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22 Shocking Truths About What It's Really Like to be a Disney Channel Star

From the good to the bad, here's what it's really like growing up on the Disney Channel, from the stars themselves.

From the good to the bad, here's what it's really like growing up on the Disney Channel, from the stars themselves.

Brenda Song is a true Disney Channel vet, having starred in some of the network's biggest hits, like Suite Life, Wendy Wu, and Clueless. But the question is, does Brenda regret her Disney roots considering the "kid-y" stigma that often comes along with it? No way.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunities Disney gave me,” the 29-year-old shared with Kode magazine. "They believed always believed in me and I’m so thankful.”

While Brenda totally gets the struggles of growing up in the limelight, especially on a stage like the Disney Channel, but she believes none of that matters in the end if you're focused on what's important.

“Being an actor is difficult, period. There are obviously going to be ups and downs and for us child actors, that’s all being somewhat recorded because you essentially grow up on TV," she continued. "I think as long as you keep working on your craft and focus on the work, that’s all that matters.”

When Miley Cyrus took on the role of Miley Stewart on Hannah Montana, she knew she'd be playing a character living a double life. But she had no clue that she'd begin to feel like she was living a double life IRL, too.

At first, it seemed like all fun and games. “I liked being in the Disney universe ’cause I didn’t know anything else," Miley explained on CBS Sunday Morning . "I knew I was getting to live what I wanted to do. I got to act at that time and be funny and wear a wig and that was awesome. And wear a lot of sparkly things.”

But as time went on and Miley began to tour as Hannah Montana in real life, she realized it was becoming a bit too much to handle. “I think people loved Hannah Montana because Hannah did seem real," Miley continued. "And it's because I was under there. I think it got harder when I started touring as both — I toured as Hannah Montana and as myself.

"Now that I’m older, I realize that’s a lot to put on a kid," Miley shared. "To have them have to get their makeup done and also balance school. I think what was hard for me was balancing everything.

Miley thinks not being able to separate those two worlds caused her some serious psychological damage. "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."

Nick Jonas revealed that some of the luxurious trips Disney sent their stars on together felt like summer camp.

“[I have] Lots of memorable moments from the Disney days,” Nick shared in an interview with BuzzFeed. “We used to do the Disney Channel Games, which was a good time. They would collect all of us from the different shows and then put us together at Disney World. Really, it was like summer camp. We had the park to ourselves some nights.”

Could you imagine summer camp at disney World? BEST CAMP EVER. Only problem is that just like normal summer camp, there was lots of drama because of the teenaged stars' raging hormones.

“And lots of drama because we were all dating each other,” he added. “It’s like high school.”

Well, it wouldn't really be summer camp without some dramz.

Aly and AJ took a massive break from music after dropping three hit albums under Disney Channel's music label, Hollywood records. Apparently, it was their experience making music as kids that caused them to become disillusioned with the industry altogether.

"We just lost the love a little bit, you know?" AJ said in an interview with Playboy magazine. "We had experienced so much as kids and I kind of feel like we learned a lot about the industry that put a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth, whether it was a couple of people we worked with or whether it was just trying to find the right inspiration or what have you."

After ten years away from making music in the spotlight, Aly and AJ are ready to start all over again. "I just feel like we're back on track with who we are as musicians and I think we had found that as actors and as performers before we had found it as musicians again."

Selena Gomez grew up in the spotlight, and she wouldn't wish that same fate on anyone else. "I think it is really dysfunctional to be in this industry at a young age where you're figuring out who you are," she told In Style." I don't recommend it. When I was on Disney, it was like, 'Oh, they didn't like it?' It hurts your feelings. "

Joe Jonas had to play a 16-year-old on his Disney Channel sitcom Jonas, which doesn't sound that bad, except that he was the age of a college junior at the time, so imagine being in college and having everyone think you were still in high school. Joe said catering to an audience of children and pretending to be younger than he was took its toll on him. "It 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. I had to shave every day because they wanted me to pretend like I was 16 when I was 20," he revealed in a New York Magazine essay.

Zendaya may have started out as an actress on Disney Channel's Shake It Up, but when it came to starring in her newest show, K.C. Undercover, she decided she wanted to produce — and now she is! "I can say what I want and be assertive. I can have a really, really strong voice and presence on my own show and be listened to. That's the coolest part. I have more control; I have more freedom to make K.C. Undercover] something that I'm proud of," Zendaya shared with Yahoo Shine. Debby Ryan also got to take on a bigger role behind the scenes of her show Jessie, becoming Disney Channel's youngest director ever. Proof if you want something, talent and hard work are important, but you also have to ask.

According to Dove Cameron, being a part of the Disney Channel is like being a part of a huge family. "Disney is such an exceptional group of people," she told SheKnows. "Everybody that works for the company is so kind and lovely that it really is like a big family and no one's telling anyone to say that." The expectations of being the star of your own show can be just as intense as you'd imagine, especially when you're surrounded by so many other super talented young stars. But Cameron says the Disney Channel family has always been supportive. "If I feel any pressure, it's a good kind of pressure. I feel very grateful for the position I'm in," she said.

The Jonas Brothers experienced that first hand, and Joe complained that the brothers felt like they couldn't express their creative opinions while starring on Jonas. He shared with New York Magazine, "We thought Disney was our only real shot, and we were terrified that it could all be taken away from us at any moment."

While some stars like Joe Jonas have complained that they didn't have a voice while starring on Disney Channel Shows, others say their experience was totally different. Dylan Sprouse responded to Joe's complaints in a Tumblr essay, insisting Disney stars could have a voice if they have the guts to use it. "If they wanted to, they could have told Disney 'NO,'" The Suite Life star said. "Cole and I did this hundreds of times and we ended up all right. The only reason they didn't is because, like many of the people on that channel, I think they fell for the allure of fame."

Miley Cyrus revealed her mortifying experience getting her first period while filming Hannah Montana, and wearing WHITE PANTS, no less. "It was so embarrassing, but I couldn't leave," she told Marie Claire magazine. "I was crying, begging my mom, 'You're going to have to put the tampon in. I have to be on set.'"

Just because Disney Channel stars spent their days on set instead of class, doesn't mean they totally missed out on the high school experience and all the drama of being a teen. While Selena is thankful for her Disney Channel childhood starring on Wizards of Waverly Place, she says it was challenging on some levels too. "It was beautiful and tragic," she revealed to Huffington Post. "It was everything that every teen goes through, just on a bigger scale. It literally was like high school." Maybe she's talking about the Disney Channel stars' tendency to date each other constantly?

You might think that being a big star before you're even in high school would make a person super confident. But playing a world famous pop star from the age of 11 took its toll on Miley Cyrus, who reveals she suffered from body image issues while playing a teen pop star on Hannah Montana. "From the time I was 11, it was, 'You're a pop star! That means you have to be blonde, and you have to have long hair, and you have to put on some glittery tight thing,'" she toldMarie Claire. "Meanwhile, I'm this fragile little girl playing a 16-year-old in a wig and a ton of makeup. It was likeToddlers & Tiaras."

Take it from Disney Channel's original teen queen, Hilary Duff. Even though she loved playing Lizzie McGuire, getting people to see her as anything other than the iconic role after the show ended almost seemed impossible at one point. "I just didn't know what success the show was gonna be, and after that — four years, five years after that — and I was still Lizzie McGuire to people and that was super annoying," she revealed to Between the Lines . As much as you loved Lizzie, you can imagine how frustrating it would be if everyone always thought of you as your sixth grade self, which is basically how Hilary felt. But now that Hilary is older and has found success as a pop star and TV star post-Lizzie, she's grateful for the experience. "Now it's not annoying. I don't care now. I'm grateful for it."

You go through a lot of changes during your tweens and teens,so it's not surprising that as the Disney Channel stars grow up on set, they also begin to outgrow the roles that first made them famous. "Disney is a machine, and I'm grateful for it," Selena Gomez shared with theNew York Times, "but I feel like being part of that environment made me crave the reaction from other projects even more." The good news is, like Selena, many of your fave Disney Channel stars gone on to become the major fave pop stars and movie stars you know and love today.

Since many Disney Channel shows involve music and singing, it's not shocking that many of the stars go on to become pop stars, like Miley, Selena, and Hilary, to name a few. But that's not necessarily a good thing, according to well, at least one former Disney Channel star. When Even Stevens star Shia LaBeouf was asked if he ever considered himself the male Hilary Duff, he said no, but he could have been. "I never came out with a music thing, even though [Disney will] push you that way," Shia told MTV. Okay, Shia. Don't go forgetting "Dig It" from Holes, now. Your rapping skills were on point.

You know how when you and one of your besties is up for the same role in the school musical or the one spot on the varsity soccer team, and as much as you love each other, and it feels weird to be competing against each other? Zendaya and Bella Thorne can totes relate. "Zendaya and I were put in a very unfortunate position where we were kind of forced to compete against each other," Bella Thorne shared of her experience starring on Shake It Up. "Which made the whole first season of the show just very awkward for us. We wanted to love each other, but yet we were constantly being put against each other. It was, 'Who's better at this?' and 'Who's better at that?'" Luckily, Bella and Zendaya are so awesome that they were able to talk everything over and build an amazing friendship, and now they're always supporting each other!

While it's amazing to play a character people know and love, it can also be frustrating (and super lonely!) when everyone expects you to be that character irl too. "People start to think that because you come from Disney that you're a certain way. You're perceived to be such an angel, and really you're just an actor that booked a job," Austin & Ally star Ross Lynch revealed to CBS, Philadelphia. "But everyone thinks that it's who you are, like they found you. They like raised you. But really it's just a good job."

Kelli Berglund from Disney XD's Lab Rats knows that being a Disney Channel star is an opportunity of a lifetime, but still: Being thrust into the spotlight at such a young age is really, really hard. "You sort of know what you're signing up for when you step into the 'Disney machine,'" she told Lapalme Magazine in an interview. "Being a teenager and growing up can already be tough enough as it is. … Try having your awkward years put in front of a spotlight for the whole world to see. The biggest pressure probably comes from trying my absolute best to please everyone while still trying to figure out exactly who I am." Despite the struggle of trying to meet so people's expectations, she wouldn't change a thing. "It's been such a great experience that I'm very lucky to have participated in. . It's hard, but this whole experience makes me the person I am today."

Alyson Stoner started out on Disney Channel's Super Short Show and then went on to appear in pretty much everything, from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Phineas and Ferb to Camp Rock. So it might seem like booking Disney roles is a no-brainer once you get your foot in the door. But Alyson says that couldn't be further from the truth. "The assumption is that once you're in with the Disney Channel, you're in. But I still auditioned for every single thing I got with them," Alyson revealed on an episode of The Night Time Show podcast. "In fact, I was still sent on first calls with people who had never been on an audition in their lives, up until the end. Which was kind of frustrating. I was grateful, but then I was like, Man, I've been on 12 shows for you and I'm coming in here auditioning for three different roles and not getting any of them and it's almost like you don't know who I am or what I'm capable of."

Still, Alyson says there was a certain freedom in being overlooked sometimes. "I wasn't under the same contracts as the lead," she explained. "I think I was fortunate in that I had a film career going simultaneously and my dance, which I think maybe helped me escape some of the throes of Disney high school."

Debby Ryan admits that Disney Channel stardom came with some challenges, like fans confusing the real her for the characters she played on Suite Life on Deck and Jessie. But in an interview with Lady Gunn, Debby says her behind-the-scenes experience with the network imparted some amazing skills and lessons about the industry that she still uses today.

"They have such a system in place to where it's really difficult to fail, but it's not going to be done for you," Debby said of Disney Channel's team. "In my relationship with Disney, the more that I learned, the more they encouraged me." It was this supportive environment that led Debby to apprentice with the network's directors — and ultimately direct four episodes of Jessie herself.

"I just automatically started doing things to make the days go faster and easier, which turned into a huge learning experience," Debby recalled. "If there was something I could do to make the shot funny and interesting, and to where we didn't have to shoot it 47 times… I was happy to help to help. They took care of me, but they didn't baby me."

As much of a big break as booking a lead role on a Disney Channel show is, Bella Thorne knows firsthand how hard it can be to book roles after your show ends.

"It was really hard to get a job after the show," Bella revealed in this week's episode of MTV's Happy Sad Confused. "People didn't want to read me. They didn't want to see me because they were like, 'She's a Disney actress.' For me, it was like starting back at the bottom and working my way up all the way again."

That whole starting all over again thing can be frustrating, especially considering it was never Bella's dream to be a Disney Channel star in the first place. "Do you think that I wanted to be a Disney girl? Did you think I wanted to do that?" Bella continued. "We were about to live physically on the street if I didn't have that role. We were living off Stouffer's coupons, and that's all we had to eat every day. That may not sound like a big deal to everybody, but when you're a single mom raising four kids with debt and you have nothing to your name, it's f***ing s***ty."

"I didn't want to audition for Shake It Up!" she added. "I literally said in my audition, 'I don't sing. I don't dance. I'm basically tone deaf, and I'm not funny. So I don't know why I'm here.' And everybody just started laughing. They all thought it was a joke."

But it looks like it all worked out for Bella in the end. After all, she is the star of her own show now!