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The Biggest Disney Channel Stars, Then and Now

These celebs rose to fame as kids—here's what they're up to these days.

With Zac Efron hosting travel shows, Zendaya picking up Emmys, and Miley Cyrus producing jams to get us through quarantine, it seems like there's no better time to have been a Disney Channel star. So many hugely successful entertainers got their start on the network in the '90s, '00s, and '10s, collecting devoted fans and then moving on to bigger and even better things. To remind you just how far some of these celebrities have gone, we're looking at the biggest Disney Channel stars, then and now. And for more Hollywood nostalgia, here are 24 Celeb Red Carpet Photos From 1990 You Have to See to Believe.

Shia LaBeouf: Then

Shia LaBeouf 2002
Globe Photos/ Stock Photo

Shia LaBeouf hammed it up as class clown Louis on the series Even Stevens, which ran from 2000 to 2003, including a full-length Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM).

For the definitive ranking of the flicks you grew up with, check out Ranking Every '90s Teen Movie, From Worst Reviewed to Best.

Shia LaBeouf: Now

Shia LaBeouf 2020

In 2019, Honey Boy—a movie LaBeouf wrote about his nontraditional childhood, eccentric father (who he played), and substance use disorder—premiered, getting mostly positive reviews. In 2020, he's appeared in films The Tax Collector and Pieces of a Woman.

Miley Cyrus: Then

Miley Cyrus 2006
Paul Smith/Featureflash Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, catapulted to fame playing the lead role on the Disney musical sitcom Hannah Montana from 2006 to 2011.

For the star you were obsessed with in your high school years, This Was the Most Popular Teen Idol the Year You Graduated.

Miley Cyrus: Now

Miley Cyrus Midnight Sky
YouTube/Miley Cyrus

Cyrus's career in music may have been launched by her Disney show, but she's reinvented herself as an artist several times since. Her latest single, "Midnight Sky," has an accompanying video she self-directed while in quarantine.

Selena Gomez: Then

Selena Gomez 2007
Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press/Alamy Stock Photo

Selena Gomez had earlier acting gigs, but she became a huge star thanks to the Disney sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place, on which she played Alex Russo, from 2007 to 2012.

For stars who go way, way back, check out 35 Celebrities You Didn't Realize Grew Up Together.

Selena Gomez: Now

Selena Gomez 2020
Paul Smith/Featureflash/Shutterstock

In 2020, Gomez released a new album, Rare, a makeup line called Rare Beauty, and started her own quarantine cooking show on HBO Max, titled Selena + Chef.

Zendaya: Then

Zendaya 2010
PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Zendaya, then known as Zendaya Coleman, starred on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up! from 2010 to 2013.

To see how the critics feel about your favorite Disney flick, check out Ranking Every Disney Animated Movie, From Worst Reviewed to Best.

Zendaya: Now

Zendaya 2020

At the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, Zendaya became the second Black woman (and the youngest performer ever) to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her role on the HBO series Euphoria.

Raven-Symoné: Then

Raven Symone
Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Having been a Cosby Show favorite, Raven-Symoné knew her way around child stardom long before starring as a teen psychic on That's So Raven (2003-2007) or being a part of the DCOM girl group franchise The Cheetah Girls.

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Raven-Symoné: Now

Raven Symone 2019

Raven-Symoné returned to her role as Raven Baxter for the revival Disney sitcom Raven's Home in 2017, after a stint on The View. She has a recurring role on black-ish as Dre's sister and has recently released new music.

Hilary Duff: Then

Hilary Duff 2001
Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock Photo

Starring as the eponymous character on the junior high comedy Lizzie McGuire (and the 2003 feature film version, The Lizzie McGuire Movie) launched Hilary Duff's wide-ranging career.

Hilary Duff: Now

Hilary Duff 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

It remains to be seen just what will happen with the planned Lizzie McGuire reboot, in which Duff was scheduled to star before she and the showrunner objected to Disney+ holding the series to a PG rating. But it seems like things are still a go for the spinoff of Younger, which will revolve around Duff's character.

Cole and Dylan Sprouse: Then

Cole and Dylan Sprouse 2006
Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Twin actors Cole and Dylan Sprouse were a Disney package deal, starring on The Suite Life of Zack & CodyThe Suite Life on Deck, and in The Suite Life Movie, between 2005 and 2011.

Cole and Dylan Sprouse: Now

Dylan and Cole Sprouse 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Cole now stars on the teen thriller Riverdale as wannabe writer Jughead Jones, while Dylan has co-founded a meadery in Brooklyn, New York.

Zac Efron: Then

Zac Efron 2006
Paul Smith/Featureflash/Alamy Stock Photo

Playing a guy equally interested in sports and musical theater in the original High School Musical (2006) made Zac Efron a teen heartthrob. He'd go on to star in two more HSMs for Disney.

Zac Efron: Now

Down to Earth with Zac Efron

In 2019, Efron starred as serial killer Ted Bundy in the Netflix film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, and in 2020, the streaming service debuted his travelogue reality show, Down to Earth With Zac Efron.

Vanessa Hudgens: Then

Vanessa Hudgens 2006
PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

The other half of the East High power couple of Troy and Gabriella, Vanessa Hudgens also rose to fame thanks to HSM. 

Vanessa Hudgens: Now

Vanessa Hudgens 2020
Shutterstock/Silvia Elizabeth Pangaro

Hudgens appeared in Bad Boys for Life, one of the few movies to get a 2020 theatrical release pre-pandemic, and will put Netflix audiences in the holiday spirit yet again with the Christmas rom-com The Princess Switch: Switched Again.

David Henrie: Then

David Henrie 2007
Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency

David Henrie played Alex's dorky older brother, Justin Russo, on Wizards of Waverly Place and also starred in the DCOM Dadnapped.

David Henrie: Now

David Henrie 2020

Soon to be a dad of two, Henrie reunited with Gomez for This Is the Year, a movie he wrote and directed.

Kyla Pratt: Then

Kyla Pratt 2008
Tsuni / USA/Alamy Stock Photo

Kyla Pratt is well-known to older millennial Disney fans as the voice of Penny Proud on The Proud Family, a role she held from 2001 to 2005.

Kyla Pratt: Now

Kyla Pratt 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

These days, Pratt can be seen on the reality series Black Ink Crew: Compton. She also recently appeared on an episode of HBO's Insecure; is a part of the cast of the upcoming comedy series Call Me Kat, starring Mayim Bialik, and has signed on for a Disney+ revival of The Proud Family.

Jonas Brothers: Then

Jonas Brothers in Camp Rock
AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas had already released music before becoming a part of the golden '00s era of the Disney Channel, but starring in the Camp Rock series took them to another level. They also had their own show, Jonas, but it only lasted from 2009 to 2010.

Jonas Brothers: Now

Jonas Brothers 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Six years after a messy breakup, the Jonas Brothers got back together as a band in 2019 and released the chart-topping single "Sucker," followed by the album Happiness Begins. In a documentary about their ups and downs, the brothers confessed that signing on for a Disney sitcom wasn't the greatest career step, in retrospect.

Sabrina Carpenter: Then

Sabrina Carpenter 2014
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Sabrina Carpenter starred on the Boy Meets World revival series, Girl Meets World, from 2014 to 2017. Her Disney domination also included leading DCOMs and voicing animated characters, including Princess Vivian on Sofia the First.

Sabrina Carpenter: Now

Sabrina Carpenter 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Carpenter released her fourth full-length album as a pop artist in 2019. In 2020, she made her Broadway debut in the musical Mean Girls, and starred in a handful of movies, including the Netflix dance flick Work It.

Skai Jackson: Then

Skai Jackson 2012
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Skai Jackson played the character of Zuri Ross for eight years on Disney, on the sitcom Jessie and later Bunk'd.

Skai Jackson: Now

Skai Jackson 2019
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

Jackson is competing for the mirrorball trophy on the current season of Dancing With the Stars and has a ton of recent voice work under her belt.

Brenda Song: Then

Brenda Song 2004
Francis Specker/Alamy Stock Photo

Brenda Song was a DCOM queen, starring in several of the most fondly remembered, including Get a Clue (2002). She also played London Tipton on both of The Suite Life series.

Brenda Song: Now

Brenda Song 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Song is still in the Disney family, voicing a character on the animated series Amphibia. Other recent credits include the Hulu series Dollface and the 2019 Netflix thriller Secret Obsession.

Raviv Ullman: Then

Raviv (Ricky) Ullman 2004
PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Credited as Ricky Ullman, Raviv Ullman was the Phil of the Disney Channel sci-fi comedy Phil of the Future from 2004 to 2006.

Raviv Ullman: Now

Raviv (Ricky) Ullman 2018

Ullman mostly acts on stage these days, those he's also dropped in on shows like Broad City; his most recent theatrical role was a 2018 Off-Broadway play.

Bella Thorne: Then

Bella Thorne 2010

Bella Thorne co-starred with Zendaya on Shake It Up!, which led to her releasing pop music as well.

Bella Thorne: Now

Bella Thorne 2019

Thorne's 2020 projects include the movies InfamousThe Babysitter: Killer Queen, and Girl. She also joined the subscription service OnlyFans, which offers users the opportunity to pay for adult content from providers. (It may or may not be for a movie.)

Tahj Mowry: Then

Tahj Mowry 2001
Globe Photos/ Stock Photo

Brother of famous twins Tia and Tamera MowryTahj Mowry was a child TV star in his own right. His sitcom Smart Guy wasn't a Disney Channel Original, but it did find a wider viewership there. He also voiced a character on Disney's animated spy show Kim Possible.

Tahj Mowry: Now

Tahj Mowry 2019

Tahj Mowry's most recent show business ventures have been appearing on the talk show The Real and releasing an EP of his music, both in 2015. But he still steps out for the occasional carpet, as he did for the premiere of Breakthrough in 2019.

Jordan Fisher: Then

Jordan Fisher 2019
Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Jordan Fisher became a Disney kid thanks to the Teen Beach Movie franchise, as well as the series Liv and Maddie, which ended in 2017.

Jordan Fisher: Now

Jordan Fisher 2019
WENN Rights Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Pre-coronavirus shutdown, Fisher was starring on Broadway in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. He also starred in two 2020 Netflix movies: To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and Work It, opposite Sabrina Carpenter.

Demi Lovato: Then

Demi Lovato 2008
Shutterstock/Everett Collection

In 2008, Demi Lovato starred in the first Camp Rock, along with the Jonas Brothers. That led to Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam as well as a starring role on the sitcom Sonny With a Chance.

Demi Lovato: Now

Demi Lovato 2018

In 2020, Lovato started acting again with a recurring role on the final season of Will & Grace as well as the Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest. She's released a few new solo songs and collaborations, some focusing on her substance use disorder and other personal struggles.

Adrienne Bailon: Then

Adrienne Bailon in Cheetah Girls

Adrienne Bailon starred in all three Cheetah Girls films and sang on those albums. She also guested on the Disney Channel series That's So Raven and The Sweet Life of Zack & Cody.

Adrienne Bailon: Now

Adrienne Bailon 2018
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Since 2013, Bailon has been a co-host on the daytime talk show The Real. She was the Flamingo on The Masked Singer in Season 2 and is a panelist on the new reality competition series, I Can See Your Voice.

Corbin Bleu: Then

Corbin Bleu in High School Musical

Corbin Bleu came to fame playing Chad, Troy's best friend and teammate in the High School Musical series. He also starred in the DCOM Jump In! between HSM movies and toured as both a Disney cast member and a solo artist.

Corbin Bleu: Now

Corbin Bleu and Sasha Clements
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Bleu (pictured above with wife Sasha Clements) has dabbled in all kinds of entertainment since his HSM years, including Broadway musicals and Dancing With the Stars. His most recent credits are 2020 episodes of Supergirl and Acting for a Cause. In the near future (barring pandemic delays), he's set to star in a stage musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can and provide a voice for Cars: The Series.

Debby Ryan: Then

Debby Ryan on Jessie

Debby Ryan's first major Disney Channel role was that of Bailey in The Suite Life on Deck, which she followed up by leading her own Disney sitcom, Jessie. She also led the DCOM 16 Wishes and played Bailey again in The Suite Life Movie.

Debby Ryan: Now

Debby Ryan 2018
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Ryan starred in two seasons of the recent Netflix series Insatiable, which was canceled earlier this year. Her 2020 movie roles were in Horse Girl and The Opening Act.

Keke Palmer: Then

Keke Palmer 2009

Keke Palmer was already a child star before starting her Disney Channel career. Post-the 2006 movie Akeelah and the Bee, the young actor played the eponymous role in the sitcom True Jackson, VP. She also costarred with Bleu in the DCOM Jump In!

Keke Palmer: Now

Keke Palmer wears purple dress at the 11th Annual Governors Awards in 2019
Kathy Hutchins /

Palmer is one of the busiest actors and hosts of her generation. In 2019, she costarred in Hustlers (and inadvertently gave us the meme of the year). You've also seen her anchoring on the daytime show Strahan, Sara and Keke and hosting the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards and the Singled Out revival.

Aly Michalka: Then

Aly Michalka 2006

You also know her as one half of the sister music duo Aly & AJ, but to many Disney Channel fans, Aly Michalka will always be Phil of the Future's Keely Teslow.

Aly Michalka: Now

Aly Michalka 2020

Michalka's most recent TV credits are 2018 episodes of Hell's Kitchen and Celebrity Family Feud. She and sister A.J. Michalka are still making music together, and she participated in a Phil Zoom reunion for charity over the summer.

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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