16 TV stars you grew up watching who later came out as LGBTQ+

US actress Miley Cyrus, who later came out as LGBTQ, poses for photographers on the red carpet for the film "Hannah Montana - The Movie" in the southern German city of Munich on April 25, 2009. The film is set to open on June 1, 2009 in the German cinemas. AFP PHOTO DDP / JOERG KOCH GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read JOERG KOCH/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)

Many Hollywood mainstays started off as child stars on the Disney Channel, before later embracing their LGBT identity publicly.

These franchise celebs have grappled with a lot after being thrown into fame at a young age, often having to put their careers and public image before their personal lives.

Many of these Disney stars have shared that they’re part of the LGBT community, and here are 16 to have done so, so far.

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1. Joey Pollari

Joey Pollari. (Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic)
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Some of you reading this might be able to say: “I’m old enough to know Joey Pollari as Miles in Avalon High.” Others will know him as a potential love interest for Simon in 2018’s Love, Simon.

No matter which camp you fall under, the 28-year-old actor came out when he was 18, as he told The Advocate.

He starred as Lyle in a rom-com about a gay teen’s journey of self-discovery, a role he said was meaningful to him.

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2. Raven-Symoné

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Raven Symone. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
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Raven-Symoné knew she was gay from age 12.

The star of Disney and childhood staple That’s So Raven came out the second marriage equality was enshrined across the US by tweeting: “I can finally get married!”

She later revealed in a video for the It Gets Better campaign in 2016 that her Disney success was the reason she held back on coming out: “I never thought I would come out because my personal life didn’t matter. It was only supposed to be sold as, you know, a Raven-Symoné record.”

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3. Garrett Clayton

Garrett Clayton. (Mike Windle/Getty Images)
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Teen heartthrob Garrett Clayton shot up the Disney Channel Original Movie list through his work on Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2.

But a few years on in 2018, while working on teen drama Reach, Clayton took to Instagram to share some info about his personal life.

He opened up about his long-term partner Blake Knight, suicide and school shootings.

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4. Rowan Blanchard

Rowan Blanchard. (Rob Kim/Getty Images)
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Many know Rowan Blanchard as Riley Matthews on the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World, which aired from 2014 until 2017.

When she came out as queer on Twitter in 2016 (aged 14), one of the things she was most concerned about was not putting a comma between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’.

“I personally don’t wanna label myself as straight, gay or whateva,” she wrote.

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5. Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato. (MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

With their fearless takes on sexuality, addiction and mental illness, to their openness to being non-binary, Demi Lovato has blossomed from their Disney days in films like Camp Rock.

“This has come after a lot of healing and self-reflective work,” they tweeted in 2021. “I’m still learning and coming into myself, and I don’t claim to be an expert or a spokesperson.”

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6. Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
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Zendaya’s co-star in Shake It Up began her career as a child model and has since starred in an array of movies, such as Midnight Sun.

Bella Thorne came out publicly as bisexual in a tweet in 2016, later coming out as pansexual in 2019.

She said on Good Morning America that after someone “thoroughly explained what [pan] is”, she realised she’s “actually a pansexual”.

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7. Alyson Stoner

Alyson Stoner. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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Alyson Stoner was the defining face of so many beloved kids’ movies and shows from the 00s, from Cheaper by the Dozen to The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

In March 2018, Alyson Stoner came out in an article for Teen Vogue, stating she was “attracted to men, women, and people who identify in other ways”.

Stoner later shared that she identifies as a queer woman, in a personal essay called What it was Like to Fall in Love with a Woman.

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8. Josie Totah

Josie Totah
Josie Totah. (Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

Actress Josie Totah shot to fame in the Disney Channel show, Jessie, as well as starring opposite Mindy Kaling in the series Champions.

Totah shared she was trans in 2018 in a personal essay for TIME.

She wrote: “When my friends and family call me Josie, it feels like I’m being seen. It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood.”

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9. Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV)
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For singer, songwriter and actress Hayley Kiyoko, who starred in the DCOM Lemonade Mouth in 2011, music is a way to connect to her sexuality.

She has frequently used her music to make political statements, such as the music video for “One Bad Night”, which raised awareness of violence against trans women.

What’s more, Kiyoko’s tracks regularly feature queer female relationships, something she hopes will normalise them in a society and music industry she said she finds heteronormative.

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10. Miley Cyrus

Pansexual celebrity Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus. (Getty)
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Miley Cyrus has truly got the best of both worlds, with an enviable career on either side of her Hannah Montana days.

She has referred to her own gender and sexuality as fluid, saying in several interviews she is pansexual and gender-neutral.

She even founded the Happy Hippie Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps homeless queer youth.

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11. Mollee Gray

Mollee Gray. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Another Teen Beach Movie star, but also another star who was worried being open about her sexuality would impact her career.

Mollee Gray finally came out as she was about to marry her partner Jeka Jane in 2017.

“I was never really taught to love a gender,” Gray told The Advocate, “I also never really understood it. I was like, attracted to girls but not all girls, so I was battling what that meant.”

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12. Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer. (Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)
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In 2015, Keke Palmer dropped a music video for “Don’t Belong to You” – and it melted bisexual people’s hearts.

The 2017 Jump In! star told People: “The video was to represent the young woman today — it’s not the traditional woman anymore — and not the specifics of ‘am I gay? am I straight? am I bi?’.

“I’m making the rules for myself, and I don’t have to be stuck down to one label.”

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13. Auli’i Cravalho

Auli'i Cravalho attends the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2022
Auli’i Cravalho. (Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for GLAAD)

Auli’i Cravalho, the star of Mona, came out as bisexual in a pretty unique way: to Eminem’s “Those Kinda Nights”.

The track goes: “She said: ‘no, I’m bi’. She said: ‘are you drunk?’. I said: ‘oo, I’m high’ I’m checkin’ out the chick, she said: “so am I’.”

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14. Dove Cameron

Dove Cameron Liv and Maddie
Dove Cameron. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty)
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From Liv and Maddie to the Descendents, Dove Cameron is a Disney staple.

Nearly a decade since she first made her Disney debut, Cameron shared with the world that she is queer.

“Maybe I haven’t said it, but I’m super queer. This is something I want to represent through my music because it’s who I am,” she said on Instagram Live at the time.

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15. Karan Brar

Karan Brar has come out publicly as bisexual
Karan Brar. (Getty Images)
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Disney Channel star Karan Brar publicly came out as bisexual in 2023 and opened up about the emotional moment he first came out to his co-stars in 2019.

The actor, who played Ravi in Disney Channel’s Jessie and its spin-off series Bunk’d and Chirag Gupta in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films opened up about the difficulty he endured trying to bridge his public persona and his true self in an essay for Teen Vogue.

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16. Joshua Bassett

Joshua Bassett in front of a blue, pink and purple background.
Joshua Bassett. (Getty/ Axelle/Bauer-Griffin)

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series star Joshua Bassett came out publicly as LGBTQ+ in 2021 after posting a video in which he stated he found singer Harry Styles “hot”.

In early 2023, the former Disney star sparked concern after being baptised by a notorious US anti-LGBTQ+ mega-church, which promotes LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.

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