Over the past two decades, Disney and Nickelodeon have rocket-launched young talents to superstardom with TV shows, movies, and record deals. Some teens take a step back after working throughout their childhood, while others continue on to become some of the world’s biggest pop stars. Following the legacy of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and the Jonas Brothers have become some of the hugest names in music, but instead of there being just a few kids making it after Disney, former child stars are now ubiquitous in pop culture. They’re on the red carpet at Cannes. They’re breaking records set by the Beatles. And especially as Disney expands its network across cable, film, and streaming, they’re able to propel themselves from project to project. In a sea of talent, who’s going to make it all the way to Britney-like icon status?
Back in 2015, Vulture assessed which of the new Disney/Nickelodeon class had leveraged their child-star fame into powerhouse careers as adults. Since then, the stakes have changed, quarter-life crises have taken hold, hiatuses have come and gone, and new stars have come to play. It’s time for an update! These are the current best former child stars of the moment, ranked from least to most powerful.
25. Ashley Tisdale
Child-Star Highlights: The quirky girl Dylan Sprouse crushes on in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, then the incomparable Sharpay Evans in High School Musical. Tisdale also voiced Candace on the animated show Phineas and Ferb.
Adult Highlights: She has maintained her career with guest spots and voice-acting gigs. In 2010, she starred in Hellcats with Aly Michalka. In May 2019, she released her first album in ten years, Symptoms, and she recently joined the cast of Carol’s Second Act.
Chart Stats: Outside of her HSM hits, Tisdale’s song “He Said She Said” peaked at No. 58 in 2008.
Notable Deals: Tisdale partnered with BH Cosmetics to create her makeup line, Illuminate.
Power Move: Keeping the voice-acting checks coming with Disney long after High School Musical and Suite Life were over.
Power Miss: Tisdale’s music career hasn’t taken off as hoped.
Bottom Line: Tisdale is fun and refreshing to see onscreen, but she isn’t toppling the charts or breaking down box offices.
24. Victoria Justice
Child-Star Highlights: Justice went from being a recurring character on Zoey 101 and iCarly to having her own musical show, Victorious.
Adult Highlights: Though her music career has stalled, she’ll be in the upcoming Summer Nights with Lana Condor and Analeigh Tipton. She also has a pretty successful, uh, career as a meme thanks to this old interview in which she was overshadowed by then-co-star Ariana Grande and was not having it.
Chart Stats: Her highest Hot 100 hit was “Freak the Freak Out” from the Victorious soundtrack. No solo-chart data.
Notable Deals: No active deals, but she isn’t afraid of a little Instagram sponcon.
Power Move: Getting on three Nick shows in seven years.
Power Miss: Ending her music career just as co-star Grande was beginning hers.
Bottom Line: Justice is an icon for older members of Gen Z but is more often remembered for being a meme.
23. Bridgit Mendler
Child-Star Highlights: After playing a recurring character on Wizards of Waverly Place, Mendler starred in her own show, Good Luck Charlie, and then, as these things go, the Disney Channel original movie (DCOM) Lemonade Mouth. She then recorded her 2012 debut album, Hello My Name Is …
Adult Highlights: Mendler continues to make pop music. She starred in Father of the Year with David Spade and will be in Netflix’s Merry Happy Whatever with Ashley Tisdale.
Chart Stats: “Ready or Not” from Hello My Name Is … was certified gold and peaked at No. 49.
Notable Deals: Mendler has no active deals, but she previously worked in philanthropy.
Power Move: Hitting the child-star trifecta: guest spot, TV show, original movie.
Power Miss: Leaving Hollywood Records after just three years and before the release of her second album.
Bottom Line: The song “Ready or Not” lives on as a 2010s bop, but that’s about it. Her career has mostly been stagnant.
22. Nat Wolff
Child-Star Highlights: The front kid for the fictional but also real but definitely made-up group the Naked Brothers Band and the star of its eponymous TV show.
Adult Highlights: Wolff swept the teen romantic comedies for a time with Stuck in Love, The Fault in Our Stars, and Paper Towns. He also played Light Turner in Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note. Lately, he has pivoted to drama and horror with the upcoming films Mainstream and Body Cam. Nat and his brother, Alex, continue to make music together.
Chart Stats: Both Naked Brothers Band soundtracks peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard 200.
Notable Deals: None at the moment.
Power Move: Solidifying his presence in the John Green expanded universe (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) but moving on before becoming typecast.
Power Miss: Not getting on Riverdale. He could totally be Jughead.
Bottom Line: Both Wolffs have the potential for stardom, especially as Gen Z grows up and leans into nostalgia.
21. Sabrina Carpenter
Child-Star Highlights: Carpenter began her career at Disney singing for two soundtracks. Then she landed a role on the Boy Meets World sequel, Girl Meets World, and continued to sing for Disney even after the show was canceled. She and Sofia Carson starred in Adventures in Babysitting together.
Adult Highlights: Now she’s focusing on her own music and released her second album, Act I, last November. Act II will be out on July 19. And she was recently cast for the Netflix show Tall Girl.
Chart Stats: Her song “Almost Love” peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Top 40.
Notable Deals: No deals, just focused on Act II.
Power Move: Skipping movie musicals and focusing on her own music.
Power Miss: The unfortunate cancellation of Girl Meets World.
Bottom Line: Carpenter will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
20. Sofia Carson
Child-Star Highlights: After appearing on Disney’s Austin & Ally, Carson starred in the DCOM Descendants, based on the popular book series. It’s essentially this generation’s High School Musical, and she’ll star in the third installment, out this summer.
Adult Highlights: She has made her way to Disney’s teen channel, Freeform, playing Ava Jalali in the Pretty Little Liars spinoff, The Perfectionists.
Chart Stats: Carson’s highest place on the charts came from the Descendants soundtrack’s “Rotten to the Core.”
Notable Deals: Earlier this year, she started a campaign with UNICEF for International Women’s Day.
Power Move: Segueing from Disney star to Freeform star.
Power Miss: Although Carson has put out singles, we’re still waiting for a debut album from her.
Bottom Line: When that album does come through, fans of Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande, and more will likely be into it.
19. Olivia Holt
Child-Star Highlights: Holt went from a Disney XD show to a DCOM and finally to her own comedy series, making music along the way.
Adult Highlights: Now she stars in the Marvel Comics Freeform show Cloak & Dagger.
Chart Stats: Her EP, Olivia, peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Notable Deals: She became a brand ambassador for Neutrogena in 2016.
Power Move: Securing a role on a Marvel show.
Power Miss: She hasn’t released solo music since 2017.
Bottom Line: Starring in Freeform’s first MCU TV show has got to land her somewhere big next.
18. Ross Lynch
Child-Star Highlights: Lynch starred in the Disney series Austin & Ally as well as the Disney Channel’s Teen Beach Movie.
Adult Highlights: He was actually really, really good playing the high-school-age titular serial killer in the movie My Friend Dahmer, and now he’s Kiernan Shipka’s normie boyfriend in Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Chart Stats: With his band R5, Lynch has had two albums and two EPs break into the Billboard 200. His musical work for Austin & Ally has gone Top 200 twice, with one of the show’s singles making it into the Hot 100.
Notable Deals: So far, his biggest deal was a Danimals ad he did with Bella Thorne.
Power Move: Getting that Netflix money.
Power Miss: He’s got a pretty clean slate, so maybe it’s that Danimals commercial.
Bottom Line: Lynch is still deeply in Who territory, but he seems like a nice, unproblematic boy you can give a sponcon deal and a supporting role to.
17. Alex Wolff
Child-Star Highlights: Wolff starred with his older brother, Nat, in the Nick series The Naked Brothers Band, and then the brothers recorded as the band Nat & Alex Wolff. (Can’t shake those Disney ampersands!)
Adult Highlights: Wolff is amassing a respectable film career, including the Jumanji franchise, My Friend Dahmer (with his fellow child star Ross Lynch), and last year’s horror smash Hereditary.
Chart Stats: Wolff has made it to the Billboard 200 albums chart twice with the Naked Brothers Band soundtracks. They also had one Hot 100 single.
Notable Deals: Yet another member of the Dannon Danimals yogurt-sellers club.
Power Move: The face-to-desk panic attack in Hereditary alone should secure acting work for him for years.
Power Miss: He was not the Wolff brother chasing manic pixie Cara Delevingne in Paper Towns, so he’s good! (Though you can bet Nat isn’t complaining about that John Green money.)
Bottom Line: Safe. Steady. Good Actor. He’s the Wolff bro with the cheek mole.
16. Dove Cameron
Child-Star Highlights: Cameron is part of the new, new set of Disney stars and leads the company’s small-screen film franchise The Descendants. She also starred in the Disney Channel series Liv and Maddie, for which she won a 2018 Daytime Emmy.
Adult Highlights: She appeared in NBC’s broadcast of Hairspray Live! and starred as Cher Horowitz in an Off Broadway run of Clueless: The Musical. There was also her recurring role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Chart Stats: All three full-length albums she is featured on, from Liv and Maddie and The Descendants, charted on the Billboard Top 200; the first Descendants soundtrack even reached No. 1. Cameron was also part of a pop duo called the Girl and the Dreamcatcher, but that lasted about as long as she dated the other half of said duo. After an EP and a few singles, the band (i.e., the relationship), broke up.
Notable Deals: She has been known to do social spon for brands like Fiat and SugarBearHair, the hated rival of beauty blogger Tati Westbrook’s nutraceutical brand.
Power Move: Taking the name Dove Cameron after being born Chloe Celeste Hosterman. Only a person who truly bets on herself can elect the name Dove.
Power Miss: The direct-to-video R. L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls.
Bottom Line: Cameron has steadily racked up credits across film, TV, and the stage, and while she continues to close out her Disney contract, she has put out independent music of her own and stated plans for more. She has also amassed an impressive social following, which helps with the ever-important #clout consideration. Cameron has a lot of potential. Let’s see what she does with it when the golden Disney handcuffs are off.
15. Keke Palmer
Child-Star Highlights: Palmer signed with Disney to star in the show Keke & Jamal, but the pilot never aired. She did star in the Disney Channel movie Jump In!, for which she recorded a pair of songs, and was also a Nickelodeon kid. She starred in the Nick series True Jackson, VP, and an original movie called Rags for the channel.
Adult Highlights: Palmer was a standout in season one of Fox’s Scream Queens as well as in Grease: Live, and she has been cast in the much-anticipated stripper heist drama Hustlers, starring a bunch of other celebrities you love. She also put out a video for her song “I Don’t Belong to You” that had a great bisexual twist. Currently, she stars in the show Berlin Station.
Chart Stats: She has had an EP and an album reach the R&B/Hip-Hop album charts.
Notable Deals: Palmer signed a deal with ShoeDazzle in 2016.
Power Move: She secured a producer credit for Nickelodeon’s Rags at age 18 and has her own mockumentary comedy series called That’s the Gag, which she also produces.
Power Miss: Her show Just Keke (produced by Kenya Barris) made her the youngest talk-show host ever, but even though the program wasn’t officially canceled, it just … never came back after its first slate of episodes aired in 2014.
Bottom Line: Palmer has been an entrepreneur working as an actress, a chat-show host, a producer, a social-media star, a singer, and a published author (I Don’t Belong to You is an autobiographical advice guide) since her early teens. If someone doesn’t give her opportunities, she makes them for herself.
14. Aly & AJ
Child-Star Highlights: Aly starred in the Disney show Phil of the Future and appeared with her sister, AJ, in the Disney Channel movie Cow Belles. They have released multiple studio albums and have performed under the names Aly & AJ and 78violet. Aly also co-starred in the second-best Emma Stone movie of all time, Easy A.
Adult Highlights: Aly has a recurring role on the show iZombie, and Amanda has a recurring voice role on the wonderfully queer and progressive cartoon Steven Universe. The sisters came back together as Aly & AJ and put out the EP Ten Years in 2017 and recently dropped the excellent EP Sanctuary.
Chart Stats: As Aly & AJ, they put out three studio albums, all of which landed in the Billboard 200 chart; five singles broke into the Hot 100.
Notable Deals: The pair have stayed pretty indie. Respect. But they could also credibly swing a beauty deal, so which brand is going to make that phone call?
Power Move: Getting Alex Ross Perry to direct the video for their song “Church.”
Power Miss: Having been raised faithfully Christian, the girls were pretty cavalier about how ridiculous the concept of evolution is in an old interview with Blender, but they’ve really come around since then. Hooray for gay rights and science!
Bottom Line: Aly & AJ have sustainable careers together and separately, and their musical growth on Sanctuary suggests that fans can expect a lot more good where that came from. Consider them ascendant.
13. Kevin Jonas
Child-Star Highlights: Making five albums with the Jonas Brothers between 2006 and 2010, appearances in both Disney Channel Camp Rock movies, and being the JoBro with the least-hectic public image.
Adult Highlights: The much-praised Jonas Brothers reunion album, Happiness Begins (on which he sings solo!), and the accompanying documentary, Chasing Happiness, about the trio’s road to reconciliation and return to the spotlight. Kevin also has two kids, which is nice for him.
Chart Stats: The Jonas Brothers have had two albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, with 19 songs cracking the Hot 100. “Sucker,” the lead single from Happiness Begins, was the band’s first to hit No. 1.
Notable Deals: At the height of their first wave of fame, Kevin appeared with his brothers in ads for brands like Target and Xbox 360. On a smaller scale, they were once slinging Breakfast Breaks foods.
Power Move: Chilling in the suburbs with his family while his brothers kept the Jonas fires burning through their solo projects proved he could leave fame behind and pick it back up again whenever he wants.
Power Miss: The E! docuseries Married to Jonas, which was mostly about him and his wife just living in New Jersey.
Bottom Line: Kevin is going to keep riding this JoBro train all the way to the bank until he decides to cool his heels back in Jersey again.
12. Debby Ryan
Child-Star Highlights: Ryan worked her way up the Disney ladder, going from the series The Suite Life on Deck to the original movies 16 Wishes, The Suite Life Movie, and Radio Rebel, and then her own Disney show, Jessie. (A true Disney workhorse, Ryan also appeared on other network shows like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place.) She was featured on Mouse House soundtracks, then started her own band, the Never Ending.
Chart Stats: She’s just doing it for the love of singing, all right?
Notable Deals: None so far, which seems pretty surprising.
Power Move: Having her Netflix show ripped to absolute shreds by critics … which created enough of a sensation to get it a second season. Congratulations, haters. You played yourselves. (She also gives a damn good hilariously unhinged performance on the show, for whatever it’s worth.)
Bottom Line: Bless the Who queens.
11. Bella Thorne
Child-Star Highlights: Thorne starred in the Disney series Shake It Up opposite Zendaya as well as the Disney Channel movie Frenemies. She also put out two EPs and was an outstanding high-school mean girl in The Duff.
Adult Highlights: She led the show Famous in Love for its two seasons on Freeform and has starred in quite a few horror movies. She has also kind of worked backward and parlayed her film and TV fame into social-media celebrity.
Chart Stats: Two of Thorne’s songs have climbed into the Billboard Hot 100.
Notable Deals: Thorne considers herself a mogul and has her own makeup and apparel lines. She also started a label in 2018 called FF Records (for “Filthy Fangs”), which mostly involves Thorne, her sister, and her friend/sometimes maybe girlfriend, the YouTube personality Tana Mongeau. According to her Instagram, she’s developing weed strains to sell. And she was also one of those Dannon Danimals child-star pitchpeople.
Power Move: “Bitch I’m Bella Thorne,” which really cemented her DGAF status.
Power Miss: Maybe being instrumental in the cancellation of her own show, Famous in Love.
Bottom Line: It’s unclear how much Hollywood proper loves her these days, but she has turned her personality into a profitable enough business to feed her many cats. (If social-media clout has any power, she has figured out how to monopolize it.) And she may be all kinds of extra, but at the very least, she has mastered the art of being Bella Thorne, bitch.
10. Vanessa Hudgens
Child-Star Highlights: Hudgens helped reinvent the Disney machine for a new era of young stars with the High School Musical franchise. She also had guest appearances in the Disney shows Drake & Josh and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, but HSM made her famous and also set up that years-long relationship with Zac Efron.
Adult Highlights: The unquestionable highlight is the slow-motion mayhem of the Britney Spears “Everytime” crime montage from Spring Breakers. She also entered the Christmas-romance hall of fame with Netflix’s The Christmas Switch (and is getting another!) and had some standout moments in both of the recent live-TV musicals Grease: Live and Rent: Live.
Chart Stats: Both of Hudgens’s albums, Identified and V, made it onto the Billboard 200, and 15 singles have made it to the Hot 100. All three of the phenomenally successful High School Musical soundtracks reached the top of the albums chart, hitting Nos. 1, 1, and 2, respectively. HSM also produced a ton of hit singles.
Notable Deals: Hudgens had a multiyear endorsement deal with Red by Mark Ecko footwear, which was instrumental in blessing us with the Skechers-filled video for “Sneaker Night.” She has also done ads for Candies and Neutrogena.
Power Move: Truly detonating her High School Musical image with a role in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.
Power Miss: Most of her other movies.
Bottom Line: Hudgens has had starring roles in a number of cinematic misses, but she has stayed busy in film, on television, and on Broadway, and you have to respect the well-rounded hustle. You may not always hear her name, but the girl has staying power.
9. Hayley Kiyoko
Child-Star Highlights: Kiyoko had guest-starring roles on shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and Zeke and Luther, but her biggest role was in the Disney Channel movie Lemonade Mouth, in which she played the lead guitarist in a band.
Adult Highlights: After releasing three well-received EPs — A Belle to Remember, This Side of Paradise, and Citrine — and coming out as gay along the way, Kiyoko was christened the “Lesbian Jesus” by her ardent fan base in 2018. Her debut album, Expectations, was released in March of that year, and she acquired many bras that had been thrown onstage during her tour.
Chart Stats: Citrine cracked the Billboard 200 albums chart and spent one week at No. 93, while Expectations reached as high as No. 4. Thanks to her Disney days, she has also had two songs on the Hot 100.
Power Move: Being the driving force behind the renaming of 2018 as 20GayTeen and directing all of her own tastemaking music videos, which are all pretty much super-queer. (That roadside kiss with Kehlani in “What I Need” was queer visibility as its best.)
Power Miss: That Velma Dinkley hairdo in Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins.
Bottom Line: Going from Disney bit player to gay messiah is a massive glow-up, and the career momentum she has generated thanks to a clearly executed creative vision — backed by her voracious fan base — means the future looks even brighter for this young queer icon.
8. Demi Lovato
Child-Star Highlights: She got her start on Barney & Friends and debuted on Disney with Camp Rock in 2008 — a Jonas-Lovato collaboration! She also starred in the Disney series Sonny With a Chance. With the Disney engine behind her, she launched her music career.
Adult Highlights: Lovato has steadily matured from kids-bop sensation to a Grammy-nominated very adult pop star, digging into heavy themes like her struggles with addiction and mental health in her music. Like her Disney peer Selena Gomez, she has also brought a massive, fanatical fan base with her, largely thanks to her confessional, “candid” style on social media. And how could this be a list of highlights if we didn’t mention her live performance of “Lonely” on a bed while she grinded on top of Kehlani?
Chart Stats: Lovato has had 29 songs in the Hot 100 and six albums on the Billboard 200 chart. Here We Go Again from 2009 is the only album so far to hit No. 1, but the other five have all reached the top three.
Notable Deals: Lovato had a partnership with Kate Hudson’s fitness apparel brand, Fabletics, and has partnered with Acuvue and Skechers.
Power Move: Taking a break from music and acting to focus on her mental health and deal with her substance abuse, and being an outspoken advocate for LGBT issues as well as mental health awareness. She’s always been honest with her fans about what she’s going through in her music and in her documentary (last year’s “Sober” and Simply Complicated were deliberately transparent), which is also a pretty big power move. She also put out the song “Cool For The Summer,” which was just an extended metaphor for going down on a girl. Demi said gay rights!
Power Miss: Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. The first one was good enough. There was also that weird time when she hired a prostitute in Vegas to kind of sexually assault her bodyguard.
Bottom Line: Lovato has dealt with a lot. Despite her struggles behind the scenes, she has consistently made chart-topping music and tried to turn her hardships into positive lessons for her fans and followers. She recently took a step back from music and the public eye to focus on her health, but she also just signed with a new manager. So maybe she’ll be back soon to save our summers.
7. Selena Gomez
Child-Star Highlights: Gomez appeared in Hannah Montana before starring as Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place, which lead to a spinoff film. She was also in the incredibly named Disney original movie Princess Protection Program and kicked off her long-running singing career. She’s an original member of the Taylor Swift Squad inner circle.
Adult Highlights: She’s an executive producer for Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why and recently got decapitated in Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie The Dead Don’t Die. She made a viral DIY music video for “Call Me Maybe” with other famous friends, which is a vital cultural artifact, and her musical output continues to move on a gradually ascendant path. Selena has a tendency to fade in and out of the spotlight, but she brings the hits with her when she dips back in.
Chart Stats: Gomez has had success in multiple musical iterations: There were the Disney years, Selena Gomez & the Scene, and her bona fide solo work. Overall, she has had six albums on the Billboard 200 chart, two of which have peaked at No. 1, and a formidable 27 songs on the Hot 100.
Notable Deals: Releasing a limited collection of handbags with Coach, a PUMA collaboration, and becoming a UNICEF ambassador at 17.
Power Move: Gomez has been pretty clear about the pressure her humongous social-media following puts on her. On the flip side, it has kept her super-famous even in her creatively lean years, and according to Business Insider, she commands a quote of $800,000 for a sponsored Instagram post. And if you’re an EDM producer like Zedd or Kygo or Marshmello and you’re looking for a quick smash, just recruit Gomez as your featured vocalist. She’s like a Hot 100 cheat code. One more thing: If you can make an entire music video that just shows your mouth while you sing a sexy jam and have it be impossibly compelling, like Selena did with “Fetish,” you are in elite pop-star space. (It’s not even the official video!)
Power Miss: The bindi during the “Come & Get It” era was unfortunate, and Gomez appears in Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York, which led to her pledging her salary to Time’s Up after accusations of Allen’s misconduct surfaced again. Additionally, while it’s great that she’s a boss on 13 Reasons Why, that show has taken a fair amount of heat for its depiction of teen suicide and abuse.
Bottom Line: Gomez’s personal life — whether her religion or her relationships or her war on body shaming or her health — has frustratingly overshadowed her career basically since she broke from Disney. But her music has steadily gotten better year after year (no shade whatsoever to “Love You Like a Love Song,” a forever banger!), and she has demonstrated mogul tendencies with her film and TV work. And while they might feel like a burden, those 152 million Selenators on Instagram will make sure everything she does stays pop-culturally relevant for as long as she wants it to. If Selena has the energy to keep on weathering storms, she will stay some kind of power player.
6. Miley Cyrus
Child-Star Highlights: Becoming the archetype for Disney 2.0 stars as Hannah Montana, which had the double effect of making her a music sensation by just bein’ Miley.
Adult Highlights: Miley is a noted activist for LGBT youth, and she has managed to spin up a wildly eclectic music career from her Disney beginnings. (Surely, no Montana fan could have foreseen the arrival of her psychedelic era, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz with Wayne Coyne.) She also married a Hemsworth and flirted onstage in onesies with Ariana Grande.
Chart Stats: Between her albums as Hannah Montana and the actual Miley, Cyrus has racked up five No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and 14 total entries on that chart between EPs and LPs. She has also landed an impressive 47 songs on the Hot 100.
Notable Deals: She founded the Happy Hippie Foundation in 2014, which helps homeless LBTQ+ youth.
Power Move: Cyrus’s biggest power move was most likely her effortless backyard-session drop of “Jolene,” which earned her a whole new level of musical credibility among folks skeptical of her pop career. No big deal that the original is by her godmother, Dolly Parton. Lately, her biggest flex has been just showing up and becoming the buzziest part of a new Black Mirror season.
Power Miss: There’s respectfully exploring other genres of music, and then there’s brazen appropriation and cultural tourism. Cyrus did the second (never forget “Miley, what’s good?”), and while she did just apologize for her privilege blindness, it took her a few years.
Bottom Line: Fearless to the point of being tone-deaf, Cyrus picked up the child-star trap of getting pigeonholed and set it on fire. Higher-profile new releases from some of her contemporaries have dropped Cyrus from the top spot in Vulture’s last ranking down to No. 6 here, but this era-defining Disney vet is still the biggest chameleon of her cohort and can snap in and out of cultural relevance whenever she pleases.
5. Hilary Duff
Child-Star Highlights: Duff was the one and only Lizzie McGuire for Disney, and the eponymous show spawned a very profitable TV empire and feature film for the studio. Duff’s stardom also made the Disney original Cadet Kelly a huge hit. Outside of those contractual commitments to the Mouse, she starred in important-at-the-time movies like A Cinderella Story and Agent Cody Banks.
Adult Highlights: The TV Land hit Younger just debuted its sixth season, and Duff picked up People’s Choice awards for it in 2016 and 2017. While her adult music career never totally jumped off, she did put out a sneaky great bop in 2008 called “Reach Out.” Sleep on it no longer! And hey, she’s also a New York Times best-selling author.
Chart Stats: Duff’s first four albums were certified either gold or platinum, and her most recent release — Breathe In. Breathe Out. from 2015 — debuted in the top 5 on Billboard’s Top 200. (She has had seven entries on that chart overall.) She notched seven Hot 100 hits, but nothing tops “Come Clean”
Notable Deals: Duff has had a lot of charitable partnerships over the years with various children’s and animal-rights organizations. In terms of getting paid, she has modeled for Candies and DKNY and was part of the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign during the Lizzie years.
Power Move: Popping up in Younger in 2015, which has stayed one of the most consistently delightful shows on TV for six seasons.
Power Miss: The Mansonsploitation movie The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) and that time she and her then-boyfriend Jason Walsh wore Native American costumes for Halloween.
Bottom Line: Duff and Cyrus were instrumental in creating the new wave of Disney stardom, and while Duff may not have the global reach of an Ariana Grande, she has the best consistent acting gig of anyone on this list. The author, designer, producer, singer, actress, and mother of two has paved a way for sustainable post-child-phenom careers.
4. Joe Jonas
Child-Star Highlights: Oh, you know, being a very famous member of the Jonas Brothers, which early on included the Disney show Jonas and some Camp Rock fame.
Adult Highlights: After Nick broke up the band, Joe started the pretty fun dance-pop group DNCE. Getting reunited with the Jonas Brothers was also a big move, as was his iconic Ring Pop wedding to Sophie Turner, which was secretly documented by Diplo.
Chart Stats: Two DNCE songs reached Billboard’s Hot 100, which came after the almost two dozen Jonas Brothers songs that reached the singles chart. But it took until “Sucker,” the lead track from the group’s latest album, for the boys to get their first No. 1. Joe has also had a handful of albums slide into the Billboard 200 albums chart across his various musical ventures.
Notable Deals: He used to promote Xbox 360 with his brothers.
Power Miss: His first solo album before starting DNCE, called Fastlife.
Bottom Line: Like his brother Nick, Joe Jonas is pretty good at achieving success with whatever he does, and the Jonas Brothers have completed the improbable task of reuniting their boy band to even greater acclaim than when they left it behind at the peak of its fame. This is the only way you could earn the hand of the Queen in the North.
4. Nick Jonas
Child-Star Highlights: Being one third of the Jonas Brothers band (2005–2013, 2019–hopefully forever) and starring in the eponymous Disney series Jonas. He and the bros were also big in the Camp Rock universe.
Adult Highlights: His solo career, including Nick Jonas & the Administration, and multiple beautiful and extravagant weddings to actress Priyanka Chopra. Also: Don’t sleep on how good he was as a closeted gay MMA fighter in the show Kingdom.
Chart Stats: Two Jonas Brothers have reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, with 19 singles in the Hot 100. As a solo artist, he has cracked the top 100 seven times and had two albums break into the top 10 on the albums chart.
Notable Deals: It’s possible that Nick and Priyanka helped pay for their lavish wedding with a heaping helping of spon.
Power Move: That post-child-stardom glow up and becoming Mr. Priyanka Chopra.
Power Miss: The Disney show Jonas and breaking up the Jonas Brothers.
Bottom Line: After spearheading his family band for most of his childhood, the youngest Jonas managed to create a noteworthy career on his own with both Nick Jonas & the Administration and a solo stint. The recent (very successful) Jonas Brothers reunion has made him only more successful, and the brothers just had their first No. 1 Billboard hit. Additionally, there’s a new documentary and a memoir on the way. This guy churns out hits at will.
Child-Star Highlights: Zendaya starred in the Disney shows Shake It Up! and K.C. Undercover, the latter of which she produced. She also snuck in a brief Billboard-charting singing career.
Adult Highlights: Her second-ever film role was Spiderman: Homecoming, and she was a huge marketing peg for it despite being a relatively small part of the film, tipping off the impressively outsize reach of her celebrity compared with her output at the time. (We stan the hustle.) Top-tier magazines love to put Zendaya on their covers, and her new headline HBO series Euphoria just debuted.
Chart Stats: She has one song on the Hot 100 and one album in the Billboard 200.
Notable Deals: Zendaya received a coveted face of CoverGirl deal in 2016 and has partnered with Chi Hair Care. Earlier this year, she was tapped to be a Lancôme ambassador.
Power Move: Becoming extremely popular and recognizable as much — if not more so — for the idea of Zendaya as her actual output. She has landed covers for American Vogue, W, Variety, Vanity Fair, and The Hollywood Reporter almost entirely on the strength of a superhero supporting role, which demonstrates a pretty insane amount of sauce.
Power Miss: So far, her star has only been on the rise.
Bottom Line: Zendaya has had success in music, is generating more and more heat in film and prestige TV, and is a fashion-industry darling. If you could rank fame by per-project engagement, Zendaya probably has a higher celebrity-efficiency rating than anyone else on this list, which is what lands her at such a high ranking. Just imagine the impact if she got a spandex suit of her own!
1. Ariana Grande
Child-Star Highlights: Grande appeared in the Nickelodeon shows Victorious, iCarly, and Sam & Cat, playing in all of them her original character, Cat, from Victorious. She sang at the time, but as Victoria Justice so accurately pointed out, didn’t they all?
Adult Highlights: Grande has stacked highlights on top of highlights as a post-Nick star, and we’re not just talking about her summer spent basking in the glow of some Big Dick Energy. She ascends higher in the celebrity firmament with each album, and she became the president of the United States of Pop after rapidly turning the tragic bombing at her Manchester concert into a massive benefit show for the community. It’s possible she is your mom’s favorite pop star.
Chart Stats: She has had two No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, with a mighty 48 songs landing on the chart in total. Four of her albums have reached the top of the Billboard 200, another (Dangerous Woman) peaked at No. 2, and even her EP Christmas & Chill managed to land a Top 200 spot. Grande also holds the record for having the most concurrent songs in the Top 40 at one time with 11.
Notable Deals: Ari has partnered with Reebok and Starbucks (she has her own goddamn drink, the Cloud Macchiato) and also has a line of perfumes. Lush made a God Is A Woman bath bomb so you can luxuriate in your tub like a pop princess who can get fresh with the entire planet Earth, and the pop star and her ponytail are the new face of Givenchy.
Power Move: Grande released not one but two critically acclaimed albums in six months (Sweetener and Thank U, Next) after weathering a string of personal heartbreaks in 2018, but her handling of the Manchester bombing and its aftermath was a demonstration par excellence of how to marshal your A-list power and resources in the best possible way. She’s also a magnet for adoration even among other celebrities — just ask Buzz fucking Aldrin.
Bottom Line: Her pop mega-stardom makes it easy to forget she was even on Nickelodeon. She has six Grammy nominations and one win for Sweetener, and despite her beginnings as Victoria Justice’s co-star, Grande has managed to tweet and sing herself into the elite class of artists. You’re talking about one of the five most powerful pop stars in the world at this moment.