Former Disney Star Alyson Stoner Is Carving A New Path For Herself & Her Empowering Single "Woman" Is Proof — VIDEO
If you were a millennial growing up in the '90s, you might recognize this former Disney star's face, but you may not be able to place her. The now 22-year-old Alyson Stoner had an impressive body of work for a youngster: the acting/singing/dancing triple threat shared the spotlight with Missy Elliott in three of her music videos, appeared in Step Up as Channing Tatum's little sister, and rocked out alongside Demi Lovato in Disney Channel's Camp Rock franchise. Still, unlike co-stars Tatum and Lovato, who have skyrocketed to fame since their initial projects, Stoner has stayed mostly out of the spotlight.
But you don't have to look far to see that it's not for lack of talent — a quick scan of her YouTube channel, TheRealAlysonStoner, reveals her jaw-dropping dance moves and impressive musical covers. It appears to me that in many ways it's simply the luck of the draw, and the fickle nature of the industry, that determines who is elevated to Channing Tatum levels of fame. For Stoner, however, a lack of super-sized fame has given her the ability to pursue her passions in her own way — and it's hard not to want to root for this young woman.
Though she grew up in the spotlight, Stoner is very aware of the effect that it has had on her perception: "Since I worked consistently growing up, there's sort of this expectation and label that you're going to make it no matter what, and that you're special," Stoner says. "Then you grow up and realize that there's no distinction between you and the million other people that could and will take the roles that you thought you were meant for. It's sobering and humbling... and appropriately so. It's a very healthy way to see yourself."
As an actress, singer, and dancer, she thinks about herself a lot, but not in the way that you might expect a young Hollywood actor to do. She is constantly self-reflecting, looking to grow and expand, not only as an artist, but as a human being. (At the end of the interview, she mentions that she's about to embark on a volunteer trip, which is impressive for any 22-year-old.)
"You have this crossroads where, in order to get to the other side and make better art, you have to see why you're in the industry. Do you actually like your craft, or is this all you've ever known? I finally realized that I was in love with performing for the sake of performing," says Stoner. Her most recent venture is her upcoming album, which has already released a single (and dance-heavy music video),"Woman." Though the title may read like a feminist anthem, to Stoner, the song is more personal than social:
"I recognized after reaching a plateau in 15 years in the industry that I was waiting on the world to give me permission to live my dreams or move forward," says Stoner of writing the new song. "I realized that my biggest obstacle was myself. When it came to making the music video I [initially] imagined a very typical Dove beauty campaign, celebrating every kind of woman on every walk of life, but then I realized an even stronger statement would be to embody the message for myself in a one woman music video."
It's hard not to admire Stoner's resilience and willingness to challenge what she has always done. Perhaps it's because she knows better than many about the challenges that come with the industry.
"There are probably 2,000 submissions per role. Fifty people go on the audition. Ten people get a callback. Three go to network, and one person gets the role. And sometimes they're recast or fired," says Stoner about the reality that TV actors face all the time. Fortunately, she's found a way to cope: a support system of other actors and performers, some of whom she meets weekly for a "family dinner."
"A lot of 18 to 25 year olds who get to L.A. think they are ready to conquer the industry within a couple of months, and then reality hits us, and we realize we don't have any roots. Throughout this season of discomfort [an industry family] opened their home to us, and it [became] a weekly gathering," the actress tells me. One important part of this dinner is giving back: "We do this thing called first meal, where whoever has this giving key takes a meal to someone in need... It's just about giving of yourself and making it a priority, because L.A. can be so self-focused and self-driven."
Stoner may not have a Grammy, but in many ways, this girl is doing Hollywood right. Check out her new music video for "Woman" below:
Image: Stephen Busken