Earlier this year I interviewed Alyson Stoner, the 14-year-old Hollywood pro who has danced with Missy Elliott and Eminem, acted in movies including Cheaper by the Dozen and Step Up, and worked on Disney Channel shows like "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and "Phineas and Ferb." You can check out my profile of Alyson (and learn why she’s on Eminem’s refrigerator!) in the current issue of Dance Spirit. But that article, like virtually every magazine story, contains only a slice of the information our interview actually covered.
To me, the most interesting part of our chat focused on what it’s like to be a teen in Hollywood. None of this made it into DS, but I’m going to share it now … because Alyson’s standing as a Tinseltown teen is about to skyrocket.
Tonight is the night Camp Rock premieres on The Disney Channel. Alyson stars in the movie along with the Jonas Brothers, Meaghan Martin and Demi Lovato. People are predicting that Camp Rock will be the next High School Musical—and if that’s true, the already-famous Alyson is about to explode onto the A-list of young celebs.
What will that mean for Alyson? It’ll be great for her career, of course. She’ll get more movie offers and bigger opportunities as a singer (she’s been writing her own music, which she calls “soulful pop”). A dance-oriented show she’s been developing called The Alyson Stoner Project will get loads of attention once it’s complete. (Learn more about it at www.myspace.com/alysonstonerproject.)
The celeb status will also mean Alyson’s every move will be analyzed—something she’s already experienced on a smaller scale. After being home schooled in seventh grade, she went to a regular junior high for eighth.
The kids, many of whom she’d known in elementary school, looked at her differently. When they first met her, she was just Alyson. Now, she was Alyson who was in TV shows and movies.
Alyson told me that she had tried to convince herself that her visible job didn’t change the way kids treated her. But, she admitted, “It completely did. The kids started watching me a little more closely. Just how they do with paparazzi on Britney Spears, every more you made was either a great one or a terrible one. Everything was extreme.”
She dealt with cattiness and rumors, including that she had been expelled from school. Pretty crazy, considering she’s a lifelong straight-A student.
Alyson developed a strategy for dealing with it: She tried to become friends with kids from every group. She joined the math squad, played sports, was friendly with the “cool girls,” and so on.
“You just have to be on everyone’s good side,” Alyson told me. “Always see the good in them. Never talk about them behind their backs to anyone else at that school because you know it’ll spread around.”
Alyson is back to home study—her schedule doesn’t allow for regular school anymore—but she uses the same strategy on set.
“My mom and I always joke there are two different lifestyles you can choose in Hollywood,” she said. “You can be with one crowd or the other. One crowd you want to stay with for the rest of your life, and the other crowd you don’t ever want to associate with.”
Except in Hollywood—or Hollyweird, as Alyson sometimes calls it—you have to work with both crowds. The trick, she said, is to bond over your similar interests … no matter which crowd each person is from.
“When I did Camp Rock, everyone clicked immediately,” she said. “We all said we love music, we love singing, we love dancing, we love acting. It’s something that each kid shares. It helps you bond on set.
“But,” she added, “I definitely think I have more friends outside Hollyweird.”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.