disney channel star
I was born into a Disney family. My parents and both my siblings are what some people call “Disney Adults.” Looking at that phrase makes me itchy. It has the energy of a slur, making me wonder if I should have used asterisks instead?
One of the most embarrassing things about my privileged life is how many times I’ve been to Disney. Now I want to make it clear that I am not shitting on Disney World. Disneyland, yes. But I do tolerate Disney to what feels like a healthy normal amount. As a kid I of course loved all the princesses, especially The Little Mermaid because she was also a redhead. The rest of my family is in way deeper. I love that it’s something we can bond over and enjoy together. But sometimes, the amount of Disney themed art on the walls of my parent’s house and both my sibling’s apartments make me want to call 911. On my first trip to Disney World, I was a literal baby. Not exaggerating, I was probably ten months old. Personally, I believe that’s a waste of a trip for a baby because I don’t remember any of it. We have videos and photos from the trip where I’m asleep in the stroller or crying at the character breakfast because Pluto put his tongue on my bald little head and pretended to lick me. The next few trips we took I have scattered memories from, but it wasn’t until I was older that I had a strong memory of being at Disney, and that’s because I puked all over it.
To most people Disney World is the most magical place on earth. For me, it’s the place that I’ve gotten the stomach flu at three times. My immune system is pretty much non-existent when I travel and I pick up viruses very easily, especially the stomach flu. On this particular trip we were supposed to spend our last day of vacation at the Blizzard Beach water park and I woke up knowing I was going puke. One lap in the lazy river and I was done for. The whole twenty-hour drive home the next day from Orlando to Detroit I was puking in plastic bags from gas stations. It was fucking miserable. The next time I got sick on a Disney trip it came on suddenly. One minute I was in line to meet Ariel and the next I was puking in the trash can outside her grotto. I thought it was just a one-time thing, so we continued with our Disney adventure. We were watching the Toy Story parade and then suddenly I felt a wave of nausea. My mouth got suddenly hot and I was sweating profusely. I looked at my mom who looked back at me with eyes that said, “We spent a lot of money on this trip don’t fuck this up.” I tried to suppress it but could not. I saw a sign for bathrooms across the street and sprinted into the parade (which turns out is a huge Disney offense), through the performers dressed as those toy army soldiers. I spent the rest of the day running back and forth puking my guts out in bathroom stalls next to tired moms with children having tantrums while my brother, sister and mom rode Tower of Terror. My dad finally escorted me back to the hotel but not before getting me extra souvenir bags to puke in on the shuttle bus. I spent the rest of the day in my 101 Dalmatian themed bathroom puking so hard that I also shit my Limited Too pajama shorts. Now that’s the magic of Disney. I ended up feeling better on the last day, which of course was the day we went to Epcot.
The third time it happened I got sick in the middle of the trip. I was probably fifteen and my family went during Christmas for the first time. I was puking most of trip, and I looked horrible. There’s a photo of me in an oversized sweatshirt with no makeup posing next to Sleeping Beauty and I look pale and malnourished. We went to the French restaurant in Epcot where a little animatronic Remi the rat from Ratatouille goes table to table. I was so nauseous that I wanted nothing to do with him, telling my mom to get him away from me, leaving both the server and Remi offended. Once again, we paid good money for that trip so I pushed through and made it through the rest of the trip. Surprisingly I have gone back since then. But not without me prepping weeks ahead of time by taking immunity supplements. I haven’t puked there since I was younger, but I wouldn’t rule it out for the future. It was Walt Disney himself that said, “all our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Also, he was like, a nazi, right?
While I may not be obsessed with Disney World like my family is, as a kid I was obsessed with Disney Channel. From ages seven to sixteen I wanted to be on Disney Channel so goddamn bad. I’d watch Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, Phil of the Future, Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and think, yeah, I could do that. I’d see Hillary Duff with that neon sparkling wand outlining Mickey’s ears and think to myself, shit, there is nothing more glamorous. “You’re watching Disney channel!” I wanted it. My love for television started early in life and I absolutely romanticized what I saw on my screen. I’ve always leaned on television to make me feel better because it was a distraction from real life. I As long as I had my TV shows I was happy.
To be honest it actually first started with Nickelodeon. I was obsessed with The Amanda Show and I truly believe she was the Carol Burnett of my generation. I still own all three seasons on DVD and almost every sketch holds up (except for the ones that are bordering on racist, oops, it was a different time). This show was such a source of comfort for me as a kid and I credit it with me wanting to get into comedy later in life. I loved everything about Amanda Bynes to the point where it was confusing to me. Was I just a huge fan? Did I have crush on her? Or did I just want to be her? What I do know for sure is that she deserved better than how we as a society treated her when she had a mental breakdown. Even as a kid I just really wanted to be doing what she was doing. At that age I was kind of shy, so I kept my longing a secret, and settled for performing my own concerts and impressions alone in my room. The first sketch I ever wrote was my own version of Ask Ashley, an All That original featuring Amanda. She acts as an advice columnist named Ashley who answers letters from people in need. She’d start reading the letter and say, “Dear Ashley, Thaaaaat’s me!” Then she would absolutely roast the person who wrote it. It was peak comedy. I wish I still had that first Ask Ashley sketch I wrote in my secret password journal (remember those? my password was “neopets”) at seven years old, I bet it’s good enough to pitch to Lorne.
As I got older, I found more shows and comedy-related things to consume. Whose Line is it Anyway? was a big deal in my family. I saw a tweet once that had a photo of Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Styles with the caption, “these were the men who raised me.” No offense to my own parents, but I also believe that to be true. I would die for all three of them. I I loved sitting on the floor of the living room watching them improvise and hearing my dad crack up saying “there’s no way they’re making this up on the spot.” He’d say the same thing later when I brought him to improv shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Once Saturday Night Live found its way into my life I was a goner. At fourteen years old I told myself, yep, I’m going to be there one day, in whatever capacity I can. I would mysteriously disappear from parties on Saturday nights my college roommates and I hosted to go catch at least Weekend Update. I was insecure about my goals and tried to keep my obsessions to a minimum when possible. But if someone else also wanted to talk about Mean Girls, Kristen Wiig, or The Lonely Island I couldn’t contain my excitement.
In 2006, High School Musical was everything. I had just started middle school when it came out and immediately fell in love with Troy Bolton, AKA Zac Efron. You better believe I had that same “T” necklace from Claire’s that he gave to Gabriella in the sequel. Everyone was obsessed with the movie and the music and learning all the choreography. My volleyball team that year barely practiced, we just aggressively dragged our sneakers around the gym floor trying to recreate the squeaking sounds from the opening musical number “Get Your Head in The Game.” And then came the days that the Jonas Brothers, Miley, Selena and Demi were running the show and while I was maybe a little old to still be watching I didn’t care. Wizards of Waverly Place was funny, and you can fight me if you don’t agree. And the Disney Channel Original Movies? Forget it. I dare you to re-watch Zenon Girl of the 21st Century and tell me it doesn’t deserve an Oscar. I still watch all the Halloweentown movies every October and feel sexually attracted to both Calabar and his son (It’s the Pete Davidson effect, I wanted to fix them!)
I think it’s important for me to point out that I had no acting experience, so I don’t know why I thought I was likely going to get cast as the star of my own Disney Channel series. Part of this urge to perform came from wanting to be in control. Most of my life at that point had been planned out for me, and I participated in all the activities my parents wanted me to be in. Performing wasn’t one of them. Unless you count playing the clarinet in middle school band or acting out weird characters for an audience of just my older sister. I played a different sport every season of the year, meaning I never had the time to sign up for school plays or musicals. But I wanted to, so badly. I stuck to sports because I knew that would make my parents happy. I’m not mad I played a bunch of sports, but I do wish I done at least one of the school plays. Instead, I had to witness a girl at my school dye her brown hair a shade of reddish purple thinking it would make her performance in the role of Annie more realistic. I sat there with my natural red hair through gritted teeth thinking my version of “Maybe” would have been better.
When I was in eighth grade there was a Disney Channel open casting call in my town. It was at a hotel about fifteen minutes away and my mom would not let me go. I was livid. Two of my friends went and I will never forgive them. Not that they got callbacks, but still, how dare they steal my dream. In retrospect, I’m not totally sure this was a legitimate casting call for Disney Channel. It was probably one of those fake modeling scouts that harass girls at the mall when they walk out of Pac Sun. What Disney Channel casting executive was like, “We must travel to Bloomfield Hills Michigan to find our next star!” Yet there I was, at age twelve thinking I was the next girl to be cast as a sassy airhead best friend with queer undertones who always wears obnoxious fedoras and has a catch phrase like “Blingalicious!” or the culturally inappropriate “Ay, caramba!” The lead would of course be played by a better known, prettier, thinner pre-teen who happens to be the younger sibling/cousin/next door neighbor of some actress like Anne Hathaway. The love interest is a blonde guy with a baby face and floppy hair who is actually twenty-two years old but was hired because he isn’t legally required to have an on-set tutor, leaving more money in the budget for the PA’s (lololol just kidding it’s going into the executive’s pockets!) The plot of the show? Honestly it doesn’t matter. Someone has a secret, mischief ensues, no kissing is ever shown. Which again, is for the best since that guy is an adult and everyone else is a child. As a fan, I would have watched the shit out of that show. Probably while wearing a matching zebra print fedora of the character I had been born to play but the part went to the girl from another midwestern town instead.
My life really changed when the Jonas Brothers launched their career via Disney Channel. I was so ugly in 2008 because all I cared about were the Jonas Brothers. They took over my life and I really let myself go. Don’t even bring up Camp Rock to me. A disaster of a film, yet an iconic moment in culture. When it came out I was low-key offended that I wasn’t offered the lead role of Mitchie. When I say I was obsessed with JB, I don’t think you really can understand just how obsessed I mean. It came fast and hard. Like that guy in college, I tried to hook up with who finished before anyone’s clothes were even off. Nick Jonas wouldn’t have done that to me. I spent a full week in eighth grade hiding a Walkman radio wire in my shirt so that I could listen to channel 95.5 nonstop and find an excuse to leave class whenever they were giving away Jonas Brothers concert tickets. My friends and I ate lunch in the bathroom so that we could listen to the radio without getting in trouble. We’d all pull out our razor flip phones, and chocolate slide phones and sidekicks and whatever else we all had before iPhones and call in to be the lucky winner who would be offered front row seats. We didn’t win. But thankfully I still got tickets. My friend’s dad got us meet and greet backstage passes through his work. I couldn’t contain my excitement. Not only was I going to the When You Look Me in The Eyes Tour at the Fox Theater in Detroit, but I was going to MEET the Jonas Brothers. Someone’s parents rented our group of twelve Jonas horny preteen girls a pink hummer limo to take us to the concert. I’m aware this screams privilege, and I think even that night I realized it was excessive, but parking downtown would have been a nightmare, OK. Unfortunately, I ended up riding in a pink hummer limo at least three times as a teen I do think it contributed to some of my toxic tendencies. Anyway! I was determined to dress to impress, so I wore my new red skinny jeans, a trendy top from Urban Outfitters, black converse, and a guitar pick necklace. I looked incredible.*
*no, I didn’t.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about anything in my life. Somehow, looking at this atrocious photo of me as a twelve-year-old with braces, posing with boys I loved who were too old for me, I know that I peaked in that moment. I’ll never be happier than I was meeting the Jonas Brothers. Decades from now on my death bed my grandchildren will ask me what my most cherished memory is. Getting married? Watching my own children grow up? Achieving every career goal I’ve set out for myself? No. It will be seeing Nick Jonas’s butt crack.
Let me explain. As we waited in line to get our photo I was shaking with anxiety. And why? What did I actually think was going to happen? Nick was going to propose to me? I was sad because earlier security had confiscated the gifts we had brought for them. But I still had the poster I had made that said “you are the cheese to my macaroni” a classic quote from the indie film Juno about teenage pregnancy. A reference most likely lost on the boys who stood before me. As I approached them Kevin held out his hand and said “Hi, I’m Kevin” I shook it and said nothing. Then I stood next to both him and Joe as the photographer took photos. Joe said, “Hey how’s it going?” I managed to say “good,” but my voice was quivering. After the photo I turned back to Kevin and gave him a hug. I did the same with Joe and Nick. More was probably said but I don’t remember. They were very nice, but also it was super quick. They had a lot of fans to get through. As we parted ways my friends and I turned around for one more glance at the loves of our lives. Just then, Nick had bent down to hug a little girl and in doing so, his pants rode down a bit in the buttock area. Suddenly, we saw it. Peeking out from his extra skinny jeans was the top of his ass crack. Hot, I know. We gasped and then laughed. As we walked away my friend yelled out, “Oh my god, it’s Nick Jonas’s coin slot!” He turned towards us and we bolted the other way. I’ve never felt more alive.
I’ve been to at least nine Jonas Brothers concerts and I stand by it. I consumed any content they were a part of. My bedroom once looked like someone projectile vomited posters of Nick, Joe and Kevin all over the walls. The fact that they were connected to Disney Channel made my obsession a million times worse. When they “broke up” (lol chill, you guys are brothers) I was in college and had moved on, but it still hurt. When they finally reunited a couple years ago for a comeback tour I immediately bought tickets to their show at Madison Square Garden. Listening to their music brings me nostalgic joy. At times has their music briefly cured me? Maybe. Is that embarrassing to admit? NO. Those songs fucking slap.
When Nick Jonas last hosted SNL I was super chill about it. I don’t really interact with the host or musical guest in my role there, but I saw him in the hallway multiple times and watched him rehearse all week. I’ve interacted with a lot of celebrities in my career, and I’m always very professional. It takes a lot for me to get starstruck these days. But in that moment, I was thirteen again, and all I could think was, “I’ve seen this man’s butt crack.” Hot.
Sadly, my dream of becoming the next Disney Channel Star never came true. Although I like to think it’s never too late. Maybe one day I’ll play the sassy divorced mom to a teenage daughter that is a social media influencer by day and a werewolf by night. And you bet your ass I’ll be wearing a fedora in every scene because that shit is in my contract. No matter what, I’m grateful that spending so much time sitting in front of the TV helped steer me towards a career in entertainment. I have a lot of goals I have yet to accomplish, but when it comes down to it, I just want to make a show one day that acts as an escape from reality. Something that can help someone the way my favorite shows helped me. Even if just for a little.
Disney, if you’re reading this, expect my social media werewolf pilot ASAP.