The Disney Star to Burn Out Pipeline

Olivia Rodrigo just became the youngest artist to start a career with her first three singles in the top 10 on the Hot 100 chart, according to Billboard. But not many people know that she’s one of Disney Channel’s brightest stars – appearing in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. But how exactly does this tie into the Disney star to burn out pipeline?

Which makes us wonder if Olivia learned from the careers of her predecessors – Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez all starred on Disney Channel, launched their music careers with Hollywood Records, and all burned out to various degrees ranging from shocking public stunts to eating disorders and mental illness. Is Olivia Rodrigo in danger of the same fate from Disney star to burn out? 

In order to find out how we got here, let’s rewind to 2009. You come home from school and turn the TV to Disney Channel. The screen flashes with Miley Cryus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers running playfully through a field singing “Send It On.”

This scene is probably ingrained in your mind, alongside Camp Rock, Hannah Montana, and Wizards of Waverly Place. Afterall, this was peak Disney Dynasty – from 2007-2012 Miley, Selena, Demi and the Jo Bros ruled the TV screen and the Billboard charts.

It’s an era that could only have happened once. In 2007, YouTube was a platform for obscure content and Netflix sent you DVDs in the mail. So young teens were still glued to their TVs for entertainment. Within the music market, Britney Spears and N*SYNC had aged out of teen pop. Hilary Duff was stepping into adult acting roles, leaving a hole in the teen TV and music markets.

Disney was eager to take advantage of this hole in the market, after learning from their mistake of letting go of Mickey Mouse Club stars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. Enter Miley, Selena, Demi and the Jonas Brothers. Each of them starred in Disney Channel original movies and/or series, while also launching their music careers with Disney’s Hollywood Records.

And so it became clear that Disney’s mission was to mold multi-talented preteens into the world’s biggest teen stars, all while presenting them as young and innocent for as long as possible to rake in as much money as possible. And for that period of time, it worked. But these artists did not get out of the Disney Channel Industry Complex unscathed. As it turns out, overworking teenagers with grueling hours on TV sets and concert stages non-stop has its repercussions. 

Miley publicly rebelled with her tongue-out, twerking era of Bangerz. Demi and Selena were both checked into rehab – one being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the other with a chronic autoimmune disease.

All of this leads us to wonder, why did this happen? How can we protect Olivia Rodrigo from the same fate? And where is Disney’s responsibility in all of this? Listen to the full episode to find out!

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Sources for The Disney Star to Burn Out Pipeline

Inside The Disney Channel Popstar Industrial Complex (Moda Chicago by Alexandra Fiorentino-Swinton, 2020)

2007 Was The Year Disney Pop Stars Owned It All (MTV by Jessica Norton 2016)

Here’s What 8 Former Disney Stars Had to Say After Leaving the Channel: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and More Speak Out (E! By Kendall Fisher, 2016)

From Britney to Demi Lovato: how Disney raised a generation of troubled stars (The Telegraph by Alice Vincent, 2018)

Burned by fallen princesses, Disney is training stars to avoid scandal (New York Post by Dana Schuster, 2017)

Top 5 Disney star meltdowns (Metro UK by Jenni McKnight, 2013)

From Selena Gomez to Miley Cyrus – why so many former child Disney stars have suffered mental health breakdowns, eating disorders and suicide attempts (The Sun by Danny De Vaal & George Harrison, 2018)

Say What You Want About Olivia Rodrigo (Nylon, Maria Sherman, 2021)

Olivia Rodrigo is in the Driver’s Seat (Elle, Lizzie Widdicombe, 2021)

Olivia Rodrigo Makes History (Again) As ‘Good 4 U’ Hits No. 1 On The Charts (Forbes, Nicholas Reimann, 2021)

Miley Cyrus’ Transformation Timeline: From Disney Star to Infamous Twerker to Fresh-Faced ‘Malibu’ (Entertainment Tonight by Alex Ungerman, 2017)

From Her Breakout Music Career to Her Recent Hospitalization: Demi Lovato’s Ups and Downs (People by Grace Gavilanes, 2018)

How Demi Lovato Turned Her Life Around With the Most Inspiring Comeback (ET Online by Rachel McRady‍, 2020)

Demi Lovato Talked Disney Channel, Selena Gomez, and New Music in Harper’s Bazaar Interview (Teen Vogue by P. Claire Dodson 2020)

Selena Gomez on Politics, Faith, and Making the Music of Her Career (Vogue Cover Story April 2021 by Jia Tolentino)

Selena Gomez Says Her Decision to Continue to Push Herself Despite Her Lupus Was “Extremely Selfish” (Teen Vogue by Andrea Park, 2017)

Jonas Brothers Regret Being on Disney Channel (Inside The Magic, Alessa Dufrense, 2021)

The Jonas Brothers Say Disney Beginnings Made It ‘Tough for People to Accept Us as a Real Band’ (People, Helen Murphy, 2019)

Demi Lovato, Zendaya Respond to Joe Jonas’ “Magazine Confessional” (Hollywood Reporter, Ashley Lee, 2013)

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