Why you never hear about Vanessa Hudgens anymore

For Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical was the start of something new and, essentially, the start of her mainstream career. From 2005 to 2008, Hudgens reigned supreme over the teen scene as Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical franchise. During her HSM years she not only found instant success, but she also found love with co-star Zac Efron. The two were a match made in Disney heaven and Hudgens was on top of the world. 

However, after breaking up with heartthrob Zac Efron and breaking free from the franchise that made her famous, Hudgens faded into the background as is the fate of many a former Disney star. Here's what she's been up to since HSM wrapped and why you never seem to hear about the Disney darling anymore. 

Her breakout role remains her biggest gig to date

Although Hudgens made her silver screen debut in 2002, she did not find commercial success until 2005 when she was cast as Gabriella Montez in Disney's High School Musical. It was the breakout role of a lifetime in a movie that would go on to be one of Disney Channel's most successful original movies of all time. When HSM wrapped in 2008, Hudgens wasn't even 20 years old. She was coming off of the HSM high, the world was her oyster and she had her entire career ahead of her. That's why it's too bad that at the ripe old age of 19, her biggest role was behind her. 

After graduating from the Disney Channel, Hudgens was vocal about her desire to be taken seriously as an actress. And if her television and movie credits are any indication, she's definitely been working hard to find a role that will help her emerge from the shadow of teenybopper fame. 

However, while the brunette beauty has certainly not been twiddling her thumbs for the better part of the last decade, her post-HSM career has seemingly been more about quantity than quality and no role to date has even come close to earning her HSM-level recognition. 

Her star power faded after her split from Zac Efron

At one point in time Zanessa, the dynamic pairing of Efron and Hudgens, was the undisputed Brangelina (RIP) of the teenybopper world. The two met during their HSM auditions and to say that they had serious chemistry from day one would be an understatement. However, all good things must come to an end (especially in Hollywood) and the Disney power couple called it quits in 2010. 

Post-split, Efron has enjoyed enormous success at the box office and never seems to be without a steady stream of projects. Meanwhile, Hudgens has nabbed roles that have tanked at the box office and been pulled off of television. Together, the former couple was unstoppable but apart it seems like there was only room for one HSM alum to bop to the top and Efron might have realized that all along. 

According to a US Weekly source, after the last HSM movie, Efron was ready to leave his Disney life behind and to "experience life as a single man" — ouch! So while Efron went from teen heartthrob to hunky, Hollywood A-lister, Hudgens faded into obscurity only to be brought back into the limelight when asked about her former flame

She stepped away from the music that made her famous to focus on her acting career

Considering the high frequency of Disney stars-turned-musicians, it would have been pretty surprising if Hudgens, a Disney star starring in a musical, hadn't tried her hand at a solo music career. In 2006, the same year that HSM debuted on Disney ChannelHudgens released her debut album, V. The album peaked at spot 24 on the Billboard 200 charts. In 2008, Hudgens took another stab at a solo album and released Identified which debuted one spot higher on the Billboard 200. 

Despite her well-received solo efforts, Hudgens highest charting endeavor to date is her "Breaking Free" duet with Efron which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The fact that two albums worth of work still wasn't enough to top her HSM credits might partially be to blame for Hudgens making the decision to put her music career on hold. In 2009, she announced that she was "taking a break" from music in order to focus on her acting career. Since Hudgens rose to fame for her musical abilities more so than her acting abilities, it might not have been the best idea to step away from music completely. After all, it's never a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you.

Her attempt to break into the Broadway musical scene was short-lived

In 2015, Hudgens put her big screen musical skills to the test when she took on the titular role in the Broadway musical Gigi. The show opened at the Kennedy Center on January 29, 2015 and closed just 6 months later on June 21, 2015 after being snubbed by critics and experiencing middling ticket sales. As Gigi, Hudgens offered up a "competent" performance. However, critic after critic noted her lack of "charm" and two-dimensional performance. 

Although Hudgens had plenty of prior musical experience, her performances seemingly fell flat when she was tasked with holding her own as a lead without the benefit of a director calling "cut" between takes or a certain charming co-star to elevate her performance. 

Post- High School Musical she's mostly starred in box office duds

Since HSM wrapped, Hudgens has appeared in over 10 films — which is pretty impressive seeing as her mainstream career only spans about 13 years. However, many would be hard-pressed to name even just one of the actress' post-HSM movie projects. The reason for that? Most of the projects have either 1) completely bombed at the box office or 2) been ripped apart by critics. Take The Hollywood Reporter's review of Hudgens' 2011 film Beastly, for example: "The best thing about this movie starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen is that that it's only 86 minutes long." Yikes! We hazard a guess that Hudgens and her co-stars definitely needed a little ice for that burn. 

And even when Hudgens does deliver a notable performance, like her turn as Apple in Gimme Shelter, her talent is somewhat overshadowed by overall disregard for the film by critics. Hudgens just can't seem to win when it comes to her big screen performances. 

And she hasn't had much success on the small screen either

In February 2016, it was announced that Hudgens would star in NBC's superhero-themed comedy, Powerless. However, Hudgens' turn as Emily Locke was just about as short-lived as her turn as Gigi. After debuting to soft ratings, the DC Entertainment comedy was cancelled before it even got a chance to spread it's wings. And by spread it's wings, we mean air all of it's episodes. Powerless was yanked out of NBC's Thursday night line-up with two out of the 13-episode order going unseen. However, one of the unaired episodes featuring the late Adam West was released for a limited time in June 2017 to honor the late actor. 

At the end of the day, its seems like even Hudgens' star power was powerless in preventing her first and only sitcom from getting booted off the air. Is it too late to reconsider kick-starting that singing career again? We're asking for a friend. 

She never fully recovered from her nude photo scandal

During her early HSM days, Hudgens unwittingly shed her wholesome, Disney image when nude photos of the actress surfaced online. She dealt with not one, but two leaked photo scandals that threatened to destroy her career before it really even got started. The first photo leak happened in September 2007 and shortly thereafter rumors began to swirl that she would be dropped from High School Musical 3: Senior Year. The second photo scandal hit in August 2009 because apparently the former Disney darling didn't learn her lesson the first time. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… 

Back in 2013, the actress opened up about the scandals noting that they were the "worst moment" of her career. We're not saying that the leaked photos stagnated her career because if leaked photos in Hollywood resulted in blacklisting, we would be down quite a few actors. However, it's definitely hard to get past something that you deem to be the worst moment in your career. It's quite possible that when it comes to putting herself out there, the scandals of her past are still haunting her and preventing Hudgens from reaching her greatest potential. 

She's still mourning the loss of her father

On January 30, 2016, the day before Hudgens was slated to make her debut as Rizzo in FOX's Grease: Live! musical special, her father, Greg Hudgens, passed away at the age of 65 after battling stage four cancer. In true "the show must go on" fashion, Hudgens tweeted that she would be going forward with the performance in honor of her father. 

Although Hudgens showed immense strength by delivering a powerful performance the day after her father's death, that doesn't mean she didn't still need a grieving period. The actress opened up to Teen Vogue in May 2017 about the ways she strives to keep her father's memory alive everyday. 

"I talk to him constantly," she revealed. "I just continued to do what I love. He was such a supporter of allowing me to continue to follow my dreams without him driving me to L.A. for auditions all the time… without him I obviously would not be here, in many ways."

It's clear that Hudgens thinks about her father often and taking some time away from the limelight might have been just what she needed to mourn his death in her own way. 

She might be looking to settle down and start a family

If you thought Hudgens threw herself a pity party after splitting up with Hollywood hottie Efron, think again! Not even a year after the Zanessa split, Hudgens was romantically linked to actor Austin Butler and the pair have been inseparable ever since. And from the looks of things, it seems like the pair are pretty serious about each other. 

In an 2012 interview with ShapeHudgens revealed that she hoped she would be married with a baby by the time she's 30. Granted, at the time of the interview the actress was only 22, so her thoughts on marriage and children might have changed a little bit. However, it seems like she was definitely keen on the idea of settling down in a few years time.

Seeing as Hudgens turns 30 this year, Butler better get a move on! 

She's helping other people hone their craft instead of focusing on her own

So you think you can … judge? After showing off her dancing skills on the silver screen, the big screen and Broadway, Hudgens apparently proved herself worthy of judging other people's dancing abilities and was chosen as a judge for FOX's So You Think You Can Dance. The HSM alum joined dancing veterans Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy on the judge's panel for the 14th season of the show and offered up her critiques for aspiring dance hopefuls. At the time of this writing, there's no word on whether or not Hudgens, or SYTYCD for that matter, will be returning to our screens anytime soon. 

Regardless, maybe Hudgens can use this down time to focus on honing her craft (whether that be dancing, acting or singing) instead of devoting all her time to helping up-and-comers hone theirs. Or if she really has caught the judging bug, we totally wouldn't be opposed to a HSM-themed competition judged by V. Hudge and some former HSM co-stars — just saying !