What Bella Thorne really thinks about being a Disney star

Alongside Zendaya, Bella Thorne rose to fame on the set of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up! which chronicled the adventures of CeCe Jones (Thorne) and Rocky Blue (Zendaya) as they performed as backup dancers on a local show. Thorne, now 23, has ditched her squeaky clean image in favor of a more authentic one that celebrates her sexuality. In an industry that tries to pigeonhole women into easily definable boxes, Thorne refuses to be defined. Whether she’s making headlines for being in a polyamorous throupe or making films on PornHub, the former Disney starlet has practically made a career out of being controversial.

But hearing Thorne tell it doesn’t make her attempt to raise an eyebrow; She’s trying to show fans who she really is. “I’ll do what I want. If I want to wear the shorts, I wear the shorts because I feel like it,” she said in the 2018 mini-documentary Bella (via Raffinerie29). “That’s why I have to constantly show my image — the more real, grittier side.”

It’s a story that’s not exactly unique. Other former Disney stars – from Miley Cyrus to Demi Lovato to the Jonas Brothers – have shared how difficult it was to break away from the public eye and pursue careers independent of Disney. Even years after graduating from the family-friendly network, Thorne seems to regret her time at Disney, even admitting she felt pressured to even work with them, per Page Six.

Bella Thorne worked hard to shed her Disney image

In 2021, Bella Thorne spoke to Fox News about comparisons to her Disney days. “I don’t like being recognized as a former Disney child star because I’ve always been told that I have to fit into a certain mold and be that person that I’m not,” she explained. “When everyone expects you to be perfect, falling short of those impossible standards gives people the wrong impression. I basically had to start from the bottom and work my way up after Disney.” To be taken seriously, Thorne dove into more adult work, including NSFW music videos and a stint on the OnlyFans subscription social platform.

As critics slammed their rebranded image, the multi-hyphen shared that their evolved identity was actually a long time coming. “People always hate the Disney stars because they’re like, ‘Oh, you have this clean image and you’re so young and now you want to be sexy,'” she told V Magazine. “They don’t understand that at an age when they think [Disney stars] are a little too young to do that, these actors already feel like they’re in their mid-twenties because it feels like they’ve been working so long.” As with other child actors, Thorne’s unique life experiences make her “feel like an old soul” , per Harper’s Bazaar. In an industry she wants to label, her openness and openness help her chart her own path.

Bella Thorne couldn’t express herself with Disney

Bella Thorne has drawn parallels between her own life and other former Disney stars, many of whom she believes have been devastated by the media. One example is Britney Spears, who appeared in The Mickey Mouse Club through Disney. Another ex-Disney star Thorne doesn’t think gets the recognition she deserves is The Descendants actress Dove Cameron. “[Dove] is one of the hardest workers I know and she is an amazing actress. And people still want to say, ‘She’s Disney,'” Thorne explained, per The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s like an instant ‘X’ sign that you have to work out of.”

Perhaps this would not be the case if Thorne, Cameron and others had autonomy to express themselves. “I wish I had stayed true to myself [during my time with Disney]’ Thorne told Fox News. “When it came to filming, I would speak in a higher pitched voice or do different things to make myself seem more innocent.”

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Disney imposed strict guidelines on its child performers, sometimes stifling their creativity. Thorne recalls an incident where she was almost fired from the network after wearing a bikini on the beach when she was 14, according to Stylecaster. “They said, ‘You’re lucky that Bella has such a following that we can’t afford to fire her right now. But if she does anything else, we will,'” Thorne said. Whether you’re a fan or not, we all wish Thorne the best as she embraces her post-Disney independence.