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Former Child Star

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"I didn't know what I was signing up for. I was three."
"He's a former child star?! Oh, just lock him up and throw away the jail!"
Bosco, Sam and Max: Culture Shock

Former Child Star = Current Life Mess.

Probably one of Hollywood's biggest Acceptable Targets, the Former Child Star is a star of TV or film whose career was at its peak in their formative years. Alas, such an unorthodox childhood can leave its mark on anyone (especially if they were Not Allowed to Grow Up), and it always does in fictional depictions of the Former Child Star. In adulthood, they may be a struggling actor who finds it hard to be taken seriously when everyone remembers them as "that one kid from that one show," if they're remembered at all.

It doesn't help that puberty is a fickle beast and there is no guarantee that a cute and adorable kid will have Hollywood looks as an adult. Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe may have matured nicely since their Harry Potter days, but there are countless others whose adolescent years weren't nearly as kind, making it that much harder to find acting work as adults.


As for those who left showbiz, many wind up mourning their glory days in a dead-end job, caught up in Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, or (dis)gracing the covers of tabloids after a run-in with the law. Sadly, a case of Truth in Television, as the troubled biographies of some real-life Former Child Stars will show.

It should be noted that the worst examples of this trope in real life come from kids whose home lives were unstable to begin with: abusive, exploitative stage parents and/or a family history of addiction will make a child actor particularly vulnerable to the excesses of Hollywood. There are others who grew into relatively-normal adults, like Jodie Foster and Bill Mumy, because their parents took care to give them a stable upbringing under the circumstances.

No doubt Growing Up Sucks for them... especially if they're treated as though they never did.


A subtrope to No Celebrities Were Harmed. Compare White-Dwarf Starlet, an older version of this trope, as well as Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight. See also Horrible Hollywood. For other grown-up kids, see School Yard Bully All Grown Up and Kid Hero All Grown Up.

This trope applies not only to theatre and motion picture, but also to several sports, such as gymnastics, and arts, such as ballet, where the athletes rise to the top very young and the career is likely to be short.

Fictional examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ojamajo Doremi:
    • Onpu Segawa was a wildly popular preteen Idol Singer whose successful career is constantly shown throughout the series. The Light Novel that takes place when the characters are in high school reveals that she now has trouble securing acting roles because she can't break away from her child star image.
    • Onpu's mother and manager Mio was this close to becoming a child star, but suffered an accident in an audition and couldn't go further. That led her to become Onpu's Stage Mom.
  • In Amagi Brilliant Park, Seiya Kanie used to be a child star with the stage name Seiya Kodama. Now that he's a teenager, he's not proud of it and goes That Man Is Dead whenever anybody recognizes him and tries to talk to him about it.
  • Kira Saeki of Shounen Hollywood is a particularly young example; he used to be a popular child actor on a daytime soap, but after he grew up and got off the show his audience as a member of Shounen Hollywood flocks to him for his former role. He's also become rather jaded concerning the entertainment industry, embarrassed of his old role, and a bit egotistical for letting his its fame get to his head.
  • Osaragi from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War was an outgoing and bubbly Child Popstar, but her mother's affair and not having the social skills to deal with her classmates' resentment led to a terrible and depressing time in middle school and turned her into the introverted cynic she is in the present.

  • George Tirebiter from The Firesign Theatre's album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers used to star in the "Porgie and Mudhead" movies, a series of goofy teen comedies from The '50s that parody Archie Comics and The Aldridge Family.

    Comic Books 
  • Child Star, Box Brown's first fictional graphic novel, is about the child star of an '80s sitcom named Owen Eugene, whose life goes into a decline after the end of his show. The character is particularly inspired by Gary Coleman (he has a medical condition that makes him look much younger than he is for a long time) but also has elements of other notorious child actors.
  • Runaways features a group of former teen superheroes called Excelsior. Most of its members have essentially become the superhero equivalent of this trope, but special mention goes to Julie Power, who tried — and utterly failed — to parlay her status as a former member of Power Pack into an acting career. Happily, she later came out as bisexual, got her act together, became a teaching assistant at Avengers Academy, and dated Karolina Dean for a while before joining the Future Foundation. With the exception of Phil Urich, who went crazy thanks to the Goblin Formula and followed in the Goblin Legacy's footsteps, and Chris Powell, who followed in his father's footsteps and became a cop while having spurts of returning to heroics now and then, the rest of the team fell into obscurity.
  • In The Order (2007), before becoming a superhero, Rebecca "Becky" Ryan was a former child country star, with much of the attendant mental baggage.
  • Teen Titans: Beast Boy had a few forays into acting in his late childhood. By the time he grew up, however, his gimmick became phased out and he retired from acting. He doesn't really dwell on that, though, because being a hero comes with the bonus of positive public attention.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Seymour Cryder in Barbie As The Princess And The Pop Star used to be a child star, doing an act in a chipmunk costume; however, his career tanked when puberty hit. In the present, he manages Keira while scheming to bring his glory days back, going so far as to try and steal the jeweled gardenia plant that keeps Meribella's plant life alive so he can sell it.
  • "Baby" Brent in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. As a baby, he was the mascot of the town sardine cannery and has spent his entire life trading on his fame, down to wearing a diaper underneath his clothes.
  • The antagonist in Despicable Me 3, Balthazar Bratt, grew up to be obsessed with the character he played on TV in the '80s. As such, he moves and dresses like Michael Jackson, and his weapons mostly consist of modified '80s items, like exploding Rubik's cubes and wads of bubblegum that can trap whoever steps on them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "Baby Jane" Hudson, the title character of the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. She was a child star of vaudeville in the 1910s. Decades later, she's a bitter, mentally disturbed alcoholic old woman, who still dresses like a little girl and is unable to accept that nobody even remembers her anymore.
  • The David Spade film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star is about one of these characters trying to learn about "normal" family life from a typical suburban family in preparation for a role.
  • Jaleel "Steve Urkel" White played himself in the film Big Fat Liar, briefly showcasing his struggles as an adult actor when everyone remembers him as "that Urkel kid".
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle had Real Life Former Child Star Neil Patrick Harris, although playing a far more dysfunctional version of himself than actually exists. This ironically led to a revival in Harris' career.
  • Main antagonist Sweet Pete in Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022). Once the carefree Peter Pan, he was tossed aside by the film industry after puberty and turned to crime. Needless to say, many parallels were drawn between him and the real-life example Bobby Driscoll.
  • Donnie in Magnolia, a former Child Prodigy on a TV quiz show who fell on hard times.
  • Life with Mikey starred Michael J. Fox as a former child star turned talent agent. However, in his case, it's even weirder as most of his fame came from him playing a child while he was an adult. These weren't roles he had played since he was a child; his entire career was simply Not Allowed to Grow Up.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman's character in Along Came Polly plays with this trope, even featuring a movie poster in the style of The Breakfast Club, and a character meltdown when he tries to direct and play every role in a community theater production.
  • The title character in Stand-In (1937) is a former child star who's now struggling to pay the bills as a stand-in for an aging starlet.
  • The focus of the documentary Showbiz Kids. The featured actors all made it big as kids, and discuss how that affected their childhoods and adolescence to fellow child star Alex Winter. Some like Evan Rachel Wood and Milla Jovovich are still acting consistently, while others like Mara Wilson and Todd Bridges have soured on the industry. The more outlandish horror stories like Lindsay Lohan are brought up as examples of what the constant pressure can do to a vulnerable mind.
  • Jurassic Prey: Andy used to star on a show called "Crack Commandos" back when he was a kid. He went along with robbing a bank with Ed and Sparks because he couldn't take only making appearances at conventions and comic book store ribbon cutting ceremonies anymore.
  • Gary Valentine in Licorice Pizza comes off a promo tour for a movie where he's part of an ensemble cast of kids before auditioning for a clothing commercial that calls for a much younger-looking boy and getting offered one for zit cream, later landing on his feet as a teenage entrepreneur with a waterbed business that he pivots to a pinball arcade.

  • "Cold Snap" has a variation in which a famous Kid Detective has a public and humiliating fall from grace and grows up to be a bitter old man who never did as well in any other endeavor and turns to supervillainy to get back at a world that he feels never appreciated him.
  • The Gemma books by Noel Streatfeild are about a teenage former child star who is sent to comprehensive school. She changes her surname so as to be inconspicuous but she finds that she doesn't like being an unknown, and ends up becoming (locally) famous again.
  • Subverted in the X-Wing Series, part of Star Wars Legends. Garik "Face" Loran was a child star who appeared in Imperial propagandist "holodramas" until he realized the levels of cruelty The Empire was capable of. Now he's one part The Atoner, one part Master of Disguise (he's still a fantastic actor), and one part The Ace (though this is mostly an act, he can be a truly competent pilot when he needs to be). This definition of "child" is a bit flexible and seems to extend to "teen" since a number of women in his squadron had crushes on him when he was starring in holofilms. On the other hand is his old contemporary and rival Tetran Cowall, whom Loran says of at one point that "He was a good-looking kid, but as he grew up he got sort of homely and couldn't find work". Late in Solo Command, Cowall shows up in person and is revealed to have stayed Imperial. And also became a fighter pilot, just for a chance to beat Loran.
  • Pearl Bright of Jane Lindskold's Breaking the Wall trilogy is a contemporary of no less than Shirley Temple herself. However, Pearl herself subverts the usual description of this trope by being moderately wealthy thanks to her mother's careful investing of her childhood earnings, maintaining connections throughout Hollywood, and being an octogenarian badass.
  • The heroine of Tribute by Nora Roberts starred in a Full House clone when she was a little girl. After struggling with maintaining her fading acting career and doing poorly in college as she grew up, she started a successful business in restoring and selling old houses. Her grandmother was also one, going from a Shirley Temple Expy to one for Marilyn Monroe, complete with a deeply troubled personal life and mysterious untimely death.
  • Kenneth Valentine of John Varley's The Golden Globe is a seriously messed-up example, although, unlike the classic version, he's trying to hide from his past rather than wishing he could relive his glory days. He's actually a first-rate actor, but he avoids taking major roles because he doesn't want people to make the connection between him and "Sparky" (the role that made him famous as a kid).
  • Just barely subverted in The Great Opposition. After getting the lead part in an immensely successful historical film at the age of thirteen, Sima becomes increasingly depressed and lost as the director tells her she doesn't have what it takes for a long career in cinema. She can't do anything right, her grades go steadily down, and she ends up accepting a part in a low-quality comedy movie in her desperation to get back to the screen again. Fortunately, the latter makes her realise her error and snap out of it, and she finds new goals and interests in life.
  • Nicky Bradshaw in Tim Powers' Expiration Date, who as a teenager starred as a boy ghost in a sitcom called Ghost of a Chance. He's fairly well-adjusted; his life's something of a mess, but that's more to do with someone trying to murder him than with the child stardom.
  • The lawyer Metzger in The Crying of Lot 49 has a hidden past as a child actor, although he's fairly well-adjusted.
  • During the Info Dump section of The Shining, a former child star named Little Marjorie is mentioned. Derwent bought a struggling movie studio after its biggest star OD'd on heroin at the age of 14. Marjorie's cause of death was reported to be a "wasting disease."
  • The novel Star Island centers around Cheryl Buntermann, AKA Cherry Pye, a twenty-something child actor turned pop star whose career is self-destructing due to her own Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, and her studio's efforts to keep her from doing anything that would cause her marketability to completely collapse until after they've released her latest album.
  • Jupiter Jones of The Three Investigators series, as a young child, was an actor who went under the name "Baby Fatso". While it has provided useful as he has some knowledge of how the film industry works, he doesn't like to be reminded of it. He's turned out pretty well-adjusted for someone who used to be called "Baby Fatso".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Comeback Kids is a sitcom about two child stars from The '80s, Richie Eisenberg and Gary Fischer, trying to get back into showbiz and having to adjust to life in 21st century Hollywood.
  • An SCTV segment parodies the trope with the show Oh That Rusty!, which has been running for over 20 years with the same lead actor. He's clearly an adult and off-screen, he basically runs the show now, but his character Rusty has never aged. Since Rusty is eight years old, the show recasts the other characters and redesigns the sets to try and hide this.
  • Robin from How I Met Your Mother was a teen pop star in Canada. The rest of the group mock her mercilessly for it.
  • Wil Wheaton plays a version of himself like this in The Big Bang Theory, initially playing the Jerkass version of this trope, but developed into a washed-up and chronically depressed has-been taking bit parts in low budget B-movies.
  • In the Married... with Children episode "You Better Shop Around", Jerry Mathers (known for Leave It to Beaver) guest stars, playing himself as a washed-up former child star, who has resorted to judging shopping contests in supermarkets. Bud and Kelly mercilessly mock him for this until he points out his father never sold women's shoes for a living.
  • Marcus Little of The Suite Life on Deck was formerly the One-Hit Wonder kid rapper Lil' Little. His record label dropped him once he hit puberty but he later makes a Career Resurrection by creating a "hip-hopera" that gets a Broadway deal.
  • Mr. Show's finale has Josh Fenderman, a parody of Corey Feldman and his Michael Jackson-esque phase.
  • Liv from Liv and Maddie. Although since Liv went on to star in a hit movie and get another TV series, and is basically pretty happy, the trope is less harmful to her than other examples.
  • Parodied in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, where Rebecca's little brother Tucker sings a song called "I Want to Be a Child Star". The first chorus goes "I want to be a pre-teen Hollywood trainwreck" and the final one goes "I want to be a desperate Hollywood has-been."
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Trish Walker currently is the radio host of Trish Talk on WNEX. She used to be the star of the TV show It's Patsy! which she was pushed into by her abusive mother. A Running Gag in the show is random characters singing a few bars of the theme song when they recognize Trish.
  • Eerie, Indiana: Lampshaded in "Reality Takes a Holiday". Marshall, having been transported behind the scenes of Eerie, Indiana, runs off in the middle of make-up to prevent himself from getting killed off. When his on-screen sister Julie Condra wonders where he is going, the make-up artist says, "Where's any red-blooded teen star go when they get cancelled? On a crime spree."
  • The Boys (2019): Mesmer, who was booted from Voight for using his mind reading powers for insider trading. He makes a living signing DVDs of his television show.

  • Peter Sellers' 1958 comedy album The Best of Sellers has a song, "I'm So Ashamed", where a pop singer laments his falling out of favor, having not had a hit song in three weeks. It's revealed that the poor guy's almost 9 years old now...
  • Barenaked Ladies' song "New Kid On The Block" has a line about this: "I'm a New Kid on the Block/I'm 23 and they won't let me grow up."
  • "Child Star" by The Unicorns deals with a former child star meeting with a disillusioned former fan.
  • Hobo Johnson's "Ode to Justin Bieber" discusses the psychological problems child stars face, and defends Justin Bieber on the basis that his young fame caused him some problems that he apparently dealt with well.
    "If you buy your mom a house when you're thirteen you're gonna be fucked up mentally you know?"

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Dinosaurs episode "Out of the Frying Pan", when Baby becomes a commercial mascot for a set of frying pans, Fran eventually has a Dream Sequence where Baby is a washed up adult with smoker's lung and was arrested for trying to rob a convenience store (while still a baby).

  • The Broadway musical Avenue Q features Gary Coleman as a superintendent. And in the Mexico City production, the character was turned into a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Carlos Espejel, a Mexican comedian who was a child actor in eighties' Mexican TV. Imagine a kid dressed up as Dracula, trying awfully hard to be scary and failing miserably, time after time...
  • Baby Rose, from the original version of Babes in Arms, moved to New York after she got older and "became passé". Now a gorgeous teenager, she's followed everywhere by a barbershop quartet who sing backup for her, but she has so little money left from her Hollywood days that, when the rest of the cast gets sent to a work farm, she and the quartet get sent there too.
  • One of the original Forbidden Broadway skits is about actresses who can't get work as adults after having played the title role in Annie.
  • Gypsy is about a Stage Mom who pushes her two young daughters, June and Louise, to be vaudeville stars. She forces June to dress like a little girl even when she's an older teenager and neither of her children seem to know their real age because of how their mother infantilizes them. When they grow up, June runs away and gets married at a young age, while Rose forces Louise to become a star in her place and later become a striptease artist in order to get money, though Louise actually ends up enjoying this profession.

    Video Games 
  • The Soda Poppers from Telltale Games' episodic Sam & Max: Freelance Police adventure games, who were reoccurring characters throughout the first two seasons before revealing themselves to be evil in Episode 205, What's New Beelzebub?.
  • In Segagaga, Alex Kidd tells the sad tale of how he used to be a video game star when he was younger but fell by the wayside. He now works behind the counter at one of Sega's shops.
  • In What Remains of Edith Finch, Barbara Finch was a child star of monster movies whose claim to fame was her iconic scream. After she grew up and her voice changed, her career dried up, and she disappeared and was presumably killed (all they ever found of her was her ear) in her late teens, as she was trying to recapture her scream for a fan convention.

    Web Original 
  • Funny Or Die's Wax On, Fuck Off is about Ralph Macchio trying to become a Hollywood trainwreck (or at least look like one) in order to gain more roles.
  • Donnie Dupre of Demo Reel is revealed to be this. Now a lackluster filmmaker, Dupre was formerly known as Jimmy Boyd (an expy of Jake Lloyd), whose mother, a washed-up starlet, committed suicide during the filming of a Christmas movie Dupre was in. Young Dupre attempted to press on with the performance, but the suicide caused him to be unable to give it his all. As a result of the bad performance, Dupre's Hollywood reputation tanked, causing him to develop a grudge against the Hollywood system for the unfairness of the entire ordeal.
  • Amanda Simmons of Hotwives of Orlando was the "Florida Prune Juice" girl as a child. She never had any other success as a child actor, but has never recovered from her brush with fame and spends most of her time drunk, high, and engaged in petty crime.
  • ''The Case of the Gilded Lily'' has Ford and Claudette. They were co-stars and are still close friends, but the latter seems to have adjusted much better than the former.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series had minor baddie Mary Dahl aka Baby Doll, a former starlet who wasn't able to find work as a serious actress after her show was cancelled because she's stuck in the body of a little girl.
  • One episode of Bonkers has a former child star called Babyface trying to pass himself off as Mickey Mouse. Apparently he was so obnoxious people have gone on record to say that they would rather dance barefoot on the surface of the Sun than work with him again.
  • Static Shock had a one-shot villain named Replay who was a former child star with self-duplication. And was also voiced by former child star Neil Patrick Harris.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Last Tap Dance In Springfield" has this with Lisa's tap teacher, who was a Shirley Temple-style star and is now a nasty old harridan who hides behind cutesy mannerisms most of the time. She admits to tapping coded messages for the Allies in WWII and destroying Buddy Ebsen's credit rating ("He knows why."), so this two-faced nature was probably always there.
    • An adult Butch Patrick is a guest star in "Eight Misbehavin'", where he cheerfully comments that he turned out OK! .. while still wearing his very ill-fitting Eddie Munster costume.
    • It's revealed in "Radioactive Man" that Moe was one of the original Little Rascals until he kills the original Alfalfa in a fit of rage when he stole his bit. Fortunately for Moe, Alfalfa was an orphan owned by the studio.
    • In "Kamp Krusty", Bart demands that Krusty proves that he's the real Krusty by saying the name of the child actress who played his daughter on the short-lived sitcom President Clown. Apparently things didn't go so well for her.
    Krusty: I don't know her name! But she held up a liquor store last year!
    • During a reunion special in "All About Lisa", Krusty brings back The Kruskateers (a rather obvious parody of The Mouseketeers from The Mickey Mouse Club) as adults, or at least, the three of them who didn't become successful enough to tell him to drop dead. One of them is an ex-convict who apparently did time for taking the fall for Krusty.
  • Duckman: In "Days of Whining and Neurosis" Duckman is hired by the owner of a rehab center, and Duckman tells him he's impressed how the child actor who was remanded to the center by the court didn't rob a convenience store for three whole weeks after treatment.
  • One of the recurring themes in The Venture Bros. is that this ends up happening to all "Boy Adventurers" when they grow up. Jonny Quest himself, for example, is now a paranoid junkie. Rusty also attends a therapy session that features a Robin like former sidekick with an eating disorder, an Astro Boy-looking robot with anger management problems, and two The Hardy Boys-like former boy detectives who almost certainly killed their father. The whole experience actually leads Rusty to realize that by the standards of his peers he made out pretty good.
  • In one episode of Futurama, open auditions are held for the part of Calculon's son on the series' Soap Within a Show All My Circuits. Among the hopefuls are "that robot child actor who grew up and robbed a convenience store." He buys a lottery ticket from a robot child actor who grew up and became a convenience store — or, more accurately, a huge walking vending machine.
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • This happened to Sarah Lynn, the actress who played the youngest daughter on the title character's old show Horsin' Around (a Full House clone in its own right). More specifically, a mixture of a pushy stage mother, bad advice from Bojack (basically, "attention equals love"), and her attempts to establish her own career (by creating a Hotter and Sexier image) made her a Love Hungry Attention Whore. It's not too long before she devolves into the drug addicted trainwreck tabloid fodder type. And the worst part is that, in her mind, any attention (even the negative type) is better than none at all. She would end up dying at 33 of a heroin overdose, not at all helped by Bojack delaying calling 911 until he thought of a good alibi for how he found her so they didn't know he was on the bender with her.
    • Goober, the annoying house guest in Horsin' Around didn't turn out too well in adulthood either. The actor who played him (as BoJack so helpfully pointed out to Todd in one episode) ended up molesting some Laker Girls, and in the third season, it's revealed that he's become a sleazy nightclub owner and a drug dealer. Ironically, he's voiced by Fred Savage, a former child star who's had a well-adjusted adulthood despite not being as popular as he was in The Wonder Years.
    • Averted with the actors who played the other two children on the show: Joelle Clarke, the oldest, moved to England and became a stage actress, and Bradley Hitler-Smith, the middle child, quit show business entirely and went on to own a hardware store. Though if his attempt to make a sequel to Horsin' Around is any indication, he didn't let go of show business as well as he liked.
  • Parodied on Family Guy where it's shown that Elroy from The Jetsons is a barfly and Bam Bam from The Flintstones drives a cab.
    Elroy: Take me to Astro's grave!
    • In an episode where Stewie becomes the star of a series of commercials, Peter and Lois take every advantage of him and exploit him and his money. Brian saves Stewie by pointing out the fates of various other child stars. The kid who got his tongue stuck to a pole in A Christmas Story? He did porn. Boner from Growing Pains? Dead. Screech from Saved by The Bell? Porn. Corey Haim? Dead. Dana Plato? Porn, then dead.
  • We Bare Bears: "Family Troubles" reveals that as a cub, Grizzly was taken in by a TV studio and became a character on the eponymous Canadian sitcom. He enjoyed the job but left the show when they threatened to phase him out in favor of a hip new kid character named Cousin Lorenzo, and set out to find a real family. The reason no one seems to recognize him is that the episodes produced after Grizzly was introduced were stricken from the airwaves. Being a former child star would probably explain a few things about Grizz, like his tendency to be a people-pleaser and occasional desperation to impress people and make new friends.
  • What's New, Scooby-Doo?: The episode "It's Mean, It's Green, It's the Mystery Machine" subverts it with Andrew and Mandy Dinwiddie, a pair of teenagers who were once pop stars in an act called "The Mystery Kids" when they were younger; the third member, an adult named Flash Flannigan, was the original owner of the Mystery Machine and painted it into its well-known design (and is responsible for the act breaking up when he stormed off the stage one day and never came back, dying in a car accident sometime later). When Scooby and the rest of the gang meet them, Andy and Mandy are content to not be involved in the business anymore and would rather focus on things like tennis and prom dresses (respectively); the pair do, however, remember Flash fondly and visit his grave from time to time. While there is some trouble in their life during the episode, it's because their mother Susan would love nothing more than to see them make a comeback, while they just want to live normal lives.
  • Zeroman has Rusty Woodenwater. He was once the darling of Fair City and even had his own show. However, when he hit puberty, he has an on-stage acne outbreak that led to him being booed off said show. Now he's an embittered villain and regular nemesis to Zeroman.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch: The Frankie Muniz vs. Robert Iler fight revolved around avoiding this fate at all costs, as the episode was made right around the time the actors were hitting puberty and in danger of losing their marketability (Steve Urkel is used as an example). The winner of this match would be awarded the use of the Deathmatch time machine to rewind the clock and extend their careers a while. Muniz won, but the machine malfunctioned, transforming him into an old man. Ironically, both Muniz and Iler would both grow up to be aversions.
    • There's an infamous straight example in an earlier episode: Macaulay Culkin had a grudge match against Haley Joel Osment, specifically because Osment had seemingly avoided this fate. This was an especially unfair match since Osment was 12 when this match took place, while Culkin was 20. Osment managed to win anyway by summoning the ghosts of other celebrities who had died in the ring.

Real Life examples:

  • Lindsay Lohan... Oh dear. It was a mix of her personality (even as a child), her equally self-destructive parents, a self-admitted drug problem (which really hasn't done favors for her looks), numerous run-ins with the law, and poor choices of roles that eventually demolished anything she had left resembling a professional career.
  • The famous child acting duo Corey Feldman and Corey Haim both had meltdowns for adult lives. Eventually, it claimed Corey Haim's life. Corey Feldman has survived without crashing and burning, but as his 2016 Today Show appearance has shown, the man is in that unfortunate position of having enough money to basically do whatever he wants without having friends who can talk him out of some of his ill-reasoned whims and help preserve his dignity.
  • Brian Bonsall, who played baby brother Andy Keaton on Family Ties, Preston Waters from Blank Check and Worf's son Alexander on Star Trek: The Next Generation has been arrested several times for assault and drug possession.
  • Edward Furlong, despite solid performances in American History X and a couple of other movies, is still remembered as the young John Connor. And for being involved in an animal rights group where he tried to release the live lobsters out of their tanks in a store.
  • Speaking of John Connor... There's also the so-called "John Connor Curse." Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Thomas Dekker, and Christian Bale all seemed to have personal and career problems after playing the role, and all were former child stars. More specifically, Furlong had trouble with drug abuse; Stahl was missing for several days and dropped off the acting radar due to his drug use; Dekker was arrested for DUI after running over a cyclist; Bale went ballistic and his rant on the set of Terminator Salvation became a Memetic Mutation, as well as his domestic assault charge around the same time (he bounced back, though, with his later films).
  • For some time, Jake Lloyd seemed to be very bitter and cynical about his role as Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, but since he went through high school and college with his classmates teasing him about it and other people constantly accusing him of ruining Star Wars, it's kinda hard to blame him for feeling so disillusioned. However, a later interview between him and a Star Wars fansite (as well as a photo on his own Facebook page) has shown that he's mellowed out since then and confirms that — contrary to popular belief — he does not hate the franchise after all the harassment. However, his arrest as of June 2015 after a high-speed chase seems to invoke the trope perfectly.
  • Michael Jackson was ultimately a bigger star as an adult solo act, but he didn't completely subvert this trope. The abuse he suffered under his dad's thumb as a child star affected him so very much that once he was able to stand on his own, he became obsessed with experiencing the childhood he never had growing up. Thus, most of his adult pursuits and interests were juvenile in nature and a way for him to "live as a kid" (i.e., building an amusement park on his property and holding slumber parties), and were reasons he became saddled with accusations of child molestation that hounded him for the rest of his life until he died from overdosing on anesthetics he used as sleeping pills.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was very much like Michael. His parents, particularly his father Leopold, made him and his sister Maria Anna child prodigies, but most of his popular works date from his later years. Much like MJ, Mozart had serious difficulty living on his own, even while determined to free of his father's influence. While creatively, his work was unparalleled, personally he was a mess. He struggled not only to find paying work, but also keeping the jobs he did get, all the while spending money quicker than it came in. He died at the age of 35, flat broke and buried as a pauper.
  • Judy Garland had some success into her twenties, still usually playing teenage roles, but she could never really transition into serious adult roles, and once her teenage stardom days were over, it was the beginning of the end for the "little girl with a great big voice." She developed a drug addiction, which stemmed from being given barbiturates by MGM to keep her active and working longer during her child star years. Her increasing difficulty to work with and nervous breakdowns certainly didn't help, as well as her greedy and jealous Stage Mom. Two failed comeback attempts, five marriages, a few suicide attempts, and many health problems (including heavy smoking and drinking) later, she passed away from a barbiturate overdose at the very untimely age of 47 in 1969 (although because of her health problems, she arguably looked at least ten years older).
  • Brad Renfro was 12 when he made his film debut in the critically-acclaimed film The Client, co-starring with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He won The Hollywood Reporter's Young Star Award in 1995 went on to appear in the 1998 film Apt Pupil and Ghost World. Sadly, he spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse and died from a heroin overdose in January 2008 at the age of 25.
  • The three lead kid actors on Diff'rent Strokes — Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato — became infamous for brushes with the law as adults. Plato ultimately died at 34 of a drug overdose which was ruled a suicide. Gary Coleman, meanwhile, struggled to recover before tragically dying at 42 from head trauma. Bridges, meanwhile, is a regular on TruTV's The Smoking Gun Presents, along with former Partridge Family cast member Danny Bonaduce, another example of a former child star who fell into serious problems as an adult (both Bridges and Bonaduce appear to be getting their lives on track at this point). Danny Cooksey, who played Sam in the final season, seems to have escaped the woes of his older cast mates, probably from a mix of good parenting, a successful voice acting career (and a failed music career), and a fairly normal adult life and marriage.
  • Bobby Driscoll, who was Disney's golden boy during the 1940s, is a very sad case. He was in several Disney movies, and particularly famous for his roles in Song of the South and Peter Pan (in which he played the title role), but was abruptly let go in the middle of the 1950s (allegedly at least partly because he developed terrible acne as he entered puberty, requiring heavy makeup to hide it). He was ridiculed in school for being a child star, acting roles dried up, and he became addicted to drugs. In 1968, he was found dead in an abandoned Manhattan building and the body wasn't identified until a year later. He was 31 years old.
  • Anissa Jones, notable for playing Buffy in Family Affair, was another sad case. When the show ended its run in 1971, she tried to find work in films, but no roles were coming. Brian Keith, who played her uncle on Family Affair, wanted to give her a part in his new TV project, but she no longer wanted to work in TV. Jones later fell into drug addiction and died in 1976 of an overdose at age 18. One contributing factor to her problems may have been that the producers and writers literally didn't let her grow up — even though she had hit puberty by the time the series ended, she was still forced to act and appear as a preteen.
  • Other than the Olsen Twins, just about all of the child/teenage actors who starred in Full House have fallen out of the limelight.
    • Jodie Sweetin, in particular, stands out as an example of this trope played straight. Facing an inability to find further work and a traumatic social life due to being typecast as Stephanie Tanner, she became an alcoholic and a habitual user of marijuana, cocaine, LSD and most famously, meth. However, she seems to have gotten her life back on track, has published a memoir about her drug addiction, and is now seeking a comeback.
  • Leif Garrett is an example of this, a child pop star who got embroiled with drugs and scandals. For about 5 years, he was a commentator on TruTV's World's Dumbest... alongside fellow former child stars Danny Bonaduce and Todd Bridges.
  • There is an interesting contrast between the two stars of Guest from the Future. Natalia Guseva acted in a few more movies but decided to become a scientist instead. Now, she not only works as a biochemist, but also is still involved with the fan community, and is raising a daughter. Meanwhile, Alexei Fomkin had a few more roles but got into drug problems, which caused him to lose roles and spiral further downward. He quit acting and moved to a village, which seemed to be straightening him out. Sadly, he died in 1996 when his apartment burned.
  • Fellow Soviet child starlet, Katya Lycheva, a contemporary of Guseva's, was not only loved for her work in children's films at home: she was also a goodwill ambassador who toured the United States at age 11 in 1986 and was part of the opening ceremonies of the Goodwill Games. Soon afterward, she withdrew into a reclusive lifestyle and stated in one rare interview that she prefers not to talk about her past fame.
  • Robert Blake starred in Our Gang comedies (originally under his given name Mickey Gubitosi), then later starred in In Cold Blood and had the title role on the TV series Baretta, and years later was acquitted of his wife's murder, but lost a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed by his children.
  • For a while, it looked as though Amanda Bynes was shaping up to be an aversion; she had stated that she didn't like drinking or going to clubs and instead preferred to hang out at home with family and friends. That changed in 2012, however, when she was involved in several hit-and-run and reckless driving incidents, and continued into a series of increasingly erratic Twitter posts, including asking Drake to "murder her vagina". She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, which explains the behavior, and was on involuntary psychiatric hold for several months in 2013.
  • Former Idol Singer Ai Kago joined Morning Musume, one of the most popular Girl Groups in Japan, at age 12, and her popularity flourished when she was selected to join other units under the Hello! Project name. However, as she grew older, she became dissatisfied with her image and started smoking to feel "older", though she was underage at that time. As a result of that (and entering a relationship with a man 10 years her senior), she was kicked out of Hello Project. While she did try to make a comeback, her career has continued to spiral downwards with numerous scandals including having an affair with a married man and dating a man rumored to have ties with the yakuza.
  • Much of the cast of The Little Rascals (the original short films, also known as Our Gang), giving rise to the so-called "Our Gang Curse."
    • Norman Chaney (Chubby) suffered from a glandular ailment that caused him to weigh over 300 pounds (hence the nickname). He was given surgery to treat his condition but died of complications from said surgery. Depending on the report, he was either 18 or 22.
    • Donald Haines and Bobby Hutchins (Wheezer) were WWII-related fatalities. Haines was killed in action at the age of 23 at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, while Hutchins (a member of the Army Air Corps) was killed just a few days shy of his 20th birthday when his plane crashed on landing during a training exercise.
    • William Laughlin (Froggy) died in a scooter accident at the age of 16.
    • Clifton Young (Bonedust) fell asleep while smoking and died in his hotel room from smoke inhalation at the age of 33.
    • Carl Switzer (Alfalfa) was murdered over a gambling debt at the age of 31. Years later, his 42-year-old brother Harold Switzer (Slim/Deadpan) killed his girlfriend in a Murder-Suicide.
    • Scotty Beckett died of an overdose at the age of 38.
    • Richard Daniels (Mickey) died alone in a hotel room of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 55.
    • Kendall McCormas (Breezy Brisbane) committed suicide at age 64.
    • Matthew Beard (Stymie) led a life of crime and drugs. Although he successfully cleaned up in the 1960s, he ultimately succumbed to a stroke at the age of 56.
    • Darwood Kaye (Waldo) was killed by a hit-and-run driver at the age of 72.
    • Jay R. Smith (Jay) was stabbed to death in Las Vegas at age 87 by a homeless man whom he had befriended.
    • Dorothy Dandridge became the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. But she lost all her money in an investment scheme, and died of an overdose at 42.
    • Several cast members died prematurely of cancer either in their late 50s or early 60s. These include:
      • Mary Kornman at age 57.
      • Allen Hoskins (Farina) at age 59.
      • Jackie Condon at age 59.
      • Janet Burston at age 63.
      • Sherwood Bailey (Spud) at age 64.
    • There were even some cast members who, despite leading normal lives, died relatively young nonetheless. They include:
      • George McFarland (Spanky) aged 64 from a heart attack or an aneurysm.
      • John Collum (Uh-huh) at the age of 36 from a heart attack.
      • Elmo Billings at the age of 51 from a stroke.
      • Darla Hood (Darla) at the age of 47 of acute hepatitis from a blood transfusion given during an appendectomy.
      • William Thomas (Buckwheat) at age 49 of a heart attack.
      • Alvin Buckelew (aged 40); Carlena Beardnote (aged 42); George "Chuck" Nokes (aged 49); Tommy McFarland (aged 51); Shirley "Muggsy" Coates (aged 51); and Gary "Junior" Jasgur (aged 58) — all of unspecified causes.
    • Those who did not die either tragically and/or prematurely mainly worked in menial or low-key jobs, making this a straight version of the trope.
    • Hal Roach, the creator of the Little Rascals, stated that he never believed in this curse.
  • Sawyer Sweeten, between the ages of sixteen months and ten years old, played Geoffrey Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond alongside his twin brother and older sister, who played his siblings. Sadly, he was Driven to Suicide at the tender age of 19, for reasons that are not quite clear.
  • Tatum O'Neal, the youngest person to ever win a competitive Oscar, never came close to recapturing the success she had with Paper Moon. She continued to stay in the spotlight for the rest of the decade but never achieved much success in adulthood.
    • Averted with her Little Darlings co-star Kristy McNichol, who transitioned from child and teenage roles to adult comedies, particularly her role as Barbara Weston in Empty Nest. She retired from acting after her last role in 1998 and has lived a quiet life.
  • Butch Patrick, best known for playing Eddie Munster on The Munsters had a few more roles after the show was canceled, but then disappeared from the limelight. Since then, he mostly went onto having a normal life, and making appearances at conventions, though he did seek rehab treatment for drug addiction in 2010.
  • Peter Robbins, the child actor who voiced Charlie Brown in the early specials (including A Charlie Brown Christmas), didn't grow up to have a stable life, getting arrested for threatening his girlfriend and stalking her plastic surgeon. The judge even sentenced him for mental examination after he went on a foul-mouthed tirade against the judge in court. Robbins was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 2015, he was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months for criminal threats, and in late January 2022 he eventually took his own life.
  • Carl Steven, the actor that played young Spock in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and was the voice of Fred Jones in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo retired from acting in the mid-90s and seemed to be an aversion of this trope until around 2009 when he became addicted to heroin after being given it following a tonsillectomy. He later began stealing to support his addiction and was charged in 2010 of armed-robbing several pharmacies. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison where he died in July 2011 of a heroin overdose.
  • Jason Davis, best known for voicing Mikey Blumberg on Recess was arrested in 2011 for possession of a controlled substance. Sadly, in spite of seeking out help from Dr. Drew prior to his arrest and other attempts at rehab, he died of an overdose in February 2020.
  • Who's the Boss?: While Alyssa Milano has done all right in her transition from child to adult roles, Danny Pintauro disappeared for the limelight for a long time. He has since revealed a history of meth addiction and is now HIV-positive.
  • Filipino actor Jiro Manio was a child prodigy whose career peaked at the age of 10-11 when he appeared in the film Magnifico. Unfortunately, he got hooked on drugs as he hit his teens, and as the acting roles dried up, he was largely considered as a has-been before he reached the age of 20. He had recently made headlines after being found in a disheveled state, wandering around in Manila's airport after running away from home about four days prior. He went to rehab and exited in June 2017, but was arrested in January 2020 after allegedly stabbing another man three times.
  • Another Filipino child star, CJ Ramos, reportedly developed a drug problem after he left show business in his late teens. At 32, he was arrested in July 2018 for drug possession, but that somehow led to a Career Resurrection as a cast member on Ang Probinsyano.
  • Much has been said about Skylar Deleon being a "former Power Rangers star convicted of double-murder," but the truth is he had only appeared as an extra in one episode. Nonetheless, he did act a bit as a child and teenager, before getting involved in crime as an adult.
  • As far as child actresses go, Margaret O'Brien ruled the 1940s and early 1950s, boasting an impressive resume by the time she turned 12. As an adult, her film roles were few and far between, and she was only marginally more successful after transitioning to television.
  • Jonathan Brandis was another sad case. He played young Bill in the original 1990 miniseries for Stephen King's It, and later Lucas in seaQuest DSV. However, his career fell on progressively hard times after that, something his friends say contributed to his heavy drinking and depression. He passed away on November 12, 2003, at the age of 27, after hanging himself.
  • Blake Heron, best known as Marty in Shiloh, didn't go onto much else, and tragically passed away on September 7, 2017, at the age of 35. He had struggled with drug addiction since the age of 12 and had recently completed rehab for heroin addiction.
  • Tuesday Weld, a popular child/teen actress of the 1950s and early 1960s struggled with this hard, largely due to her Stage Mom putting pressure on her as the breadwinner of her family. She had a nervous breakdown at age 9, struggled with alcoholism by age 12, and attempted suicide at least once. She emancipated herself at 16, and kept acting through her 20s, but eventually started turning down high-profile roles, and was completely out of the spotlight by the '70s, largely by choice. She's now a Reclusive Artist.
  • Glee actors:
    • While he wasn't exactly a star, Mark Salling was 14 when he acted in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering. After his appearance as Puck, Salling faced legal troubles after being accused of sexual battery by an ex-girlfriend, and later charged with possession of child pornography. He committed suicide on January 30, 2017, invoking the trope.
    • Naya Rivera (Santana) had been a screen actress since she was a child, including a guest spot on Family Matters and a major role on Redd Foxx's last sitcom, The Royal Family. After a rocky marriage that included domestic violence charges against her, Rivera died at 33 in a boating accident.
  • Tommy Kirk was best known for playing Travis Coates in Old Yeller, Joe Hardy in The Hardy Boys television serial, and Wilby in The Shaggy Dog, among other appearances for Disney (including the original version of The Mickey Mouse Club) in the late 50s/early 60s, but was fired by Walt Disney himself in 1963, after he was caught in a relationship with a 15-year-old boy (Kirk was 22 at the time) and the boy's parents threatened to sue. As his career spiraled down, he turned to marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drug abuse, almost dying of an overdose at one point. He claims to being so high on a regular basis, he remembers very little about his later films. He lost out on a role in the John Wayne film The Sons of Katie Elder after being arrested for marijuana possession, and he eventually went broke after spending his money on drugs. He career continued to dry up so badly, he took a couple of non-union jobs in the early-70s, almost losing his SAG card. He then finally gave up acting and sobered up, while officially coming out as gay. He was later inducted as a "Disney Legend" in 2006 (along with other original Mouseketeers), continued to make occasional appearances at fan conventions, and largely took the blame for his own career downfall. He died at his Las Vegas, Nevada home on September 28, 2021, at the age of 79.
  • Soviet child actor Sergey Shevkunenko's once-promising career degenerated into a string of assaults, home burglaries, drugs, weapons violations resulting in several prison sentences. In 1995, he and his mother were murdered in their apartment, which remains unsolved.
  • Manuel Benitez (AKA Mark Everett) had roles in films such as Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Stand and Deliver in his youth. After acting, he would go on to deal drugs, murder his girlfriend, and kidnap their son. He was later gunned down by police after holding his son hostage in a restaurant.
  • Neil Hope, part of the large cast of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High did not act after the show ended in 1993. After his family drank away his TV earnings, he drifted into odd jobs and was an alcoholic, like his character Wheels, whose life was ruined by alcohol. He had become so isolated by the time of his death in 2007 that his family was unaware until five years later.
  • Martin Stephens was a very in-demand child actor in the 50s and 60s, getting to act alongside stars such as Lana Turner, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr and Maureen O'Hara. At first with small parts, he really became famous for his starring roles as David in Village of the Damned (1960) and Miles in The Innocents. Although he kept acting into his teens, his final film was a small role in The Witches (1966) and he retired for good. He later confessed he'd been pushed into it by a Stage Mom, and did experiment with drugs a bit in his twenties, but ended up living a quiet life as an architect.
  • His The Innocents co-star Pamela Franklin made her debut in that very film and, although she achieved a lot of fame with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie when she was nineteen (including a BAFTA nomination), those are still by far her most remembered roles. The Legend of Hell House typecast her as a scream queen and she retired from acting for good in the 70s after getting married. She now owns a first editions bookstore in West Hollywood.
  • Maia Campbell is a heartbreaking case. Having been the daughter of famed author Bebe Moore Campbell, she found success by starring in In The House and appearing in popular works such as Poetic Justice and Beverly Hills, 90210 and had gotten married and had a daughter. During the height of her success, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which she would habitually refuse to seek help for and instead self-medicated with drugs. A subsequent divorce, losing custody of her daughter and the 2006 death of her mother devastated her even as the two women were estranged at the time. In the years since then, she has unsuccessfully sought help from life coach Iyanla Vanzant, been arrested for disturbing the peace, had several videos surface of her displaying erratic and harrowing behavior while intoxicated in public and denied help from others concerned for her well-being.
  • Former Canadian child star Joey Cramer of Flight of the Navigator fame, in which he starred as the titular navigator didn't have quite the charmed life in the 21st century following his retirement in the late 90's. In 2008, he was prosecuted for careless storage of a gun, receiving a sentence of three months' probation; later in the year he was convicted for possession of narcotics with the intention of trafficking, receiving an imprisonment sentence of six months. In 2010 he was fined for consuming alcohol in a public place. In 2011, he was convicted of threatening behavior with a weapon and jailed for 30 days, and received another conviction in that year for cashing forged bank checks. In 2016, he would be charged for his involvement in a bank robbery. Come 2018, production began on the documentary "Life After the Navigator" on his troubled post-film life.
  • Orlando Brown found success in childhood by appearing in the hit sitcom Family Matters as well as several movies before scoring his breakout role in That's So Raven. However, in the years since its cancelation, he has faced some difficult times surrounding alcoholism, mental instability and numerous arrests. He also tries to remain in the news by badmouthing his former co-star Raven-Symoné whenever he can, had a video surface of him being recorded by (and thrown out of the house of) his "manager" while in a state of distress and at one point claimed that his biological father was Michael Jackson.
  • Aaron Carter was a superstar in the late 90s to early 2000s with popular songs such as "Crush on You" and "Aaron's Party (Come and Get It)" and was romantically linked to fellow child stars Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan. By the mid 2000s, he became embroiled in family turmoil with his Stage Mom Jane taking all of his earnings and he appearing on the short-lived reality show with his siblings, House of Carters, which showcased his and older brother Nick's very troubled relationship. Since this, he has been arrested for a DUI, has appeared in several interviews looking very gaunt (which many believe stems from drug usage) and has become estranged from his family to the point of some of them taking out restraining orders against him.
  • Averted and played straight with the two child leads of The Parent Trap II. Carrie Kei Heim, who played Nikki, retired from acting at a young age and grew up to become a writer and a lawyer. Bridgette Andersen, who played Mary, was a child prodigy who also stopped acting in her early teens, but not through a lack of effort. She sadly died in 1997 at the age of 21 from an accidental drug and alcohol overdose.
  • As a child, Jon Paul Steuer starred in the 1990s sitcom Grace Under Fire as Quentin Kelly, who was the son of single mother Grace Kelly, who was portrayed by Brett Butler. Butler had been fighting substance abuse throughout the series' run, and it eventually caused her to act erraticly on the set, and in one case, she flashed herself at the then-12-year-old Steuer, who ended up leaving the show.note  He would audition for other roles in TV and film, but constant questions about his time working with Butler forced him to quit acting altogether. He would later form a glam punk band and eventally land work as a bartender and server. Sadly, on New Year's Day 2018, he committed suicide by a gunshot wound at the age of 33.
  • From The Mighty Ducks, almost everyone involved ended up as an aversion. Almost all of them went on to have stable adult acting careers, or retiring from acting after a time. The lone exception, however, was Shaun Weiss, who played Greg Goldberg. He had a stable acting career through the 90s and 00s, but Weiss developed a case of drug problems in the 2010s and got into several spots of trouble with the law, before ultimately being arrested for attempted breaking and entering while being high on meth in early 2020. However, in the months since, he finally entered rehab and seems to be finally getting the help he needed. He looks far healthier and even has a new set of teeth, after the ravaging on his original teeth that meth did.
  • Jennette McCurdy rose to fame for her role as Sam Puckett on iCarly, which she would reprise in Sam & Cat. Jennette opened up about her experiences, saying that she was pushed into acting by her Stage Mom in order to financially support her family. Her mother also pushed her into developing eating disorders in order to stay thin. Jennette hated playing Sam, feeling that the character was a bad role model for children and found it difficult to play a character much different from her real self. On Sam & Cat, Jennette often butted heads with her costar Ariana Grande as well as network executives, her mother died during filming and she was caught up in a scandal when sensual photos of her were leaked (despite her being 22 years old at the time). Worse, she discovered that, due to her mother improperly filling out the paperwork required to set up her trust required by the Coogan Act, none of her earnings were ever put aside for her and she was left with none of the money she earned. After Sam & Cat was cancelled in 2014, Jennette's acting career took a nosedive and she eventually retired from acting in 2017, instead pursing writing and directing.


Works as a Whole

  • The cast of the long-running and highly successful webseries Critical Role would make you think that this stereotype is completely unfounded. The core group of players have three Former Child Stars:
    • Ashley Johnson just never stopped working, though her older siblings dropped out of the business in young adulthood. As an adult, she has had a successful TV and voice acting career, winning various awards, including two BAFTAs.
    • Taliesin Jaffe note  is maybe closest to the cliché, what with his promising TV/movie acting career hitting a wall the moment he hit puberty and stopped being so cute and "marketable." He then became a teenage goth and, by his own admission, ended up knowing "way too much" about party drugs. But after his teens, he cleaned up and managed to build a pretty successful career in voice acting, also writing the scripts for various well-received anime series dubs.
    • Sam Riegel played Gavroche on Les Misérables's first national tour and later other child roles on Broadway. One he hit puberty, he transitioned to becoming a very busy voice actor and voice director who also has won a few awards, inluding a Daytime Emmy.
  • All of the young women from The Facts of Life are aversions to the trope, whether they continued acting or moved out of it as adults.
  • The main cast of the Harry Potter movies seem to have avoided the worst aspects of child acting. Having begun acting between the ages of nine and eleven, they've shown steady development for over a decade and a total of eight films without any major misbehaviors or prima donna-ism. By all reports, all seem genuinely well-adjusted and mature.
    • Daniel Radcliffe, apart from his role as the title character, has starred in the stage play Equus and was critically acclaimed for his performance. He has since begun slowly branching out into other film and stage productions and has even done a spot of TV (appearing alongside Jon Hamm in A Young Doctor's Notebook). By his own admission, he had become an alcoholic around the time of the later films and did most of the Deathly Hallows production drunk, but he now abstains from alcohol.
    • Rupert Grint's major claim to eccentricity is owning an ice cream truck, saying that if his career after the Harry Potter movies are finished falls through, he can always fall back on a career as an ice cream man. A fairly mild indulgence for a multimillionaire, all things considered.
    • As for Emma 2014, she graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature. She also got the chance to work with directors such as Darren Aronofsky in Noah, play a live-action Disney Princess in Beauty and the Beast (2017), and be part of an All-Star Cast in Little Women (2019). She's also become a spokeswoman for the UN.
    • As a side note, Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films, previously directed Home Alone. As he has discussed in interviews, Columbus is unhappy with how Macaulay Culkin turned out and considers this partly his fault. When casting the Potter kids, he was determined to avoid the same mistakes and tried to cast children with stable home lives.
  • The child cast of The Wonder Years have all managed to do well as adults: Fred Savage is a director and producer along with occasional acting, Danica McKellar is an author and mathematician when not acting, and Josh Saviano (Paul) is an attorney. Although Saviano has been the subject of the famous myth that he became Marilyn Manson when he grew up which he has found very amusing.

  • Jenny Agutter had her first film role in East of Sudan at twelve and went on to star as Bobbie in The Railway Children both on film and television, as well as roles in Walkabout and The Snow Goose. She has worked consistently and without trouble ever since, transitioning to adult roles in Logan's Run and An American Werewolf in London and going on to play lead and supporting roles all over film, television, theatre, and radio. She's been married to Johan Tham, a Swedish hotelier, since 1990 and stars as Sister Julienne on Call the Midwife.
  • Sean Astin transitioned fairly well from child actor to adult actor.
  • Christian Bale rose to fame as a child actor in films like Empire of the Sun and his Old Shame Newsies, but truly came into his own in American Psycho and is now best known as Batman from The Dark Knight Trilogy, and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in The Fighter.
  • Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story grew up to be a successful director and producer. And he's quite handsome, too.
  • Sarah Bolger made a big splash in Jim Sheridan's In America at the age of ten and, although she got to star in hits like The Tudors and The Spiderwick Chronicles, she credits her parents for keeping her grounded; for example, making sure she didn't miss school even when having to do promotional appearances for films. In adulthood, she's continued to have plenty of success in Once Upon a Time, Agent Carter and Into the Badlands.
  • Stefan Brogren has come as close as anyone to being a Real Life version of SCTV's Rusty by playing the role of Archie "Snake" Simpson in every incarnation of the Degrassi franchise since 1987 while taking on an ever-larger role behind the camera. His character, however, has aged and progressed from student to teacher to principal of the titular High School, while the show's hiatus coincides with the period the character would've been getting his degree.
  • Zach Callison so far is an aversion. The voice actor for Steven in Steven Universe, he also had a recurring role on Just Add Magic and is working on developing a variety show for his YouTube channel. He is also a Nice Guy that happily meets with fans of the show.
  • Michael Cera began his acting career with roles in Canadian children's shows like The Noddy Shop and I Was a Sixth Grade Alien. However, he mostly did voice-acting, providing voices for The Berenstain Bears, Braceface, Rolie Polie Olie and Wayside. It wasn't until he was an adult that broke free of the Only So Many Canadian Actors trope and began performing in American (mainly live-action) works — often playing a socially awkward guy — such as Arrested Development, Juno, Youth in Revolt, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Superbad, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and The LEGO Batman Movie. All these projects tend to be much more well-known by the public than the roles from his childhood.
  • Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in The Goonies, left the acting side of the movie business after puberty, but re-emerged on its business side. Goonies director Richard Donner helped Cohen get summer jobs at movie studios while he was attending Berkeley, which led him to pursue a law degree at UCLA. He's now a name partner in a Beverly Hills entertainment law boutique.note 
  • Phil Collins was a child model/actor who played The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver! and had teeny tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-him roles in A Hard Day's Night and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but his musical success as an adult (both in Genesis and as a solo act) far eclipsed his success as a child actor/model.
  • Jennifer Connelly went a long way from being a young girl in Labyrinth to being the respectable Oscar-winning actress she is today.
  • Jackie Cooper starred in some Our Gang comedies and was still a successful actor, director, and producer, most famous on screen as Perry White in the Superman film series starring Christopher Reeve.
  • Alyson Court started acting as a child, and, apart from a brief maternity leave in the early 2000's, still does roles to this day.
  • Unlike his older brother Macaulay, Kieran Culkin managed to have steady acting work as a child actor (most famously as cousin Fuller in Home Alone) without the superstar celebrity status and continued well into his teenage and adult years with films like Igby Goes Down and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Then 2018 would see his career reach new heights by starring as Roman Roy in Succession.
  • Benjamin Diskin started acting at age 8 — but he has mostly been involved with voicework, something he still does to this day.
  • Aaron Dismuke is still most famous for his voice role of Alphonse Elric in the original Fullmetal Alchemist, which he did at the age of 12 alongside some other smaller anime roles at the time. He's since grown up, but continues to do voices for Funimation, most notably You Takami in Deadman Wonderland, and has also begun voice directing as well.
  • Kirsten Dunst's first big role was in Interview with the Vampire at 12 then Jumanji when she was 14, but she went on to a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful roles in the Spider-Man films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Marie Antoinette (2006), and Melancholia, which won her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.
  • June Foray (not unlike Rose Marie) started in radio at the age of twelve and was already a seasoned veteran by her late teens. She eventually transitioned to voice acting, and, well, let's say she's come a long way since then.
  • Blake Foster has been doing alright since his time as Justin Stewart, and while Justin was decried by many back then, there are plenty who wouldn't mind having him return.
  • Jodie Foster. Her first major role was in Taxi Driver as a twelve-year-old child prostitute. Even after the scandal over John Hinckley, she went on to have a very successful career which includes two Oscars for Best Actress.
  • Jack Garratt started performing as a kid (he participated in the UK's 2005 preselection for Junior Eurovision), and successfully avoided the trappings most former child stars face as he won BBC's "Sound of 2016" poll and found himself performing many music festivals in adulthood.
  • Lesley Gore began her career at age 16 with the Quincy Jones-produced number one "It's My Party", and went on to have several more hits during The '60s. She graduated from college as her career slowed down, re-emerging as a singer-songwriter and summer stock actress; she was nominated for an Oscar for a song she co-wrote for the movie Fame ("Out here on my own"), losing to the film's title track. She attempted occasional comebacks and maintained a strong career in the oldies/nightclub circuit before her death from cancer in 2015.
  • Seth Green has worked steadily as an actor, writer, producer, and director, who seamlessly transitioned from childhood roles to adult roles.
  • Hanson gained fame for their Signature Song "MMMBop" before being overshadowed by the Backstreet Boys and N Sync. However, they plugged along, playing and releasing albums to a dedicated audience and avoiding the traps many child stars fall into by being well-adjusted guys with wives and children.
  • Neil Patrick Harris is a notable aversion: after spending his teens on Doogie Howser, M.D., he worked steadily as a guest star on TV and on Broadway. But his career really took off after he did a cameo in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle — ironically enough, playing a lecherous, drug-addled version of himself. He's now best known to present-day audiences as the womanizing Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, as well as Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
  • Freddie Highmore went from Charlie Bucket and Astro Boy to Norman Bates and Shaun Murphy.
  • Whit Hertford was a fairly popular child actor and voice actor appearing in works like Jurassic Park, Full House, and Tiny Toon Adventures, he came back into show business having a successful career as an actor, writer, and director.
  • Clint Howard, like his older brother Ron, has averted the label, as he's been working fairly consistently. Although the early Eighties were a lean period, he's managed at least one film or television appearance a year since 1962, when he was three years old.
  • Ron Howard started out as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. He went on to direct films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon (not to mention his involvement in Arrested Development), and now has two Oscars and two Emmys to his name. Howard is, however, still an Acceptable Target in comedy for how his appearance has aged horribly (most notably in an episode of The Simpsons).
  • Back in the 1910s, at the Vitagraph film studio, there was a local kid from Brooklyn named Harry Horowitz who enjoyed hanging out there. Harry was charming and a natural ham, and the Vitagraph people began putting him in films, making him a child star. Young Harry would grow up to be one of the most violent and abusive men in the world: Moe Howard of The Three Stooges. But it's an aversion, too.
  • Bindi Irwin wasn't even 10 when Discovery Channel gave her her own edutainment series, Bindi the Jungle Girl, priming her to follow in the footsteps of her late father Steve Irwin. After the show ended she fell into (relative) obscurity for a while, concentrating on wildlife work at Australia Zoo, until she won Dancing with the Stars at 17, and as of this writing she has quite a career ahead of her. She is also by all accounts an extremely sane and well-adjusted young woman.
  • Spanish singer Maria Isobel was 9 when she won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2004. As an adult she remained well-adjusted and is now one of Spain's biggest rising stars, even participating in the Spanish preselection for the 2016 adult Eurovision.
  • Felicity Jones has come a long way from Ethel Hallow on The Worst Witch to becoming the respected actress she is as an adult. She earned an Oscar nomination for her work in The Theory of Everything and headlined the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.
  • Regina King had her first major role at 14 years old as Brenda Jenkins, the daughter from 227. She continued acting after the show ended and her career never lost traction. Today she's best known for voicing the two brothers in The Boondocks, as well as winning an Emmy for American Crime and an Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk.
  • Mexican actor Diego Luna acted in telenovelas in his native country starting at the age of eleven and through his teens, becoming a teen heartthrob and "an asshole" by age 15 (his words) in the process. This led to him being discredited and nearly passed over for Y tu mamá también, which would become his first Star-Making Role and bring him international acclaim at twenty years old. He's been a household name throughout Latin America and in and out of Hollywood ever since, and his best known roles to English-speaking audiences today are Cassian Andor in the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One and real-life drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in Narcos: Mexico.
  • James Madio began his career as a child actor, notably as a Lost Boy in Hook. He enjoyed more success in adulthood with Band of Brothers, the sitcom USA High and various self-directed projects.
  • Rose Marie started her career in old-time radio as a very young child, then went on to The Dick Van Dyke Show among other things. Her career has spanned decades and a documentary about her life was successfully funded by Kickstarter.
  • Early productions of Oliver! featured Steve Marriott in the title role. Marriott infuriated his family by choosing music over acting, given that he'd already established success, but went on to be the extremely popular frontman for The Small Faces and Humble Pie. However, his death in a house fire, probably from falling asleep with a lit cigarette, invokes the trope.
  • Joseph Mazzello, who portrayed Tim Murphy in Jurassic Park, received steady work as a child actor before he decided to take a break from acting so he could have a normal high school experience. After majoring in film at USC, he's gone on to have a pretty good adult career, including a starring role in The Pacific and supporting roles in Bohemian Rhapsody, The Social Network and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. He's also beginning to do some work behind the camera in addition to his acting roles.
  • Ross McCall started off as the little kid playing Freddie Mercury in the Queen video for "Miracle" and did numerous productions as a child actor. But he's far more recognizable for his adult roles such as Matthew Keller in White Collar, Liebgott in Band of Brothers or Ron Clarke in 24: Live Another Day. He alluded to this trope in an interview, saying that he thankfully got any rebellion out of his system at a young age.
  • Roddy McDowall started out as Hugh in How Green Was My Valley and starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor mentioned above in Lassie Come Home. After doing a few more Hollywood films as a child actor, he went to Broadway to enjoy plenty of success there (he was Mordred in the original run of Camelot) and he returned to Hollywood as an adult to appear in films such as Cleopatra (where he nearly got an Oscar nomination) — and he then enjoyed success as part of the Planet of the Apes franchise. He kept working in film, theatre, television and voice over well until his death in the 90s.
  • Alanis Morissette went from being a cast member on You Can't Do That on Television to a teen pop punchline to one of the biggest singers of The '90s.
  • Bill Mumy of Lost in Space. His parents took care that he grew up properly during his career as a child, and carefully invested his pay so he'd remain financially secure as an adult. He became a successful musician (his comedy pop band Barnes & Barnes is responsible for the song "Fish Heads") and continued acting in TV and film, even getting another juicy sci-fi TV role as Lennier in Babylon 5. His daughter Liliana Mumy is also making it well as a cartoon voice actress (most notably as the voice of Leni in The Loud House), and even played alongside her dad in the sequel to "It's a Good Life", The Twilight Zone (2002) episode "It's Still a Good Life".
  • Frankie Muniz was financially set for life after starring in the series Malcolm in the Middle as well as in films such as Agent Cody Banks, and so he voluntarily semi-retired from Hollywood after the series ended. Since then he's become a professional racecar driver and a musician.
  • Daisuke Namikawa transitioned pretty darn well from child voice actor to adult voice actor.
  • Haley Joel Osment was known for being the cute kid in The Sixth Sense — and Sora of Kingdom Hearts fame. Despite having some run-ins with the law, he has actually kept up his acting roles (along with his sister). Supposedly, he was more than willing to play small roles.
  • Hayden Panettiere was successful as a child actress (Guiding Light, One Life to Live, Remember the Titans), and hasn't exactly become the next Lindsay Lohan since (Heroes, Nashville and Until Dawn).
  • Anna Paquin won an Oscar for her role in The Piano, becoming the second youngest (regular) Oscar winner in history behind Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon. She had a moderately successful career as a child actress when she was cast in X-Men and successfully transitioned to adult superstardom. Nowadays she's best known for starring on True Blood.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker, started her career as Annie on Broadway and Square Pegs, then made the transition to adult star with plenty of movie roles... and then she starred in Sex and the City...
  • Jesse Plemons began his acting career at the age of 10, playing relatively small roles. He wasn’t particularly well-known until his role as Landry Clarke at 18, and this may be why Plemons’ transition into adulthood was smooth, with an acting career that still goes strong.
  • Alisan Porter took a break from acting after playing Curly Sue, briefly struggled with addiction, made a comeback in the mid-2000s with performing on Broadway and with her own band, and has been (so far) Happily Married with a child since 2012. She cemented her comeback in 2016 by winning Season 10 of the U.S. version of The Voice.
  • Natalie Portman. Her first big role was at the age of 11/12 in The Professional, and she has been far more successful as an adult, starring in the Star Wars prequel films, V for Vendetta, Black Swan (which won her an Oscar) and Thor. Like Emma Watson below, Portman taking a career break to go to college (and Harvard, no less) may have had something to do with it.
  • LeAnn Rimes managed to survive from her early teens (she was 14 when she released her debut single "Blue") and into adulthood with a string of hits.
  • Saoirse Ronan got an Oscar nomination at thirteen for Atonement and headlined numerous YA adaptations like The Lovely Bones, City of Ember and The Host (2013). Subsequent Oscar nominations for Brooklyn, Lady Bird and Little Women (2019), and a complete lack of public scandals shows she's doing even better as an adult.
  • Kurt Russell started acting during the late '50s (before he was even 10 years old), doing various parts in TV and movies for the next decade. By the '70s, he was an adult and still going strong, even having a 10-year contract with Disney. Robert Osborne once noted that Russell was the biggest star the studio had at this time. Afterwards, Russell would later successfully transition to more adult fare and has been working ever since.
  • Thomas Sangster, from such films as Love Actually and Nanny McPhee, has had success beyond his cute little boy image, in hit shows like Phineas and Ferb and Game of Thrones and films as diverse as Hitler: The Rise of Evil and Tristan and Isolde. Sangster also played young Paul McCartney in Nowhere Boy.
  • Filipina actress Vilma Santos came into the limelight a child actress during the '60s and was praised for her performance in Trudis Liit (Little Trudis) which earned awards in the Philippines film industry. Throughout her career, she is known as "The Star for All Seasons" and most of her movies earned a lot in the local box office. Her first marriage with fellow actor Edu Manzano failed but her second marriage with Senator Ralph Recto remained contented and her son from her first marriage also became a respected actor. She also has a successful political career after being the mayor of her hometown and a governor in her home province. Currently, she's a congresswoman representing her province and despite not doing movies anymore, she's still regarded as one of the best actresses today.
  • Shakira started her career very young, released two albums (now Old Shame and Canon Discontinuity) and did several apparitions in TV and concerts. However, her mother never let her expand her career until she was 18, so she rarely performed outside Colombia and avoided events or appointments that could interfere with school. When she became an adult, the little exposure she had as a child let her become an international star as many people outside Colombia didn't even know about her and saw her as a new artist. While she definitely sexified her appearance, she did it after turning huge, and with much more modesty than other female pop artists of her generation.
  • Harry Shearer worked as a child actor in the 1950s, then went on to two separate stints on SNL, an unforgettable role as Derek Smalls in This is Spın̈al Tap, and a 30-seasons-and-counting stint voicing many, many characters on The Simpsons.
  • Alexander Skarsgård was a famous child actor in his native Sweden, after being discovered by a friend of his father Stellan Skarsgård. As he entered his teens, he became less and less comfortable with being a public figure and decided to drop acting. After finishing high school and going through a stint in the Swedish Armed Forces and a semester of college, he rediscovered his passion for acting, went to acting school and began picking up work again. After doing some stage work, a few films in Sweden and a bit part in Zoolander he was cast as Brad Colbert in Generation Kill and Eric Northman in True Blood, and the rest is history.
  • Dean Stockwell averts this big time, starting as a child star in the 1940s, and continuing to work steadily for the next sixty-five years, being best known as Al on Quantum Leap and Cavil on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.
  • As far as voice actors go, Tara Strong began her career at age thirteen. She alternated between voice-overs and live-action roles, but has found far more success in adulthood — carving a niche as herself for the go-to actress to voice a Genki Girl or Keet boy. In her late thirties, she was chosen as the voice actress for Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which catapulted her to new heights.
  • Elizabeth Taylor, going from a child star in movies like Lassie Come Home to one of the most famous film actresses ever.
  • Shirley Temple, after an ill-fated marriage at age 17 to a man who stole all her money, went on to be happily married for 50 years until her husband's death and was an Ambassador for the United States to Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution. During the 1968 Soviet Crackdown on Czechoslovakia, she led over 700 people to the border and got them through because the guards were fans of her (it helps that Temple had a siginificant fanbase in the former Czechoslovakia, where she is affectionately known as "Shirley-ka").
  • Kenan Thompson was one of the 90's most prominent child/teen actors thanks to his two hit shows on Nickelodeon (All That and Kenan & Kel) as well as roles in Good Burger, The Mighty Ducks sequels, and Heavyweights. After leaving Nick, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, ultimately becoming one of the longest-tenured cast members in the show's history and winning his first Emmy in 2018.
  • Justin Timberlake started off early, as a performer on The New Mickey Mouse Club (other cast members included his fellow *NSYNC bandmate JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera). After departing from *NSYNC, he's gone on to have a successful solo music career, and has appeared in films like The Social Network.
  • Christopher Walken started his career at age 9 but is best known for his roles as an adult.
  • Dennis Waterman started his career in 1960 when he was 12 years old but he is best known for his roles in The Sweeney and Minder.
  • Nikki Webster shot to fame after being the star of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, beamed to billions around the world. She had a promising start at a pop career, with one major Australian Number One hit in "Strawberry Kisses" and albums that, while not exactly platinum, still turned a pretty penny. After a brief, slightly rebellious phase where she posed for FHM in her late teens, she opened her own dance school in 2008 which became extremely successful in the years since. It's now what she is primarily known for.
  • The parents of Jill Whelan, who had a small part in Airplane! and a starring role on The Love Boat, made sure to avert this. In one episode of The Brian & Jill Show she relates a story in which a producer on the set of a film she was in told her that if she didn't like anyone they could be fired. Her mother responded by telling the producer that if he ever put that much power in a child's hands again they would walk.
  • Mara Wilson had a pretty peaceful life despite going out of the spotlight. Nowadays she works as a stage actress, writes a humorous blog, guest stars on a weird podcast and calls out internet reviewers. And is a good enough sport to costar in a review of Matilda with The Nostalgia Chick. And later on, wrote an article about why real-life examples of this trope occur.
  • Stevie Wonder started as "Little Stevie Wonder" and had some hits in his teens, but then went on to become one of the biggest singers of the 1970s.
  • Elijah Wood started off as a successful child actor, starring in such films as The Good Son and North. He transitioned fairly smoothly to adult roles, with his starring role as Frodo in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings first hitting theatres when he was 19.
  • Natalie Wood starred in Miracle on 34th Street aged 8, but successfully adapted to 'grown-up' parts in her teens with Rebel Without a Cause and The Searchers and is barely remembered as a child star at all. The one major scandal to happen to her stems from her death in 1981 — she drowned off the coast of Santa Catalina Island while on a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and friend Christopher Walken, the exact circumstances remaining unknown to this day. There's also been rape allegations with her as the victim dating back to 1955, chiefly by her sister Lana, who has accused the now-deceased Kirk Douglas.
  • Shailene Woodley began her career as a child actress and achieved stardom as a teenager for The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The Descendants. While she was still appearing in teen films well into her twenties — The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent franchise — she successfully transitioned to adult roles with Big Little Lies and Adrift (2018).
  • Kyla Pratt became known for being young Monica in Love & Basketball and became more well known for her roles as Maya Dolittle from the Dr. Dolittle films, Penny Proud from The Proud Family and Breanna Barnes from One on One. Since then, she’s been taking on supporting roles like on Hotel for Dogs, starred in more predominantly black films, and has stayed away from such scandal and scrutiny. Today, she's a mother to two daughters, and is still acting. She has a main role in Call Me Kat and reprised her role as Penny Proud on The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

  • Music example: Britney Spears fell on this hard for a very long time. Though her musical career has rebounded (though not quite up to its former heights), her personal life around the mid-late '00s was such a trainwreck and her reputation in utter tatters, that she was eventually placed under the conservatorship of her father. She got therapy and pulled her life around and is a loving and supportive mom to her sons, such as indulging in their interests (like Dragon Ball Z) or when they were younger allowing them to leave the cameras if it was too much. In fact, one of the reasons she took up a Las Vegas residency was the ability to raise her children in a stable environment. In November 2021, she was finally released from her father's conservatorship, and signed a $15 million deal for her memoir a few months later.
  • Macaulay Culkin became a star after Home Alone. Unfortunately, he had a Stage Dad who forced him into role after role without taking a break, wanting to maximize on his son's bankability and ultimately ruining it (because no one wanted to cast Macaulay if it meant having to deal with his dad). Culkin understandably got burned out on his desire to act after that and retired at the age of 15. Nowadays, he mostly focuses on his website Bunny Ears, a comedy site satirizing lifestyle/health blogs. He's also spent a few years as the front man for a comedic rock band Pizza Underground note , making the best response ever to a death hoax about him, and generally going out of his way to live as normal a life as possible. It didn't stop him from Adam Westing a little bit though. As for his father, the two have been estranged for over twenty years.
  • Patty Duke was a preteen when she became the youngest ever actress at the time to receive a competitive Oscar (as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker in 1962), then gained new fame with her dual role on The Patty Duke Show. As she grew up, Duke went through many personal struggles, starting with a dysfunctional childhood and worsening thanks to her junkie handlers/managers who sheltered, manipulated and ostracizednote  her, fed her prescription pills and alcohol and molested her. After finding out her handlers spent most of her money she earned from her show, she finally broke free in 1967 by marrying a middle-aged camera operator she met and fell in love with on the set of the sitcom. She had also dealt with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, alcoholism (likely used as a form of self-medication) and marital/financial difficulties, before finally being diagnosed and treated for her bipolar disorder in 1982; she released two memoirs chronicling her struggles and became a mental health advocate. She maintained an acting career right until sepsis — caused by a ruptured intestine — claimed her life in 2016, reconciling with her family, forgiving her childhood handlers, and settling down with her third husband on a ranch in Idaho.
  • Danny Bonaduce has made an entire career out of being a washed-up ex-child-star. He makes a point of stating that he would have turned into a drug-addicted Jerkass with or without his role on The Partridge Family, so he can be seen as a subversion of sorts.
  • Jackie Earle Haley was once the embodiment of this trope, having starred in '70s hits like The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away, but then failing to make the transition to adult roles and quit acting for 13 years. However, in 2006 he returned to Hollywood and after playing supporting roles in the remake of All the King's Men and Little Children (and getting an Oscar nomination in the latter), he starred in Watchmen as Rorschach, signed a multi-picture deal to star as Freddy Krueger in the rebooted A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), and co-starred on Human Target. He's been keeping busy with roles in the film version of Dark Shadows and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.
  • At one point, Drew Barrymore was the epitome of the bad end of this trope; at the age of 15, she already went through smoking cigarettes and pot, drinking, doing cocaine, attempting suicide, and staying in rehab twice. However, she eventually sobered up and became a successful adult actress.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt took a breather from acting after playing Tommy on 3rd Rock from the Sun. He struggled with I Am Not Spock for several years, disliking his teen heartthrob status. So he turned to independent films and won critical acclaim for his work in Brick, Stop-Loss and The Lookout. (500) Days of Summer proved a Career Resurrection that helped establish him as one of the finest actors working today.
  • Something similar can be said of Wil Wheaton and his role as Wesley on Star Trek: The Next Generation. But he grew up pretty well of it.
  • Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett are subversions as well. In The '80s and early Nineties, they were moderately famous for their roles in kids' movies and TV (Lewis for her parts in The Wizard and Troop Beverly Hills, Sennet for his turn as Pinsky in Salute Your Shorts). In the late 90s, they formed an indie-rock band that (after some changes) ended up called Rilo Kiley. They've been better known as musicians ever since, with Lewis finding particular success both with the band and as a solo artist after Rilo Kiley's (amicable) 2011 breakup.
  • Jackie Coogan starred with Charlie Chaplin as The Kid, sued his parents for squandering his film earnings before he became an adult (which led to the California Child Actor's Bill, AKA the Coogan Act), but had a successful adulthood acting career as Uncle Fester.
  • Mayim Bialik of Blossom famously went to school and got a PhD in neuroscience, becoming Dr. Mayim Bialik. She had quit acting for some time and decided to ease back into the business by auditioning for some random roles. One of those roles happened to be for a show that celebrated higher education and she got the part of neurobiologist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory. She parlayed her nerddom fame into a spot as one of the candidates to succeed Alex Trebek as host of Jeopardy! after his death in 2020; she eventually landed the job (jointly with all-time Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings), although this conclusion was reached only after a lot of drama.
  • Anna Chlumsky of My Girl fame took a break in 1998 to concentrate on her studies. Seven years later, she returned to acting, eventually getting a role on Veep in 2012.
  • Demi Lovato was, around 2010, one of the defining examples of the stereotypical image of the Disney Channel's teen idols, particularly in terms of them having messed-up private lives underneath their squeaky-clean images; in Lovato's case, it was eating disorders, self-harm, alcohol, and cocaine, including an overdose that nearly killed them. However, they checked into rehab and stuck with it, going on to become a fairly successful adult pop singer and coming clean about their past problems. Their 2021 documentary, Dancing with the Devil, details the trauma they endured during their career, including not just the eating disorders and drug addiction, but sexual abuse as well.
  • Mickey Rooney began acting appearing in films at the ripe young age of 17 months and even as a teenager continued his career as the "hyperactive, girl-crazy" Andy Hardy, often together with Judy Garland. Rooney's enlistment in World War II saw his career decline, making a few TV and film appearances after that (most notably in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), but eventually making a Broadway comeback in 1979 at 59 years old with Sugar Babies, to rave reviews. After that, he worked regularly on both screen and stage until shortly before his death in April 2014 at the age of 93.
  • The child actors on Gimme a Break! did well. Joey Lawrence continued to act through his teens and adulthood, including a main role on Blossom and several guest roles as an adult. Currently, Lawrence stars in Melissa & Joey. His younger brother Matthew Lawrence has had a long career and transition to adult roles. Kari Michaelsen (Katie) became a motivational speaker after retiring from acting. Lauri Hendler faded from the limelight after The '80s. Lara Jill Miller (Samantha) studied law and passed the bar in three states while on a break from acting, and continues to do voice work, most notably for Digimon Adventure.
  • Natasha Lyonne started out as a child actor and continued working steadily through her teens and twenties, most notably in the American Pie series. She seemed to be an aversion until numerous convictions for impaired driving, a stay in rehab, and some health problems defined this trope for her. She cleaned up, however, and has transitioned to adult roles, including Orange Is the New Black, and Russian Doll, which she also created. The latter especially brought her back into spotlight from critical and commercial acclaims. And then the renewed interest of But I'm a Cheerleader has garnered her a significant LGBT Fanbase.
  • Country Music star Tanya Tucker stared her career in her teens, and despite a rocky middle period in the late 70s-early 80s, including a controversial relationship with the much older Glen Campbell and a suicide attempt, Tucker bounced back and had a second string of hits in the late 80s to early-mid 90s, and she continues to record to this day.
  • After The Hogan Family finished its run on TV, 21-year-old Jason Bateman vanished from public consciousness for over a decade... and then bounced back with his starring role on Arrested Development.
  • Andrea Libman began as a child actress, doing both voice-over and live-action work. In her teens she found herself doing more voice-overs, as she became camera shy and directors didn't like her braces. She has said she didn't intend to continue voice acting, convinced her distinctive high pitched voice would one day change. She studied to be a civil engineer but has kept up the voice acting. She was a Reclusive Artist until voicing Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy brought her to the limelight.
  • Justin Bieber started out as a sweet little boy singing songs on YouTube. Then, he blew up and became a superstar. His ego soon followed and he became more known for his drinking, partying and love of strippers/prostitutes than singing. He made a comeback in 2015 with the album Purpose (with three straight #1 hits), and only time will tell if he'll stay there for long. Since then he's featured on a few more #1 hits, including "Despacito".
  • Linda Blair played this trope straight for a while, but then subverted it. She's still best known for her role as Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, which scored her an Oscar nomination, and while filming the sequel, she was busted for possessing and selling cocaine. She found it very difficult to book roles after that, but cleaned up her act, and went onto making some more film and television appearances, mostly in trashy B-movies though. Today, she's living pretty well and makes appearances at horror conventions. She's also known for being a major animal rights activist, with her own charity called the Linda Blair World Heart Foundation.
  • Alyssa Milano began her career as a child star on Who's the Boss? and had a brief stint as an Idol Singer in Japan. Roles dried up as she grew up, and she looked as if she was disappearing from entertainment altogether. Career Resurrection came in the form of Melrose Place and Charmed, making her more famous than she ever was as a child actress. In The New '10s she also became famous for her political activism.
  • Ken Weatherwax, who played Pugsley in the original Addams Family, retired from acting after the show's cancellation, as he had no interest in being typecast as the "funny fat kid". Unfortunately, returning to normal school was a struggle due to the minimal education he received onset, and he dropped out at 17 to join the military. After a few years in the service, he returned to Hollywood to work as a studio grip and served that role for 20 years. He quit primarily to care for his ailing mother, but also because he had grown tired of the hedonism and long hours of show-business. After her death in 2002, he went through bouts of homelessness and severe depression and contemplated suicide until a chance encounter introduced him to religion. Weatherwax became a born-again Christian and served happily with his church — while making occasional convention appearances — until passing away from a heart attack in 2014 at the age of 59.

  • The prognosis on former (child) stars on sports depend a lot on the sports in question, and especially on if it is a spectator sport if not. Many athletes who are involved in non-spectator sports, where a professional career is not an option, must plan their exit strategy already when they are on the top. Even career athletes do come one day to the point where they have to think of their exit strategy.
    • Individual competition sports (track and field, swimming, weightlifting, archery, etc.) athletes usually avert this trope completely, usually picking an academic or professional career after their active sports career. They usually plan their exit strategy well already on the prime of their career or exit while on the top.
      • Golf takes this aversion Up to Eleven. Elite golfers regularly remain competitive well into their forties, and occasionally even into their fifties—and that's when they're pitted against younger players. The U.S. has a very lucrative tour for men's golfers 50 and older, and several other such tours operate (most notably in Europe and Japan); players tend to stay competitive on those tours until their early sixties. (Women's golf has only recently started to launch senior tours.) On top of that, elite golfers of either sex can continue to rake in money from the sport even in retirement, thanks to endorsements and golf-related business opportunities, especially in course design. For example, Jack Nicklaus has made many times more money just in designing courses than he did as one of the sport's greatest players.
    • Individual match-up sports (martial arts, tennis, boxing, etc.) may either avert or play this trope straight, depending on their exit strategy.
    • Team competition sports (sailing, sledding, rowing, skydiving) usually avert this trope.
    • Team match-up sports (football, ice hockey, basketball, baseball, etc.) usually (and sadly) play this trope straight, unless they are forced to exit their career prematurely [and have an exit strategy].
  • Ironically played with in the life of Micky Dolenz. He was the child star of Circus Boy for several years, after which his parents took him out of show business entirely to avert this trope. By all accounts, it worked... far better than when he gained and lost fame AGAIN as one of The Monkees.
  • Tero Niva, a very promising Finnish young actor, instead chose to become a software engineer rather than a professional actor.
  • Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, never acted in movies again (by choice) and graduated from Cornell and become a veterinarian instead.
  • Intentionally played with by Miley Cyrus, most famous as a Disney Channel star playing the squeaky-clean Hannah Montana. By age 18, she had semi-nude pictures of her posted on the internet, danced on a pole at the Teen Choice Awards, and became known for her taste for drugs when a video of her trying salvia spread online. She was expected to slide further into substance abuse and obscurity... before Bangerz, an album with a heavy hip-hop influence and references to all the drugs she was doing, was released, for which she did a famously Squicktastic So Bad, It's Good Fan Disservice performance at the 2013 Video Music Awards — an attempt to invoke this trope as a conscious artist image. However, Miley, by all accounts, is quite well-adjusted out of kayfabe — she says the drug-addled trainwreck persona is, while closer to the truth than her child star personality, just something she does on stage; she has stated her interest in feminism, made fun of the moral panic about her, and even mentions she sticks to social, non-addictive drugs (ecstasy and weed) rather than the cocaine, booze, and heroin that has ruined the lives of so many child stars. Dolly Parton, her father Billy Ray Cyrus, Snoop Dogg and her frequent collaborator Wayne Coyne, among loads of journalists and interviewers, all say that she's actually a very normal, intelligent girl.
  • The same applied in spadeloads to child star Charlotte Church, who shot to fame as an eleven-year-old cherub who sang hymns and religious-themed songs in a pure and angelic voice. The problem was that she grew up and maintained her voice and her singing career, but had a fan base that still only appeared to want a sweet innocent child singer. Supported by British Newspapers that scented a narrative to make a story out of, fans were unreasonably disappointed and even outraged when she turned eighteen and was seen doing terrible things like going out for a drink and going out with boys. In short, Charlotte grew up into a perfectly normal and well-adjusted young woman, but a lot of fans refused to accept this.
  • Downplayed with Kathryn Beaumont. When she gave up acting she became a teacher, but it's harder not to think of her as Alice and Wendy.
  • Kirk Cameron, after a long run on Growing Pains, several teen films in The '80s, and gracing the cover of many a teen pinup magazine, became a born-again Christian. This led to much-publicized friction on the Growing Pains set.note  He faded from the limelight but continued to act in Christian-themed productions and devote his life to ministry work, until he made controversial anti-gay marriage remarks. This led to a video by former child stars, poking fun at the comments and supporting gay marriage.
  • German actress Romy Schneider (most well-known for her Sissi movies, which were a Historical Research Failure romanticized biopic on the otherwise tragic life of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth) got into acting when 15 years old, under the tutelage of her mother. In an aversion of this trope, she decided for herself to act, despite her parents (both rather famous film and stage actors of their time) being against it. Eventually she got tired of being typecast as squeaky-clean (potentially royal) teenagers (roles handpicked by her stepfather who wanted to capitalize on her as much as possible and her mother who wanted her to keep a wholesome virginal image) and left Germany/Austria as soon as the last movie of the "Sissi" trilogy was finished because all the prospect roles she was being offered were pale imitations of her Sissi character. Later she'd take up the role of Empress Elisabeth again as a personal favor for her friend director Luchino Visconti in his film Ludwig II; where she now played Elisabeth as a mature, serious, and cynical woman. Radically different compared to the cute teenage (and historically inaccurate) "Empress Sissi" she hated portraying in her youth. Romy worked continuously in France, Italy, and sometimes the US because the filmmakers there offered her more serious roles than in her native Germany and Austria, and achieved much acclaim there on both the screen and on stage; and boy did the Germans hate her for this perceived "betrayal" and "corruption" of her youthful virginal image. Romy's life was beset with failed marriages, the death of her only son (in an eerie coincidence with the life of the actual Empress Elisabeth), and a huge debt incurred by her stepfather who invested her money into his own chain of restaurants. She died at age 43 from heart failure and is still well-known today both for her youthful roles as virginal naive aristocratic heroines and her later, more mature and darker works.
  • Devin Stanfield appeared in the children's television series The Box Of Delights and Chocky in the 1980s. Afterwards, he moved into behind the scenes work in theatre and from all accounts is happy and successful.
  • Thora Birch began acting at the age of six, and went from successful roles in American Beauty and Ghost World to smaller and smaller roles, allegedly because of poor management by her father.
  • Charlie Korsmo, who most notably appeared in Dick Tracy, What About Bob?, and Hook, only had one film role after that (Can't Hardly Wait, shot when he was 19) and then left entertainment for good. He got a physics degree at MIT and worked at the EPA and on Capitol Hill before going to law school at Yale. Now professionally known as Charles Korsmo, he's a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
  • The original six Dead End Kids, who played a gang of street urchins in the 1935 play Dead End and its 1937 film adaptation and then similar groups of delinquents in several further films (such as Angels with Dirty Faces), provide several straight examples and several aversions.
    • Straight examples:
      • Billy Halop found his film work drying up after he returned from military service in World War II; having left the Dead End Kids in 1940, he missed out on their later work in the Bowery Boys series, having to settle for the knockoff Gas House Kids series. He struggled with alcoholism and a string of failed marriages before getting his life back on track in the late 1960s by qualifying as a registered nursenote  and getting a recurring role as cabbie Bert Munson on All in the Family until dying of a heart attack at 56.
      • Bobby Jordan made the transition to the Bowery Boys series but grew frustrated with his dwindling screen presence in the films, eventually quitting the series and finding increasing solace in the bottle (helped in this endeavour by a later job as a bartender) before dying of cirrhosis of the liver at 42.
      • Leo Gorcey was one of the most prominent actors in the Bowery Boys series until, following his father's death in a car accident, he descended into alcoholism and trashed a movie set in a drunken haze, leading the studio to refuse his request for a pay rise, which in turn led him to quit the series. He had been married five times at his death from liver failure aged 51, at the end of a decade of only sporadic film work.note 
    • Aversions:
      • Huntz Hall stayed with the Bowery Boys series until the very end, and though he had the odd career hiatus, he continued to find acting jobs until the early 1990s. Not that he needed the money, as he had become wealthy through investment in offshore oil and gas drilling.
      • Gabriel Dell transitioned to adult roles in the Bowery Boys films before leaving the series in 1950. He spent three years at the Actors' Studio, and had perhaps the most successful solo acting career of the Dead End Kids, finding steady work on Broadway and in films and television (he was a regular supporting player on The Steve Allen Show in the late 1950s) until the early 1980s.
      • Bernard Punslynote  retired from acting in 1943 at the age of 20 and became a doctor (even as an actor, he would read medical textbooks between takes), maintaining a private practice and being a hospital chief of staff in the greater Los Angeles area. He was also married just once, for over fifty years (ending with his death aged 80), and had two children.note 
  • Kimberly J. Brown was a very successful television child actress in the late 90s, famous for her work as Marnie in the original three Halloweentown films, Quints (all on Disney Channel), and a long-running stint on Guiding Light. In 2006, Disney controversially replaced her as Marnie for Return To Halloweentown for unknown reasons, and Kimberly didn't have another notable role until 2013 when she was a regular on the short-lived Low Winter Sun on AMC. However, despite her faded career, she's maintained a very normal personal life and is very accessible to her fans on social media.
  • After The Sopranos finished its run, Robert Iler (A.J. Soprano) did a few bit roles on television but largely retired from acting to become a professional poker player, though as he later admitted, this exacerbated his problems with substance abuse. While he seemed on the path to playing the trope straight with his 2001 robbery arrest and his drug and alcohol issues as a young adult, he has been sober since the mid-2010s.
  • Dylan and Cole Sprouse had very successful child acting careers that included roles Big Daddy, Grace Under Fire and Friends that were capped off with a six-year run on Disney Channel with The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and its spin-off Suite Life on Deck. After On Deck finished, the two took a break from acting to attend New York University. Once they graduated, Cole returned to Hollywood and landed the role of Jughead on the hit series Riverdale. Meanwhile, Dylan is still in retirement while he runs his own meadery.
  • Canadian child actor Gil Filar, best known for playing Boobull in The Noddy Shop, retired from acting as a teen and became an author.
  • Two of the Phoenix brothers provide a straight example and an aversion.
    • River Phoenix had a skill for acting far beyond anyone else in his generation, but couldn't cope with the pressures of fame and hated that he was part of a system he despised. He turned to drugs and wound up dying of an overdose in 1993 at the age of 23.
    • Joaquin Phoenix, however, transitioned successfully into a critically-acclaimed adult acting career in such films as Gladiator, Walk the Line, The Master, her (2013), and Joker (2019), the latter of which won him an Academy Award. Although he played up to the trope with his extended breakdown in the fake-autobiographical I'm Still Here.
  • Tony DeFranco became a teen sensation in the early 1970's when he and his siblings — The DeFranco Family — scored a #1 hit with the song "Heartbeat — It's a Lovebeat". A couple of follow-up singles later (none of which did as well as their initial hit), and the DeFranco Family faded into obscurity. However, as fleeting as his fame was as a singer, Tony has enjoyed more sustained success in his second career in real estate.
  • One of the Sleestaks in the first season of Land of the Lost (1974) was Bill Laimbeer, then a high school basketball player, who went on to far greater success in that sport. As a player, he spent 15 seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Detroit Pistons, winning two titles in their "Bad Boys" era. He then went on to even more success as a WNBA coach, leading the Detroit Shock (now Dallas Wings) to four WNBA Finals, winning three, and more recently taking the Las Vegas Aces to the 2020 WNBA Finals (which they lost).
  • As a duo of teenagers, Drake Bell and Josh Peck starred in the Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh, which ran from 2004 to 2007. After the show finished, Drake went off to big projects such as the live action The Fairly OddParents films and Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), but ultimately saw his career implode in 2021 after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct, playing the trope straight. Meanwhile, Josh managed to maintain a steady, if unremarkable career in films such as The Wackness, and is currently starring in the lead role of the Disney+ original series, Turner and Hooch (2021), thus averting the trope.
  • Film producer Gary Goetzman started as a child actor whose credits include Yours, Mine, and Ours; as a teenager he did a stint selling waterbeds before pivoting to a pinball arcade. If it sounds like you read that further up the page, that's because Paul Thomas Anderson based the character of Gary Valentine in ''Licorice Pizza on him.
  • Pioneering boy band New Edition, and by extension Bell Biv DeVoe, is a mixed bag with this trope, though most of the band has been fairly stable in recent years:
    • Ralph Tresvant: Though his solo career didn't quite reach the heights of his bandmates', he nevertheless remained successful as an adult, and is probably the most stable of the original lineup.
    • Johnny Gill: Was a child star prior to New Edtion, and didn't join the group until he was an adult. Nevertheless, joining NE boosted his lagging career, to the point where almost no one remembers his work as a child; and he's has had a consistent solo career since.
    • Ronnie DeVoe: Had a successful career as part of BBD.
    • Michael Bivins: Also had a successful career with BBD, but had arguably greater success as a manager, discovering Boyz II Men and Another Bad Creation in the early '90s.
    • Bobby Brown: Was initially written off as a has-been after both being kicked out of the group, and releasing a dud for a solo debut; before rebounding in a major way with Don't Be Cruel; eclipsing his bandmates in the proccess. Unfortunately, his success went to his head, and Brown not only began to coast, but his addictions gradually got the best of him in the '90s, which wasn't helped by his turbulent marriage to Whitney Houston, which ultimately ended in divorce. A near-fatal, drug-induced stroke caused Brown to start cleaning up and reunite with New Edition, but still struggles with his demons to this day.
    • Ricky Bell: Broke out as the lead singer of BBD, but also had drug problems that eventually led to an overdose. He's since been sober, and continues to tour with NE and BBD