As a breakout Disney star, Ashley Tisdale understands the struggles of childhood fame.
At age 18, Tisdale's career took off when she played the hardworking Maddie Fitzpatrick on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody." Although she wasn't a kid during that time, she said that she understands just how "traumatizing" fame can be for children who are still trying to find themselves.
In her third studio album, "Symptoms," the actor opened up about her mental health issues and sang about what it's like to be a perfectionist.
"I talk openly about my mental health and anxiety and stuff that I've been through," Tisdale, 36, told TODAY at the goodnest baby care launch in New York City. “There are definitely times where I felt anxious and pressure being a perfectionist and trying to manage it all."
Tisdale's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" co-star Cole Sprouse knows just what she's talking about. The 29-year-old actor has always been very open about his mental health struggles. In the summer of 2020, he took a "much-needed" break from social media after it became "too taxing" on his mental health.
Then, in April of this year, he told The New York Times just how hard it was for him and some of his colleagues to be on Disney Channel at a young age.
Sprouse noted that some of the young women he worked with were "so heavily sexualized" that he found it hard to compare his experiences with their own. But no matter what everyone was going through, he said that the "trauma" of childhood fame can sometimes explain why people go "nuts" later on in life.
"Cole is very deep so that makes sense to come from him," Tisdale said. "And he's very young."
In 2005, Sprouse and his brother, Dylan Sprouse, hit it big when they played 11-year-old identical twins Zack and Cody Martin in "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” The show was so popular that it was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards before it got its own spinoff series, “The Suite Life on Deck," which ran on Disney Channel from 2008 to 2011.
"They found success at a very, very young age," Tisdale said of the brothers.
However, her career was also taking off very quickly. One year after playing a Tipton employee on "The Suite Life," the "Phineas and Ferb" star made her mark in Hollywood when she portrayed mean girl Sharpay Evans in "High School Musical."
I think that when I was 18, during 'The Sweet Life,' and I had success, I kind of had that growth period of really getting to know who I was.
Her role as East High's notorious narcissist villain earned her a 2009 MTV Movie + TV Award for Best Female Breakthrough Performance.
"I was 18 when all that stuff happened for me," she said about finding fame. "So I think that it's very different when that happens when you're young. You're going through so much and you're learning about yourself and learning about others. That's a hard thing to manage and I think that can probably be traumatizing."
"But I think that when I was 18, during 'The Suite Life,' and I had success, I kind of had that growth period of really getting to know who I was. And I think that is really hard and difficult. For me, it wasn't the same experience (as Sprouse) because I was older."
Tisdale went on to act in the second and third installments of the "High School Musical" franchise: "High School Musical 2" and "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." The franchise helped launch her career along with a few of her co-stars, such as Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu.
Not to mention, Olivia Rodrigo, who played Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series, "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" also became a big star after the show's debut in 2019.
"I'm obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo," Tisdale said of the "Driver's License" singer. "I obviously knew her from her music and I hadn't seen the series at all so I watched it because of her."
Although Tisdale revealed that she's only seen one episode of the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," she said that she loves what she's seen so far.
"I think they did an amazing job. I think that you know, I was never a huge fan of redeveloping something. I am just one of those people," she said. "I'm like, 'You should leave stuff in the past the way it was.' But to be honest, I felt like that was an amazing way into a series and I felt like everyone was really amazing on it."
As for Rodrigo, the “Young & Hungry” executive producer couldn't take her eyes off of her in the show.
"She's just killing it," Tisdale raved. "She's so, so good. I'm obsessed with her."
At age 19, Rodrigo has racked up three Grammys and a debut album that's been certified triple Platinum by the RIAA. But even with so much popularity, none of her hit songs are the go-to track for Tisdale's 13-month-old daughter, Jupiter French, whom she shares with husband Christopher French.
In March 2021, the duo welcomed their daughter into the world. And Tisdale says that the only thing that puts her at ease when she's "hysterically crying in the car" is listening to Pink's 2017 song "Beautiful Trauma."
"She's my favorite artist," Tisdale said. "But I mean, that's not typically what you would play your child."
Jupiter's taste in music and her love for instruments has convinced her parents that she might have a promising career as a musician one day. But if she decides that she wants to act, then Tisdale would be OK with that too.
"Obviously, I grew up in this business and I'm so glad my family kept me really grounded," Tisdale said. "There were ways I could have turned out that I didn't, thank God. So I feel like I just would love for her to kind of do her own thing."
As for the other young actors in Hollywood, Tisdale has a bit of advice for them. She says that it's "important" to stay in the moment and not constantly worry about what's next.
"Actually, just you being you is great," she said.
"I think that when I was younger, so much stuff was happening and there was a lot going on that I probably didn't take as many moments as I could," Tisdale added. "And I think that's just important to kind of soak that in."
While taking her own advice, Tisdale noted that she's not in a rush to make her fourth studio album. She'll know it's time to make music again when she feels "inspired" by something.
Until then, Tisdale's primary goal is to be the best mom she can be to Jupiter and act in a single-camera comedy like "The Office" someday. Luckily for her fans, they won't have to wait long to see her do the latter because she already has something in the works.
"I am just really drawn to doing something where it shows both my comedy and the type of grounded comedy that I really want to do," Tisdale said.
"That's my dream."