What You Don't Know About Vanessa Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens will always be associated with "High School Musical," and she doesn't mind. On the red carpet ahead of the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards, Hudgens told ET, "I would not have been into musical theater if it wasn't for Natalie Wood and 'West Side Story,' and she will always be Maria to me ... It was because of those films that really ignited my love for the arts. I feel like 'High School Musical' has done that for the new generation, so I'm like, 'If that's something that I received from Natalie Wood, I'm more than happy to pass it along to the kids.'"

A Disney darling if there ever was one, Hudgens never stopped working and quickly rose to A-List status in Hollywood. She took on a unique range of film roles — including a cop in "Bad Boys for Life" and Jennifer Lopez's character's daughter in "Second Act" — and blended her vocal talent with her acting via musicals. Sometimes Hudgens' story seems predictable, but there are other chapters in her life where she's breakin' free. She's gotta go her own way. This is what you don't know about actor, singer, host, entrepreneur, and optimist, Vanessa Hudgens.

Her upbringing shaped her understanding of representation

Vanessa Hudgens' father, a firefighter, was often away for work when she was a child. She spent a lot of one-on-one time with her mother, who originally immigrated from the Philippines, as little sister Stella Hudgens was born seven years after Vanessa. "Growing up, there weren't really that many women who looked like me and my mom and my family on screen," Vanessa told Glamour UK. She would love for her mom to write a book that she could adapt for the screen. The actor stressed the importance of representation, exposure to many cultures, and empathy for others. 

When asked about LGBTQ rights in an interview with the Gay Times, Vanessa Hudgens also said of her upbringing, "I was very privileged in the sense that I grew up in a household where everyone was equal, I never saw color, I never saw race, I never saw sexuality or gender preference, I never saw any of that. Everyone was equal to me." She added, "We are different, that's what makes us unique and individuals, but at the end of the day, we're all human beings who want love." However, she acknowledged that it would have been great to have more explicit LGBTQ representation in "High School Musical." Legendary director Kenny Ortega told Variety that he didn't think Disney was ready at the time, so he infused subtle cues into the film that he hoped would be meaningful to queer viewers. 

Introducing Vanessa Anne Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens once went with the three-name crowd — Sarah Jessica Parker, Chad Michael Murray, her "Thirteen" co-star Evan Rachel Wood. Many moons ago, in the beginning of Hudgens' on-screen career, she was known as "Vanessa Anne Hudgens." 

Eagle-eyed Disney Channel viewers may have noticed that she included her middle name professionally when "High School Musical" came out in 2006. The film's original trailer advertises, "A Disney Channel Original Movie. With 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody's' Ashley Tisdale, Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, and Lucas Grabeel." (Hey, what about Monique Coleman and Corbin Bleu? Rude!)

As Hudgens spent more time in the spotlight and promoted herself as a recording artist later in '06, she dropped the "Anne." Though she seems not to have commented on the name switch, Hudgens did reveal key details about her musical identity in an interview with Yahoo!. "The thing that I think fans forget sometimes is that Gabriella [Montez from 'HSM'] and Vanessa Hudgens are two different people, really. And I'm not saying that my character wasn't, like, a good person," she shared. While she thought Gabriella was a great role model, Hudgens declared, "I think I'm a little more edgier," commenting on her album, "There's definitely a little more edge and fun to it than I think people would expect from me."

Zanessa wasn't meant to last

In a 2010 ABC "Nightline" interview promoting his film "Charlie St. Cloud," Zac Efron had some foreboding words on his relationship with Vanessa Hudgens: "We've got a great thing going. It's serving me right now, and we're having a lot of fun. So it's not over yet. I'm not gonna speak too far down the road, 'cause I don't know what's gonna happen. But right now, I'm very happy," he said. "It's not over yet" is an abysmal way to describe your relationship, Zac. 

Ultimately, he was right. These wistful Wildcats wouldn't be together forever, and by the end of 2010, Zanessa was a thing of the past. Sources told E! News, "It's nothing dramatic. There was no third party involved," also saying, "They were together for so long. It just ran its course."

During her 2019 interview on The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast, Hudgens was asked about her five-year relationship with Efron. "It started off really organically, and I could not have been more grateful to have that relationship at that time." Hudgens said having Efron as her companion during the explosion of "High School Musical" kept her centered. It wasn't always smooth sailing, though, especially when the pair fought during "HSM" rehearsals. "I remember [director] Kenny Ortega coming around the corner with the most concerned look on his face, like, 'Oh no. Is our movie going to fall apart right now?'" Looks like the movie turned out okay.

She's also known as Aunt Nessa

Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale are clearly real-life friends, unlike their respective fictional characters, Gabriella Montez and Sharpay Evans. They even met before their time as Wildcats, back when they were both auditioning for a commercial. The besties have been documenting their friendship online for years and years — including Tisdale's vlogging days and Hudgens' early Instagram posts. In 2021, Tisdale and husband Christopher French welcomed their daughter, Jupiter. Hudgens was absolutely in love with her pal's baby, writing on an Instagram Story, "I melt over this angel" (via People).

Tisdale was equally joyful about this first meeting, writing on her own Story, "Literally Jupiter opened her arms like hold me the minute she met Ness. It warmed my heart" (via Us Weekly). The new mom also wrote of the pair, "Juju & Aunt Nessa." In an interview with "Access," Tisdale opened up about the special day, saying of Jupiter, "She just fell in love with Vanessa. I think she just knew how important she was to me 'cause she, like, reached out her arms to her, and Vanessa was just, like, teary-eyed ... She just kept on staring at her; it was so cute." The sweetest!

As everyone lives their adult lives, Aunt Nessa can't always get together with her "High School Musical" family. However, she did pose for a pic with co-star Monique Coleman at an Oscars after-party in March 2022 (via People). "THE REUNION," Hudgens excitedly wrote.

V stands for 'variety'

In 2021, BuzzFeed pointed out that Vanessa Hudgens has quite the collection in her filmography, classifying the performances as, "gloriously chaotic, fantastically entertaining, and sometimes downright strange." The list included such works as "Bandslam" (a rock band competition flick co-starring Aly Michalka), Christian drama "Gimme Shelter," Lady Gaga's official film debut "Machete Kills," and "Beastly" (where Mary-Kate Olsen plays a witch). Of course, there's also "Spring Breakers" with Selena Gomez, which was quite the break from Disney, indeed. Though there was talk of Hudgens auditioning for "Twilight: New Moon" in the late 2000s, Ashley Tisdale told MTV News that was probably just a rumor. Hudgens stuck with mainly indie projects immediately after the "High School Musical" trilogy.

These avante-garde selections shouldn't be surprising for our versatile Vanessa. Even when she was promoting her debut record, "V," Hudgens cutely claimed in a 2006 behind-the-scenes interview, "My album 'V' stands for Vanessa, of course, but it also stands for 'variety' because, in a sense, you know, it's a mixtape. And it has pop-rock, and pop and R&B, and dance-electronic music, so it's kind of a mixture of everything put together." Who could forget "Come Back to Me," Hudgens' gold-earning sample of Player's "Baby Come Back" — or "Say Ok," which got a steamy, beachy music video featuring Zac Efron? "Identified," her 2008 sophomore album, got mixed reviews, but that certainly didn't slow her down.

Vanessa Hudgens was 13 when she was in the film Thirteen

Vanessa Hudgens was exactly 13 years old when she played Noel in "Thirteen," starring Evan Rachel Wood. Reflecting on the role, Hudgens shared on The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast, "My character was the good girlfriend. I didn't have to do any of the trouble-making. I just remember being like, 'Wow. This is really cool. Everyone's really nice. These people are really great at what they do.'" Once she actually saw the film, she realized that it was for a more mature audience.

The Hollywood Reporter also pointed out that Hudgens worked on the 2003 teen film before she was in "High School Musical." She answered, "I know. It's hilarious. That was the path that I thought my career was gonna go. I wanted to be the indie girl and just do really dark dramas, but one thing led to another..." When asked about the movie in an interview with Collider, she revealed that her character was completely different from the person she was becoming at such a young age. 

"I was very much about, I guess going against the grain. I wanted to be cooler than I was. I wanted to have my own sense of style. I'd show up to set wearing makeup and I did my hair and I had a cute little fit on ... And then I had to be the nerdy best friend," the actor said. Director Catherine Hardwicke temporarily hid Hudgens' coolness.

Her favorite holiday is Halloween

Vanessa Hudgens loves Halloween (even though she's totally a Christmas princess). She told "Live with Kelly and Ryan" in 2021 that the festivities start in September for her. Hudgens explained, "For me, it's not about, like, Halloween itself. It's about, like, the essence of Halloween. Like the scary movies and the mazes and the pumpkin carving and the cozy and the fall." Sounds like she's the perfect pal to spend spooky season with!

That same autumn, Hudgens collabed with Peacock for a live TikTok viewing of "Halloween Kills." In the recording (via YouTube), she holds her dog Darla while watching the horror flick. "Having an animal to cuddle is the best thing ever," Hudgens said to the TikTok audience. She even showed off her glow-in-the-dark skeleton fingernails, dishing that she loves attending Universal's "Halloween Horror Nights" each season.

The actor has shared plenty of Halloween costume pics with her followers over the years. In 2013, she was an angel. Hudgens and former beau Austin Butler were vampires in 2014, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter in 2015, and skeletons in 2016. Some years, Hudgens went out several times and showed off multiple different costumes — like in 2017, when she stepped out for a masquerade ball in full mask and fancy attire but was also seen as a circus character and as Nancy Downs from "The Craft." 2020 brought a very gruesome look — we would not want Hudgens chasing after us in a horror film.

Royalty isn't for Vanessa Hudgens

It seems like celebrities are under the microscope quite a bit, but Vanessa Hudgens thinks it would be worse if her real life was anything like "The Princess Switch" franchise. The star told Glamour UK that she isn't keeping tabs on the real royal family. "I would never want to be a royal. The idea of it, the chicness of it, it's cute, but like the reality... I'm just way too goofy. And I enjoy living my life to the fullest." Hudgens said she appreciates royals' charitable giving and efforts to effect change in the world. She continued, "But yeah, the day-to-day of it all... I mean, I guess I already am under scrutiny being someone who is in front of the camera, but the royals have it on a whole other level."

Despite the popularity of the trilogy, Hudgens might not make another "Princess Switch" movie. She's already played three roles for the Netflix series, after all. The first film involves a switch-a-roo in the style of "The Prince and the Pauper," and a third lookalike is introduced in the second installment. "You know, I never want to say never, but I definitely need a break from the amount of work that these movies take," she explained to ET when asked about a fourth film. Perhaps Hudgens is hanging up her crown, at least for now.

She has thought about releasing new music

In late 2019, Vanessa Hudgens exclusively told Yahoo! Entertainment not to expect new music right away. "I'm so busy right now ... acting has always been my first passion, and singing is just something that kind of went along with it, because I started musical theater, and it's something that I really do enjoy, but it's not necessarily the priority." At the time, Hudgens was promoting yet another Netflix holiday romp, "The Knight Before Christmas." A fan tuning in for her Instagram live that season encouraged the singer to release a Yuletide album, and Hudgens seemed to like the idea (via J-14). We'd love for Hudgens to record her renditions of "The Christmas Song" and "Winter Wonderland."

Fans got another musical teaser from the star in 2022. On "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Hudgens shared that she's a huge jazz music fan. The star revealed that any new music projects from her would likely be in that genre, explaining, "It's just personal. That's what I listen to; I've always got Julie London or Billie Holiday playing at my house, and people are like, 'Interesting.' I'm like, 'I'm a grandma. I don't know!'"

Vanessa Hudgens and Keke Palmer could have been sitcom castmates

Aspiring child actors don't always get to live out their Disney dreams. At first, it seemed like Vanessa Hudgens might not get a chance at the Mouse House. "I had been auditioning for Disney a ton ... I never got cast," she shared on The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast. Eventually, there was a big opportunity for Hudgens at the Disney Channel.

Before her stint on the network's "Suite Life of Zack & Cody" or her guest spot on Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh," she was cast in a supporting role for the Disney pilot "Keke & Jamal," starring Keke Palmer (Hudgens' future "Grease Live!" co-star) and Andre Jamal Kinney. In 2020, Palmer shared rare footage of the unaired pilot and explained the story to her Instagram followers, writing, "When I first moved to California I was introduced to Ralph Farquhar (one of the creators of 'The Proud Family,' 'Moesha,' 'The Parker's' etc) he took a chance on me and he landed me this pilot with Disney Channel that didn't get picked up ... it was loosely based on my life." In the third clip of Palmer's carousel post, Hudgens is seen dressed in a light blue jumper dress like Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz."

Ironically, Hudgens wasn't optimistic about her chances at "High School Musical," but her mother told her, "Honey, I have a good feeling about this," Hudgens remembered on "Awards Chatter." Mom knew what she was talking about!

The sad experience Vanessa Hudgens shared with Austin Butler

In their 2013 E! special, "Vanessa & Ashley: Inner Circle," the former Disney starlets are seen quizzing each other as Ashley Tisdale drives around Los Angeles. She asks Vanessa Hudgens who her celebrity crush is and gets the answer, "My boyfriend? ... I only have eyes for one man." That one man was Austin Butler of the "Elvis" biopic. But in the early 2010s, Butler was just as well-known for "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure," the last "HSM" movie for Tisdale. 

Butler and Hudgens were seen affectionately enjoying milkshakes in September 2011, and they were an item until their surprising split was announced in January 2020. A lot of life was lived in those years, and sadly, Hudgens and Butler each lost a parent. In 2014, when Butler was 23, his mother passed away. Hudgens was 27 when her father died of stage IV cancer in 2016. As Vanity Fair noted, she lost her dad only a day prior to taking the stage for "Grease Live!" The performer had opened up about her father's diagnosis in 2015 while accepting an award at a benefit for cancer survivors who are dancers. "Last year, my boyfriend, Austin, lost his mom, Lori, to cancer, and my dad has just been recently diagnosed with stage four cancer. Let me tell you, I hate cancer. I hate cancer with every cell of my being," Hudgens said (via ET).

Her heart is with musical theater

Vanessa Hudgens has an expansive musical theater career, from the stage to the big and small screens. When she got the call for a chance at the lead in "Gigi," Hudgens wasn't sure her Filipino ethnicity would work for the French role. She was also nervous to take her first real shot at Broadway. "But I did it, felt really good about it, and a few hours later, they gave me a call saying that they wanted me to do the part," Hudgens said on "Awards Chatter" for The Hollywood Reporter.

After her 2015 turn as Gigi, Hudgens was Betty Rizzo in Fox's 2016 "Grease Live!" and portrayed Maureen in the 2019 televised "Rent" production, also on Fox. The latter project connects with Hudgens' role as Karessa in the 2021 Netflix film "tick, tick...BOOM!" The movie captures the late "Rent" writer and composer Jonathan Larson (played by Andrew Garfield), and it was directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

"Jonathan Larson was a revolutionary musical theater writer," Hudgens explained on "The View." She continued, "He did something brand new for a generation that hasn't seen characters like in 'Rent' before. 'Hamilton's' the exact same. So I just look at Lin being our generation's Jonathan Larson, and you have this project where it's the two of them together, and it's like the love letter to musical theater."

She's an entrepreneur with a respectable net worth

Vanessa Hudgens' estimated net worth is $18 million. She's clearly earned the moolah on her music and movies alone, but Hudgens has other streams of income. She founded Caliwater (cactus water) with actor-entrepreneur Oliver Trevena and apparently drinks her product regularly. The brand's Instagram features Hudgens posing with the beverage, with one image captioned, "She doesn't leave the house without it. ... [Vanessa Hudgens'] secret is Caliwater." Another post displays Hudgens hosting the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards next to a big 'ole can of the cactus concoction. 

The actor co-founded KNOW Beauty with YouTube sensation Madison Beer, consulting with a medical expert to build the skincare brand. Hudgens' testimonial on the official KNOW site explained, in part, "Vanessa has spent years refining her skincare ritual and embraces it as a way to mentally ground herself." The star seemingly champions products that make her feel good inside and out, including a splashy 2022 Fabletics collection. In the ultimate cross-promotional strategy, Hudgens sanctioned a giveaway featuring a smorgasbord of her products. Since she loves a good music festival, two tickets to an event of the winner's choosing were included.

AD stepped into Hudgens' 3,168-square-foot abode in L.A.'s Los Feliz neighborhood in 2021. Per Dirt, Hudgens bought the house from Gary Oldman (originally built by Cecil B. Demille) for almost $5 million in 2018, and she privately sold it for $6.7 million in 2022. She clearly knows how to live stylishly.

What Vanessa Hudgens loves about hosting

Vanessa Hudgens can definitely pull off seven wardrobe changes while hosting an award show. That's exactly what she did for the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards, per People. Shades of royal blue, gold, hot pink, and sparkly rainbow joined the lineup of eye-catching looks. 

The fashionable host told "The Must Watch Show," "I feel like it's all about celebrating the things we love in pop culture." Hudgens fangirled over Sarah Jessica Parker and shared her excitement over the many moments that make award shows so memorable. "But me, I am a hopeless romantic, and I gotta say, when Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams did their kiss on-stage together for best kiss of 'The Notebook,' I think all of our hearts just exploded." Also in 2022, Hudgens was a red carpet co-host for the Met Gala. Vogue captured her getting ready in her comfy bathrobe, reciting a few vocal warm-ups and sipping on a Starbucks drink before later donning her custom Jeremy Scott gown.

Allure noted that when Hudgens hosted the Billboard Music Awards in 2017, she planned eight outfits, with plenty of satin and sparkles represented in her Carolina Herrera, Marchesa, and Manuel Facchini numbers. And let's not forget that she judged "So You Think You Can Dance" that same year. Though she wasn't hosting, Hudgens clearly wanted to bring high fashion to the judges' table, as she was styled meticulously from head to toe.

Inside her relationship with Cole Tucker

Fans might still be getting used to her current relationship, but Vanessa Hudgens and Cole Tucker were initially spotted together in November 2020. A year later, Hudgens shared on "The View," "We met over Zoom, over a Zoom meditation group ... He did slide into my DMs first," she gushed. This zen Zoom club had been organized by Joe Jonas, by the way, with Jay Shetty facilitating the meditations. Hudgens further explained, "Everyone got sent the new link for the next Zoom. And everyone's sending GIFs of themselves. It's Joe Jonas, it's Wilmer Valderrama, I send a GIF of myself, and then someone sends a GIF of a baseball player sliding onto a base..." Apparently, the Disney alum didn't recognize this particular Major League baseball player, so she assumed someone sent the GIF in a joking manner. Her response? "HOT" in all caps.

Needless to say, Hudgens got Tucker's attention. The couple celebrated their first anniversary in December 2021, and they love to support each other's careers. Tucker, who formerly played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, told CBS Pittsburgh in spring 2021, "I got a girlfriend and she's cool. She's awesome. I love her." However, Tucker didn't want Hudgens to be flooded with any special spotlight on the field.