Alyson Stoner Reflects on How Child Stardom and Coming Out Affected Her Career (Exclusive)
By Antoinette Bueno
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Alyson Stoner is getting real about her journey with fame.
ET's Katie Krause spoke to the 26-year-old actress, singer and dancer about her new podcast, Simplexity, which features the former child star having conversations with the world’s most intriguing artists, scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, experts and more. Stoner herself has already had a long career despite only being in her 20s, thanks to her unforgettable appearances in multiple Missy Elliott music videos and movie roles in Cheaper by the Dozen and Camp Rock.
"Oh, this is the perfect expression of the future that I want to carve out with my career," Stoner tells ET about her new podcast, which is produced by Studio71. "This is long-form, deep discussion -- meaningful. The tagline of the show is anything but small talk. So, I'm thrilled. I have experts from across sectors coming in and helping simplify the complexities of life, which is where we get the word 'simplexity.' And it's been a joy. I feel like if people are connecting with themselves, they're able to connect with what's happening in the world but not be as overwhelmed. So, its a nice blend of all my favorite elements."
"With my home, we had so much going on at all times, and I was working," she recalls. "You know, I was performing at the age of three, so you had so many different outside pressures. I was helping support my family -- my parents both worked -- but there are a lot of layers to a child being responsible for, you know, being rapidly adultified, even if it doesn't translate to the financial status of the family, it's still a matter of showing up to work, becoming the boss and then going home and having to remember an authority figure. So, it's a very difficult and complex relationship I think for parents and children in entertainment. The parent doesn't want to upset the child because the child has to show up to work, but the parent doesn't want to enable the firmness, the kindness, the love, you know? Priorities. It all -- it's so easily convoluted."
One aspect of Stoner's complex relationship with fame is when she came out in an article for Teen Vogue in March 2018. In the heartfelt essay, she wrote that some people in the industry warned her that she would ruin her career if she talked about her sexuality and miss out on possible jobs. Looking back, she says the decision to open up about falling in love with a woman has affected her career in both positive and negative ways.
"It's a mixed bag," she says. "I would say society has shifted so much in 10 years that when that was first a conversation, it might have been more of a negative threat. Now, on the flip side, people are exploiting the queer community, right? And you're looking at, like, creating more products and services targeting queer people just for brands to look thoughtful and inclusive."
"I'm not fooled," she continues. "So, I think now it's just a matter of making sure when I do talk about that with my audience, it's also not only in tandem with me selling you merchandise that has rainbows on it. It's very much like, I want you to be able to find a safe and comfortable atmosphere to talk about these things -- no judgment -- and also, I don't need your wallet to get involved."
As for her current love life, Stoner says she is dating right now but remains coy on if she has a partner.
"I have really wonderful people in my life," she says.
Stoner is still undecided if she will discuss her personal life on her new podcast.
"And I'm perfectly OK saying I don't know," she notes. "I think it will evolve as I deepen my roots and what I'm OK and not OK sharing, but I think what's exciting is the more I learn about myself and the longer I have to digest it, the more comfortable I am sharing it with people. I don't need to be this completely private person, but you know, there are other layers involved to being in the public eye -- there are safety risks to just, like, word vomiting what's happening in my world on a daily basis."
Aside from her podcast, Stoner definitely has plenty going on these days, including her YouTube series, ALchemy. Stoner also tells ET that she's writing a book on the psychological impact of child stardom, thanks to her own experience growing up in the spotlight, and is also open to more acting onscreen if the right roles come along and if she has more creative control over the project.
"I have plenty of things cooking," she says. "And I, thankfully, will also be considered the creator and executive producer and not just the person showing up hoping you hire me. I think we take the Lena Waithe approach now."
But when it comes to dancing, she's more reluctant. Although Stoner did appear in Elliott's epic medley of her greatest hits during the rapper's performance at this year's MTV Video Music Awards in August -- and the crowd went wild when Stoner appeared in a yellow tracksuit and danced to "Work It" -- she's definitely not interested in revisiting her old dance moves.
"I don't need to hit a one-two step for y'all," Stoner says. "Y'all can google that for as long as you need to get that hit of nostalgia. It's there for you on YouTube. We can graduate."
"I'm retired from being a monkey -- a dancing monkey," she adds. "So now, if and when I do it, it's on my terms, thank you very much."
Stoner teases that she also has more music coming out.
"I have albums and albums worth of songs that I'm not sure, I'm not sure I'll release them yet," he shares. "There are so many other important conversations happening, like, with the podcast. The music will happen when it needs to happen."
Stoner says she's already reached out to her old celeb pals to appear on her Simplexity podcast, including Demi Lovato and Shaquille O'Neal, but she's also putting the spotlight on important people who don't have the platform to reach as many people.
"I was actually just talking with Shaquille O'Neal a couple days ago and he and I worked together years ago on several projects, so I think he's hopefully gonna come hang out," she says. "But ... it's imperative that I don't just center on people who already have influence and all of the attention. There are incredible human beings doing deep work that is changing the world, changing systems, changing narratives of entire communities and I want to make sure they have the microphone because in many ways they actually have more experience, more knowledge to impart because they are 100 percent of the time just doing the work and ... and it's very genuine for them. So, I want to be able to make sure that they get just as much footing as those of us who grew up in, you know, the public eye and have a camera on us, watching what we eat for breakfast, right?"
"So, a blend of stories and if and when I do have someone like Demi, someone like Shaquille on the show, I'm not really interested in talking about things they've already discussed," she adds. "So, to the extent they are willing to dive deep, I'll probably hit them with questions they've not been asked before."