Whatever Happened To Aly And AJ Michalka?

Aly and AJ Michalka were the Disney Channel's most iconic real-life sister duo in the 2000s. Their music career coincided with their acting endeavors, and fans of that era heard their voices on many of the network's movie soundtracks, including "Ice Princess," "Herbie: Fully Loaded," and "Cow Belles." When Aly & AJ were signed with Hollywood Records, Disney brought them many synergistic opportunities. Musically, they started taking off with the song "No One" in 2005, the beautiful backdrop of the opening credits in the aforementioned "Ice Princess." The single was also on the sisters' debut album, "Into the Rush." Sold in both religious and mainstream markets, the record has remained important to longtime fans.

Both Michalkas also began acting in the 2000s. AJ (then known as Amanda) had roles on shows like "The Guardian" and "General Hospital." Meanwhile, Aly landed the role of Keely Teslow on the Disney Channel's "Phil of the Future," and she debuted an Aly & AJ song called "Protecting Me" in a 2004 episode. They've each enjoyed major successes in their television careers, but the famous sisters are clearly also musical beings who speak powerfully to their audiences. While their songwriting output has shifted as they've grown up, Aly & AJ still have devoted fans who are inspired by them and support them with every new song.

But let's dig a little deeper and find out whatever happened to Aly and AJ Michalka since their Disney Channel heyday.

Aly and AJ Michalka grew up with a shared interest in acting

Aly and AJ Michalka were born in Torrance, California and spent part of their childhood in Seattle. Their family then moved back to the Los Angeles area and "back into the arms of the entertainment industry," as AJ said on Christine Lakin and Alaa Khaled's "Worst Ever Podcast" in a 2020 appearance. 

AJ went on to recount the Michalkas' youth as performers. "We were definitely entertaining, but at a really super normal level," she said, noting that "everyone in the neighborhood knew" that she and Aly would "[put] on plays at church" and "put on shows at [their] school" because they'd "sell fake tickets" made out of cardboard. Adorbs. The duo later known as Aly & AJ persuaded their mother to let them take an acting course in Seattle, where the sisters met their first agent, Judy Savage. Once back in LA, they officially signed with Savage and found additional opportunities. Their mother, for example, had a friend who knew actor Garry Marshall, who later became a family friend. Aly went on to act in one of Marshall's plays (alongside future Broadway star Ben Platt, to boot), and Marshall eventually connected the Michalkas with their first manager, Lynda Goodfriend.

AJ looked back on those early years positively. "It was amazing that we happened to get our start with really legitimate people who knew what they were doing, and we never had a quote/unquote negative experience," she said. "We were always with people that treated us really well."

It wasn't always easy to be in the spotlight

In a 2017 interview with Elle, Aly and AJ Michalka were asked about "dealing with stardom at such a young age." Noting that she "[didn't] think [they] were [in the] mega stardom field," AJ said, "I do know that our music had done well enough that Aly and I were recognized on a day-to-day basis, especially if we were together. You deal with constant scrutiny, and people who know your business too intimately who shouldn't." She added, "As a kid, it can be overwhelming and frightening." 

AJ went on to say that she was glad the sisters weren't as famous as someone like Taylor Swift, but shared that even "with super-normal parents and a solid team around us, being under the microscope is definitely a weird way to grow up." For her part, Aly simply said she and her younger sister "were lucky to handle it together."

From music videos and acting gigs to Radio Disney tours, the Disney Channel days were busy for Aly & AJ. And even as they were at the precipice of new music at this time (more on that below), the Michalkas were still taken back to their House of Mouse past when Elle asked Aly if she'd be interested in a "Phil of the Future" reunion. "I mean, sure!" Aly replied. "I guess reunions are a big thing now. I wouldn't be opposed to it. It's a funny idea. I have no idea what they'd do necessarily with the storyline, but yeah, sure."

The Michalkas' 2006 DCOM is still talked about today

For millennials of a certain vintage, a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) is a sacred childhood memory. Aly Michalka was in her first DCOM, "Now You See It...," in 2005. This was already a huge year for her and her sister with the release of "Into the Rush" (along with its lead single, "Rush"), and 2006 was equally exciting for the duo. Aly & AJ headed out to the dairy farm to star in "Cow Belles," a movie about siblings who learn to appreciate the value of hard work and the importance of a helping hand. Their "On the Ride" track was featured in the sisterly film, which premiered on Disney Channel right before the first-ever episode of "Hannah Montana."

With the rise of Disney+ and 2000s nostalgia, people have continued to talk about "Cow Belles," with Aly & AJ revealing to ET in 2019 that a sequel or reboot of the movie was "something we're trying to make maybe happen," as Aly put it. 

Meanwhile, in March 2021, the Michalka sisters reviewed several of their outfits through the years with "Who What Wear," including one "Cow Belles" look. Aly called her poncho "hilarious," while AJ poked fun at her "short choker with the long necklace happening" and said her pearl bracelet was "really odd." The Michalkas loved their wardrobe fittings for the movie, but agreed that they wouldn't revive these particular 2006 looks.

They focused on music more than acting for the rest of the 2000s

After "Cow Belles," Aly and AJ Michalka turned their attention to making more music. The sisters released their second full-length album, "Acoustic Hearts of Winter," in 2006, and their third, "Insomniatic," in 2007. "Insomniatic" ushered in an edgier style with hits like "Chemicals React" and "Potential Breakup Song," both of which got plenty of airplay on Radio Disney and Disney Channel. 

Unfortunately, an additional album the Michalkas worked on with Hollywood Records never saw the light of day. In 2019, the sisters opened up to Forbes about that unreleased album. AJ said that they left the label due to "creative differences," and Aly elaborated on what those differences were regarding the shelved record: "We saw that they weren't really that excited about the music and they wanted to promote the first single overseas, which was really strange to us that they were wanting to take this overseas instead of starting in the U.S. That wasn't like that for the other two records we worked with them on. That was a massive red flag to us that they were not really invested." She added, "AJ and I saw it coming a mile away, so we basically asked to be let go of our contract, and we were, by some miraculous miracle." 

Though the Michalka sisters didn't get to share that album with the world, AJ stated that "there's no bad blood with that company or Disney."

Acting took center stage again, but another music project emerged

The early 2010s saw Aly and AJ Michalka once again pivot back and forth between acting and music, as they embarked on a new musical endeavor that they've rarely talked about since its launch: 78violet. 

According to Digital Spy, the Michalkas both worked on the TV show "Hellcats" in 2010, the same year that brought notable feature films for each sister — Aly in "Easy A" and AJ in "Secretariat." However, 2013 signaled a miniature musical comeback for the Michalka siblings. While AJ sang and starred in a faith-based film called "Grace Unplugged" that year, she and Aly also unveiled a new project. Rebranding their musical output and briefly becoming known as 78violet, they promoted "Hothouse" as their flagship song. 

When the duo sat down with Music Choice to explain the name change in 2013, AJ said, "I feel like, musically, for us to have a band name, it just sums up kind of who we are, who we've become, and just a natural progression, I think, as artists." Aly chimed in with, "I think 'violet' is kind of that feminine voice that is kind of a little bit of a hippie child." It was a fun era for fans, but definitely a mysterious one that seems to have been swept under the rug.

AJ Michalka joined the cast of The Goldbergs in 2014

One of AJ Michalka's most popular acting roles began in 2014 as Lainey Lewis on ABC's "The Goldbergs." She also played the same character in the 2019 spin-off "Schooled" for its two seasons, with "The Goldbergs" set in the 1980s, while "Schooled" moved on to the 1990s. 

When AJ appeared on Christine Lakin and Alaa Khaled's "Worst Ever Podcast" in 2020, Lakin (who is a director and choreographer for "The Goldbergs") applauded the actor-singer for her work ethic and professionalism on set, especially since she was simultaneously making music on a busy schedule. Lakin also asked Michalka about her secret for thriving in her two careers in showbiz.

Expressing gratitude for her ability to make music and act, AJ said, "I'm so lucky to be able to do both, and actually successfully be a part of both careers right now ... For them to both be working right now, I don't have anything to complain about ... I don't want to pick between the two. I love doing music with my sister." As for the secret to her success, AJ explained that a good night's sleep keeps her and her "vocals healthy." Meanwhile, Aly & AJ stayed committed throughout 2020 to work on their big comeback record with a producer via Zoom. 

Aly Michalka married cinematographer Stephen Ringer in 2015

Fans of Aly and AJ Michalka might not know as much about the sisters' personal lives as we do other stars, but as the actor-singers have grown up, their lives and lyrical content have similarly aged. And in more recent years, the Michalkas have collaborated on projects with Aly's husband, cinematographer Stephen Ringer. 

Back in July 2014, Aly announced the couple's engagement news on Twitter, captioning a snapshot of her engagement ring in part with, "Wanted to share the exciting news! Feel very blessed to know such a great love." Per E!, she and Ringer got hitched the following June at a ceremony held in Italy.

As for their collaborations, Ringer wrote and produced the Michalkas' 2015 film, "Weepah Way for Now," and Aly actually credits him with her and AJ's return to music. "My husband [Stephen Ringer] encouraged us to come back to music," she told Elle in 2017. "He saw us singing and writing round the house so he encouraged us to get back out there and write music and perform ... [Finally] we just said, 'Okay, let's give this one last go.'" In sharing those sentiments, Aly also cited her husband as part of Aly & AJ's more adult songwriting process: "The music we were writing then was based on fictional relationships ... We were thirteen and fifteen, we were writing with zero experience. Now that I'm married, and we've each had many relationships and heartbreaks, we're coming at songwriting at a much different way."

Do Aly & AJ have the same net worth?

Even though their careers have converged at numerous points, Aly and AJ Michalka don't share the same net worth. According to Celebrity Net Worth, AJ has $700,000 to her name, while Aly has earned an estimated $2 million. As the sisters charted the course for their music together, they took on plenty of acting projects separately, which would equate to different amounts of money for their respective onscreen work.

The Michalkas also have years of concert tours in the books, which has undoubtedly earned them a pretty penny. In addition to going on the road with other Disney Channel acts back in the day (like The Cheetah Girls and Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana), Aly & AJ have also played plenty of venues in their more recent era. Per Seventeen, the sisterly duo have also sold merch in the past, like dolls, cosmetics, clothes, guitars, books, and a even video game. 

Not that it's about the money for the Michalkas. Although these former child stars have done well for themselves, they are clearly artists first and foremost — even their official Instagram page is very much about the sisterhood and creative spirit of their artistic endeavors. "I think that we felt like we had free rein to make the music that we wanted to make," AJ told Us Weekly of working with Disney's label, but admitted that she and Aly felt "pressure" and "frustrat[ion]" as it "became ... more of a machine." She added, "I think that's ultimately what led us to become independent artists."

2017 marked a huge comeback for Aly and AJ Michalka

2017 visibly marked Aly & AJ's comeback year in music. The artists were still maintaining busy television careers, AJ Michalka on "The Goldbergs" and older sister Aly Michalka primarily on "iZombie." At that time, AJ told Elle, "We love the shows we're on, and we're definitely passionate about acting, but at the end of the day, our work on stage together is what's really important."

Disregarding 78violet, the Michalka sisters began promoting their music as Aly & AJ again, and their then-new EP was titled "Ten Years" to represent the space between their teenage and adult music careers. Fans embraced the new and the old at once. "The reactions we get from the old music and the new is like an equal excitement that truly I did not expect," AJ told Forbes. "I really thought that the old would outweigh the new in regards to people's passion for it." On the contrary, fans seemed to be holding the past and the present in equal esteem.

After a second EP in 2019, the Michalka sisters released a timely song in 2020

The second grown-up EP the Michalkas released was "Sanctuary" in 2019, but the sisters didn't stop there. Rather, Aly & AJ showered their fans with several singles in 2020, the first of which was "Attack of Panic." Why reverse the phrase "panic attack?" Vanity Fair learned that Aly Michalka had conversed with someone whose "first language is Italian, and who was describing the paroxysms of fear and anxiety that had begun to seize him later in life." She liked the way the translation flipped the phrase and said, "It's literally an attack of panic. It attacks your senses. It attacks your entire being." 

Meanwhile, sister AJ Michalka has experienced panic attacks herself, and even the song's music video shoot was somewhat of a stressor as she juggled her television responsibilities from across the world. The siblings had filmed the music video for "Attack of Panic" in Berlin with Aly's husband, Stephen Ringer, as their sole crew member. "Chaos is so relevant right now," AJ explained to Vanity Fair. "Especially as young women in our 20s and 30s figuring out where we want to go in life, who we want to be, how we're looked at."

Although "Attack of Panic" was released before the coronavirus pandemic hit, its opening lyrics seemingly resonate with those who have struggled with their mental health during quarantine: "You sit back, relax, and everything attacks."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Aly and AJ Michalka use their voices to help others

In their adulthood, Aly and AJ Michalka have shown their support for various important causes. For example, they raised over $60,000 (via Vanity Fair) for The Trevor Project (a national crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGTBQ+ youth) while on tour in 2019. The Michalkas have even been called "gay icons" and said in a Rolling Stone question-and-answer video that the association started when they made their comeback with their 2017 "Ten Years" EP. AJ remembered fans tweeting about coming out or embracing their sexuality, and Aly said, "It just made us smile." 

The sisters are also highly respected in the LGBTQ+ community for their involvement with The Trevor Project, and they have raised funds for additional marginalized communities. In June 2020, Aly & AJ had an "Up All Night" concert event to benefit multiple charities, including, per its YouTube stream, "Color of Change, Frontline Foods, Save our Stages, Project Heal, Women's History Museum, The Art of Elysium, The Trevor Project, Nalleli Cobo, GLAAD, Sierra Club, MusiCares, The Beauty Bus Foundation, and the Red Cross." The event was infused with information about the causes, as well as conversations with people in the entertainment industry, including Aly's former "Phil of the Future" co-stars. "Up All Night" brought in $30,000 collectively for the causes.

2021 would bring a brand new album from Aly & AJ

Aly and AJ Michalka released more singles ahead of a full-fledged album with a long but catchy title: "A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun." The record's May 7, 2021 release would mark a joyous occasion for Aly & AJ fans everywhere, and the Michalkas were excited about it, too. 

"Kind of the way that classic records make you feel when you put them on in the car, or on vinyl at your house ... there's just something different about those songs that make them feel so magical," Aly told People. "They're kind of suspended in time. We wanted to write a record that felt like that, that no one would necessarily be able to pinpoint when that record was made, but that it just felt timeless and classic."

The album was something of a rebirth for Aly & AJ, who previously hadn't released a full studio album for 14 years. Both sisters highlighted the positivity of the album to People. Aly said, "The biggest inspiration of this record was to capture the sounds of the West coast and what we associate with being California kids. This album should make people get up on their feet and out and into life, and we hope that it brings people joy and happiness." She emphasized the record's "great energy" and "really positive and hopeful outlook." AJ added, "It feels so good ... I'm just so proud of these songs."

Aly and AJ Michalka know how to balance nostalgia with the fresh look of the future

One of Aly & AJ's most beloved hits of yesteryear is "Potential Breakup Song," which had a resurgence on TikTok in 2020. In response to the fans' tributes, Aly and AJ Michalka decided to update the song with an explicit version. They were also interviewed for a 2021 "MTV Golden Age" special about themselves, Fefe Dobson, and Michelle Branch, all women who "defined 2000s pop rock." 

"Aly and I are two people that look fondly on our past as musicians," AJ said, adding, "There's a beauty to the aspect of nostalgia." Meanwhile, her sister offered, "I think people want to feel safe and kind of comforted by what they grew up listening to." Regarding "Potential Breakup Song," Aly shared, "With the remix and doing the explicit version, that's kind of brought this whole new life to the song."

The Michalka sisters have seemingly handled the tension between the past and the present successfully, having formed their newest music in their own perfect timing as examples of their boundless creativity. "There's a confidence to our music and our direction," AJ told Billboard. "We're very clear about what we want to put out, and [if we did it] any sooner, we wouldn't feel the same way." She added, "How great that we don't have to be in the confines of pop rules."