Why you never hear about this Lizzie McGuire star anymore

Lizzie McGuire's Lalaine Vergara-Paras is best known for bringing Miranda Sanchez to life on the Disney Channel sitcom from 2001 to 2004. As the on-screen bestie of Hilary Duff's Lizzie, the fan-favorite character navigated middle school alongside the titular lead and Adam Lamberg's Gordo, and she quickly became the BFF every millennial either wanted or aspired to be. Strong-willed, supportive, and relatable, Miranda rocked a unique fashion sense and ultimately served as a beacon of hope for tweens everywhere as she refused to conform to the societal pressures placed on adolescents.

Basically, this Disney alum was awesome. Not unlike her on-screen alter ego, Vergara-Paras marched to the beat to her own drum, and viewers likely couldn't wait to see what she did next. However, the actress-singer surprisingly disappeared from the spotlight shortly after her days with the House of Mouse. As her on- and off-screen projects flew under the radar, this former child star unfortunately battled some serious legal trouble and faced other troubles. Keep reading to find out why you never hear about this Lizzie McGuire star anymore.

Her confusing Lizzie McGuire exit

Fans of the Lizzie McGuire franchise may remember that Vergara-Paras' Miranda was a no-show during The Lizzie McGuire Movie and some of the show's final season (via the Chicago Tribune). According to Bustle, the writers attributed the character's notable — albeit surprising — absence to the Sanchez family's apparently never-ending vacation in Mexico. The on-screen explanation didn't only become more flimsy as time went on, but it also left a major hole in the show for fans of Miranda Sanchez. So, what gives? Well, it turns out the actress-singer's other gigs caused some unavoidable scheduling conflicts.

"During that time, I was hopping around doing Radio Disney tours and at the same time filming in New Zealand with A.J. Trauth and Spencer Breslin [on You Wish!]," Vergara-Paras told HuffPost in 2015. While she "would've been bummed missing out on [You Wish!]," the singer-actress admitted, "I'm sure it made no sense to a good amount of people that I wasn't in the movie." Vergara-Paras added, "In spirit, I think Miranda was there no matter what. If I'm in their minds while they were watching it, Miranda was a part of it. But Lalaine wanted to be a part of something else, too … Sometimes that's how timing works."

Disney passed on a Miranda-centric spin-off show

In 2007, the Disney Channel ordered a pilot for a Lizzie McGuire spin-off called What's Stevie Thinking? According to Seventeen, the comedy series would have focused on Miranda's younger sister Stevie and "[their] family as they worked in a zoo in Australia." While Vergara-Paras previously decided against reprising her role on the big screen years earlier, she had signed on to return for the pilot, according to the show's IMDb page. Serving as the show's titular lead, however, would have been none other than future A-lister Selena Gomez, who later recalled in an E! special, "I remember thinking that that was a sign 'cause I was so obsessed with [Lizzie McGuire]. I was like, 'This is destiny. I have to have this.'" However, she went on to admit that it was "probably one of [her] worst auditions." 

Of course, it was a destiny of sorts for Gomez, who went on to land the lead role on the network's Wizards of Waverly Place. It just wasn't meant to be for Vergara-Paras, as the show was never ordered to series.

Her pop music career never took off

During her Lizzie McGuire run, Vergara-Paras tried her hand at Disney tween pop-stardom. Following the release of her 2003 debut album, Inside Story, she discussed finding a balance between acting and music with the Chicago Tribune in 2005. "I love them both so much," the actress-singer-songwriter said. "If I had to choose, I'd have to pick my music. My singing led into acting, and that is how I discovered acting." She added, "My music does say a lot about me and what I went through."

At that point in her career, Vergara-Paras had also worked closely with Radio Disney, releasing the track "You Wish" from the network's TV movie of the same name and her own pop spin on the Disney classic "Cruella De Vil." She found the most success with the 2000s bop "I'm Not Your Girl" — and even performed the tune on Nickelodeon's All That. However, her music career failed to reach the same explosive level as that of co-star Hilary Duff's, as well as those of future Disney Channel counterparts like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez. That said, Vergara-Paras never quite let go of her musical dreams, and she later lent her vocals to "Different" in 2011 for Artists Against Hate.

She faced major legal trouble

Like so many child stars before her, Vergara-Paras unfortunately went through a rough patch as she navigated showbiz in early adulthood. In 2007, the former Disney starlet pleaded guilty to a felony charge of methamphetamine possession, according to TMZ. Thankfully, the arrest served as a wake-up call for the actress-singer to seek out help, and her charge was later expunged from her record after completing a drug treatment program.

"I had a time where I went through what I call my 'dark years,' where I just went nuts and stupid, just being angry and acting like I was so badass," Vergara-Paras later told HuffPost. "That just turned into me digging myself in a deep hole, and after I got arrested that was like a slap in the face that I needed to turn my perspective around." She went on to reflect on the "responsibility" of being a role model to young girls from such an early age herself, saying, "I may have effed that responsibility up a bit when I went through my dark days, but for the ones that haven't totally abandoned me, I appreciate that a whole lot."

She lost touch with her Disney Channel co-stars

While working through those so-called "dark years" in the late 2000s, Lalaine Vergara-Paras understandably grew apart from her former Disney Channel co-stars. However, the Lizzie McGuire gang showed the world what dreams are made of with a surprising mini-reunion in 2015. "So this happened last night," Jake Thomas — a.k.a. Lizzie's younger brother, Matt — wrote on Instagram at the time, captioning a snapshot of himself with Vergara-Paras and Hilary Duff. For her part, Vergara-Paras tweeted out the same pic, writing, "#About last night #AMomentLikeThis."

Around that time, she told HuffPost that losing touch with her castmates was just "one of those things," but she admitted that it was probably for the best, all things considered. "I'm in a completely different place now, which is why it was so awesome that I felt good when I saw [Hilary]," Vergara-Paras continued. "Hopefully we'll keep in touch now. She and I exchanged numbers. She texted me a couple times, and it's such a trip to randomly see her name pop up on my phone now. It's like, yeah, we may not have spoken for 14 years, but somehow it's one of those things where it's probably gonna just pick up where it left off." Lizzie and Miranda: BFFs for life.

Royal Kill was more of a buzzkill

Vergara-Paras appeared on the big screen in the psychological thriller Royal Kill in 2009, and she couldn't have been more excited about the project. "It feels good," she told Desi You at the movie's pre-release party. "It's taught me a lot of patience because, you know, I shot my stuff back in '05 and we're now in '09." She added, "I trust [director Babar Ahmed], and that's the one thing you have to do is trust your director … and I know it's gonna be awesome." With its dark tone and violent content, the project marked a distinct departure from the actress' better known Miranda Sanchez days. While discussing her character, she said, "[The] only thing similar is basically it being a teenage girl, that's about it."

Unfortunately, the flick did little to increase Vergara-Paras' on-screen presence. Royal Kill's limited release grossed just $50,090 against a budget of $350,000 (via Box Office Mojo), received a depressing 7 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it was torn apart by critics. The Washington Post, for example, called it "deliriously bad filmmaking" and wrote that it "needs to be seen to be believed, but don't see it, under any circumstances." Ouch.

She turned to YouTube

After failing to find continued success on TV and in film, Vergara-Paras teamed up with screenwriter Elisa Victoria to try her luck on YouTube. Their Off the Clock web series, which was branded as "cleverly stupid entertainment" on Facebook, ran between 2009 and 2013. We love to see artists branch out, collaborate, and create their own unique content, but it unfortunately doesn't look like Off the Clock was much of a hit since the channel itself no longer exists. However, one fan reposted a sketch which featured none other than future American Horror Story and Pose star Evan Peters.

Meanwhile, Vergara-Paras continued to work in entertainment. Her other notable — yet sporadic — work around this time included a brief cameo as a gossiping girl in the 2010 Emma Stone-led comedy Easy A, as well as online appearances on Shane Dawson TV a year later and Raymond & Lane in 2015.

She toured with Vanity Theft

Between 2010 and 2011, Vergara-Paras left Hollywood behind to tour the United States with an all-women indie pop-rock group called Vanity Theft. "Pretty much the only time I left [Los Angeles] was when I decided to go on an adventure and peace out and join a girl band for a couple years, and I learned how to play bass," the multi-hyphenate told HuffPost in 2015. She added, "I was on the road for like a year-and-a-half straight with these girls in like a van all across the country."

After reflecting on the adventures she shared with her former bandmates, Vergara-Paras said, "I mean, I never performed like that in a band where I was playing something. I got to do my bass face every night like five times a week. That was cool." While the musician's time with Vanity Theft was admittedly short-lived, her tenure with the group has since been immortalized online. Fans can still see Vergara-Paras rocking out in several music videos like "Limb from Limb" and "Anatomy."

Did Hollywood try to whitewash her?

Vergara-Paras made headlines for the first time in years when she reflected on her experiences growing up as a person of color in Hollywood on Instagram in April 2019. "Most of my life growing up I was forced to look as 'white' as possible," the Filipino actress-singer originally wrote to her followers (via E! News). "These days I struggle to find photos where I look as ethnic as possible. Like in this photo, the most East Asian I've ever looked. In order to see, for most people, you have to zoom in on ma face." She added, "And in case you still don't understand, I love my face in this photo."

While Vergara-Paras didn't specifically mention Disney or Lizzie McGuire in the post, they were the assumed culprits in the ensuing media storm surrounding her Instagram post — especially after former co-star Clayton Snyder's comment revealed that Vergara-Paras had gone by just her first name because her last name was considered "too Hispanic." In an effort to clarify things, she edited the caption soon after. Switching out the word "white" with "neutral," she wrote in all caps, "THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN 4 YEARS AGO. I DON'T ACT ANYMORE, HAVEN'T IN A DECADE AND NOT TRYING TO. SO THIS COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH 'THE SHOW.'" Despite this apparent misinterpretation, MSN noted that a number of commenters thanked Vergara-Paras for for having offered some admittedly rare representation for kids of color on TV.

Lizzie McGuire may get the reboot treatment

With countless '90s sitcoms like Will & Grace and Full House returning to the small screen in the 2010s, Disney fanatics are no doubt wondering whether early aughts hits like Lizzie McGuire will also receive the TV reboot treatment. While speaking with Entertainment Tonight in late 2018, Hilary Duff herself revealed that "there's been some conversations" about reviving the show, but quickly added, "It's definitely not a go. I don't want to get everyone wild talking about it."

For her part, Vergara-Paras previously told HuffPost that she was simply "curious" about the idea, and she looked back on her experience on the pre-teen comedy fondly. "If I think about it, which I do every now and then, you know, a nice humble smile comes across my face," she said. Vergara-Paras continued, "I was lucky enough to be a part of something that touched a lot of kids and teens that were going through their lives and their awkward stages, and felt a little better doing it with us. The fact that I was help for a good amount of girls, that means something."

Can she turn it around?

After leaving the world of Lizzie McGuire behind in the mid-2000s, Lalaine Vergara-Paras described her career in three words to US Asians: "Diversely / Exploring / Positivity." While we've missed her presence in music and TV, there's no doubt Vergara-Paras' career has continued to be led by this fateful terminology. Ultimately, we're just glad to see that the actress-singer has managed to happily and healthily stay out of the spotlight while taking on the entertainment industry on her own terms.

"[My life used to consist of] craziness and nonstop everything, and, when I was a kid, not really knowing what a kid's life was. It was just go, go, go," Vergara-Paras told HuffPost in 2015. Explaining that she now has "a completely different perspective" that's "just more on the relaxed side of things," she added, "I hold a job down to pay the bills, and I've been doing all these random little projects." As of this writing, one of these projects will reportedly include appearing in the short film The Man with the Red Balloon. You do you, Lalaine!