Why former Disney star Christy Carlson Romano turned to YouTube to talk about Shia Labeouf, the perils of child stardom, and managing her money

Christy Carlson Romano
Christy Carlson Romano has made a successful pivot to influencer. Courtesy of Christy Carlson Romano.
  • Former Disney star Christy Carlson Romano has turned to social media to discuss childhood stardom.
  • Her videos have gained traction and sparked memes and admiration from industry insiders.
  • Romano spoke to Insider about her blossoming YouTube channel and the next steps for her career.

On August 16th, Christy Carlson Romano – known for playing the control-freak older sister in “Even Stevens” and voicing “Kim Possible” – posted a video on TikTok talking to her #YoungerSelf. Her re-embodied 16-year old self asks, “So, we’re totally rich and famous right?” To which her current self responds, “No. We’re mostly doing online content. But we’re happy.” Later in the exchange, she reassures the disappointed young actress, “We’re never lonely anymore. We finally found love.” That kind of unvarnished honesty has been the key to Romano’s recent rebrand as the internet’s wise, blissed-out older sister.

In recent months, the former Disney star has posted a whirlwind of vlogs on her YouTube channel, where she has 346,000 subscribers, addressing topics such as her friendship with “Even Stevens” co-star Shia Labeouf, why she swapped struggling in Hollywood for thriving in Austin, Texas, and how she found tranquility and love after years of breakups, alcohol abuse, and career high and lows. In the videos, which she co-produces with her husband Brendan Rooney, she walks through Austin in athleisure, going about her day as she shares her insight and Tinseltown tales. Her voice is serene; sometimes there’s a Starbucks order or water bottle in hand; everything soundtracked by lulling sounds of nature.

“We want it to feel like I’m FaceTiming someone or that they’re really there talking to me. What’s important about the videos is how intimate they feel,” Romano explained to Insider over the phone; her young daughter running around in the background.

Days before publishing a vlog regarding fellow former Disney actress Raven-Symoné, Romano spoke to Insider about her blossoming YouTube channel, how the film industry can ensure the mental health and safety of its youngest stars, and what she wants to work on next.

Romano’s YouTube Rebrand Came About After A Creative ‘Plateau’

After going in and out of the entertainment industry and struggling to transition to adult roles, starting a family, and over the course of 12 years, earning a Bachelor’s in Film Studies from Barnard College, Romano launched her YouTube channel in 2019.

In a video from August, “How I Lost All My Money,” Romano disputed an online claim that her net worth is “3 million dollars” and described herself as a “mom monetizing my channel [and] doing sponsored content [and] working when I can.” In another video on her channel, “The Truth About The Disney Channel,” she described how as a 37-year old actress, she was told by casting agents that she’s too young to play mom characters on TV.

For now, social media seems to be a creative outlet that gives her room for growth.

“It’s interesting that I’m vlogging now because I never really thought of myself as a reality person. It’s definitely not as scary as I thought it would be because I’m leading with the positive rather than completely leading with the negative which is why I think it’s really important that people actually watch my videos instead of just sort of very flippantly looking at the titles,” she told Insider.

Romano said that vlogging helps her control the narrative and understand her audience. Instead of having to wait months to see whether or not something is successful with network audience testing, she can get results quicker using YouTube’s analytics tool and respond accordingly.

“With this [vlogging], I can be the master of my destiny and see what people want me to talk about and just start talking about that and see how many people I can help,” she said.

Romano didn’t always plan to revisit her story for YouTube. She began with cooking videos and intentions to primarily cover “lighthearted” topics. Following a move to Austin in 2020 and finding herself constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic, she turned to filming reaction clips to her old Disney scenes. But after months of churning out nostalgia content, she hit a creative “plateau” and decided to build off the success of a self-help TikTok (she has 693,000 followers on the platform) that went viral and delved into her dynamic past to find stories that could stick with a wider audience.

Her August video, “Why I Don’t Talk To Shia Labeouf” has racked up over 1.7 million views. A September video, “How Katy Perry Got My Record Deal” has 322,599 views and more than 2,000 comments. In the last two months, she’s had 79,000 new subscribers and a cumulative 6,762,168 more views.

Having experimented with various forms of content, Romano is ecstatic by her recent success.

“This format that seems to be popular right now is not something that I anticipated to be leaning into as much. It was just something I kind of tried,” she said.

Romano Spoke Candidly About How Hollywood Can Treat Younger Actors Better

Romano started working as an actress when she was six years old and hit her big break with Even Stevens at the age of 14. In “How I Lost All My Money,” Romano revealed how despite early successes with “Even Stevens,” “Kim Possible,” “Cadet Kelly,” starring in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and getting both a record deal and a book deal, she ended up wasting “millions of dollars” because she didn’t understand how to properly invest her assets. Though there’s a specificity to her experience, similarly to her other videos, she connects her story to what she hopes to see fixed in the entertainment industry.

“It’s not up to them [Disney Channel and Hollywood executives] to rehabilitate kids, but there should be something whether it’s in the union [Screen Actors Guild] or an advocacy group that prepares kids for their next steps and options, ” the actress told Insider.

In a recent video about Britney Spears’ conservatorship, Romano discussed her own experience struggling to set financial boundaries with her family.

“When you pay your parents, the dynamic of the nuclear family is completely disrupted,” she remarked to Insider about the vlog. “It’s something that people don’t think about because they’re inundated by the media with ‘Is she [Britney Spears] a victim or is she not a victim?’ So, this is just one part of a very large concept that I speak to because I did pay my family.”

“I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers, I’m just trying to speak my truth,” she added.

Romano said that former child stars like “High School Musical’s” Monique Coleman and “Cheaper By The Dozen’s” Alyson Stoner have privately reached out to offer encouragement.

Benjamin Di’Costa, a dancer who grew up in a televangelist family, is one of the many fans connecting to Romano’s YouTube channel on a personal level.

“Christy is shedding light on the fact that there needs to be more support and resources for young artists… Young artists can be vulnerable or preyed upon when trying to break into the industry,” he wrote to Insider.

Romano’s Vlogs Have Become A Meme, And She Absolutely Loves It

Since her YouTube channel’s explosive growth, Romano has turned into an irreverent meme in certain corners of the web like gay Twitter and alternative comedy circles.

On October 4th, when Facebook experienced an outage, a Twitter user posted a parody screenshot of Romano vlogging about how she “shut down the internet,” in what has now become a meme format poking at her candid stories.

“I’m flattered that people would take the time to make a meme because it means that they’re engaging with my content,” she said in between warm laughs.

Romano wants to continue producing more vlogs and eventually start directing family feature films. She also wants to dabble in network reality TV, but on her own terms. Speaking in an exuberant voice, the actress detailed her dream of teaming up with fellow Texan locals Chip and Jonna of the Magnolia Network for a show about building her and her husband’s dream home in the Lone Star State.

For now, she’s juggling her burgeoning YouTube career with being a mom of two.

“There are days where I have makeup on and there are days where I don’t have makeup on,” Romano said before racing off for lunch with her mom and young children.