As a child, Alyson Stoner achieved unimaginable stardom.
By the age of 9, the now-25-year-old burst into the spotlight when she appeared as the pig-tailed dancing girl in Missy Elliot’s music video for “Work It.” That ultimately led to roles in films such as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Step Up,” as well as Disney Channel’s “Camp Rock.” By the time Stoner reached her teens, she was considered a showbiz veteran.
However, the actress and singer told People magazine that as young as 6 she was developing health issues related to her high-stress environment in the entertainment industry, including severe anxiety that led to heart palpitations, hair loss and seizures. Stoner also told the publication she had trust issues, difficulty socializing with other children her age and a fear of failure.
If that weren’t enough, People revealed the pressure ultimately led the teen to develop anorexia nervosa, exercise bulimia and a binge-eating disorder.
“Some people are complimentary of me when it comes to maybe not acting out in ways that they see other child stars behaving,” Stoner told the magazine. “I was acting out, but I chose vices that were socially acceptable and praiseworthy.”
Stoner said that at one point she became so thin that even casting directors suspected something was wrong.
“They would just tell me that I need help and [need] to go home and take care of my health because my eyes were sunken in and I was tired and lifeless,” said Stoner. “The scary part is I wasn’t even the smallest person on set.”
In 2011, Stoner was hospitalized and admitted herself to rehab for her eating disorders. She was just a few months away from turning 18.
“I had actually wanted to get help for some time, and my schedule didn’t allow for it,” said Stoner. “So I had already needed hospitalization, but I had to complete projects. The second that I finished the contract, I told my family that I was going. They knew. Everyone around knew.”
According to Stoner, she was diagnosed with her eating disorders, as well as generalized anxiety disorder, OCD tendencies and alexithymia, which the publication describes as a dysfunction in emotional awareness often linked to PTSD.
“I chose to keep the process private in order to put legitimate healing first,” said Stoner. “Before treatment, the dietician estimated my caloric intake to be less than 700 calories with an average of two to eight hours of intense exercise a day. I have entire journals breaking down the grams of polyunsaturated fat and added sugar in every bite I ate.”
When Stoner completed treatment, she knew it was time to take control of her career. In 2018, she opened up about her sexuality for Teen Vogue in an essay. Now, she releases music independently. Her newest single is titled “Stripped Bare.”
She also revamped her look.
“Shaving my head is an act of mental health and confidence, not self-destruction,” said Stoner. “I can’t tell you how many beliefs and opinions and insecurities fell to the floor with every tuft of hair, and I’m leaving them there. I’m shedding one era rising as a new being in real time.”
Stoner also credited having a minimalist lifestyle for helping her focus on herself. People shared she sold her home and now lives in a small studio apartment. She wears all hand-me-down clothes, doesn’t own a TV and follows a plant-based diet. And while she’s tempted to give up on entertaining “every week,” she’s still determined to share her story through song.
“I still have so many stories to share,” said Stoner. “Anything I can do to bridge the gap between perspectives and help people learn the same positive things that I’ve learned is a privilege and I don’t take it lightly.”
“I just want [fans] to soak in it and find themselves in this story and use it as a weapon for their own good,” she continued. “I want them to know that I’m really grateful for their support and I just hold our conversations so precious and so near to my heart. Please continue sharing your stories with me. I want us to be able to grow together and make a real impact together. I really believe that the next 10 years are going to be much better than the last 10 years.”