Liberated From Hollywood w/ Alyson Stoner

Episode · 1 year ago

Liberated From Hollywood w/ Alyson Stoner


Like many child actors, Alyson has since spoken out about the intense conditions of her childhood and how she barely escaped the toddler-to-trainwreck pipeline. Today, she lives a pretty ordinary life. She’s furniture shopping for her new home, going to the farmers market on the weekends and researching what college she wants to take classes at. She’s even spoken up about falling in love with a woman for the first time. Today, we talk to Alyson about the effects her Hollywood career had on her childhood, her first crush, mental health, and starting fresh. 

Be sure to follow Alyson on IG and Tik Tok! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

Straw hut media. Allison stoner got her start and acting when she was just six years old. She got a Gig hosting Mike Super Short show on Disney channel. Then she went on to be the little girl with pigtails from missy Elliot's Music Video, but you probably know her from her roles in nostalgic movies like cheaper by the dozen, Camp Rock and the step up franchise. Like many child actors, Allison has since spoken out about the intense conditions of her childhood and how she barely escaped the toddler to train rack pipeline. Today she lives a pretty ordinary life. She's furniture shopping for her new home, going to the farmers market on the weekends and researching what college she wants to take classes at. She's even spoken up about falling in love with a woman. For the first time today we talked to Alison about the effects her Hollywood career had on her childhood, her first crush, mental health and starting fresh. Hey, I'm Alice stoner and this is pride. Well, I'm glad to have this opportunity because I would love to share how normal, in ordinary I am as a human being. Alison didn't have what most people would consider a normal childhood. As a young actor, she was under a lot of pressure and spent a lot of time on set, but the effects of being an actor were less geographical and more psychological. So I'm socialized differently as a child who has a public platform. I experience intimacy differently because I'm unable to be authentically myself in case someone ends up using facts about my personal life against me. There's a public safety aspect where I'm trained at a young age to perceive threats at a distance and close by, due to dealing with stalkers and maybe fans who are really well attended but don't understand that the psychological relationship they have with me is not the same one that I have with them. This is actually called a parasocial relationship. It's most common with celebrities and is when one party believes that they know the other party and have a level of intimacy, while the other party is completely unaware of their existence. And I had some unique media training where I had to learn how to neutralize my expressions so that someone didn't assume I was overly positive or overly negative toward them before actually having a genuine encounter. I would actually manipulate my facial expressions as I walked through a grocery store to make sure people didn't get mixed signals from me, to...

...the best of my ability. And that kind of preoccupation with self is not healthy. But also the fact that it's tied to your own sense of safety is, like, really mind blowing. And then, on top of it, we're viewed as divas if we choose not to engage with someone without any context of what else was going on in our lives. Maybe we have the flu, maybe we just lost a loved one, maybe we didn't get any sleep because working all night. And yet that might ruin our reputation and then ruin our higher ability. And you know the chain reaction ensues. As a public figure, you're expected to speak on world topics, whether or not you're an expert. For Alison, this meant giving her opinion on issues and debates that she had no previous knowledge of and, based on my answer, even if I'm ten years old, I might, you know, anger millions of people or ruin my career. There's also the physiological effects of chronic stress, of inconsistent schedules of enrolling yourself to portray another human who has different reactions than you authentically do. It can blur the lines of your understand ending of where your identity begins and ends, because you're now this amalgam of all the people you've audisitioned to play and in so doing, for example, the audition room, if you have a casting director who is watching you portray something, that's quite horrific. The irony is, if you do a positive job, you're rewarded, and people actually end up awarding you for your ability to access traumatizing states. As a young female going through puberty, I was asked to do certain things as a very young female that I now know are completely inappropriate, but at the time I just thought were, you know, prerequisite for me getting hired. But this is just the beginning. There are so many aspects that go into a career in Hollywood, like finances. No one is quite prepared for just how taxing and trying it is to break into the industry, let alone for families who have other kids and are trying to maybe relocate across the country, like my family did. It breaks families apart, it leads to divorce. That leads to abuse. And then there's this idea of child labor, which is something that most people don't really think about when they think of a kid actor, because Hollywood is all Glitz and Glamor right, and so this is its own strange version that is actually celebrated by the general public.

And we at home when we watched. We watch programming and we see young people. Hardly ever are we thinking, I wonder if they worked eighteen hours that day, overnight to get that shot, and I wonder what the set environment was like. Maybe they were exposed to, you know, extreme substance abuse. And yet I'm just watching them and laughing because they said the line in a funny way. So it's it's really complicated, and that's actually why I'm going back to school to study further and psychology, because I would like to be able to provide tools for people to to heal and to feel equipped to manage what pursuing a career in entertainment actually of tales, it's a lot of acting on and off screen. Even when Alison was just out and about at the grocery store, her reactions to everything around her came from the training she was put through as a kid in order to handle different situations. So in some ways I had this persona of Alison who was able to socialize and go out and perform, but then I had inner allison who was completely dissociated. So I was also shapeshifting at a surface level, depending on what room I'm in and who I'm around, and I know many of us can relate to that, no matter what our upbringing is. While some of US might have done this on a smaller scale, like choosing your words more carefully around your parents rather than around your friends, for Alison it caused her to live in a constant state of disassociation and affected her ability to understand her own sexuality and her identity. So for me, I think growing up, I sexuality was like not even it's not even an area that was on my mind, because I never had time to even feel into my body enough to notice, Oh, I'm developing sexually. I only knew my sexuality as defined by the character breakdowns that I was going in, you know, for auditions, the depictions of sexuality and sexual orientation, the the expression of what it means to be sexy, what it means to connect with someone sexually, those were all filtered through media, again not uncommon for all of us, but I was just the one actually creating the material and, like many queer individuals, Alison struggled to define her sexuality while having a very strong thread in church. Unfortunately, my particular church congregation often was not grounded in a physiological experience.

There was a lot of spiritual bypassing. So we were so focused on these elevated states of you know, spiritual ascension, will call it broadly, and connection with the divine, that we weren't actually dealing with everything we were carrying emotionally and physically. So I think that combination of factors for sure led me to be an expert on everyone else's psychology and very confused about my own. Thankfully, I was in therapy at a young age and I think if not for my therapist, I wouldn't have found a way to safely reinhabit my body and begin to kind of thaw from that extended frozen period. This frozen period left alison a stranger to her own body for years during her childhood. She felt like her body and her emotions weren't really hers. This meant she went years without even developing a crush on anyone. People talk about having crushes at eight years old, twelve years old, and I only ever was able to speak to that from an intellectual understanding of like, well, theoretically, I think this person is attractive according to those rideria. You know, it was never like oh my gosh, my heart is racing and they are so cute and I am blushing and I'm giddy. It wasn't until Alison was in her s that she began to develop a real crush, and I think at that that age, I was starting to actually come into my body against where I was even noticing a sensations, noticing attractions, noticing desires, and I was much later than my friends. You know, while attending a dance workshop her friend had recommended for her, Allison's attention was drawn to another woman in the class. I went through the whole list of like, am I just admiring her? Is this someone I want to become and that's why I'm fixated on her? Is something wrong with me? What's going on? But for sure that's one of the most special moments of my life because it changed the course of who I've become as a human being, and I believe and feel that I have expanded in my capacity to love humans so much because of that experience, because with being attracted to her meant really deconstructing and unpacking all of the ideas I had about love, about intimacy, about faith, about so many things, and so I think in many ways that relationship cracked me open to literal whole new world. Just this year, Allison opened up to insider about her struggle to accept herself and her sexuality because of a religious upbringing, she...

...grew up believing that being queer was a sin. But she did offer this advice to anyone who is struggling with their faith and their identity. So first, I fully recognize that your attraction might feel like a contradiction, a sin, a you know, something that is that is fraught with severe consequences, not only for your soul eternally, but also your family relationships, your community support systems and also just how you perceive the world. So I want to recognize how difficult it is to carry things that feel like they they don't work together and yet they they both feel important or natural or real. And I also want to say, second, I have no interest in convincing you of any particular philosophy or dogma and I am not here to say what you currently believe is wrong or right. That is such an intimate, intimate journey toward, you know, one's pursuit of truth and meaning, and so I'm not here to alienate you because of your beliefs or because of your sexuality. Third, take your time in this process because when, as humans, we have this thing called our Schema, our psychological Schema, and when we are introduced to information that is contradictory to our current Schema, our brains are trained to either deny it and just clear it because it doesn't belong, or to look for ways to disprove it. Or if we it actually gets past that barrier and we actually let it penetrate, that means we might actually kind of unravel a bit. If you feel like you are unraveling right now and going through a dark night of the soul, I know it's difficult and it is normal. That moment of crisis is common and you are not alone in this. If you need to seek support from a professional, do so. If you need to find new community, do so. If you need to DM me and reach out, do so, but know that that you are not the first to experience this and there are dozens of options for you moving forward. If you choose to stay within your same community or or find a new one, if you choose to shift your beliefs or shift how you express your sexuality, you are entitled to that choice, in that decision, and that is between you and your faith. And Yeah, I just want people to know that. I think sometimes there's a pressure to try and reconcile everything and make... fit or to like throw away one so that you can keep the other. And just know, yes, we live in a very like binary culture, so we try to see things in either or. A lot of this that you're dealing with is a both and and you get to be in charge of how those different ingredients come together to be, you know, make the recipe of who you are. A lot of WHO Alison was as a child was influenced by her time in Church and by the characters she played on TV, like Caitlyn Geller in Camp Rock and Sarah Baker, and she provide the dozen. But there were very few characters in media at the time that showcased any queer representation, especially in media produced by Disney. Well, I never saw a queer character on any Disney series growing up, so I didn't even know that was an option. Disney has since introduced more lgbtq plus inclusive stories onto their platforms, like the animated series the Olhouse and their marvel series low key. So I think that it does help us know that if we have these authentic parts of ourselves, they are valid, they are natural and they can be expressed in healthy, safe ways, as opposed to some of the depictions we see, you know queer relationships affiliated with these, you know, horrible constellations of connections where it's like, you know, it's criminalized or it's just seen as less than human or whatever. So I hope that cheer representation allows for young people to feel like they have the ability to be more themselves. But also, I think it has to be coupled with an elevated public consciousness across the board, because families, I know, are still, generationally speaking, fixed on other ideologies and they'll just simply not permit their kids to watch the shows that have queer representation. So it takes the whole village humanizing each other to actually, I think, make a difference. Otherwise you could stoke stigma and discrimination. So, you know, it's a mixed back we're dealing with. Human beings were complicated and everyone has their own even if it's purely people talking about nostalgia, as in like Disney's not what it used to be, they might not realize that there's homophobia embedded in what they're saying, but inevitably some people are just kind of stuck in what they know and unable to move beyond it. So if we could, we could help people find...

...a rounder perspective than yes, I just also hope that the representation isn't super stereotypical all the time, if they can just be like, okay, this character is attracted to, they're attracted to but that doesn't have to be like the main event of the episode. You know, it's it's psychology and action on camera. So humans and corporations and all the pride campaigns where people modetize on queerness is just so it's so many things. When we come back Alison's wellness platform, her new book and New Beginnings, welcome back. Today we're talking with Alison Stoner, an actress and activist who you might know from her roles on Disney and films like Camp Rock and step up. Alison has been acting since she was six and now she's taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to focus and find herself. And if you check out Alice in social media currently, you'll see a lot of her content is geared towards mental health. She's extremely transparent on her platform and shares a lot of the ups and downs of being an adult. She also shares tips for others when it comes instrumental health, something Alice and has been exploring for many years. I will admit that as a young person, because I was in a home environment that had abuse in addiction as well as in industry that was chaotic, I really did dig into, you know, selfhelp books and searching online for answers. People might have a different opinion on what exactly mental health is and how we should be taking care of it. Alison shared what her understanding of the term is. When we use the term mental health, a lot of us just think about the mind and the brain, but the mind is situated in the body and the body is situated in an environment. So if, when we're trying to care for our mental health, we don't consider all of the factors influencing our body and environment, we're only getting a small fragment of our wellness actually cared for. So that is why I focus on mind body tools for transformation and that's why I the second that something clips for me. Yes, I trust that I am not unique in that out of eight other, you know, billion people, there's likely one person who might have somewhat of a similar experience and could maybe benefit from the same information. So I... like to share them. Allison shares helpful tips on her instagram account and post videos for dancing or take me a break to just breathe, over under tick tock account. But eventually she decided to take her wellness platform she had created one step further. At the beginning of the pandemic, I led a fourteen day mindful movement live the series and over a hundred and Fiftyzero people tuned in on Instagram and Youtube and we used very specific kinds of techniques that allowed people to reconnect with themselves and decrease the amount of stress present in their bodies physiologically, and it also helps people tap into their creativity, because the these were a bit conceptual. It was like guided free movement and it showed us that, being in a body, we often think of the body and exercise purely from a fitness perspective and from almost the fact that the body has seen kind of as a project that we're trying to constantly fix or improve, as opposed to a very core element of who we are as a as a human being, and it has its own source of intelligence and information about your life experiences and everything that's stored with it. So the classes themselves were very popular and I thought, how can I make these available on demand, depending on your schedule and your availability? I want it to be affordable, I want it to be virtual, I want you to just be able to come as you are, so you don't have to try and, you know, Stoke your motivation for some intense workout. You can truly be in whatever mood, whatever energy level, and still have a chance to reconnect with yourself and understand how you move through the world. And from there we started creating these different movement categories and it became movement genius. So we are now in Beta and you're more than welcome to try it. It's the it's the best decision I've ever made in my life and to see people having transformative experiences where they feel empowered in their skin authentically is like exactly what we're striving for, because wellness itself can be there are so many barriers to the wellness industry and there's such a narrow representation of what wellness looks like, what programs are serving who, and so we want to really broaden that and a lot of our faculty, as well as, of course, founders included, are queer and that alone is a differentiator, just having a another layer of mindfulness and awareness and how you design spaces for people to feel comfortable, to be themselves and to feel well in their bodies. In May of two thousand and twenty one, Alison...

...published her first book to help support both Lgbtqia plus individuals and allies with their mind body connection. I mean personally, that is writing a book is one of my highest accomplishments, even if it's not, as you know, grant as performing in front of Fortyzero people, for the way society might quantify things. But mind body pride, which were actually creating a second version right now. That will be mind body movement. So it's for everyone, but mind body cried. The first version was a specifically queer focused seven step guide to reconnecting your mind and body and it helps people uncover the story that they've been telling in their mind and body and then, with that conscious awareness, start to explore an experiment with what story you want to tell. And that deep, holistic transformation does take time. So there are journal prompts, there are movement classes that accompany the book to help you actualize this transformation instead of just reading it and and ideating about the person you want to become. So, as you know, Queer folks face disproportionate challenges in terms of mental and emotional and physical health challenges. So I wanted to speak specifically to those lived experiences and bring in experts, clinicians, to review the material, add to it and and help people feel like they authentically can embody who they are and celebrate that. And Yeah, it's self paced. So if you you know, if you're interested and you're like, okay, I feel disconnected for myself or I just feel overwhelmed with stress and I don't understand what's going on, you know, check it out. And it's super affordable and that's a huge thing for me as well, for the month of pride. I think it was like less than five bucks for the Book and All the movement courses, and that's like that excites me. I'd probably my business advisors are like what are you doing and I'm like, well, the people who already can afford to get help have that access. WHO's missing it and how can we open the door a little wider? At twenty seven years old, Alison has moved more than twenty seven times. She's never in her life had a long time place to call home and I had a hard time grounding because I just sort of was always in a frenzy inside and out, and so finding a home for... as a part of a transitional period where I'm letting go of the past chaos, and also a lot of entertainment oriented projects, because I moved outside of Los Angeles. LIVING IN LA can sound like a dream come true for some people. It's where all the dreamers come to be discovered, but for Alison it was just a reminder of some of the more traumatic parts of her life. Unfortunately, my experience with the industry sometimes is more like dealing with an abusive partner, and so getting out of that I have some shame and embarrassment to say. It took me about ten years to actually leave, but I am super grateful that I finally made the decision and it's allowing my entire body to relax in a way I haven't ever felt. It's the weirdest thing, because everyone wants to be there, because you want to be part of La and the action and all of the stuff, but when you leave it, there is this weird feeling where you're like, my Gosh, everyone else doesn't feel like that, like and I that feeling is not necessarily positive, right, like so overwhelming and like tight, if that's a weird way to describe it, but it feels like tight, like yes, yes, yes, what you're speaking to, or potentially speaking to, is a physiological response, like the lower back tension that is constant, no matter how much you stretch or work out or go to physical therapy. If you have a certain kind of chronic stress, like your flexibility, mobility, all of these things are negatively affected and I feel like when I was in La, I had a hernated disc in my spine and in a lot of different health issues, and since I've I've moved out for many reasons of course coming together, but I my health is improving almost instantly and I know that many people either cannot leave la or they love it, and so there's nothing wrong with it. But just figuring out what works for you and if you have the capacity to create more optimal space than like, I think that's that's a gift worth pursuing. After she purchased her first home, she shared a video on instagram where she's overwhelmed with emotions over having her own space. Because I'm relaxing, it's also letting all this other stuff that was, you know, deeply embedded inside come up to the surface and that's a bit overwhelming. It's really emotional. I find that every day I'm having bouts of tears and sometimes they're joyful, sometimes they're full of grief and regret, but for the most part I know that I I wouldn't have been able to feel into my inner world without this...

...kind of stability. So I so badly hope for everyone that they have stable housing or a safe, secure environment where they can actually process things and grow instead of always being a state of threat. Now that she's all moved in, Alison has been purchasing some home essentials like kitchen utensils in a new mattress, but when it comes to interior decorating she's a bit stumped. But yes, ironically, I do have space, but I'm not looking to fill it with furniture. I am pretty minimal in my lifestyle. The only things that I know I need are whatever guests feed when they come over. So that's that's been a little intimidating. is like interior design is so overwhelming. If like, where do you be good? How do you make everything cord mate? Why is it so expensive? And also, like what are the essentials? Because going online, all the stores tell you that like you need fifty different things in every room and I'm like, I think I only need a chair and a bed. So like, what are the essentials? When I'm posting, if you have any tips, please, like what do I need? I guess if you come over, what do you need, I'll be sure to gain it. I think I'll be fine with the chair in the bed. Will make that work and we can just have like a little you know, we'll sit on the floor and then chat stuff. I mean, yeah, I I don't have a TV myself, but I'm going to probably have to give one for guests. You're probably going to have to get that also for like if you do have anything that projects are doing the like. Oh, you need to watch this should be like hum. I Guess Watch it on your computer, though. You could do that you like. I don't need your TV's watch it on their set. Me To lake. Yeah, listen, I wrote my book on my phone. So two thousand and twenty. I mean that's impressive coming at you. Yeah, because you know, I wasn't in a stable place as much, so it was like constantly on the go and in the car between meetings or something like. Right in a book. Now now I have a desk, imagine, and a geometric installation behind you. You can throw stuff on that if you wanted to for a minute, like I could. Empty Shelves Look Really Nice, though. They do, they really do. It's funny. I'm in the process of selling my house right now in La and I'm currently back in Arizona, where I grew up, and Alison, she's looking to go back to school, possibly at Arizona State University, my Alma Mater, go devils, because I didn't have a traditional education. I'm starting at the basics anyway. So I think it might be like a good middle path. I grew up watching Alison...

...on TV and to speak with her now really felt like a full circle moment. Because of this, I had to share with her what this experience really meant to me. I do want you to know how happy I think. Not only it makes me, because we talked about that, like I forget what you called it, pair social relationship, as I wouldn't where you feel like you know them, but it does meet me very happy because my perception of you growing up as a kid watching you on TV was that you were very spunky and happy. And knowing after you became an adult what life was really like, it that's really sad, right because you, especially with Disney being the foundation, you really want it to be happy and magical and all those things. When you find out they're not, it's sad. So it is definitely makes me happy to see that you're happy and as a real person, not as Alison, who's who I remember from TV. So I don't want you to know that. And how many people that when I talk to them about you coming on, you made a big difference in their lives. So you should feel, I don't know, happy about that and powerful because you did something great. Thank you. That means a lot and I hear it with very different years that when I was in the rat race and was just like, but I'm not looking any new roles and oh no, there's something wrong with me. So thank you for sharing that and and I do want to be clear that I don't I don't see Disney totally as this this horrible be least it's made up of systems and structures that reflect culture, that reflect society and individuals, and there were very supportive and very caring, and so it's, you know, and I'm not saying that because I'm under some scary contract and like someone's going to off me, I genuinely mean it was a it was a mixed bag because because that's how complex it is to indust realize a child, you know, at seven years old and to still have a production with deadlines, but also a kid who needs to go to school and deliver their lines, you know. Well, so it's a complex issue. I invite people to kind of just when they're watching media, just to kind of think about the humans and also think about themselves. Think about your own childhood and maybe which parts you had. You know an excess amount of support and you can be grateful for that. And then which areas maybe you had a deficiency in and how is an adult, you can kind of reclaim those and and challenge your earlier patterns and free yourself to, you know, feel confident about the decisions you're making. To Follow Alison's journey, find new tips on her wellness platform or connect with any of her big projects, you can follow Alison on Instagram and Tick Tock at Alison stoner and go to her website, Alison stonercom. Pride is a production of Straw hut media. If... like the show, leave us a rating and review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Then follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride and remember to tune in weekly for new episodes. Be Sure to share this episode with your friends and subscribe to our podcast for more amazing stories from Queer people around the world. If you'd like to connect with me, you can follow me at Levi Chambers everywhere. Pride is produced by me Levi Chambers, Maggie Bowls, Ryan Tillotson and Caitlyn mcdaniel, edited by Sylvana. I'll call on and Daniel Ferrara, sound mixing by Silvana, I'll call on. We will make you sound so brilliant. You already sound brilliant, so it's going to be so brilliant. Yeah, this alltaining the image. I want brilliant here, perfection, so that my professor's at Asu will graduate me with whatever the highest daughters are.

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