Every generation has a group of kids they feel like they grew up with because they watched them on TV. For me, it's the Disney and Nickelodeon "class" of 1995 to 2005. They were examples of how to always feel embarrassed by my parents (That's So Raven), crimp certain parts of my hair and not others (Lizzie McGuire) and talk in loud, obnoxious voices (All That). So with Raven-Symone's impending return to TV on ABC Family's State of Georgia, I'm taking a look at where my former Disney and Nick role models are nowadays, and assigning superlatives to their adult lives and careers.
Most Uplifting: Hilary Duff
Lizzie McGuire -- Duff's Disney alter-ego -- was my ultimate when I was younger. She was funny and sweet, and she had two amazing best friends and a supportive family. She was just a good kid. That's kind of exactly how Hilary Duff turned out. Her smartest move is probably not being crazy-involved with Hollywood as far as acting goes any more. She's had her guest spots on Gossip Girl and Community, but she also has books, a clothing line, a perfume and does a ton of philanthropy work. Most uplifting of all? She's married (!) and seems very happy.
Most Depressing: Lalaine
Lalaine was Lizzie's BFF Miranda on Lizzie McGuire -- a little off-beat and certainly the most insecure of the Lizzie characters -- but she was a promising comedic actress considering her age. Then she mysteriously disappeared from the Lizzie franchise in the last season, and wasn't even in the movie. So what's up with Lalaine? Well, she was arrested in 2007 for possession of crystal meth. That's pretty much as bad as it gets. Then in April 2010, she joined a band called Vanity Theft but was dropped from the group a year later. And that's the last we've heard from her.
Most Determined to Stay Normal: Adam Lamberg
Adam Lamberg had the most normal adolescent-to-adult transition out of all of the '95-'05ers. He's been in two films since the Lizzie McGuire era, but we love most is that he went to college -- Lamberg studied Geography at UC Berkeley. He's the rare proof amongst these Disney stars that even if you
are forced into acting by your parents enjoy acting at a young age, doesn't mean you have to continue doing it forever.
Most Consistent: Jake Thompson
Who would've thought the annoying little brother from Lizzie McGuire - whose performance on the show consisted of running around, screaming and destroying things - would have the most steady acting career of all the Lizzie alums? He's guest-starred on basically every show ever, including Ghost Whisperer, ER, Cold Case, Lie to Me, CSI: Miami, Rules of Engagement, and House, where he delivered a beautifully understated performance. Most recently, he's been on The Whole Truth and Criminal Minds.
Most Successful: Raven-Symone
Raven was actually a shoo-in for this superlative. Firstly, she's been working every single year of her life since she was two years old and on The Cosby Show. After Cosby, Raven did TV (namely That's So Raven), movies, music, voice acting, theater and dance. Now she's doing State of Georgia. But secondly -- and most importantly -- she's Most Successful because her self-confidence has remained intact. For instance, Raven had a lot of weight gain and loss over the past few years, but she's been quoted saying that she thought she looked awesome at all her different sizes. Considering she's a veteran of the Disney child-star factory, that's an amazing attitude.
Most Likely to Hang Out with Lalaine: Orlando Brown
Brown played Raven's best friend Eddie on That's So Raven. Eddie played basketball, wanted to be a rapper, couldn't settle on one hairstyle and was always saying these stupid catchphrases. Brown didn't see much success after Raven -- there was a short-lived music career as well as a couple TV movies -- but the most recent news we found about him was his 2007 arrest after police found marijuana in his car. Of course, he pulled our favorite celebrity move and claimed it wasn't his. That's so Eddie.
Most Desperate: Kyle Massey
Kyle played Raven's younger brother in That's So Raven, and he seemed pretty harmless then. He was a funny little dude that played off of Raven well enough -- a lot like Rico Rodriguez (Manny) on Modern Family. But there's a certain art to staying in the limelight after you're a child star from a cancelled spinoff (Cory in the House) with no discernable talents but still somehow need to make money. Kyle has mastered that art. The first step was appearing on Bachelor Pad (albeit briefly), then competing on Dancing With the Stars and now he's going to be on Bristol Palin's new reality show, in which they live together. Yikes.
Most Changed: Shia LaBeouf
If you didn't witness Shia LaBeouf's career as a youngster, you probably have no idea why his career trajectory has seemed so strange to us who have. He first starred in a TV movie called Tru Confessions, in which he played (quite convincingly) a developmentally disabled teen. Then he played a mischievous dork in Even Stevens, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. It's not that he seemed one-note; it's that if I had to peg one child star Steven Spielberg would see potential in as an action star, it wouldn't have been Shia. Now, he's not only the star of the Transformers franchise, he doesn't really do comedy at all anymore - see New York, I Love You and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps for reference. Also, Shia's had his fair share of trouble concerning public intoxication, and he even dated indie darling Carey Mulligan. He's not exactly a dork any more.
Most Overachieving: Christy Carlson Romano
She was the perfect pissed-off sister to Shia LaBeouf's out-of-control younger brother on Even Stevens, and she did good work voicing Kim in Kim Possible. Where did she go from there? Broadway. She was in Parade, then she was (the youngest ever) Belle in Beauty and the Beast and then she appeared in Avenue Q and an off-Broadway show called White's Lies. She's still in occasional movies and appears on TV, but we give her credit for proving her acting chops on Broadway, a place where you can't fake it.
Luckiest: Kenan Thompson
I personally believe there are about a billion people funnier than Kenan Thompson, and that's why I consider him lucky. While being sarcastic and shouting all of his lines worked when he was on All That and Kenan & Kel, it's beyond tired on Saturday Night Live. And it's likely his roles on Nickelodeon that led to his SNL casting. What do we like in our SNL players? Versatility -- see Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, etc. What doesn't he have? Versatility. Side note: why isn't Amanda Bynes a regular on SNL?
Most Wasteful: Kel Mitchell
So Kel Mitchell filed for bankruptcy this year. He's not wasteful just because of the money thing -- he had a lot of projects going on that seem to have just fallen apart. He acted most notably in Honeydripper, the period musical drama starring Danny Glover in 2007. He wrote, produced and starred in his own film, Chicago Pulaski Jones. He appeared in theater productions in Detroit. He directed Colby O'Donnis' video for "Let You Go." He even spoofed songs like "Love in this Club" on YouTube just for fun. And now he's broke.
Most Potential: Amanda Bynes
I wanted to cry for like a week when Amanda Bynes said she was quitting acting. First of all, she was brilliant on All That and The Amanda Show -- by far the strongest comedic actress on Nickelodeon during the '95-'05 era. And she made the transition to adult comedic actress seamlessly -- never taking herself too seriously and always playing light, funny roles in movies like What A Girl Wants, She's the Man and Hairspray. And then of course, there was her latest turn as the holier-than-thou high school student Marianne in Easy A. Aside from her TMI-style tweets, here's hoping she doesn't quit on us ever again.
Most Unexciting: Drake Bell
Drake Bell was always boring. The most exciting thing about him is that he was apparently the dude Vanessa Hudgens was sending her naked pictures to all those years ago. He's pretty much sticking to the small-time actor mold -- after starring in Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh with Josh Peck, he did a couple movies no one saw (mostly associated with Nickelodeon or Disney), and now he plays guitar and wears ironic hipster glasses and has a beard. Whatever.
Most Improved: Josh Peck
Peck started out as the foil to Drake Bell on Drake & Josh -- overweight, awkward, and dopey. Then he lost, like, 5,000 pounds and landed the lead role in The Wackness, an indie film about a kid who deals drugs to his psychiatrist. It was perfect casting -- he nailed the role as the awkward stoner hopelessly in love with Olivia Thirlby's character. His next unpredictable project: a remake of Red Dawn.
Most Visible: Nick Cannon
You're an idiot if you thought Nick Cannon was ever going to go away. It's not that he's incredibly talented -- he is talented, but not like Bynes or LaBeouf -- it's that he's loud, goofy, just has to be heard and seems incapable of functioning without the spotlight. So he's become a genius at self-promotion. After All That and The Nick Cannon Show, Nick transitioned into movies (no luck there - hello, Drumline) and then back to comedy with MTV's Wild N' Out. Now he does music, radio, comedy, serves as a TeenNick executive and hosts America's Got Talent. Nothing he ever does is exactly high quality -- it's that he just keeps doing it. And yes, most notably, he married Mariah Carey and they just had twins. How's that for staying in the public eye?
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