In 2014, Rowan Blanchard rose to fame on the hit Disney show Girl Meets World, a spinoff of the beloved Boy Meets World. Over the next few years, Blanchard played Riley Matthews, the daughter of Corey and Topanga, whose love story was one of the biggest storylines of Boy Meets World. Blanchard was just 13 years old when she landed the role, and she quickly endeared herself to audiences all over the world.
Blanchard didn’t waste time finding her stride as a celebrity. Soon, she became known not just for her role on Girl Meets World but also for her activism, earning herself a reputation as a fierce feminist and a staunch activist for social justice. Making her career and public image all the more impressive is Blanchard’s youth — the actress was born on Oct. 14, 2001, placing her firmly in Generation Z.
The Disney Channel star has come a long way over the years, growing up in front of our very eyes. Here’s a closer look at Rowan Blanchard’s stunning transformation.
Rowan Blanchard started her acting career at the age of 5
Even though she didn’t come to prominence until joining the cast of Girl Meets World, which also starred Sabrina Carpenter, Rowan Blanchard has been acting for a long time — most of her life, in fact. The actress got her start at the tender age of 5, telling Interview, "My life and acting weren’t separate things; they were always one."
In an interview with Cultured, Blanchard revealed that she started off doing TV commercials and pilots but it wasn’t long before she branched out. At the age of 7, she landed the role of Caitlin on the Disney Junior show Dance-A-Lot Robot, which she explained to Hollywood Chicago as a show that was meant to encourage kids to get up and dance while watching TV instead of just sitting still.
Blanchard’s first film role was at the age of 8 in 2010’s The Back-up Plan. The following year, she starred in Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World, which Blanchard called her first "major" project. Before landing the role of Rebecca Wilson in the film, Blanchard admitted that she wasn’t confident that she "could get such a big role," but the film proved that she was ready for meatier roles.
Rowan Blanchard wasn’t one of the "cool kids" in school
It’s hard to imagine someone who seems as effortlessly put-together as Rowan Blanchard as anything but beloved, but she wasn’t very popular growing up. She told Interview that, because she couldn’t sit with the "cool kids," she would "go read… under the slides" in middle school, saying that her only "friends were literary characters."
Blanchard felt so out of place in school that she began to actively avoid hanging out with girls, finding them "really scary and mean." It took some time, but she eventually learned to develop female friendships, which she considers to be a turning point in her life.
In an interview with PopSugar, Blanchard revealed that her problems growing up were worse than just not fitting in with the cool group. She said that she was actually bullied in elementary school because of her eyebrows. While she tried to tweeze them, Blanchard said that her mother wouldn’t let her touch them. Eventually, Blanchard grew to embrace her eyebrows, saying they’re "part of [her Arab] heritage."
Rowan Blanchard grew up on social media
Like most kids born in the 21st century, Rowan Blanchard is very much connected to social media and pretty much grew up online. The actress revealed to L’Officiel that she signed up for her first Tumblr account when she was just 9 years old. By the age of 10, she was on Instagram. At that age, Blanchard wasn’t thinking of garnering followers or becoming an influencer or even of advertising her brand. She told Net-a-Porter‘s The Edit that she saw social media as a place "to post about stuff that you like and care about."
Blanchard also used the internet to learn more about art and to explore her own artistry, telling C Magazine that as soon as her parents let her go online by herself she "was able to fall into these internet spirals of artists." Blanchard added that the internet is why Generation Z is so in the know when it comes to art, saying that their "online culture is based in aesthetic."
Rowan Blanchard came out as queer, but "isn’t interested in labels"
At the age of 14, Rowan Blanchard came out as queer, tweeting (via E! News), "Being queer to me just means not putting a label on sexuality — just existing." In another tweet, Blanchard said that she can see herself being with someone of any gender.
Blanchard isn’t trying to be edgy or evasive when she says she isn’t into labels. She told The Cut that she’s just a product of a generation that "isn’t interested in labels" and views them as inauthentic. Blanchard, for her part, simply isn’t interested in what she calls "heteronormative standards," adding that a lot of other people in the industry feel the same way but aren’t comfortable talking about it in public.
Blanchard’s rejection of those "heteronormative standards" extends to her personal sense of style, which she describes as "genderless." The actress told Seventeen that she likes wearing both feminine and masculine clothes, and even cut her hair short as she is "more comfortable" with an "androgynous" appearance.
Rowan Blanchard’s family kept her grounded as she became famous
Growing up in the spotlight would be enough to turn the head of any young star, but Rowan Blanchard has kept her feet firmly planted on the ground. The actress is remarkably down to earth and credits her home life with keeping her from getting too caught up with the Hollywood lifestyle. As Blanchard told W, she’s just an ordinary young woman whose family treats her just like anyone else. "When I go home at night, my job is not important in my house," she said. Blanchard thinks of acting as a job like any other, comparing it to her sister’s dreams of being a trauma surgeon and her brother’s love of drawing anime.
The Blanchards are "not a Hollywood family," said the actress, who added that acting is just one of the many things that she’s into and "not any better than" the things her sister is into. The biggest difference, said Blanchard, is that her job requires her to be away from home a lot. Other than that, though, the fact that she’s a successful actress is "just not that special" to her or to her family.
Rowan Blanchard took charge of her own education
Growing up on camera didn’t leave Rowan Blanchard a lot of free time, but she used what time she could find to further her own education. The actress revealed that she learned a lot about social justice issues from the internet, telling W that her parents and teachers "weren’t teaching me about intersectional feminism." To fill the gaps in her knowledge, she turned to social media and learned about prominent activists like Malcolm X and Angela Davis.
While learning from others online has been a critical part of her education, Blanchard also turns to more traditional resources to learn more, telling L’Officiel that reading books "saved" her. The actress called Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and Hilton Als’ White Girls "necessary texts for living." In an interview with Teen Vogue, Blanchard revealed more of her favorite authors, saying that reading bell hooks and Audre Lorde helped her learn more about intersectional feminism.
Rowan Blanchard actively sought out older mentors to help her grow
Rowan Blanchard’s growth both as an actress and as a person has been guided by some pretty influential figures. The actress has sought out older women who can help mentor her. As the oldest child of her family, Blanchard has spent her life trying to be a good role model for her younger siblings but, as she told Time, she "need[s] older siblings, too" and "adopted some." Blanchard said that her "many older mentors" have "been super helpful" in helping her navigate her life.
The actress told Nylon that these mentors include actresses like Captain Marvel star Brie Larson and Danielle Fishel, who played her mom, Topanga, on Girl Meets World. Blanchard revealed that Larson and Fishel regularly give her advice and look out for her.
Another big inspiration is director Ava DuVernay, who Blanchard shadowed on the set of the 2018 film A Wrinkle in Time. Blanchard said that she learned a lot from DuVernay during her time on set, telling TooFab that she will "be forever grateful" to DuVernay for giving her "the courage to ask questions and to demand space on a set."
Rowan Blanchard gained "more freedom" when Girl Meets World was canceled
Fans were disappointed when Girl Meets World ended after three seasons in 2017, but the end of the show turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Rowan Blanchard, who had been reluctant to appear on the show in the first place. She told Net-a-Porter‘s The Edit (via the Brampton Guardian) that she was afraid being on Disney would harm her chances of becoming "a serious film actress."
While Blanchard ended up falling in love with Girl Meets World and her character on the show, the Disney series coming to an end liberated the young actress and gave her the opportunity to explore more avenues. In an interview with Nylon, Blanchard said that she found being on the Disney Channel "stressful."
Although Disney never pressured her to tone down her outspoken manner, Blanchard said she felt like she had "more freedom" to be herself and to be vocal about issues that matter to her after the show wrapped.
Rowan Blanchard released her first book at 16
Another one of Rowan Blanchard’s major accomplishments is her writing career. She released her first book when she was just 16 years old. The 2018 book, titled Still Here, includes contributions selected by Blanchard by people she finds inspirational like poet Rupi Kaur and writer Jenny Zhang, as well as art and essays from Blanchard herself. Blanchard said the book is about "growing up," but not necessarily about being a teenager. "There is something so quintessential about the feeling of growing up, and I think that crosses all ages some times," she told W.
The book helped Blanchard explore her own writing style, saying that the experience of putting Still Here together was "very interesting," albeit filled with "anxiety" to the point that Blanchard was tempted to cut her own pieces from the book. Fortunately, she found the strength to share her voice with others.
Blanchard has shared that she intends to continue her writing career, noting that she’d like to branch out into script writing. She views script writing as the ultimate catharsis, and the best way "to work through my complicated feelings," as she told Cultured.
Rowan Blanchard stopped calling herself an activist
Rowan Blanchard has developed a reputation as an activist over the years, but, in 2018, she revealed to L’Officiel that, after a while, the label didn’t sit quite right with her. Blanchard explained that many of the people who are labeled as activists are simply fighting for survival, such as trans people fighting for trans rights. This, said Blanchard, made it difficult for her to be truly comfortable with being called an activist. She asked, "Who gets to decide to be an activist, and who just has to be one because they’re forced to fight?"
By 2019, Blanchard rejected the label completely. Instead, she told Elle that she just thinks of herself as an actress who likes to read. Blanchard admitted that she’s intelligent and informed, but is "not claiming the mantle of activism anymore." While she still wants to work towards change, she doesn’t feel like the title fits her and her broad range of goals anymore, especially because, as an actress, Blanchard believes she is "playing this very mainstream game."
Rowan Blanchard struggled with depression
While some people may keep their mental health struggles to themselves, that’s simply not Rowan Blanchard’s style. The actress has been candid about her depression, opening up about it in an Instagram post when she was 14. "I realized that instead of rejecting and ostracizing these teenage feelings (human feelings), I can learn to love the intensity of them and know that everything is momentary," wrote Blanchard.
In 2018, the actress told Time that she was frustrated with how the media tried to sensationalize her depression at the same time that she was trying to normalize mental health. That being said, Blanchard recognized that her visibility might have been what was needed to "shine more light on" the issue of teenagers and depression and is grateful for that opportunity.
Blanchard revealed that she learned to deal with her depression by talking to her friends and seeking therapy, saying that being open about it with her loved ones instead of keeping mental health a "dirty little secret" has helped.
If you’re wondering if you may have depression, here are depression symptoms you should know about.
Rowan Blanchard shared that she feels "insecure"
Rowan Blanchard’s articulate speech and passion for social justice often make it seem like she’s older than she actually is. She may be quite mature for her age and carry herself with a cool confidence, but, like most of us, Blanchard doesn’t actually have all the answers. Hardly anyone gets through adolescence unscathed, and Blanchard is no exception to that apparent rule. In 2018, Blanchard admitted to PopSugar that being a teenager is rough for famous stars, too. "I definitely still feel insecure," she said of her adolescence.
That being said, Rowan also added that she thinks being insecure is just par for the course when you’re a teen, saying she doesn’t "understand" online movements trying to put a positive spin on being a teenager. The teenage years, said Blanchard, have traditionally been marked by insecurity, and it’s not something that she is seeking to change or reframe because she thinks being a teenager is supposed to be difficult and always will be.
Rowan Blanchard made plans to go to college
Rowan Blanchard has already built up a resume that would be impressive for someone twice her age. Even though she’s clearly well-educated and has a successful career under her belt, she still wants to go to college one day, and she shared as much when she spoke with Elle in 2019. While college is definitely in her future, she said she needs to take some time to figure out the details. Blanchard revealed that she wants to go to school in New York and that she’d "like to study something arts related, like art history" and "minor in something really academic" like philosophy or science.
In an interview with Cultured, Blanchard opened up about her future NYC plans, saying that she loves "the image of the busy New York woman," citing Audrey Hepburn‘s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Blanchard added that she’s charmed by the idea of a "crazy" and "glamorous" NYC lifestyle, which makes the bustling city perfect for her future education goals.
Rowan Blanchard opened up about this major goal for her future
Rowan Blanchard is young and has a long, vibrant career ahead of her. She’s not just looking to act, though, or even to act while she continues writing. The former Girl Meets World star has her eyes set on a directing career. When she was younger, it wasn’t something she ever thought she’d be able to do because she’s a woman. She told W that she didn’t realize that directing was "available" as a career option so she didn’t "even think about wanting" to explore it.
Blanchard finally let herself dream about directing and developed a vision of the kinds of movies she wants to create. Like Blanchard herself, the films she loves are not "typical," as she told Coveteur. "I want to just make really weird stuff," she said, adding that she loves nonlinear films. Blanchard doesn’t want to tell stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Instead, she "would rather make something that trails."
We can’t wait to see what Rowan Blanchard has in store for the entertainment industry.