When kids get a gig on the Disney Channel, they have pretty much secured their way to total stardom. Selena Gomez, Shia Lebeouf, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Raven Symone, Britney Spears, Zac Efron, and Hilary Duff are just a few of the many household names who received their first roles on the famed network and have since gone on to take over the television world. Disney Channel completely catapults the careers of its young stars.
However, even after acquiring major success, some young celebrities decided that a lifetime of a stardom simply wasn’t for them. After experiencing a majorly prosperous profession as only a kid — a success that even some people won’t ever experience as an adult — they were ready to take on a new journey into the job market. In most cases, their career hadn’t even crashed. They just decided to steer clear of the spotlight and, instead, find a 9 to 5 for a variety of reasons.
These are former Disney Channel stars who work regular jobs now.
Jennifer Stone’s career took a new direction when she was diagnosed with diabetes
Selena Gomez’s wacky BFF Harper on Wizards of Waverly Place taught us to unapologetically be ourselves, wherever that happens to take us in life. The actor herself lives a pretty similar story. From performing front and center on the hit show to working the front lines in a California emergency room, former Disney Channel star Jennifer Stone’s career took quite a curve after she decided to follow her new found passion as a nurse.
Following a diagnosis with type 1 diabetes after wrapping up on Wizards of Waverly Place, Stone enrolled in college like the rest of her family. "I didn’t want to be the only one who hadn’t gotten a degree," she admitted to Beyond Type 1. "I also wanted to know if acting was something I really wanted to keep doing because it’s all I’ve known."
As if growing up on camera wasn’t daunting enough, Stone decided to jump into the new role of nursing during a worldwide pandemic. "As a new grad in the ER, some days I feel like I’m getting the hang of things and other days I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water," she posted on Instagram in July 2020. If she never would have posted this confession online, people probably would have never known that she ever had any self doubt whatsoever. After all, she was a successful performer.
Dylan Sprouse is now making mead
When Dylan Sprouse wrapped up a starring role with his twin brother on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck in 2011 (pictured above), he decided to get a degree from New York University and see where it took him, and it ended up leading him to brew his own mead.
As an underage college student, the only way Sprouse was able to consume alcohol was if he made it himself, and he quickly found that he had a love for creating his own booze. "I got a fake ID, I bought [every mead I could], I tasted them, and I disliked a lot of them," he explained to Forbes.
When he graduated, Sprouse didn’t know what to do next while watching his twin receive more acting roles on his own. On top of that, he didn’t even know if he "wanted to return back to acting." So, that’s when he decided to his hobby into a vocation. After working at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, Sprouse officially opened his own business, All-Wise Meadery in New York City in 2018. Unfortunately, the former Disney Channel star had difficulties being taken seriously at first, since many thought he was simply a celebrity with an endorsement deal. "I have to explain a lot to people that this is my business, and I’m here every day I can be," he told Forbes. "That comes as a surprise to a lot of people."
Kay Panabaker loved acting and now loves animals
If you ever wondered what happened to the girl who starred in the 2006 Disney Channel original movie Read It and Weep, you’re not alone. One Twitter user tweeted at the former actress, asking why she had seemingly disappeared from our television screens. Turns out, she decided to become a zookeeper. It only makes sense when you think about it after having navigated the chaotic jungle which is show business as just a kid. "I just lost the love for acting," former actor Kay Panabaker replied. "Life is short, we spend so much time at work, gotta do what you love."
However, Disney has never been far from her life. Mickey Mouse gave her a successful childhood career, and now she gets to take care of many more animals as a zookeeper at — where else, but — Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
It seems like the girl who also appeared as Pim’s enemy in Phil of the Future should have known she would eventually end up working around wild animals (and we don’t just mean casting directors). In 2008, "I was supposed to be in Oregon shooting a movie whose funding had fallen through," Panabaker later reminisced. "My mom wanted to get my mind off of the anxiety and took me to Seaworld San Diego for a behind the scenes tour. I had no idea I would be a zookeeper myself 10 years later."
Tiffany Thornton Capaci’s most recent endeavor is in college recruiting
While the character Tawni from Sonny with a Chance loves the spotlight, the actress who plays her decided it was time to leave the Disney Channel behind. Since starring on the sitcom, former kid star Tiffany Thornton has been recruited to work at Champion Christian College — as a recruiter herself.
Since marrying her second husband in 2017 — Josiah Capaci, a youth pastor in Arkansas — Thornton has become extremely involved in his church and, though she hasn’t continued acting, still uses her singing skills quite often every Sunday (via People). Working at a local Christian college gets her involved every day of the week. "I absolutely love working here and seeing how God moves in the lives of these students," Tiffany gushed on Instagram. "Plus, they come to my house a few times a semester for a big get together where I make chicken spaghetti, salad and banana pudding for dessert." That’s always a plus!
All her school spirit has also led Tiffany to become a cheerleading coach for a second Christian school. You could say it all started with the simple song M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!
Adam Lamberg took a long detour behind the scenes
David "Gordo" Gordon was a straight-A student on Lizzie McGuire, and after the show ended in 2004, the actor who plays him seemed to know no differently. Actor Adam Lamberg went on to college to major in geography and even got his master’s degree, but he never lost his love for the arts. He simply decided to stay behind-the-scenes and got a gig as a development officer at the Irish Arts Center in New York City, which helps to portray Irish stories to the public.
"After a couple of early highs things have gotten tough and now I’m probably somewhere between the denial stage and the acceptance stage as to whether I still can/want to do this with my life," Lamberg revealed to fans on Tumblr after landing his new job (via Bustle). "We’ll see where it all goes," he added.
Things did go back to Gordo. After years out of acting, it was announced in 2019 that he would be joining the Lizzie McGuire reboot on Disney+. "I couldn’t imagine the series without him," co-star Hilary Duff said in a statement. "I can’t wait for fans to see what he’s up to 15 years later." Now he gets to join the Disney series once again to help continue the story of the McGuire family. It seems even more fitting since Lamberg’s dedicated his life to telling Irish stories. As Lizzie sings, this is what dreams are made of!
Steven Anthony Lawrence loves working with kids
Steven Anthony Lawrence still had the acting bug when he wrapped up his time as Bernard "Beans" Aranguren on Even Stevens in 2003. He landed a few small roles in some famous films shortly after, but ultimately dipped out of Hollywood and made a much different costume change. In addition to the handful of small roles he’s taken since Even Stevens ended, he was found working at a local mall as one of Santa’s helpers in 2015. Fans who saw him couldn’t help but freak (via Entertainment Tonight).
From the Disney Channel to the North Pole, Lawrence seemed to have a realization. His career had always been surrounded by kids. Instead of having his own, he began to share his knowledge to any kid of any age as an acting teacher. "Anybody that’s hungry," he told Business Insider. "I think it’s a big, big, big blessing to get kids to start learning technique at an early age instead of just making faces in front of the camera. We underestimate kids." Considering many young Disney stars have become millionaires, we’d have to agree.
Morgan York is now a young adult fiction writer
Former Disney Channel star Morgan York never envisioned herself acting when she became an adult. Unlike the active environmentalist Sarah, who she played on Hannah Montana, "I didn’t feel like I was doing anything meaningful," she admitted on her blog in 2012. Instead, York yearned for an outlet where she had more creative control and could impact people in the ways she thought were important. As if show business wasn’t tough enough, she decided to enter the world of the literary world and became a novelist.
As an added perk, being in control of the story she is telling helps York from being typecast for who she is in real life. As a writer, she can experience life as any character she wants. "And if I hadn’t acted, I’d be taking out a buttload of loans right now just to pay my way through college," she added. But it wasn’t just about being debt free. "I will never regret acting, but I will also never regret leaving. I had some of the best experiences of my life with my friends on the set," York admitted.
So, how did that author thing pan out? In July 2018, York blogged that she secured "a full-time job in publishing" and had completed "the first draft of a YA contemporary fantasy novel." She also launched a since-closed Patreon campaign that stated she had published work for "Queership, B&N Teen Blog, and YA Pride."
Ashlie Brillaut made her career comeback in court
Lizzie McGuire’s arch enemy Kate Sanders always seemed to have the perfect comeback. While the actress who played her didn’t end up acting after the show wrapped, it should only make sense that her character’s constant comebacks led her to a career in criminal defense instead.
Former Disney Channel star Ashlie Brillaut traded her scripts for textbooks when she began studying political science at California State University before hitting up law school in Colorado. Impressively, she passed the bar on her first try and went on to live out her new dream career in a courtroom, which is sort of like being front and center on a television set. "My ultimate goal is to work on issues related to criminal justice reform," she told MTV News back in 2015, and according to her LinkedIn profile, which shows that she went from student attorney to partner in two years, it looks like she made it.
And while a cutthroat career in entertainment probably prepared her for her "ultimate" role, it seems like she didn’t shake the acting bug for good. No, she didn’t sign on for the Lizzie McGuire reboot — sigh — but she did reprise the role (sort of) for the socially-distance May 2020 cast reunion/table read of the "I Want A Bra Episode."
Lauren Maltby went from spotlight to psychologist
In the 1999 Disney Channel original movie Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, mean girl Margie may have been able to add space girl to her name, but the actor who plays her is now able to add doctor to hers.
After filming three movies for the extraterrestrial franchise, former Disney Channel actress Lauren Maltby decided she should pursue a much different career path and no longer wanted to live among the stars — literally. Instead, she hit the books and received her Ph.D. to be the best in her new field. She is now a licensed psychologist in southern California, specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy for children and adolescents, which is much more of a mouthful than any of her lines in the movies. Maltby can also be found as an associate professor of pediatrics at UCLA.
Stepping out of the spotlight (and any unidentified lights coming out of the starry sky too for that matter) seems to have been the best decision for this successful psychologist.
Nick Spano left show business to start his own business
When Even Stevens ended, the eldest brother Donnie was headed to college. However, the actor who plays him had something a bit different on his mind. "I had some modest success early in my life as an actor, but was always drawn to business and real estate," former Disney Channel star Nick Spano explained to VoyageLA. So instead of staying in the spotlight, he started multiple businesses.
Coming from the fun-loving Stevens family, Spano even decided to start one business in particular as a way to get adults to play, and that’s when Re/creation Café was born. His idea was to combine food with "creative social experiences" like live music, paint nights, and pool parties.
At first, he was hosting his own events all over the city. However, "my goal was never to become a promoter," he told VoyageLA, so he purchased his own real estate in the middle of Los Angeles to make his booming business more permanent. "I wanted to build a real hub where people could come to connect through the types of experiences I was producing."
Having a wacky little brother like Louis on Even Stevens had to have inspired Spano to get in on this family fun in his real life. "This whole journey for me started by a sudden change in my perspective," Spano said. "And what I wanted in life."
Kevin Jonas went on to build something after his band broke up
After the Jonas Brothers broke up in 2013, oldest JoBro Kevin Jonas was beginning to build up his own business. The rock star traded in his electric guitar for an electric drill and began building homes in New Jersey, founding his own company called Jonas/Werner Fine Custom Homes (via Los Angeles Times).
With his two bandmates and brothers continuing to sing solo in the spotlight, it seemed odd that their oldest brother had seemingly disappeared from Disney Channel. Funny enough, fans had no idea that he was even interested in construction until he appeared as a contractor on the job during an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (pictured above right). The wives were as shocked to see him as we were. "[Singing] was my day job. Now I’m doing this," he explained to the reality stars.
While he built millions of dollars worth of houses across the east coast, drawing up floor plans must have not been as fun as writing songs. In 2019, the Jonas Brothers reunited and further solidified the oldest Jonas’ foundation for fame — a little construction humor. Get it?