Olivia Rodrigo Reflects On Lonely Experience As a Disney Star

The "Drivers License" singer opened up to ELLE about being forced to find her "brand" at age 14 while on Disney Channel.

By Samantha Bergeson Apr 26, 2021 4:18 PMTags
Watch: Olivia Rodrigo: 5 Things to Know About the Singer

Olivia Rodrigo has taken over the world with her hit song "Drivers License," but it seems this former child star didn't always want to go full throttle. 

In just a few short months, Rodrigo has been referenced in a Saturday Night Live sketch with Regé-Jean Page, praised by Taylor Swift and rumored to be at the center of a Disney+ love triangle with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett and Girl Meets World actress Sabrina Carpenter. While it may appear Rodrigo rose to fame seemingly overnight, at just 18 years old, she's already been in Hollywood for close to a decade—and that early fame came with some unexpected tradeoffs.

Rodrigo broke her silence on stardom in the May 2021 cover story for ELLE. The singer-songwriter cites The Clash, Smashing Pumpkins and No Doubt among her childhood musical inspirations. "I've always had that in my head: The point of music is to move you," Rodrigo explained of her tendency toward emotional music. "There's something so powerful in being vulnerable and open, like, ‘This is my life, and I'm f––king sad.' Or, ‘I'm insecure. That's what makes songwriting so special."

Child Stars Then and Now

At age 5, Rodrigo enrolled in voice lessons; by 9, she was "forced" to take piano lessons. A triple threat talent, Rodrigo made her screen debut at 12 years old for the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark. Rodrigo quickly connected with her "soulmate" co-star Madison Hu, but two years later, the then 14-year-old admitted to experiencing "an identity crisis on steroids."

Rodrigo told ELLE that she was asking herself existential questions: "Who the f––k am I? Who cares about me? How do I treat people?"


There was also the added pressure of being in show business. "Most 14-year-olds aren't in a room with adults being like, ‘So, what's your brand?'" Rodrigo explained. 

Now at 18, Rodrigo has found success in just being herself. "I just want to be effortless, I guess," Rodrigo concluded. "Whether it's in my fashion or my songs or my social media, I want to just be like, ‘Yo, this is me. And I'm sometimes weird as f––k, and I'm sometimes polished and put together.' I think that's the antithesis of a brand."

Revisit SNL's Rodrigo-inspired segment on Peacock!

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