It’s fair to say that 2022 was an eventful year for Austin Butler: he became an overnight sensation with his portrayal of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic; he was cast in the highly anticipated sequel to sci-fi movie Dune; and on a more personal level, he discovered a surprising revelation about his relationship with friend and fellow former child star Ashley Tisdale. This bombshell has totally changed the way they see each other.
This article was originally published on eXXLMag
Butler and Tisdale first became firm friends back in 2009, when they were cast in the family-friendly film Aliens in the Attic. The pair got on so well that two years later Butler accepted Tisdale’s invitation to appear in Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure — a High School Musical spinoff.
And Tisdale in particular hasn’t stopped gushing about their friendship since.
In 2021 Tisdale celebrated Butler’s 30th birthday with a series of Instagram photos captioned, “You’ve been my best friend since you were 15, so that’s 15 years strong of friendship! I am beyond proud of you and everything you’re accomplishing but, most importantly, proud of the person you are.”
But Tisdale wasn’t done there. She continued, “You’ve been my closest friend through the years, you’re the type of friend that came over when I was crying on the floor from a horrible breakup and not only lifted me off the ground but brought my favorite candy.”
The former tween favorite also told her followers that Butler had become best buds with her other half.
If that didn’t bring a tear to your eye, then Tisdale’s following words just might. She added, “I can imagine your mom is beaming [with] joy watching everything you do and is with you every step of the way.
I hope you know how loved you are.” Butler’s mom Lori had tragically passed away from cancer seven years earlier.
Unlike his BFF, Butler largely prefers to keep his private life, well, private. But there was the interview with Girl magazine in which he reciprocated all the love.
He said, “Ashley Tisdale and I have been friends for, like, three or four years, so it was a blast to get to come to work every day and just have fun with her.”
Even when Butler was holed up Down Under getting ready to shoot the film that would launch him to superstardom, he still found the time to stay in touch with his BFF. Yep, while gearing up for Elvis the actor constantly contacted Tisdale to see how she was getting on with her pregnancy.
And that includes the day after she gave birth to her daughter.
Butler was so keen to meet Tisdale’s daughter, who she and husband Christopher French named Jupiter, that he raced back home at the first opportunity. As you probably expected, the High School Musical star took plenty of photos of the occasion.
And she shared several of them on her social media accounts.
Tisdale explained to her followers, “He didn’t get to see me pregnant in person because it’s been two and a half years since he’s been home, but this guy FaceTimed me throughout and it felt like he was there... He’s one of my best friends and to see him with Juju is so special.”
Tisdale added that after waiting so long to reconnect in person, she didn’t want to let go of Butler ever again.
Of course, Tisdale isn’t the only High School Musical alum with a connection to Butler. Vanessa Hudgens, who played Zac Efron’s love interest in the all-singing, all-dancing phenomenon, went out with the Elvis star for almost nine years!
Luckily, Tisdale was more than happy to have her two BFFs dating.
In a 2016 interview with People magazine Tisdale remarked, “It’s great because Austin was my best friend since way before they got together. So it’s just nice to have your two best friends be in a relationship.”
Sadly, Butler and Hudgens decided to call things off for good in 2020.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Butler and Tisdale couldn’t possibly get any closer. But in 2022 along came a bombshell which took both of them by surprise.
And it all started with an appearance Tisdale made with her sister Jennifer on a YouTube series produced by genealogy company Ancestry.
While guesting on 2 Lies and A Leaf Tisdale was given news about her heritage that she couldn’t have foreseen in any shape or form. The actress was informed that she was related to one of her former co-stars.
She had to take a guess as to who it was from the options of Zac Efron, the Sprouse twins, or her BFF Butler.
A visibly shocked Tisdale decided to choose the man she’d known since they starred on Aliens in the Attic together in 2009. And the reason?
Well, she explained, “Austin and I always say that we’re like fraternal twins born very far apart because he’s much younger and we always had that connection.”
Tisdale’s instincts proved to be right when it was confirmed that yes, she and her famous Elvis-impersonating friend were very much related. That’s right: turns out that the High School Musical graduate is Butler’s cousin.
Well, 10th cousin once removed to be precise. And all that Tisdale could initially say was, “What?”
After composing herself, Tisdale got a little more talkative. She said, “Oh my god, no wonder we have such a connection.
We’ve always said we were brother and sister; that is insane.” The multi-talented star then struggled to hold back the tears as she proclaimed, “I’m literally going to cry.”
Sadly, we didn’t see Butler’s reaction to the news. But we do know how he responded.
Tisdale had texted him on the spot before informing viewers that she’d give him a call later that day. But Butler replied immediately with an excitable message that read, “No... way!”
Tisdale will surely cheer Butler on during the 2023 awards season. The star has already taken home the Golden Globe for being the best actor in a drama film for his hip-swiveling performance as Elvis Presley.
And he’s also naturally tipped to have a big shot at the Academy Awards.
Tisdale sang her best friend’s praises during the 2020 awards season. Butler had portrayed another real-life figure in Quentin Tarantino’s sprawling Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Manson Family member Tex Watson.
And he received a high-profile shout-out for his performance, which Tisdale seemed more excited about than the man himself.
After seeing Butler’s co-star mention him during his Best Supporting Actor in a Movie acceptance speech at the SAG Awards, Tisdale posted an Instagram Story which read, “That moment when Brad Pitt is accepting his award and mentions your friend Austin Butler.
I’m like, ‘I’ve known him since he was 15!’ Proud friend.”
While Ashley and Austin took their post-Disney Channel careers in different directions, it's fair to say they both are enjoying rich, full lives. Luckily the same can be said of many of their Disney peers.
So even if your favorite Disney teen idols didn't go on to vast amounts of fame and fortune, you might be surprised to learn just how they're doing now. You probably wouldn't even recognize some of them if you passed them on the street!
Raven-Symoné was such a talented teen actor that the Disney Channel even gave her her very own show! That show was That’s So Raven, and it was huge among kids.
So huge, in fact, that it’s the one thing Raven-Symone is still best remembered for, even after breaking into both the film and music industries. She later returned to Disney with the award-winning series Raven's Home.
Ryan Gosling’s early stints as a Mickey Mouse Club member and MC Hammer-style dancer didn’t exactly indicate that he would later become the coolest and smoothest dude on the planet.
But thanks to brooding, charismatic turns in movies such as Drive, Crazy Stupid Love, and The Place Beyond the Pines, that’s exactly what happened — and we’re ever so glad it did.
Zolee Griggs played spoiled youngster Tanisha on Cory in the House, having embarked on an acting career when she was just four.
Now, however, she’s a stylish young woman with a popular fashion blog, an equally popular YouTube channel, and even her very own app.
Brenda Song was already a successful child actress when she bagged a big role playing London Tipton in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
The show was a huge success, so it’s not surprising that Song went on to even bigger things, including 2010 blockbuster The Social Network and ABC’s Scandal.
Moses Arias played Rico in Hannah Montana, and it turned out that Miley Cyrus wasn’t the only one on that show who would undergo a surprising transformation. Why?
Because Moses went from a cute little kid to the ultimate hipster actor – and one who shares his stylish snaps with no fewer than 889,000 Instagram followers.
Cory in the House star Madison Pettis played Sophie Martinez, the President’s daughter who was dubbed “America’s Angel.” And all these years later, Pettis still looks pretty angelic.
She’s remained a Disney Channel star, too, as she has done voice work for The Lion Guard.
Musical trio The Jonas Brothers were known for their squeaky-clean image during their teenage years, but their antics following their split proved to be anything but virtuous. In fact, middle brother Joe cavorted with a host of gorgeous models in videos for both his solo single “Just in Love” and DNCE’s “Toothbrush.”
He's since settled down with former Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner.
Back in the early ’00s, Bobb’e J. Thompson was Stanley, the annoying cheese sandwich-loving kid from That’s So Raven.
These days, it certainly looks like Thompson has grown into adulthood very well indeed. Who would have thought cheese sandwiches could do that to a person?
Not everyone recognizes the name Steven Anthony Lawrence, but they do recognize his face: he was Even Stevens’s Beans. And he still looks like Beans even though his looks have matured a lot since his time on the Disney Channel.
When he was temporarily employed as Santa’s Helper at a mall, he was inundated with photo requests.
When Alyson Stoner played Max on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, there was a running joke that audiences would think she was a boy. But there’s certainly no chance of that these days!
And as well as growing into a beautiful young woman, Stoner has been keeping herself very busy: she’s now a singer, a choreographer, a model, and a dancer in addition to being an actress.
Jake T. Austin won many preteen girl’s hearts when he played Max on Wizards of Waverly Place, and his good looks haven’t remotely gone away.
Austin still acts, too, and he’s also appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Plus, he’s now followed by over a million fans on Instagram.
Jason Dolley had already been in multiple movies and shows before he was cast as Newt in Cory in the House in 2007, so it’s not surprising that he continued to act after the show was over.
He wasn’t too busy to hit the books, though, and graduated from college – with honors.
Emily Osment is the sister of ’90s child star Haley Joel Osment, and her role as Lilly Truscott in Hannah Montana helped her gain some of the same fame her brother enjoyed.
Plus, her Disney Channel work not only established her as an actress, but it also set her up as a singer.
Shia LaBeouf was everyone’s favorite kid when he was playing Louis Stevens in Even Stevens. Flash forward a few years, and he was everyone’s favorite young actor, too.
But then it all went a little wrong for the former child star. But he's also embarked on a career defined by his own terms, shining in indie flicks such as Honey Boy and blockbuster hits such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Hilary Duff was the ultimate female teen idol during her Disney Channel time as Lizzie McGuire. But today, despite the fact that Duff’s still acting and singing, the paparazzi seem more interested in her romantic entanglements than anything else – which is a shame, really, because she grew into one very talented adult.
She recently starred in the sitcom spinoff How I Met Your Father.
Selena Gomez is a big deal in the celebrity world now, but her breakthrough came when she was cast as Alex Russo in the show Wizards of Waverly Place. This piece of hard-earned luck meant she and her mother could move to Hollywood – and the rest is history.
Gomez blossomed into a true star and memorably showed off her comedic chops next to Steve Martin and Martin Short in Only Murders in the Building.
High School Musical fans will know Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez, the lead character she played in the hit series between 2006 and 2008. And despite releasing a couple of solo albums, the now-adult Hudgens has decided to concentrate on acting.
She memorably broke into more mature roles with the cult hit Spring Breakers.
Corbin Bleu’s good looks were perhaps inevitably overshadowed by Zac Efron’s in the High School Musical movies.
But since ditching his afro and showcasing more of his moves on Dancing with the Stars, the actor has become something of a heartthrob himself, and for excellent reason.
Dylan and Cole Sprouse shot to fame in the early 1990s in Grace Under Fire. They later went on to star together in numerous films and TV shows, including the Adam Sandler vehicle Big Daddy and the popular Disney Channel show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
Cole also portrayed Ross’ kid Ben on Friends. These days, the Sprouses have developed into leading adult actors. Cole — who paused acting to study at New York University — is best known for his role as Jughead Jones on the teen drama Riverdale and his on-off romance with co-star Lili Reinhart. Dylan, meanwhile, has starred in several films and tried his hand at business. Not bad, guys!
Perhaps no child star has changed as drastically since the noughties as Miley Cyrus. She famously cast off the shadow of Hannah Montana entirely by indulging in wild antics both on and off the stage – and it has made her into a celebrity who is rarely out of the headlines.
But she's nothing short of a success. Since 2000, no female musical artist has had more top-five albums.
Bridgit Mendler’s movie career started in 2004, before she became a teenager, but she hit the big time as Teddy in the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie.
The now-established performer got big laughs on NBC’s Undateable and also appeared in Muppets Most Wanted.
Danielle Panabaker appeared in various Disney films including Sky High, Stuck in the Suburbs, and Read It and Weep before moving on to more adult-oriented fare.
Perhaps most famously, the starlet got audiences all hot under the collar in 2012 when she donned a scanty swimsuit for the cheekily-titled horror flick Piranha 3DD.
After bouncing back from her much-publicized mental health problems, the ex-As the Bell Rings and Camp Rock star Demi Lovato stormed back to the stage in a big way.
She's delighted audiences with hits like “Cool for the Summer” and "Sorry Not Sorry."
The youngest Jonas brother famously struggled to keep his shirt on as he launched his solo career.
Yes, it seemed Nick Jonas just couldn’t help but show off his impressive physique on the cover of Flaunt magazine as well as in the video for “Under You” and during his roles in Scream Queens and Kingdom. Those dashing looks led to his wooing and wedding Priyanka Chopra.
After a string of supporting roles, Bella Thorne fronted her own vehicle, the Disney series Shake It Up, in 2010. Following the show’s end three years later, though, the actress simultaneously signaled her Disney departure and became renowned as something of a beauty queen thanks to various Instagram posts and a magnetic appearance in the opening episode of MTV’s Scream.
She's since headlined a number of movies.
At 11 years old Lindsay Lohan appeared in The Parent Trap and consequently took home a Young Artist Award. It’s not all been plain sailing since then, of course – but at least things are looking up.
After getting her personal life back on track, she signed a mega-deal with Netflix that could be a huge boost.
Gregg Sulkin made his name in the Disney world with roles in Wizards of Waverly Place and Avalon High.
The British actor wowed audiences with a memorable performance on Lip-Sync Battle, and he made headlines for landing a role in the Marvel TV series Runaways.
Vanessa Hudgens’ High School Musical co-star and one-time boyfriend, Zac Efron, became an even bigger pin-up once the all-singing, all-dancing franchise ended.
And roles in Neighbors, That Awkward Moment, Dirty Grandpa, and the Baywatch reboot all gave the star plenty of opportunity to show off his muscular physique.
Juliette Goglia was the irritating girl-next-door Sierra in That’s So Raven, and although she only popped up in two episodes, she still made quite an impression. And now that she’s all grown up, Goglia is still bagging recurring acting roles.
Plus, she’s been busy studying at the University of Southern California.
Christina Milian might be better known for her Grammy-nominated music career these days, but the talent actually got her showbiz start as a reporter for Disney’s Movie Surfers.
It was only a matter of years later, though, that a more mature Milian famously writhed around in black paint for the video for her biggest hit, “Dip It Low.”
It’s a well-known fact that many child stars crash and burn, and sadly it seems that Orlando Brown was one of them. After achieving success playing Eddie in That’s So Raven, he was arrested in 2016 for a string of crimes.
Fortunately, he's recently gotten his acting career back on track.
Israeli-American actor Raviv Ullman found fame playing Phil Diffy in the Disney sci-fi sitcom Phil of the Future. Now in his thirties, the star has not only gone on to melt hearts with his handsome looks, but he’s also won us all over with his cute Vine videos that feature his dog and the pooch’s favorite stuffed toy.
Clayton Snyder played Lizzie McGuire’s love interest Ethan Craft for 31 episodes and a movie, before pursuing a career as a professional water polo player. And although he’s now given up the sport, Snyder has kept acting in various projects.
Naturally, he landed a part in the (canceled) Lizzie McGuire reboot too.
Fans of ’90s TV will likely have seen Tia and Tamera Mowry on the sitcom Sister, Sister. The real-life identical siblings portrayed long-separated twins on the popular teen show.
After starring as reunited twins again in Disney’s Twitches and Twitches Too, the sisters halted their acting careers to study psychology at Pepperdine University. They then returned to acting, with Tia appearing in the movie Baggage Claim and in the TV series Family Reunion. Tamera showed up in A Christmas Miracle, and for seven years hosted the daytime talk show The Real. Together, they’ve also created a book series called Twintuition.
Today Aly Michalka performs as one half of the musical duo Aly & AJ, but she first broke into the entertainment business acting Keely Teslow in Phil of the Future.
Michalka then distanced herself from her Disney Channel past, however, by taking up a more adult role as a cheerleader in Hellcats.
A.J. Trauth played second fiddle to Shia LaBeouf in Even Stevens...
But having shed his early ’00s curtains hairstyle, grown some stubble, and – most importantly – stayed away from paper bag couture, he’s now arguably the more attractive option.
Jennifer Love Hewitt was one of the most successful Disney Channel actresses as the adorable star of Kids Incorporated, and she also grew up to be one of the most desirable. In fact, in 2008 she was voted the sexiest woman on television by TV Guide.
In 2013, moreover, she was even named the most popular cover girl in Maxim’s history, which is a decision that only a few would quibble with.
Just like his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake first tasted fame as a member of The Mickey Mouse Club. But it didn’t stop there for the multi-talented star, of course.
After launching a solo career, Timberlake became the new prince of pop who brought sexy back – and some of that sexy was definitely in evidence in his numerous shirtless Rolling Stone photoshoots since.
A year after her role as Meena Paroom in the Disney sitcom Cory in the House came to an end, Maiara Walsh revealed her sultry side as Carlos’ scheming niece in Desperate Housewives.
The star also showed off her good looks while mimicking Katniss Everdeen in 2013 parody flick The Starving Games.