The Disney Channel Star Who Mastered the YouTube Algorithm

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S1: I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while, and I’m finally ready to talk about it, so here’s what it’s like working for the Disney Channel. Hi, I’m Madison Malone

S2: Kircher and I’m Rachel Hampton and you’re listening to Isyu.

S1: I’m I’m in case you missed it.

S2: Slate’s podcast about internet culture.

S1: Rachel Jeffrey. Think about a path you didn’t take in life. How one decision can just change your future forever.

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S2: I’m sorry. It’s just that one poem that ends up on Instagram all the time where it’s to path in a yellow wood or some shit.

S1: That’s what one poem do you mean? Robert Frost.

S2: I was going to. I knew his first name was Robert, but I couldn’t get through.

S1: Yes, yes, I am thinking about two roads that have diverged in yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference. There we go. Today, I’m thinking about how different my life would have been if I had starred in The Princess Diaries.

S2: Was that an option presented to you? Am I missing some deep lore?

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S1: No, but that’s basically the argument made by one former Disney Channel legend, Christy Carlson Romano, in a now viral YouTube video that I have watched like 15 times. Sometimes people are like Christy, Romano, Anne Hathaway, they’re the same person. I can assure you that we are not. But isn’t the

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S2: kind of crux web video I’ve heard about this video from you so many times, because all you keep saying is she didn’t even audition.

S1: Yeah, and that has made all the difference on the show. Today, though, we are going to be talking with Vanity Fair staff writer Chris Murphy about his recent profile of one Christy Carlson Romano, the former Disney Channel star who has recently re-entered the spotlight as a kind of prominent YouTuber. We’ll talk to Chris about what it was like talking to her, how her YouTube presence fits into the broader YouTube landscape and what’s changed about her life since growing up. Stephens even Stevens

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S2: growing up in the Disney machine. But first, who is Christy Carlson Romano? Well, if you missed it, I would like to know more about your childhood. But Romano, whose career started relatively early in her life as an at the age of six, she began acting. But most people in the millennial zolani old generation became aware of her when she starred in the Disney Channel’s Even Stevens opposite one Shia LaBeouf.

S3: What are you doing back there just hanging out? How could you? I have a reputation at school. Well, not anymore. How am I supposed to show my face there again? May I suggest plastic surgery? Ha ha ha. This is a new low, even for you, Louis.

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S2: She’s also the voice of Kim possible.

S3: What are you eating? Taco meets Nacho? I call it the Nocco. I call it gross beyond reason. We welcome you both iconic.

S2: And she appeared in the Disney Channel original film Slash Queer Text. Could that Kelly with Hilary Duff?

S3: I’m sorry. Did I accidentally snatch this ratty old thing away from you? In my experience, people snatch accidentally, and it’s not ready. It is now and keep it out of my books. Why would you do something like that? Oh, my bet. You must be Captain Stone. Hmm. You’re on my list. Maggot.

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S1: Even Stevens premiered in the year 2000 just to give you a little little bit of context for when Christy Carlson Romano Disney career really blew up.

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S2: But as so happens, a child star as she kind of just faded away until very recently when her YouTube videos started going viral with headlines like Why I no longer talk to Shia

S1: LaBeouf, everybody always asks me this question if we’re still in touch of, we’re still friends. To be honest, I don’t even really know if we were ever really friends, but we were co-workers. We had this sort of like,

S3: very good onscreen chemistry. People assumed that we were in real life or

S2: how alcohol almost ruined my life, or how Katy Perry got my record deal,

S1: honestly. How could you not click? I did, and so did a lot of other people, including our guest vanity Fair’s Chris Murphy. After the break, we’re going to get into all of that with Chris y Christy Carlson Romano is having a resurgence her life after childhood stardom and how she became something of a YouTube evil genius. Plus, if you stick around to the bitter end, you’ll get to hear me rap. And when things are

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S3: just a little bit, I’m on my way. As a matter of when there’s trouble you call on, they can pass it.

S2: We have a special announcement for you today. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Slate, and for a limited time only, we’re offering our annual Slate Plus membership at $25 off. As a member, you’ll get no ads on any of our podcast, including this one. Unlimited reading on the slate site and member exclusive episodes and segments from shows like Slow Burn, AMA, Chris and The Political Gabfest. For the past quarter century, Slate has been covering all the major news events, from elections to social issues to historic court decisions to the time we explained why tick tock love song of Achilles our podcasts have debated. If things are sexist, name the best summer songs and explain the latest TikTok trends. If we become a part of your listening routine, we ask So you support our work by joining Slate Plus. Sign up for Slate Plus at Slate.com. I see. Why am I? Plus, they keep us going for another 25 years. Again, we’re giving you twenty five dollars of an annual membership through October 31st, so sign up now at Slate.com. I see why my plus?

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S1: OK, we are back.

S2: Today we are joined by Chris Murphy, a staff writer at Vanity Fair, who recently wrote a story about the Romano since, as I’ve been calling it, the YouTube renaissance of Christy Carlson Romano Chris, we’re so excited you’re here.

S4: Wow, that’s amazing. Romano isn’t. I haven’t heard that the Renaissance Romano sounds. It really works, I wrote.

S1: But I feel like there’s there’s only one appropriate question to open up this conversation. And it is, in fact, what is the sitch with Christy Carlson Romano?

S4: Beep beep, beep beep. Yeah, I I think having talked to her on the phone for, you know, the better part of an hour, I’d have a better answer to that. She seems great. She seems like she loves Austin, and she seems genuinely really happy with the path and the road that she is walking down those wooded hills of Austin. And she’s like, She’s really she seems really happy with the YouTube channel and where she’s headed, which is a really beautiful thing in a way.

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S2: So you did the little Kim possible B, but we must ask, what’s your history with Christy Carlson Romano? Did you grow up watching her?

S4: No. So it’s so funny because I literally that was my black. Remember Blackberries? That was my BlackBerry ringtone. Like, I was one of those kids. Like, I loved Kim. Possible so much that I had, and it was really cool. Honestly, people were like, very impressed whenever my phone went off. I would have

S2: been impressed if you brought that out

S4: in high school, like, well, after you know that Kim possible era. But yeah, I will say I always had sort of a fascination with I was going to say Kim possible with Christy Carlson Romano and the roles that she played Ren Stevens and Kim and Cadet Kelly. She always sort of like Occupy. This space is sort of like a really smart, tough, sort of like no nonsense chick that you didn’t really find on Disney Channel. She liked to read books. She was like kind of a nerd, and that was kind of cool. But she was pretty and she could sing really well. And like, as as Madison, as we go way back, I’m a big musical theater guy.

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S1: I think she’s the dream. She got to go to Broadway after all that, she

S4: got to go to Broadway after all of that and she got, you know, and I used to see that commercial of her as Belle in Beauty and the Beast play over and over again. So I was really I actually occupied sort of like an interesting space in the Disney landscape for me that I couldn’t really, you know, that Lindsay wasn’t doing and Hilary wasn’t doing the it. Girls weren’t doing it like Christy Carlson Romano back in the early odds. OK? So I was definitely a fan going into it. But you know, I definitely before the YouTube came back, I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was up to.

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S1: All right, pop quiz. We went to the Moon in

S4: what is 1969?

S3: We went

S5: to the. In 1969,

S3: not 1968,

S5: but a year and. Eight.

S1: That is, of course, Christy Carlson Romano singing about the moon landing in the iconic musical episode of Even Stevens.

S4: She even sang a little bit of it for me. We went to the Moon and of course, of course you did, because that’s what she of course she did. She wants. She wants it all back. I think she also wants it all back.

S2: Oh, say a little bit more about that.

S4: Well, I could tell that there were some moments in her career where. Are there some regrets, I think, not even regrets, that’s pretty, maybe too strong a word, but she looked back on some sort of difficult moments she was left off of not to bring up Vanity Fair again. Vanity Fair had a sort of an iconic

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S1: cover in curls.

S4: The ET girls. We’ve all seen it. It’s pink, it has Amanda Bynes, it has raven, some Malone and that’s where tough it has both Olsen twins, big debt and Christy was left off that cover, so. And she she is the one who brought it up. I wasn’t even going to bring that up because I didn’t really even know that she cared and she was like, Look, I’m not salty about being left off the cover, but all of those women are all those girls who are now women. Were sort of gifted an empire of their choosing after being on that cover and sort of got to sort of live out their career dreams. And she didn’t really exactly get that. And I do think she she feels like only just now by entering the YouTube space and by sort of forging her own path, if you will, that she is getting a taste of what they sort of got immediately after doing that cover. And, you know, in those years preceding. And I think she’s grateful that, you know, for some of those women, you know, the world was really rough and the media was really rough to them and life was tough. So I do think she has perspective and she’s like, she’s got a, you know, a husband, two kids, you know, stable family life in Austin, Texas. And I think she appreciates that. But I do also think there is for at least from talking to her for a little while, there was, you know, what could have what could have been, you know, there’s those questions which are natural.

S1: Well, I feel like this is a good segue way to talk about the YouTube video that hooked me finally into subscribing to her channel, which was hold on. I need to find the exact wording because no one does it. Clickbait headline like Christy Carlson Romano.

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S4: They put a lot of analytics into that.

S1: I we are going to talk about that because I have come away from all of this. Just convinced she’s a genius. I didn’t think that was going to be my takeaway when I started digging into the world of CCR.

S4: But, well, the world of CCR, God, that’s a good thing. I watch that

S1: show not to be confused with the Clearwater Revival. Very different now with the video in question is entitled How I Lost Princess Diaries to Anne Hathaway.

S4: I had a feeling sad to say

S1: that I immediately immediately.

S4: It’s sort of these like fantasia. Like What if Fugue states that she goes on that are so incredible to watch? Sometimes, you know the center doesn’t hold. You’re given a video with the title, and then the premise is we don’t deliver on what the premise is.

S1: And even Stevens taping ran long, and she didn’t make it to her audition. And because of that, she was not the titular princess and her life did not change.

S4: And she doesn’t have an Oscar now, and we can track all of that.

S2: Did you all see the Britney Spears? One like that is the one that really sums up the one that is describing what you all are talking about, which is that I went in thinking, Oh, she knows Britney Spears? And then ten minutes later, I’m just like, What the fuck did I just watch?

S4: Yeah, it’s so crazy. It’s so I mean, it’s it’s so it’s funny, and it’s honestly, it’s so smart. Guess who is trending all last week because of the conservatorship hearings? Britney Spears Guess who we get a video about Britney Spears. Is there really sort of any specific take story that goes with, you know, Christy Carlson Romano and Chris Britney Spears? Absolutely not, no.

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S1: Rachel, you brought up an interesting point that Chris I want to talk to you about from your piece, which as you said, Rachel, that it’s a 10 minute video. This is important, right? Chris.

S4: Yeah, that is by design. So the minimum length of time that a video on YouTube can include metro ads. So you know, when you’re like watching YouTube video, an ad pops up and you didn’t really even know it was going to pop up. The video has to be viewed. A video that you’re watching has to be 10 minutes for that to happen. Very specifically, all of her videos are ten minutes and two seconds, ten minutes and nine seconds. If you’re really lucky, you know, ten minutes and one second. And she’s very forthcoming about that, she says. Yeah, that’s very intentional.

S2: She is a full marketing genius. But so this is in this era of Christy Carlson Romano YouTube career is not her first foray into it. And I’m curious as to whether you could kind of describe the differences between her first YouTube videos and what we are now describing. Which are these 10 minute walk through the Austin Woods moments?

S4: Yeah, so the YouTube channel actually started as a cooking show. It was like in the kitchen with Christy Carlson Romano, and she would specifically invite other Disney stars and by stars. I do mean sort of people that you’d recognize people like, what’s their name again, you know? And she she said in our phone call that she invites. She invited a lot of Disney stars and sort of integrity and stars to his former child stars, and a lot of them said no, because they weren’t really. They’re trying to distance themselves from that era of their lives. They’re not really ready to look back and sort of confront, you know, what had to be. And absolutely, I have to imagine it must have been sort of a tricky, a hard, you know, sometimes really great, sometimes really bad period of their life. So, yeah, it’s funny because it started out as a way more produced, you know, production of a cooking show and what they discovered, I mean, the pandemic Bam had can’t do that, can’t have gas, you know, and then the whole show had to just be totally reconceived. And it turns out that actually what hits, you know in our TikTok age is just, you know, a woman walking and talking about the past directly to camera Chris.

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S1: What would you say was like the chief emotion you were feeling towards Christy while having this conversation? And was it different than what you thought you were going to feel coming in?

S4: Yeah, I don’t know. The first word that came up is, and I guess this might say something because I don’t feel that’s all the time, but empathy. I just sort of felt for her in a way, hearing about all these experiences and hearing, you know, her sheer excitement. I mean, she took the phone call while she was getting her hair done to do the cover of Austin Life magazine, and she was like, I’m going to be on the cover. She was so excited. And as we all sort of I think the internet knows, the internet can be a cruel place. You know, culture has changed a lot in the last 20 years, ten years, ten minutes even. And we’re all looking at these videos and we’re we’re definitely kind of laughing and I think that’s OK. I think they are funny.

S1: She knows,

S4: she knows, and she knows that we’re laughing. And it’s. And while it might sometimes feel like we’re laughing at her, I do think we’re actually laughing with her because I do think she’s in on the joke and she understands where she is and she’s happy to be there. I do think she’s genuinely thrilled at this moment that she’s arrived and I’m happy to be there with her. But it came with a lot of bumps along the road and a lot of disappointments and heartbreaks. And, you know, not getting things, which is an experience that I certainly don’t like. I don’t like to not get things done. So I do think empathy and a little like you can take that child out of the star begins at the start of the child like she’s doing at the end of the day, she’s still, you know, had that experience and is that person. And there is there is a little like, how how real can this even get when you’re talking to a person whose upbringing was sort of completely unreal, at least in regards to like what I think of as reality? And I will say we did get we got somewhere that’s

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S1: sort of where I landed to Rachel U.

S2: I did go into the entire Romano since being like, Why is she doing so much clickbait? What’s going on here? I mean, I love math, so I was going to support it anyway. But then I read your piece and I was like, Oh, it’s not just math, like, it’s a bit, just a bit of math, but like, it’s compelling. And at the core of the math is something that I can empathize with, which is my favorite kind of math.

S1: One thing I do think we should talk about as we’re talking about Christy Carlson Romano is that a lot of child stars, former child stars aren’t able to thrive as adults because of the very nature of the childhoods that they lived.

S4: Exactly because of the nature of the childhood that they had and because of the nature of celebrity and entertainment in general, you know, it chews you up and it spits you out. And that’s sort of a Christy Carlson Romano is saying happen to her. And that’s why I think she’s really enjoying and reveling. And I’m actually really happy for her that she’s having this moment in the sun again because I think she thought she was spit out never to return again by the industry. And that’s in our, you know, in our newfound age of content creation where, you know, we’re the directors and the writers and the camera people and the sound people, you can make yourself relevant again if you’re willing to go there.

S1: So we have these videos from Christy, which are sort of extremely ridiculous where she doesn’t deliver anything, and those are some of the more clickbait ones. But the videos I find actually very compelling are the ones where she does have, like half to what she’s saying when she talks about like, I have been sober for five years, here’s what alcohol did to my life, or I was a really wealthy child star and I have no financial literacy at 18 and I blew a million dollars in a year.

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S4: Yeah, or the one. We’re psychic scams are out of $60000. Just because that’s because that is a real thing. I’ve been

S1: sort of embattled the line

S4: that’s sort of in-between, but I did also find that one fascinating as well. It’s funny that you mentioned the sobriety one because that came out the day before we chatted. So we did talk about that one a lot and it is real and it is. It does sort of get into her experience, you know, leaving Hollywood, starting at Barnard, feeling sort of out of place, you know, away from Hollywood, but not wanting to be there and and whatnot. And she does have, you know, she is, you know, a smart woman who has the power and the she’s willing to go there with herself. And when there’s a place to go, she’s willing to go there. And with her sobriety journey, you know, that’s a real road that she’s traveled, that she’s still walking down. Does she sometimes walk down roads that really there’s no path there with Britney and with Anne Hathaway and with Katy Perry, of course. But the weird the interesting thing that I think the reason why I think a lot of us keep clicking is because sometimes she’ll really sort of like, lay it all out on the line. Say, yeah, I absolutely have struggled with, you know, alcohol addiction, as you know, person leaving the industry and making my way through New York as a college student. Yeah, I absolutely made all this money and had no idea what to do with it. I will say for every video that’s like clickbait. Here are my random musings on Britney Spears. There is something that actually delivers on the promise of the title, I would say.

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S1: I do find it interesting also that she still, to this day is shilling for the Disney Corporation like she loves the mouse. She wants to go back to the mouse. Like, every time she scootch is right up to that line where you think, Oh, are you going to say something like grading and bad about your childhood in the Disney Corporation? And then she’s like, But I still love Disney. This is

S4: great. She loves the mouse house. She wants to be back in that house. She wants to be back in that mouse house. And I do think she’s not alone in that. Like some of these other girls, Selina and Miley, they have sort of spoken out against the mouse house in a more visceral ways. But then they always end up walking it back in one way or another, which I think is interesting that says something about sort of Disney Corporation and Overlords, which I do think is more

S1: conditioning of being a child star like truly there. And we sort of laugh at these videos. Write these clickbait by nine story. Katy Perry stole my record career. Like, that’s very funny and easy to mock. But when you’re 10 years old and you know your income is like paying your family’s mortgage and like being on good terms with Disney execs is like, what’s going to set you up for the rest of your life? You can’t on wiring. That is hard work, if not impossible,

S4: if not impossible. And I do think she does have a lot of love for like that. I mean, it is literally like that was her whole life, right? Was Disney and these corporations. And I do feel like she. I will say I do feel that she feels that she was treated fairly by Disney. She actually sort of went on a longer tangent and sort of made it a little bit into the profile about how Nickelodeon did not treat its actors and its child stars, as well as Disney. They did not. They took advantage of them. They hired non-union. There was not sort of the infrastructure there to protect child stars. She insinuated about Nickelodeon as opposed to Disney. And I do think that she is nostalgic as many of us. I’m nostalgic for my theater camp. I can’t imagine how histologic I would be if I were a literal Disney Channel star and how much part of me would want to go back there. So I think that’s a very human emotion and a very human impulse. And I also think there is, you know, not to bring up a whole other thing. There’s money in the banana stand. You know, that’s like Disney is rebooting and doing Raven’s home, right? So and we talked a little bit about that, about that. And so now Raven’s getting, you know, a second chance and people, you know, reboots and nostalgia and repackaging and even just making the same thing over and over again. Sort of 87 percent of culture right now. And I think she would like to cash in on that. I also will say I’m not to be like, I’m proud of us, but I do think it’s interesting and it’s great that we’ve gone through. We talk so much about her without once really saying the name shrill above and sort of like even like mentioning that that I think were probably her first big video, her first big YouTube video. I think that really hit was like, why I don’t speak to Shrill above. And honestly, I think we were all curious about that. I think this is something that we all wanted to know, just given how you know how high he saw and how quickly and deeply he fell. So I think that’s an interesting aspect to it. And and it’s also these are things that she did not have to share. She didn’t have to share. And she’s just like opening her book of secrets in way and letting out the secrets when she has them to let out.

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S2: It’s like, come stare at the page as children

S1: cynically, that ones are like such an obvious secret secret quote unquote. The woman has not actually spilled any tea at all. Like, not not not not a hot tea, not iced tea, not a tea bag in sight. I mean, being on the record as shy and I didn’t get along and we don’t talk now is like, Oh yes, cool. Wow.

S4: Yeah. What a great. You’re not going. Get a blog post out of that one. Yeah, there’s no there’s no news story there, but I think as someone who loves performance and loves to watch, especially actresses and women, you know, talk about their lives and their experiences. I did find it interesting to sort of like get her to see her talk about Shia LaBeouf was interesting, even if she wasn’t saying anything that was particularly compelling.

S1: Chris this was great. Thank you so much for joining us today on the show.

S4: Oh my God, thank you for having me. This was a dream. This is so fun.

S1: Once again, that was Chris Murphy. He is a staff writer at Vanity Fair, and we will make sure we link to his delightful profile of the one, the only Christy Carlson Romano in the show notes.

S2: OK. That is the show. We will be back in your feed on Saturday, so definitely subscribe. It’s free. Please leave a rating and review in Apple Podcasts. Tell your friends about us. Mention us in your Facebook groups. You can also tell us which one of us we liked the best on Twitter, and I see why I might underscore Pod, which is also where you can give us your questions. And as always, you can drop us a note at I Am I at Slate.com.

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S1: I see. Why am I is produced by Daniel Schroeder, our supervising producer is Derek John Forrest Wickman and Allegra Frank are our editors, and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcasts. See you online

S2: or on Disney Channel.

S1: Honestly, I don’t remember that episode, but do you know what I do remember every single word to the naked mole wrap.

S2: You want to give us a day as

S1: we go to Bueno now chicken burrito and a knuckle? Oh, it’s going to say as to why not buy in my pocket? You can’t stop it. You can’t top it. Don’t drop it. You might just pop it, roofies. Sen. Ron Stoppable with our best friend Kim possible. We’re not afraid of any attack. It’s a joke. We got your back. Joking, I’m I guess that’s right. Come on, y’all, let the girls sink to the next moment. Oh my God. Madison, I thought you were joking. Every word, every single word. I learned Cantonese, but instead I just this.