Disney star Alyson Stoner recalls 'harrowing' childhood career: 'I narrowly survived'

Disney Channel actress Alyson Stoner shares her "harrowing" experiences as a child star - and suggests strategies for how the entertainment industry can improve its treatment of young artists.
In a people essay published Wednesday, Stoner, 27, described the struggles she and other child stars faced while working in Hollywood, as well as the "infamous and thriving industrial complex surrounding children's entertainment."
"I barely survived the pipeline between toddler and train wreck," wrote Stoner. "In fact, nothing was intended for me to end up ... 'Normally'. 'Stable.' 'Alive.'"
Stoner starred in the 2003 film Cheaper by the Dozen and its 2005 sequel, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, alongside Hilary Duff and other young stars. She also appeared in the Disney Channel "Camp Rock" films, which launched Demi Lovato's career and powered the Jonas Brothers, and the network's sitcom "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" starring Dylan and Cole Sprouse. She later voiced a role in the Disney Channel cartoon "Phineas and Ferb" from 2007 to 2015.
Stoner's more recent credits consist mostly of language work, including roles in the cartoons "Pete the Cat", "The Loud House" and "Young Justice".
Disney Channel actress Alyson Stoner shares her "harrowing" experiences as a child star - and suggests strategies for how the entertainment industry can improve its treatment of young artists.
In her essay, Stoner described the pressures placed on her during audition, including the psychological challenges of acting out emotionally difficult scenes at a young age.
In addition, Stoner wrote that many entertainment companies are circumventing child labor laws and have "inappropriate and dangerous" conditions. She also remembered how agents encouraged her to seek early emancipation so that she could work longer and become more rentable.
"I've learned that it is safer to part in order to survive what my mind and body are exposed to on a daily basis," wrote Stoner. "I will be deaf for five more years, but all you will see is the always-functioning, smiling girl # 437."
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Stoner suggested that each set "hire a qualified third-party psychiatrist" to "oversee working conditions" and "assist entertainers in regulating, switching between identities, and clearing residual internal turmoil after emotional performance". Also, these mental health professionals can provide a "safe place" to anonymously report misconduct, she added.
Stoner also recommended that guardians and representatives of child actors be required to take courses in industrial and media literacy. According to Stoner, these classes can "examine the guardian's motives and willingness," "expose negligent and greedy behavior within the agencies," and "determine best practices to get the million dollar shot in the safest, most ethical way."
Stoner wrote when she was 17 that "the tentacles of industry" had "suffocated and destroyed" her family. After getting more than 20 pounds underweight, the actress, who previously read up on her fight against eating disorders, disagreed with her team's wishes and checked into rehab, "she wrote.
"While I'm not without scars and ongoing fighting, I'm still one of the happiest cases," added Stoner. "Through an inner mysterious power, I have committed myself to deep self-work and constant healing as my rebellion."
The former Disney Channel actor claims the manager sexually assaulted him "almost weekly".
Stoner also suggested that she had more problems than she shared in her essay.
"I didn't mention the sexual harassment, stolen intellectual property and money, the paparazzi, the psychological ramifications of the new influencer landscape, the toxic power games, and what actually happened on all of those sets," she continued .
She topped off her essay by encouraging readers to acknowledge the struggles of child stars and offer support to young performers.
"For the people who click on Where Are They Now articles, I'm here," she wrote. "We're here. This is your first time reading my story, but it is our millionth time you are asked to listen."
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Alyson Stoner: Disney star describes the harrowing life of a child actor
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