co-star who faced no repercussions for his actions. Her reputation carries a record of having punched a backup dancer, struggled with a cocaine addiction, and been diagnosed with a variety of mental health issues. She has come out as “non-binary,” revealed a “Grandmother Spider” tattoo on the side of her head, and claimed to have had a beautiful conversation with aliens.
2) Lindsay Lohan
Who didn’t adore Lindsay Lohan in the Disney remake of the classic “The Parent Trap”? That was just the beginning of her fame as she went on to star in five more Disney movies. But in a twisted narrative posited by Disney, she dealt with a manufactured teenage romance and a fake rivalry with Hilary Duff. Cameras followed her everywhere, and in her younger years, she welcomed them. But it didn’t take long for her to become better known for DUIs, probation violations, and stents in drug rehab and prison. Now, it appears her issues are in the past. Lohan has distanced herself from the crazy Hollywood life as she quietly resides in London, where, perhaps, “The Parent Trap” life has come full circle.
1) Miley Cyrus
Miley was Disney’s Hannah Montana. But now, her past drug problems and risqué performances are well-documented. In an article for W Magazine, Cyrus shared, “Now that I’m older, I realize that’s a lot to put on a kid. To have them have to get their makeup done and also balance school. I think what was hard for me was balancing everything.” Trying to navigate those two worlds wasn’t easy to say the least. “I think that’s what’s probably a little wrong with me now,” she said. “I mark that up to doing some extreme damage in my psyche as an adult person.” Working 12-hour days, Cyrus began experiencing anxiety attacks and nausea. Her father, Billy Ray, was on the show as well, but he has blamed Disney for his daughter’s downward spiral. No matter who’s to blame, Miley took a hard fall after her Disney life, though she has since publicly committed to sobriety and said she feels healthier and stronger than ever.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.