The Transformation Of Alyson Stoner From Childhood To 29 Years Old

You've likely seen Alyson Stoner's face, even if you don't recognize her by name. She's been a reliable part of numerous high-profile projects over her two decades of stardom, from dancing with Missy Elliott to... well, dancing with Missy Elliott again, but older this time. Along the way, Stoner has gone through a number of career evolutions, transforming their skill set to meet whatever the role requires. 

She's a dancer, an actor, a singer, and more, and through it all, she's managed to keep a pretty good head on her shoulders. "I grew up in a very chaotic industry, as well as a chaotic household that involves abuse and addiction," the star told Out Front Magazine. "Somehow, I think that provoked a constant yearning for meaning, peace, and equilibrium."

That search for peace has taken Stoner, who uses she/they pronouns, to some interesting places over the years. Whether you know her as the little girl with pigtails from the "Work It" music video or from one of her many film roles, read on for a look back at the transformation of Alyson Stoner from childhood to 29 years old.

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Alyson Stoner grew up in front of the cameras

It seems that Alyson Stoner has been famous their whole life, almost destined for the spotlight, but she almost wasn't the one in her family to make it big. "I started dancing at the age of three in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio, [but] it really was my sister's dream to pursue dance professionally," the actor told Vibe. Still, Stoner was the one to book gigs, and the rest was pop culture history.

Her success came with significant drawbacks for the young star. She has been open about having had a difficult life on set, from being made fun of by other child stars to more significant family issues brought about by bringing in money at a young age. "It's hard to describe being a provider at six years old. There's a very strenuous, often co-dependent dynamic with family and team members," they said carefully to People, years later. Stoner admitted that she tries not to hold on to resentment.

However, Stoner has spoken out about the treatment of child stars, what she called "the toddler-to-trainwreck pipeline" in a 2021 YouTube video and op-ed for People. Over the course of their career, which has spanned multiple decades even though they're only 29 years old, Stoner would have to learn to avoid the pitfalls of child stardom. "My childhood is officially gone," she remembered thinking as a 17-year-old.

She worked it with Missy

When Alyson Stoner was only nine years old, one of their very first gigs cemented their place in pop culture history. The pint-sized dancer appeared in the music video for Missy Elliott's "Work It," leaving a huge impression on viewers as a pigtailed little girl with some serious moves. "I stuck out like a sore thumb," Stoner remembered, speaking with Vibe about shooting the music video, "because they put me in the pink jumpsuit and pigtails and I was the only white girl." It turned out that Stoner's unique talent got her this job and many others, including more Missy Elliott videos.

She was so young, in fact, that she didn't know too much about the lyrics to "Work It." Years later, Stoner told TMZ that they almost didn't go to the audition but had lucked out because their parents weren't aware of who Missy Elliott was. "Thankfully, they used the edited version [of the song on set]," she recalled. "So I didn't even know what I was dancing to for the next several years... but I think it's a wonderful, natural, beautiful thing, and if anyone knows how to flip it and reverse it, it's clearly her."

Now you know, it's Mike's Super Short Show!

Alyson Stoner would go on to be a regular on the Disney Channel, winning fans and followers through numerous projects, like her appearances on "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and "Camp Rock," but her first introduction to viewers of the channel was on "Mike's Super Short Show." The series consisted of two-minute episodes that aired between full-length episodes of Disney shows, featuring Stoner and Mike Johnson acting in comedic sketches and conducting interviews with stars. According to IMDb, everyone from Disney Channel stars Shia LaBeouf and Brenda Song to bona-fide movie stars Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis appeared on the show, all promoting various Disney projects.

Years later, looking back on their experience with fellow Disney star Christy Carlson Romano on Romano's "Vulnerable" podcast, Stoner revealed that "Mike's Super Short Show" was actually produced by a different production company. "We were never considered Disney kids, because we weren't invited to any of the events unless we were working on behalf of this other production house. Which was kind of a weird thing mentally," the actor noted. Reflecting on the point of the show, she admitted, "Let's say what it really is. Disney would make commercials about Disney's own projects." Romano confirmed, "It was Disney propaganda."

She impressed in Cheaper By The Dozen

In 2003, Alyson Stoner starred as one of many kids in "Cheaper By the Dozen," a remake of the classic film about parents with an oversized brood of offspring. Stoner played one of the middle children, a tomboy named Sarah who sported a beanie. Years later, they reflected on what it was like to work with such an esteemed cast, which included Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, at such a young age. 

In an interview for BUILD Series, the actor recalled, "Steve is actually a lot more contemplative and kind of serious than you would expect. You see the wild and crazy guy on set, but he's quite introverted." Stoner shared memories of Martin bringing his banjo to set and teaching the instrument to one of the other child actors, and she added, "Bonnie Hunt, who played my mom, she to this day is like a mother figure for me."

Stoner would go on to reprise the character in the film's sequel, the aptly-named "Cheaper By The Dozen 2;" her character even had a crush on a young Taylor Lautner, who played her love interest. "I'm kind of known as like, the tomboy, so it's cool to see another dramatic side," the starlet explained on the red carpet, adding that she and Lautner were friends and football pals in real life. "Don't worry," Stoner said, eyes narrowing, realizing what the interviewer was getting at. "I don't even wanna go there. No, no. We're just really good friends."

Alyson Stoner stepped up

Though most of her early acting gigs were in projects aimed at young audiences, at 13, Alyson Stoner took on a part in a film for older audiences. In "Step Up," she played Camille Gage, the precocious younger foster sister of Channing Tatum's character Tyler. Though Camille wasn't a main character, she still managed to make a big impression, showing off her dance moves and surprising her older brother in a memorable basketball scene. Stoner even improvised both the dialogue and dancing, according to an interview with Cosmopolitan. "It was so improvisational, because I think they just wanted a rapport between foster siblings," she said.

Years later, Stoner looked back fondly on their time filming the dance classic. They told Cosmo about being particularly taken with Tatum, recalling, "...He's so irresistible as a person. His charm matches his looks. He's a mama's boy." He even offered to babysit the young actor after the film's premiere, and Stoner recalled Tatum showing up to take her to basketball practice. "I swear the whole school about had heart attack," she reminisced.

Though Tatum himself only appeared in the first two movies in the franchise, Stoner would go on to reprise her character in two sequels. She appeared as Camille in both "Step Up 3-D" and "Step Up: All In," leading the latter cast as a central character. "I'd say [my relationship] is the romantic heartbeat of 'Step Up 5,' but I have a biased opinion," they said in a behind-the-scenes interview with co-star Adam G. Sevani.

She played Isabella Garcia-Shapiro on Phineas & Ferb

In 2007, Alyson Stoner got animated when she joined the cast of hit Disney Channel cartoon "Phineas and Ferb." Throughout the main show, a spinoff talk show, several animated films, and a video game, they portrayed Isabella Garcia-Shapiro, a neighbor with a massive crush on Phineas. The character's catchphrase, a too-sweet "What'cha doin'?", became one of the most recognizable parts of the show; it even provided the title of a song, sung by Stoner, in one of the show's musical episodes. 

Stoner admitted to ClevverTV that she occasionally used the catchphrase to tease kids. "When I get really excited, my tone goes higher, and so I sound younger," she explained. "And I've said 'what'cha doin' before behind small children [to] see if they turn their heads, and they do... it's kinda funny."

This wasn't their first animated gig — Stoner had previously voiced the titular character in a number of straight-to-video "Holly Hobbie" films, and they provided voice work for the "Lilo & Stitch" TV series — but it would end up being their longest-running to date. Stoner was excited to revisit the character in 2020 for the Disney+ original film "Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe," tweeting, "Being willing to reinvent yourself and ask, 'what are we going to do today?' is the heartbeat of change we can all channel from 'Phineas and Ferb!'" Fans can now catch Stoner in Disney's "Hamster & Gretel" as Lauren.

Alyson rocked out at camp

In 2008, Alyson Stoner's Disney Channel career reached new heights when she played the part of Caitlyn Geller in the hit Disney Channel Original Movie "Camp Rock." The spunky Caitlyn is the BFF of Demi Lovato's character Mitchie; she's a music producer who helps her friend deliver a killer number at the camp talent show, thereby also helping Mitchie win the heart of Shane (Joe Jonas). Throughout the film, Stoner sports a number of outfits that just scream '00s Disney Channel; think layered prints, fingerless gloves, and bright colors. "Working on 'Camp Rock' with the Jonases and Demi is forever such a fun and exciting memory," Stoner told J-14. "The international premieres, South Asian tour — it was a dream!"

The film is built around a series of talent shows, and Stoner's character gets to show off her skills at the keyboard in one memorable sequence that fans still reference online to this day. "[Alyson] Stoner plays the keyboard in camp rock the way Kendall Jenner cuts a cucumber," one fan tweeted, referencing two different memes. Stoner nodded to the iconic moment in their very first video for TikTok, filming herself playing the keyboard just like Caitlyn did once upon a time.

Though fans now chuckle at Lovato's line reading of "She's really good!" after Caitlyn's kooky keyboard display, Stoner was certainly good enough to reprise the role in the sequel, "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam." 

Music made them a triple threat

After being known most of her career for her acting and her dancing, Alyson Stoner branched out with the launch of her music career... officially making her a triple threat. "Been songwriting since age 6," she teased on Twitter the year before her first project dropped. "Always had a message to share, but no medium to reach the multitudes." That first project, an EP called "Beat the System," was released in August 2011; she celebrated with a tweet reading, "GO BUY IT! RT! WOOHOO!" along with an iTunes link (remember those?).

Stoner seemed a bit hesitant about their initial forays into music. "It is pop music, but remember, Michael Jackson was pop, so there is room for quality pop music!" they insisted to Hollywood Teen'Zine. Stoner would continue releasing original music throughout the following decade, including singles "Dragon" and "Pretty Girls," which showed off her dancing and acting skills, as well. Her second EP, "While You Were Sleeping," came out in 2016; the singer appeared more confident in that one, as it represented a transformation of her sound. "I am really thrilled with this compilation," they told The Huffington Post. "There's no auto tune, no polishing and it's completely raw. It's revealing a lot of different sides of me." 

Alyson Stoner became a competition judge

Having solidified their expertise across many phases of their career, from dancer to actor to singer and more, Alyson Stoner's dancing prowess got them tapped as a judge on "Dance-Off Juniors." The reality show aired on Verizon's since-obsolete streaming platform go90, so we'll forgive you if you've never heard of the series before. How about this lineup, though: according to Mashable, Stoner's fellow judges were "RuPaul's Drag Race" star Todrick Hall, dancer Ladia Yates, and choreographer Matt Steffanina. The series was even hosted by one of Stoner's child-star peers, "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" lead Devon Werkheiser.

Stoner was, of course, a child dancer herself, and she told People that she was happy to pass along her experience to the next generation of up-and-coming stars. However, she joked that they made her nervous! "It's kind of scary of scary, kind of intimidating, because I'm like, 'They're gonna replace all of us!'" In all seriousness, though, Stoner heaped praise upon the crop of young dancers that the show had discovered. "The caliber of talent nowadays I think is significantly more advanced than when I was their age," they gushed. "So I'm blown away by their skill level, the value of their movements."

The series only lasted one season; go90 itself collapsed shortly thereafter. But it seems to have represented a pivotal moment for Stoner's career, where she began to focus less on projects for herself and even more on delivering her wisdom to those who came after.

They found stardom online

In the mid-2010s, Alyson Stoner's career slowed down a bit. She spent much of the middle of the decade undergoing a transformation from Disney Channel mainstay to Internet personality, making a shift from silver screen star to YouTube cover artist. Throughout the 2010s, Stoner posted numerous song covers online garnering millions of views; she collaborated with social media stars like Sam Tsui, Kurt Hugo Schneider, and MAX on their own versions of hits like Maroon 5's "Maps," Selena Gomez's "Same Old Love," and a 20-song mashup of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran hits. They garnered a whole new fanbase with their cover songs, including one person who wrote a positive review of Stoner's version of "Same Old Love." "you never disappoint me! Love it. #amazing #flawless," the fan tweeted.

On the red carpet of the Streamy Awards — an awards show honoring online content creators — Stoner revealed one way she tries to stay positive on the web. "When I'm on the Internet, I usually avoid the comments section," she said. "But if I partake, I always try to make sure my comment contributes to that person's best day possible... Not everyone thinks that way."

Alyson Stoner embraced their identity

2018 brought a new evolution in Alyson Stoner's career: coming out publicly. She revealed her sexuality in a powerful essay for Teen Vogue, recalling what it was like for her to fall in love with a woman for the first time. Stoner struggled with the realization that she wasn't straight, reflecting, "Some people in the industry warned me that I'd ruin my career, miss out on possible jobs, and potentially put my life in danger if I ever came out. My dream and all I'd worked tirelessly for since the age of 6 was suddenly at risk by my being... true to myself."

They struggled so much, in fact, that the star later revealed they'd checked into conversion therapy — an attempt to become straight. The Human Rights Campaign notes, "Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades..." However, harmful organizations aiming to convert queer people nevertheless continue to exist. In a 2021 interview with Insider, Stoner declined to go into detail about what the program was like. "My mind doesn't want to even go there," she said (via E! News). "... My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it."

Fans online praised Stoner's openness and embrace of their identity. "...she's a gay icon and im just flabbergasted like i can't believe it even tho i definitely can," one clearly-overwhelmed fan tweeted in support.

If you or someone you know needs help 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.

An image makeover helped Alyson Stoner heal

In early 2019, Alyson Stoner set the Internet alight with one of her biggest transformations thus far: shaving her head. After years of performing covers of other artists' music on YouTube, she had begun releasing original songs again. One such song, called "Stripped Bare," came accompanied by a music video that was about her transformation over the years. It starts with home video footage of the young actor, aging up through emotional scenes of the now-adult star snipping her long locks; the video ends with a striking bonfire, burning the footage of who she used to be.

"I'm exhausted from vulnerability, from trying to make you excited," Stoner wrote on Twitter ahead of the song's release, "b/c I poured everything into this. Stripped Bare is not just a song for me. It's a line in the sand & a personal commitment to change my future."

In an exclusive interview with People, Stoner indicated that shaving their head was an important step, acknowledging that they sought treatment as a teenager for disordered eating, anxiety, and symptoms of OCD, which resulted in hair loss as a kid. "Shaving my head is an act of mental health and confidence, not self-destruction. I can't tell you how many beliefs and opinions and insecurities fell to the floor with every tuft of hair, and I'm leaving them there," she explained. "I'm shedding one era and rising as a new being in real time."

A viral reunion at the VMAs

In 2019, Alyson Stoner got a surprising call from someone they worked with long ago. Missy Elliott's creative director HiHat reached out one day prior to the hip-hop superstar's final rehearsal for a momentous VMAs performance, and he asked if Stoner would be interested in reprising her iconic dance moves from the "Work It" music video, live on stage in front of the world. Of course she said yes.

"Missy's artistry and legacy are really characterized by joy and unifying cultures, genres, innovation, mass media, authenticity, spirit, so she really is an example to me and it was the perfect setup, to be honest," Stoner told Entertainment Weekly, after her appearance at the awards show went mega-viral. Of course, Stoner knew the Internet would go crazy. "I was anticipating the intractable Internet memes that would inevitably follow," she admitted. "And yet, I felt completely laser-focused and tranquil. It was perfect. It felt like I was tasting perfection." Stoner used the renewed attention to point new followers toward their new projects, noting that their work in helping others find transformation, transcendence, and worthiness was what mattered most.

Elliott gave her no-longer-pint-sized co-star a shoutout on Twitter, writing, "it's been 17 years since we did Work IT and over the years people always ask me where is that lil girl from your video... so I couldn't of done this vma performance without you there! Love you."

She's a mental health and wellness advocate

Having conquered the worlds of acting, dancing, and singing, Alyson Stoner turned her attention to another area in 2019, focusing on being a mental health and wellness advocate. These efforts were evident in her "Alchemy" YouTube series and her "Simplexity" podcast. In each episode of "Simplexity," Stoner speaks with an expert about a complicated topic and asks that they simplify the complexity of their expertise for her audience. "When I look at society and the conversations that we need to have right now, everything has to take place in this middle ground... the concept is to seek to understand before expecting to be understood," she told Build Series.

In a 2021 interview with Out Front Magazine, Stoner explained their next act — launching Movement Genius, a digital movement studio co-founded by Stoner and her sister, Correy O'Neal. "Movement Genius is an online platform that uses movement to improve mental and emotional well-being," she said. "We work with licensed somatic psychotherapists and a variety of movement instructors across cultures, identities, and abilities to create movement content that meets you where you are, helps you reconnect your mind and body, reduces stress, and helps you feel better." In other words, Stoner clarified, they offer exercise classes and different forms of guided movement that may appeal to people who don't necessarily feel comfortable attending a yoga class (although yoga is available for Movement Genius members). Stoner even leads some of the mind-body classes herself, such as one video featuring a workout coupled with positive affirmations.