Zendaya, Jojo Siwa, and Josh Peck have all spoken about their experiences as child stars
Zendaya, JoJo Siwa & More Child Stars' Quotes About Their Experiences

There are a lot of mixed feelings.

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Content warning: This article contains mentions of alleged sexual assault. No matter how glamorous their lives may look, child stars don’t always have it easy — often, they have a much more difficult childhood than their peers. In March, the docuseries Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV explored exactly what Nickelodeon’s youngest actors faced while working for the network, featuring interviews about disturbing experiences on set.

Childhood stardom isn’t *always* a bad experience, but it’s often a complicated one. Over the years, former child stars have repeatedly spoken out about that it was like working on and off set — specifically, they’ve opened up about the challenges of growing up in the spotlight.

Whether these celebs have no regrets about their early career or wish they had avoided the limelight altogether, big names like Zendaya, Jojo Siwa, Hilary Duff, and Miley Cyrus have voiced strong opinions about what they went through growing up.

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Zendaya starred on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up alongside Bella Thorne throughout her teenage years. Though she’s continued her acting career, Zendaya explained that she had “complicated feelings” about kids working in the industry.

“It’s funny because it’s something that I’m figuring out now,” Zendaya told Serena Williams in a piece for Vogue, published April 9. “I don’t know how much of a choice I had. I have complicated feelings about kids and fame and being in the public eye, or being a child actor.”

Zendaya continued, “We’ve seen a lot of cases of it being detrimental. … And I think only now, as an adult, am I starting to go, ‘Oh, OK, wait a minute: I’ve only ever done what I’ve known, and this is all I’ve known.’”

Apparently, her career affected the timing of her “angsty teenager phase.” She explained, “I didn’t really have the time to do it before. I felt like I was thrust into a very adult position: I was becoming the breadwinner of my family very early, and there was a lot of role-​reversal happening, and just kind of becoming grown, really.”

Lindsay Lohan
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Lindsay Lohan has also spoken up about her childhood acting career, especially as she hit her teenage years. “I feel like some of [my work] got overshadowed by paparazzi and all that kind of stuff when I was younger, and that’s kind of annoying. I wish that part didn’t happen,” she told Bustle in March.

“I feel like that kind of took on a life of its own,” Lohan added. “So that’s why I wanted to disappear. I was like, ‘Unless there’s no story here, they’re not going to focus on just my work.’”

Growing up as a child star, Lohan had little time for herself. “They teach you to say ‘yes’ to everything, and that’s not really what life’s all about,” she continued.

She reflected on what it was like to be a kid with such a packed schedule. “I was recording an album in my trailer on the set of the movie [Herbie] and promoting the album while shooting, like, TRL,” she added. “I remember this so specifically: I had to go to the dentist. I had no time to go to the dentist, but something happened with my tooth. The dentist had to come to see me. It was just so much all the time.”

Hilary Duff

Hilary Duff shared her perspective on childhood stardom in an interview with Cosmopolitan in January 2022. “I wouldn't do it all exactly the same, but I can't look at my life and be like, ‘I wish this was different,’ because I don't know if it would get me to where I am right now,” she said at the time.

Duff continued, “I wish I had a little bit of a better education. I wish I had a little bit of a college experience. But what would that look like? The thing that I crave out of it wouldn't look the way I pictured it because of who I am and how I came up.”

“It’s weird to say ‘who I am to others,’ but it would be hard to erase that element to have a normal experience,” she added. “I feel smart, but there’s certain things that people talk about where it literally isn’t in my brain because I didn’t experience it.”


Raven-Symoné got real about her childhood Disney career in a July 2023 interview with Vanity Fair. “As a very young child, I was taught that this was a job. This was my version of nine-to-five, as was school,” she said.

“I had to show up. I had to be prepared no matter what, because I could get fired and then things would go to hell,” she continued. “I was taught to always be on time, early, know my lines, smile when someone wants to take a picture with you, always say yes, and know that every part of my life will be scrutinized for the rest of my life.”

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus spent years growing up in the spotlight on Hannah Montana — but apparently, she doesn’t remember a lot of it. “There’s so much I don’t remember about being a child entertainer because it was so much to keep in my brain,” Cyrus told Harper’s Bazaar in 2017.

Cyrus continued, “It’s like anything when you are in it. I didn’t realize how much pressure I was under and how that shaped me until, like, this year.”

During the interview, Cyrus also addressed critics of her shock-filled Bangerz era. “It should be more shocking that when I was 11 or 12, I was put in full hair and makeup, a wig, and told what to wear by a group of mostly older men,” Cyrus added.

In 2023, Cyrus posted on TikTok about her 13-hour workdays when she was just 13 or 14 years old. “I’m a lot of things but lazy ain’t one of them,” she quipped.

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez might be making her comeback as Alex Russo in the Wizards Of Waverly Place reboot, but she does have some strong feelings about being on TV so young.

“I signed my life away to Disney at a very young age and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Gomez told reporters at Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour in 2021, per Complex.

At the time, the first season of Only Murders In The Building was weeks away from premiering. “What I’d say is the level of sophistication of the material is the first reason why I wanted to do this,” she said about the Hulu show. “But when I was a kid, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just running around on set and now I just feel like a sponge and I soak up all the wisdom that I can.”

“It’s just it’s really nice to be back on TV and it’s nice to be cast as my actual age, which never happens,” Gomez added. “So I am very happy to be doing this. I was just a kid. I didn’t know what I was thinking.”

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato — who was on Barney & Friends, Camp Rock, and Sonny With A Chance — has called the early start to their career “traumatic.”

“I’ll always look at child stardom, at what I went through, as something traumatic for me,” she told SPIN Magazine. “No child should ever be in the limelight. It’s too much pressure. There’s an absence of childhood that you never get to experience.”

Lovato connected their child stardom to later struggles. “It makes things confusing because you develop problems from that experience, whether it’s addiction or trust issues or financial stress. It follows you into adulthood,” she added.

Apparently, Lovato’s management also played a part in controlling her, even after she turned 18. “[They] wanted to keep me like a kid,” the singer added. “Not making decisions for myself, having a say in everything that I did, down to everything that I ate, what I wore.”

Josh Peck

Josh Peck, who starred on Drake & Josh, doesn’t have many regrets about his childhood career. “Maybe I would have thought twice about having my awkward teenage years [air] in reruns,” he joked to Us Weekly in 2023.

“But the reality is [that] from Drake & Josh to everything I’ve done since then, I’m very proud to have made families happy,” he added. “I feel incredibly lucky to be 36 and still working and [doing] something that I love.”

In March, Peck took to Instagram to discuss the Quiet On Set doc, in which his longtime co-star Drake Bell shared his story of being sexually assaulted by a dialogue coach who worked for Nickelodeon.

“I finished the Quiet On Set documentary and took a few days to process it,” Peck wrote on IG. “I reached out to Drake privately, but wanted to give my support for the survivors who were brave enough to share their stories of emotional and physical abuse on Nickelodeon sets with the world. Children should be protected. Reliving this publicly is incredibly difficult, but I hope it can bring healing for the victims and their families as well as necessary change to our industry.”

Cole Sprouse

Cole Sprouse has been acting since he and his twin brother, Dylan, played Ben Geller on Friends. Later, they starred on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life Of Zach & Cody.

“It was in many ways a lifesaving show. It provided us with an amount of stability and consistency and routine that really was needed for my brother and I at the time,” Sprouse said of the Disney sitcom during a March 2023 episode of Call Her Daddy.

Apparently, his and his brother’s career started as a way to financially support his family. “I think there’s two types of kids within the child acting business. There’s, like, the ‘thespian children’ who choose to do it and then there’s the working-class kids that, in our case, at least… I mean, it started, really, as a means to put bread on the table,” he added.

Sprouse continued, “My parents did not come from too much, and I have now been granted a life of primarily financial stability — and surplus in very many cases — that is the byproduct of working for 30 years and trading my childhood.”

Though he admitted to having some “resentment” over it, he said he probably wouldn’t do anything differently. “I don’t regret it at all,” he added. “If I were given the same choice again, I’d probably do it again.”

Jennette McCurdy

Jennette McCurdy has been very vocal about growing up while working for Nickelodeon. “No child is psychologically, emotionally, mentally equipped for the obstacles of child stardom,” she told Canada’s CBC in August 2022, per The Guardian. “Even if they have the greatest support system around them.”

She discussed her experiences at length in her 2022 memoir. Specifically, she wrote about an unnamed person called “The Creator,” whom she described as “mean-spirited, controlling, and terrifying.”

“The Creator can tear you down and humiliate you,” McCurdy wrote. “I’ve seen him do this when he fired a six-year-old on the spot for messing up a few lines on a rehearsal day.”

McCurdy also wrote about her spin-off show with Ariana Grande, Sam & Cat. According to her, they prioritized Grande over her and lied to her about a director opportunity.

Per McCurdy, executives told her she could direct an episode, but later changed their minds. “I realize that I’ve been foolish,” she wrote. “I believed that these people would do what they said they would.”

“Now that I’ve shown up to work every day, been a professional, swallowed my anger, and carried a show for almost forty episodes, now that they’ve gotten what they wanted out of me — they’re taking away the very reason why I was doing all of those things in the first place,” she continued.

McCurdy also wrote that Nickelodeon offered to pay her $300,000 after Sam & Cat if she agreed not to talk about the show.

JoJo Siwa
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In an April 2024 episode of Call Her Daddy, Jojo Siwa shared her point of view on growing up in the limelight. “I will always have respect for my childhood,” she told host Alex Cooper.

Siwa continued, “People are always like, ‘F*ck the bow,’ and I’m like, ‘No, the bow was a magical thing. We are never gonna be ashamed of it.’”

She also discussed the financial responsibilities of supporting her family from such a young age. “I didn’t really realize ‘til I was 17 or 18, like, ‘Oh, I pay for everything for everyone,’” Siwa said. “But then I was like, ‘Wait, I get to take care of my family. I get to take care of the people I love.’”

Siwa also discussed her time on Dance Moms — and how she managed not to take the criticism to heart. “As a kid, I could always see the bigger picture,” she said. “The person at the bottom [of the pyramid] gets the whole storyline of the TV show.”

Jojo also explained what it was like to come out at 17 years old, while still signed to Nickelodeon. According to her, the network didn’t know how to handle it.