The most famous victims of the children's television industry: Disney Channel also has its "broken toys"

Demi Lovato, Hilary Duff and Dan Benson are some young actors who explained how starring in Disney shows affected their physical and mental health.

The Investigation Discovery documentary, "Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of TV Kids," revealed the abuse that young Nickelodeon stars experienced. Similarly, Disney Channel, the other major producer of children's series in the early 2000s, had numerous cases of actors who faced various physical and mental challenges due to the pressure the industry put on them while they were young.

Demi Lovato, Hilary Duff and Dan Benson are just a few of these young actors who found that fame didn't suit them as they expected. Gradually, they spiraled out of control with difficulties that many of them are still struggling to overcome. Their names often make the headlines, typically for issues like alcoholism, involvement in pornography or struggles with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.

Demi Lovato and her fight against bulimia

Demi Lovato's case stands out as one of the most notable examples. The actress rose to fame with her roles in "Camp Rock" and "Sonny with a Chance." She quickly transitioned from a promising star to someone associated with disorders such as bulimia. The public first learned about her struggle with this eating disorder in 2010. During that year, Lovato was scheduled to join the Jonas Brothers on tour but unexpectedly announced her withdrawal. Instead, she entered a treatment center to address "physical and mental issues."

However, the cause of the disorder was not the television industry but rather the bullying that the actress endured from a young age, as she revealed to ABC News in 2011:

I've spoken openly about being bullied throughout the past few years, but one thing that I've never been able to feel comfortable talking about was the effects that it had on my life, afterward. I literally didn't know why they were being so mean to me. And when I would ask them why, they would just say, 'Well, you're fat.' I developed an eating disorder, and that's kind of what I've been dealing with ever since. I was compulsively overeating when I was eight years old. So, I guess, for the past 10 years I've had a really unhealthy relationship with food.

The industry exacerbated her problems by overloading her with work, transforming her from a young actress into an international pop singer. This pressure pushed her to the limit, leading to an incident during a concert where, as a result of stress, Lovato hit one of her dancers, Alex Welch:

I was performing concerts on an empty stomach. I was losing my voice from purging. I was self-medicating. I was not taking medication for depression, and I literally was so emotionally whacked out that I took it out on someone that meant a lot to me. I take 100 percent, full responsibility I feel horrible. [She] was my friend.

Bulimia was the tip of the iceberg. Once she left the rehabilitation clinic, the actress admitted to using alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, in an attempt to cope with her issues. She seemed to have her disorders under control until 2017. That was the year Lovato released the documentary "Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated," where she revealed that she had not overcome her alcoholism or cocaine addiction:

I wasn't working on my program. I wasn't ready to be sober. I was sneaking it on planes, sneaking it into bathrooms, sneaking it all night long. Nobody knew.

The situation got so bad that, years later, the actress revealed that her drug addiction had caused significant medical problems. In 2018, Lovato overdosed. This caused her to have several strokes and even a heart attack. She candidly shared these details in the documentary series "Dancing With the Devil," released in 2021:

I actually don't think people realize how bad it really was. I had three strokes. I had a heart attack. I suffered brain damage from the strokes. I can't drive anymore. And I have blind spots in my vision, so sometimes when I go to pour a glass of water, I make a mistake with the glass because I can't see it. I also had pneumonia because it suffocated me and I had multiple organ failure. I'm very lucky to be alive. My doctors said I had five to ten more minutes. And if my assistant hadn't come, I wouldn't be here today.

In addition, the actress claimed that she had also been raped when she was 15 years old and, again, while she was in rehab. It is not a topic that she is willing to go into detail about, but the actress claimed that her rapist was one of her co-stars from her Disney Channel era.

However, she does not blame the company for her problems, although she does admit the stress she was subjected to had lasting consequences on her life. In 2020, she told Harper's Bazaar magazine:

I’m grateful for the opportunities that I got. Do I wish that I’d had more downtime? Yes. I think when you are a teenager and you’re given your big break, you’ll do anything to make it happen. I do feel that a lot of the way some of my life was handled and lived led to me kind of having a bit of a downfall, just because I was so overworked and I wasn’t dedicating enough time to my mental health or my personal life.

Hilary Duff claims she had anorexia while filming 'Lizzie McGuire'

One of the first stars of the 21st century on Disney Channel was Hilary Duff. Her role in the series "Lizzie McGuire" catapulted her to fame but also came with a price she had to pay: anorexia.

The actress, who was also the star of "How I Met Your Father," told Fox News Digital how she stopped eating and began to obsess over her weight as a child actress. Her disorder began when she was 17 years old. Her weight dropped to 98 pounds. She managed to overcome the disorder after a few months of rehabilitation:

Because of my career path, I can’t help but be like, ‘I am on camera and actresses are skinny. It was horrifying. I was totally obsessed with everything I put in my mouth. I was way too skinny. Not cute. And my body wasn’t that healthy — my hands would cramp up a lot because I wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed.

Will Friedle confesses that he sold cigarettes and porn magazines during his time on Disney Channel

Another early well-known Disney Channel series was "Boy Meets World." In it, Will Friedle played Rider Strong, a role that initially appeared to be his breakthrough, but ultimately became the primary role he played for decades. Freiedle explained on the podcast "Hey Dude... The 90's Called!" that a panic attack led him to step away from acting:

I'm in the middle of a take and I have my first panic attack. They used the take, so I can actually watch my first panic attack ever. I'm the only one who knows it. I thought I was dying. You have to be dying because there is no other explanation for why, all of a sudden, your body and mind is doing this to you. You see one season I'm really, really thin, and then I come back, and I've put on like 30 pounds, and it's because of the medication I had to take.

That wasn't the only issue Friedle had during his time on Disney Channel. The actor explained in the same podcast how, because his parents gave him independence, he started smoking and even selling cigarettes and pornographic magazines when he was only 11 years old. He took advantage of the times when he had to travel three hours from Manhattan to his home in suburban Connecticut:

I tell people my story, and they think I'm lying, or they think my parents had a serious problem. My manager would pick me up most of the time, and I would walk the streets at 11 years old. I would go to my audition ... These stories are awful. I started smoking at a very young age, so I would go, and I would buy my cigarettes. I would buy a couple porn magazines 'cause I knew that I could sell them for way more money to my friends back in Connecticut, so I could jack up the price. So I would stop at the kiosk, they would look at me and say, 'Well you're 11, so of course. Here are cigarettes and porn.' I tell my parents these stories now, and they are retroactively mortified that any of this ever happened, but I loved it.

Keri Russell claims she managed to escape 'The Mickey Mouse Club'

If we go back before "Lizzie McGuire" and "Boy Meets World," there's one show that stands out above all others: "The Mickey Mouse Club." This show helped stars like Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake rise to fame.

But there is one hidden side that no one had talked about until 2023. That was the year when Keri Russell, who also participated in the program, decided to speak out, in statements collected by Breitbart, about how she felt filming the program:

I was there at a time when there were a lot of famous kids there. And I say this completely, truthfully like I was literally the least talented one there. I’m not kidding. When you look at those kids, I’m like, why in the world did they pick me? It’s crazy. But, you know, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling, and Britney Spears. It was wild.

However, the truly surprising thing moment came right after. She was asked if she saved anything from her childhood, specifically from her time on The Mickey Mouse Club. Her response was the following: "My sanity. My dignity. Not everyone got out alive."

Dan Benson, from Disney Channel star to porn actor

"Wizards of Waverly Place" actor Dan Benson is another of the many cases of Disney's "broken toys." The company left him with a "traumatic experience" that he has been able to convert into his new way of life. Benson explained in a TikTok video how he turned his life around and became a porn star after starting his career with Disney.

@danleebenson I tripped and fell into adult entertainment. #disney #disneychannel #wizardsofwaverlyplace #adultenteratinment #accountant #zeke ♬ original sound - Dan Benson

As he explained in the video, it all started when he was between 19 and 25 years old. He played Zeke Beakerman in the Disney Channel series starring Selena Gomez, "Wizards of Waverly Place," which aired between 2006 and 2012:

Basically, when I was on the show Wizards of Waverly Place, I would get messages from people all the time, some of those being women that I found incredibly attractive. Turns out, messaging those women, who turned out not to be who they said they were, was not the best idea, because I would send nude photos to them and they would take those nude photos and then post them onto online websites.

However, Benson did not immediately realize he was being deceived. He did so shortly thereafter and that was the trigger for his "traumatic experience." He found out that nude photos and videos of him were "all over the web" and had been uploaded without his consent. He was also triggered by his unsuccessful attempts to remove all digital traces of those files.

The actor said that these photos had a "very big, negative impact" on his life. In fact, he "almost lost" a job he had gotten after retiring from acting. However, years later, tired of these pictures continuing to ruin his life, he decided to take advantage of it:

Eventually, I decided to stop fighting against it and instead go the other direction and completely lean into it. Instead of letting these people sell my privacy, my — you know what I mean — I decided to say, 'All right, screw you, I’m gonna sell it myself.'

Once he made this decision, he knew what he would do. He opened an OnlyFans account with the intention of "supporting the LGBT+ community" and, there, found their new way of life: "I’ve been having a tremendous amount of fun. I've met a lot of great people in the adult entertainment industry, and it’s changed my life for the better," he said.