Zendaya Vs. Bella Thorne: What Happens To Young Starlets When They Leave The Disney Bubble

By Meghan Dillon
·  5 min read

As a teenager, I thought being a Disney star would be the coolest thing in the world, but there was a darker side of fame that fans didn’t get to see.

Article Updated: 1/22/2021

It’s almost a cliché that many former Disney stars go on a rebellious streak after parting with the House of Mouse. There seems to be two options for a post-Disney career: thrive or rebel. Zendaya and Bella Thorne, stars of the 2010-2013 Disney Channel show, Shake It Up, are perfect examples.

Zendaya’s Post-Disney Career

Zendaya’s post-Disney career is similar to those of Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, and Selena Gomez. Though all three former Disney starlets have endured hardship and scandal, they have managed to come out on top and thrive in their post-Disney stardom.

Zendaya, 23, starred as Rocky Blue in Disney Channel’s Shake it Up from 2010 to 2013. Shortly after wrapping up filming Shake It Up, 16-year-old Zendaya competed in season 16 of Dancing with the Stars. Paired with professional dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy, they finished in second place behind country singer Kellie Pickler and professional dancer Derek Hough. She also released her debut album in 2013, but she has found the most success in acting.

She’s most famous for roles like Anne Wheeler in The Greatest Showman and MJ in Spiderman: Homecoming and Spiderman: Far From Home, but her role as Rue Bennett in Euphoria has earned her critical praise and an Emmy. To top it all off, Zendaya has killer style.

Bella Thorne’s Post-Disney Career

Before her breakout role as CeCe Jones on Shake It Up, Bella Thorne, 22, had been acting for years. After her father died in a motorcycle accident when she was only 9, she became the sole breadwinner for her family.

Since her departure from Disney, Thorne has continued acting in movies like Amityville: The Awakening and Midnight Sun. She made her directorial debut with the 2019 pornographic film Her & Him. She won the Vision Award at the PornHub Awards for her work on the film.

In 2019, she released her first book of poems, The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray, where she revealed her experience with child sexual abuse. She wrote, “i dont want to sit down with the cops and cconvice [sic] them i was raped many times / why should i have to convice [sic] someone i was taken advantage of? / why is our legal system so fucked up they make their victims feel like villains.” Though she hasn’t revealed the identity of her abuser, she claimed that it was someone close to her family.

Thorne released her first book of poems, where she revealed her experience with child sexual abuse.

Thorne is more famous for her personal life than her professional life, mainly for her relationship with controversial YouTube star Tana Mongeau and when she leaked her own nude photos after receiving threats from a hacker. She recently made headlines for making an OnlyFans account (a website where users can pay content creators, though it’s most infamous for pornographic content) and earning two million dollars in less than a week on the site. This earned plenty of backlash, with some accusing Thorne of "ruining OnlyFans for sex workers" who are trying to make ends meet during the pandemic. Thorne has apologized for offending OnlyFans users.

Why Are Zendaya and Bella Thorne So Different?

Thorne has two things in common with most Disney stars who scandalously rebel when they enter the adult world: she was put into the public spotlight at a young age, and she came from an unhealthy family dynamic. Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan? All reached unprecedented levels of fame as children. Lovato, Spears, and Lohan all grew up in toxic family environments. Sadly, Lovato seems to be the only one to make a full recovery in adulthood, but it took several stints in rehab for her to get clean.

Thorne was put into the public spotlight at a young age and came from an unhealthy family dynamic. 

This shows a dangerous pattern. Former Disney starlets like Hilary Duff and Zendaya were partially able to make a successful transition to a post-Disney career with the support of a healthy family dynamic. Thorne wasn’t as fortunate, and it’s a real shame. The focus on Thorne’s personal life takes the spotlight away from her talent and the emotional strength it took her to overcome her traumatic childhood.

The media needs to be more empathetic to Bella Thorne because the entertainment industry has not been very kind to her. If the media focused more on her talent than her personal life, she would benefit from her own mental health improving and we would benefit by seeing her true talent.

Closing Thoughts

The contrast between Zendaya and Bella Thorne’s post-Disney careers is the perfect example of two young stars going in different directions. However, this also shows how important it is for the entertainment industry to look after child stars. If someone was there for Bella Thorne, we would likely know her for her talents rather than her personal life.

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