Some of the world’s most successful actors, actresses and musicians seem to have very similar beginnings after seemingly getting hand picked by Disney executives.
With megastars from their respective generation, we’ve had the likes of Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Selena Gomez, and more having a squeaky clean Disney image that they were forced to maintain as they grew right in front of our eyes.
It is little surprise then that such stars would want to break away from their “goody-goody” image and perform racier roles in film, TV and the stage. However, there are times when these former Disney performers surprise us with their antics outside the fantasy lifestyle we were led to believe they lived.
Some performers strived “to bring sexy back” with music, others share revealing photos, racy scenes in movies and we can guaranty you that there’s one star on this list whose chosen career path totally deviates from what is expected from a former Disney actress. Here is a list of actors and actresses that would make even the black and white version of Mickey Mouse blush red.
15. Jennifer Love-Hewitt – Boy Meets World
After starting a career in TV commercials, Jennifer Love Hewitt made her mainstream debut on the Disney channel show Kids Incorporated where she played Robin for 14 episodes between season 6 and 7. Jennifer also appeared in Disney’s Boy Meets World and became a household name after her appearances in the teen drama series Party of Five as Sarah Reeves Merrin.
Hewitt was the star of the teen horror film franchise I Know What You Did Last Summer and has had a very successful TV career with long-running shows like The Ghost Whisperer, The Client List, and her main role as Kate Callahan in the procedural crime TV show Criminal Minds.
14. Ariel Winter – Jake and the Neverland Pirates
Ariel Winter is possibly just as famous for her racy Instagram and Twitter posts as she is for playing Alex Dunphy in ABC’s Modern Family.
Before trying her best to shake her “good girl” image in the hugely successful sitcom, she made a name for herself voicing several characters in Disney’s animated children’s shows. In Phineas and Ferb, Ariel played Gretchen the Fireside Girl and Wendy Stinglehopper. Additionally, she also voiced Marina Mermaid in Jake and the Neverland Pirates and played all of Thumper’s sisters in Bambi 2.
Adding to her Disney resume, Ariel also voiced the younger Kairi in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a hugely successful Disney/Square-Enix produced video game series that combines characters from Disney with regulars from the Final Fantasy series.
13. Kaley Cuoco – Alley Cats Strike
Kaley Cuoco as Penny in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory has often been referred to as the modern day Rachael (from Friends). So it goes without saying that she has an enormous fan base and is one of the most recognizable actresses on TV.
However, before becoming a mainstream star in The Big Bang Theory, she made appearances in Disney Channel original TV films Toothless as Lori, and as Elsa Bowers in the bowling themed Alley Cats Strike in 2000.
12. Debby Ryan – Jessie and Girl Meets World
After Debby Ryan began her acting and performing career on the straight to DVD film Barney: Goes to the Firehouse she was quickly picked up by Disney for a recurring role as Bailey Pickett on the Disney Channel show The Suite Life of on Deck.
However, it was her lead role as the titular character in Disney’s Jessie which ran for four years between 2011 and 2015 that got her noticed. Since then she has appeared Girl Meets World and The Muppets Most Wanted and is the lead singer in her Christian band The Never Ending, as well as running her own brand of clothing.
11. Vanessa Hudgens – Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Vanessa Hudgens began her Disney career with appearances in Disney’s massively successful film franchise High School Musical and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. However, prior to this, she made her film debut in the very un-Disney-like Thirteen a controversial coming of age drama about teenagers.
Hudgens once again shook off her Disney image with her appearance in Spring Breakers alongside fellow Disney star Selena Gomez and James Franco. She was the starring lead in the NBC comedy show Powerless which ran for two seasons and has another two movies in production due to hit the big screen in 2018.
10. Hayden Panettiere -Remember The Titans And A Bug’s Life
Hayden Panettiere gained worldwide fame in the hugely popular (for one season anyway) superhero-themed TV series Heroes as self-healing and virtually immortal Clare Bennet the cheerleader.
Prior to Heroes, Hayden had a leading role in Disney’s Remember The Titans and provided her voice talents in Disney’s Dinosaur as Suri, and Dot in A Bug’s Life. Hayden continued using her voice talents in Disney’s Kingdom Hearts series where she was the main voice for Kairi and more recently provided her likeness and voice for the critically acclaimed PlayStation horror exclusive Until Dawn.
9. Hilary Duff – Lizzie McGuire
Hilary Duff shot to fame as the titular character in the Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire in 2001. She also starred in non-Disney produced films Agent Cody Banks, and Cheaper By the Dozen.
After becoming a “teen idol” in the early 2000s, Hilary became one of the most successful Disney stars to transition from acting in children’s films and movies into a musical career and became the inspiration for the likes of Selena Gomes and Miley Cyrus.
Nowadays, Hilary is a singer-songwriter, actress and a pop star with an estimated 15 million records sold worldwide, and she continues to release music. In addition, she has a starring role in the TV series Younger.
8. Natalie Alyn Lind – Wizards of Waverly Place
Natalie Alyn Lind started acting at a young age and managed to gain small credited and one-off guest roles in Army Wives, Flashpoint, Criminal Minds, One Tree Hill, and iCarly. It was Natalie’s part in Wizards of Waverly Place that gained her recognition with younger viewers and Disney fans.
More recently, Natalie has gained a fan following in the superhero series The Gifted which is based on and connected to the X-Men film franchise. Prior to this, she had a lead role on The Goldbergs and starred as a young Silver St. Cloud in the Batman prequel series Gotham. Lind will be returning for the second season of The Gifted in 2018.
7. Chloe Grace Moretz – Super Sleuth Christmas Movie
It seems almost like Chloe Grace Moretz has been around forever, yet she’s only 20-years-old. Having made several notable appearances in the mainstream films like Amityville Horror, (500) Days of Summer, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Let Me In.
The role that gained her mainstream recognition was her portrayal as Hit-Girl in the superhero movie Kick-Ass. However, her younger audience may have noticed her voice work in Disney’s Bolt, Super Sleuth Christmas Movie, and other Winnie the Pooh shows as Darby. Moretz has more upcoming roles in films Suspiria, The Widow and another animated movie Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs.
6. Selena Gomez – The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody
Selena Gomez originally gained mainstream recognition as Gwen in Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Additionally, she had a recurring role with Miley Cyrus in Disney’s Hannah Montana as Mikayla, and as Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place.
More recently, Selena has appeared as herself in So Random, Sonny with Chance and The Muppets. She managed to shake off her good-girl Disney image with appearances in Spring Breakers, Behaving Badly and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
5. Bella Thorne – Shake It Up
After establishing her career with roles in several television shows such as The O.C, Little Monk, and Entourage Bella Thorne starred Disney’s Shake it Up, Wizards of Waverly Place and Good Luck Charlie alongside Bridget Mendler.
Bella is currently playing the lead role of Paige in the TV series Famous in Love and had a starring role in the well-received Netflix comedy horror film The Babysitter directed by McG and the Scream television series.
4. Zac Efron – High School Musical
Zac Efron became a household name after the hugely successful High School Musical franchise for the Disney Channel. He was, however, getting parts in television shows like Firefly, The Guardian, ER, and he got the main role for the Warner Bros. series Summerland.
Since his High School Musical success, Efron has been showing his natural aptitude for comedy in the films Neighbors, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Dirty Grandpa, and the Baywatch remake with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
3. Sensi Pearl – High School Musical and Read It And Weep
Like several other actors and actresses on this list, Cassie Nelson got her start with Disney. She starred as a “geek girl” in the 2006 Disney Channel movie Read it and Weep and most notably in the massively successful High School Musical and High School Musical 2 alongside Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and many other up and coming stars.
Nelson, however, found success in a way that would absolutely make Mickey Mouse blush perhaps more than any other star on this list. Instead of the mainstream movie industry, Cassie Nelson became known as Sensi Pearl, an AVN award-winning actress in the adult industry. Her career lasted four years before retiring, because she wanted to reconnect with her family who disapproved of her chosen career path.
2. Ryan Gosling – The Mickey Mouse Club
Ryan Gosling can easily be considered one of today’s most popular and talented actors in Hollywood. With starring roles in hit films like The Notebook, La La Land, Drive, and more recently Blade Runner 2049 which is already considered a modern classic amongst sci-fi fans, he’s earned a lot of accolades as an actor.
However, before he made his mark as one of Hollywood’s leading men, he was a member of Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club. Acting alongside Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears, the producers favored the more musically gifted youngsters and he had less screen time as a result. Yet despite this, Gosling still looks back at his days with Disney fondly and proclaims it as the most fun he ever had in his life.
1. Justin Timberlake – The Mickey Mouse Club
Before Justin Timberlake became one of the most successful musical artists in the world, he appeared on Disney’s Star Search and eventually landed a part with the Mickey Mouse Club with other future megastars Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Aguilera.
His Disney career progressed and Timberlake formed a successful boy band named NSYNC before becoming a Grammy Award winning solo artist after his debut album Justified. In addition to his successful music career, Timberlake has proved to be quite versatile by putting in good performances in the films Black Snake Moan, Runner Runner, The Social Network, and Alpha Dog.
Justin is set to headline the halftime show at the 2018 Super Bowl, which has led to rumors of a surprise one-off NSYNC reunion.
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