While many Disney alum—like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas—have each gone their own, separate ways following their stint as child stars on the famous channel, they all have one thing in common: they’re never too shy to admit they’re glad those days are behind them.
In fact, despite having left Disney in 2011, Miley still talks about her time on Hannah Montana and why it had such an impact on her career and her life.
In the October issue of Elle magazine, she admitted, “My name was Miley on my show, but I didn’t own my name—we didn’t think about that…My mom started understanding how many people take advantage of a child, so she hired smart people to protect me in that way. I’m happy that when I was younger, people protected me and put me in a position where I can now control my music.”
She even admitted to being “the least paid person in the cast” because she didn’t “know any better.”
And she’s not alone in speaking out about the network. No matter how many years have passed, several other stars have and continue to comment on their time with Disney. Check out what they had to say below:
Demi Lovato has been one of the most talkative Disney alum to voice her opinion about leaving the channel.
In fact, she’s often admitted that time in her life still haunts her to this day.
“We joked around that it was Disney High, except we all were shooting shows and really overworking,” she told Billboard magazine in a joint interview with Nick Jonas. “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.”
Nick Jonas is a little less outspoken than his pal, Demi. While he definitely is glad to have grown into his own artist under his own name with his own creative freedom, he does thank Disney for helping build a camaraderie with the others who “graduated” from the channel along with him and continue to succeed in the industry.
“There’s a camaraderie there, a sort of unspoken brother and sisterhood. If you want to talk about that graduating class of 2008, I’m really proud—it’s a really good group,” Nick told Entertainment Weekly in May. “Regardless of some of the history between us in different ways, there’s a general strength and empowerment that we all feel, still being in the mix and being in a good spot. It’s a cool thing.”
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Selena Gomez has always expressed gratitude toward Disney for helping launch her career, but she also admits it took hard work to break out of that mold.
“It’s all part of my story. I’m growing and changing,” she told the New York Times in 2015. “I was still under Hollywood and Disney and I was being held to this expectation of being the good girl.”
However, she said she knew that’s not who she wanted to be.
“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.”
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Like Selena, Vanessa Hudgens is appreciative for her kick-starting role in High School Musical, but she’s happy to have finally moved forward from the image that came with it.
“High School Musical was incredible and it was so fun and it gave me so many fans which I’m very, very thankful for, but it also closed people’s minds up as to which characters I could portray,” she said in an interview in Untitled magazine in 2012. “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.”
Luckily, she overcame that obstacle and has moved forward. “Definitely crossing over and being able to tackle these grittier parts was a challenge but I feel like I’ve done it! It’s a whole new chapter!”
Hilary Duff left Disney in nearly 12 years ago when the last episode of Lizzie McGuire aired in 2004. However, she still talks about the impact that period of time had on her to this day.
“Instead of me trying to calculate how to do it and how to be successful at it—a lot of people chose different ways than I did, like Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins and even Miley Cyrus—I just chose to bow out for a minute,” she said in an interview last year of her decision to leave Disney. “It was scary, because there was no guarantee that my career was still gonna be there.”
However, she realizes now that it was a necessity.
“I really needed it personally. I grew up in the spotlight and on tour and with everyone just knowing me and knowing me a certain way,” she revealed. “At some point I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m that person anymore, and I don’t even have the time to figure that out.’ … I was like, ‘I’m done. I don’t enjoy this anymore. I’m not who I wanna be.'”
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Aside from her most recent interview in Elle, Miley has spoken out about Disney several times in the past, too.
“You know, I’m really thankful that I started on Disney. I got the most intense training,” she said in an interview in 2014.
She continued, “I feel really lucky—a lot of kid stars get all crazy or stuck in what they were, so they can’t actually become what they’re meant to be…When I was on Disney, the thing that gave me the most anxiety was not knowing what to do with myself when Disney wasn’t there to carry me anymore,” she admitted. “And now I’m free…and I’m fine. Like, I lay in bed at night by myself and I’m totally okay, and that’s so much stronger than the person three years ago.”
When Bella Thorne left Disney in 2013, she, too, decided to change up her persona, and she feels lucky to have a fan base that accepted those changes.
“When I got off the [Disney] Channel, I stopped listening to people telling me that I needed to be this and that,” she told Nylon magazine in April. “I literally would talk with a higher voice in interviews because that was the whole innocent Disney appeal.”
She continued, “My fans are going to love me and stick with me whether I’m wearing a crop top and a short skirt or not.”
Joe Jonas has some different sentiments about the Disney channel than his brother, Nick. In an essay about the Jonas Brothers breakup, Joe admitted to feeling like a puppet while working from the company.
“Because of Disney… there were so many things throughout our career that we had to sugarcoat,” he wrote in Vulture about him and his brothers. “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 s–t in.”
He continued, “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,vScrew 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.