Cole Sprouse: Female Disney Stars Were ‘Heavily Sexualized’ Much Younger Than I Was

The “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” alum says he gets “violently defensive” when female ex-Disney Channel stars receive harsher criticism.

Cole Sprouse doesn’t think his experience growing up in front of the camera compares to those of the young women who did the same.

The “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” alum, who co-starred on the Disney Channel hit alongside his twin brother Dylan, spoke to The New York Times in an interview published Monday about the public’s assumptions about former child stars.

When the Times pointed out that most are seen as either “spiraling out of control” or coming out OK, Sprouse — who is often praised for leaving the Disney Channel “unscathed” — noted that those labels tend to ignore gender expectations placed on famous kids and teens.

Cole Sprouse and Dylan Sprouse attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Cole Sprouse and Dylan Sprouse attend the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

“The young women on the channel we were on were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences,” Sprouse said. “And every single person going through that trauma has a unique experience.”

The “Riverdale” star — who began acting when he was 6 months old — added that people always want to criticize child stars for “going nuts,” but ignore “how fame is a trauma.”

“So I’m violently defensive against people who mock some of the young women who were on the channel when I was younger,” he said. “Because I don’t feel like it adequately comprehends the humanity of that experience and what it takes to recover.”

Sprouse starred on the Disney Channel in the early aughts, around the same time as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. All three women had shakier transitions to adult stardom than Sprouse.

Cyrus — who has been vocal about her sobriety and her family history of mental health conditions — went through her twerking and “Wrecking Ball” phase, which drew public scorn. Lovato — who entered treatment for eating disorders and cutting in October 2010 — had a drug overdose in 2018. Gomez — who shared in April 2020 that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder — went to rehab in 2014 and 2016.

Although Cyrus and Gomez have garnered more professional respect for their careers since then, Lovato still receives criticism for some of their actions.

Sprouse also told the Times that a lot of the trauma of fame still applies in adulthood.

“To be quite honest, as I have now gone through a second big round of this fame game as an adult, I’ve noticed the same psychological effects that fame yields upon a group of young adults as I did when I was a child,” he said. “I just think people have an easier time hiding it when they’re older.”

Read Sprouse’s full interview in The New York Times.

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