Alyson Stoner Is Exposing Hollywood for the "Dark Shadow" of Child Stardom

Gabrielle Bernardini - Author

Nov. 22 2023, Updated 8:42 a.m. ET

Alyson Stoner
Source: Getty

Former Disney Channel star Alyson Stoner has been very open about her "harrowing" childhood stardom and how the grueling Hollywood industry had a lasting effect on both her physical and mental health.

In an op-ed essay posted on People in 2021, titled "The Toddler to Trainwreck Industrial Complex," the now 30-year-old writes about the lack of child labor laws and how her demanding career led her to be hospitalized for an eating disorder.

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So, what is Alyson up to today? Find out how she's encouraging Hollywood to change its formula when it comes to child entertainers.

alyson stoner rehab
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What happened to Alyson Stoner?

Alyson had quite a list of accomplishments before reaching her teenage years. She iconically starred in Missy Elliot's "Work It" music video, appeared in Cheaper By the Dozen and its sequel, starred alongside Channing Tatum in Step Up, and appeared in several Disney Channel projects.

But, while Alyson may have appeared to be living an extraordinary life, the actress opened up about how these experiences, such as going to auditions and working rigorous hours, affected her mental health.

"I narrowly survived the toddler-to-trainwreck pipeline," Alyson wrote in her op-ed essay. "In fact, nothing was designed for me to end up… 'Normal.' 'Stable.' 'Alive.'"

In her People essay written back in 2021, Alyson describes being 6 years old and going to an audition in which she had to act out being kidnapped and raped. Just a few moments later, she was whisked away to audition for a toy princess commercial.

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"These visceral portrayals of scenarios etch themselves into my body memory and compound with trauma occurring in real life behind closed doors," she writes. "Additionally, there is an alarming dissonance about being coached to offer my six-year-old self vulnerably to unfamiliar adults who have power over my well-being and future livelihood."

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Alyson suggests that productions hire mental health professionals to help monitor "working conditions and be available to assist entertainers in regulating, shifting between identities and discharging residual inner turbulence after emotional performances." 

Alyson Stoner went to rehab for an eating disorder.

"I'm 17. In just over a decade, the tentacles of the industry have suffocated and destroyed my family," the former child star explained. Alyson detailed that the long hours, stress, and trauma of working in the demanding industry led to her entering a rehab facility, against the wishes of her team, for an eating disorder.

Alyson revealed that she was about 20 pounds underweight when she entered the treatment facility.

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alyson stoner rehab
Source: Getty Images

"Though I'm not without scars and ongoing struggles, I am still one of the most fortunate cases," she wrote. "By some inner mysterious force, I committed to deep self-work and constant healing as my rebellion."

The actress also insinuated that more trauma occurred than what she wrote about in her op-ed essay: "I didn't mention the sexual harassment, stolen IP and money, paparazzi, psychological impact of the new influencer landscape, toxic power plays, and what actually happened on all of those sets."

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Alyson concluded her essay by asking for readers to acknowledge the mental and physical experiences that child stars have had to go through, and offered ways for how people can help support young actors.

"Something I have learned is that as long as we are enchanted or complacent, we're also vulnerable," Alyson noted. "This applies to families in Hollywood as well as consumers at home. Together, we can change the narrative."

As an actress and advocate, Alyson has created accessible resources to help improve mental and physical well-being.

In 2020, Alyson co-founded Movement Genius, which she describes as "movement classes that improve mental health, and our radically inclusive platform is designed by and for all bodies and identities," according to her website.

She also authored a book in 2021 titled "MIND BODY PRIDE: A 7-Step Guide for Deeper Connection" which was designed to address mental health in the queer community.

She also launched a podcast in 2023 titled Dear Hollywood, where she exposes Hollywood and child stardom.

"Child stardom is a unique cultural phenomenon with a notoriously dark shadow. Precocious young talents skyrocket to success only to repeat horror stories of addiction, decimated fortunes, and suicide," she wrote. "I will be revealing intimate firsthand accounts alongside comprehensive expertise and action plans to change entertainment and inspire your own life path and healing."

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