In ELLE’s series Teen Queens, we check in with the iconic stars who ruled the stage, screen, and news cycle during their reign.
Ashley Tisdale has been working since she was 3 years old. And when the actress-singer-entrepreneur, now 37, gave birth to her daughter, Jupiter, in 2021, she vowed to only pursue her dream projects. In May, she told E! News, “If I’m going to take time away from her, it has to be something like that because it’s hard taking time away from your child.” We’re speaking at a celebration of SHEGLAM’s first-ever pop-up in Los Angeles, which Tisdale is hosting. Jupiter isn’t here, but perhaps more notably, she left her child at home to star and executive produce in Brutally Honest, her new single-camera CBS comedy inspired by her life with her family.
The project was borne out of “fighting with my husband [musician Christopher French]”—a relatable situation that most in Hollywood would remain tight-lipped about. But Tisdale isn’t most celebrities—she’s a former child star, which makes her a seasoned veteran of BS, and the older she gets, the less she cares. She tells it like it is. “No one tells you how hard it is—they prepare you for the baby, but no one prepares you for what your relationship is gonna go through when you have a baby,” Tisdale says. A fan of shows like Dave and Shrill, which are loosely based on the main characters’ real life, she spent most of the pandemic wondering what about her own life she wanted to share—and not solely to her social media followers in bite-sized pieces of content.
In case you’re not a fan of the classics (High School Musical, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody), perhaps you recognize Tisdale from one of her dozens of other projects. Not only has she executive produced multiple films—she has two albums and became the first female ever to debut with two songs simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (She even filmed the whole process of recording the album, with the hopes of releasing it later as a documentary.) She sang at the White House when she was 12. Still, she’s no less ambitious than when she first started. Back to Brutally Honest.
“It’s the same thing with [my skincare line] Frenshe,” Tisdale says. “When you see a product, or you see a show that you had a part in developing, there’s something more to it. You’re just so proud. It’s a piece of me. You have to share.” And she really does share; even her TikTok, which has amassed almost 10 million followers, gives viewers a comedic inside look into her life—whether it’s her crying and having a (self-proclaimed) mental breakdown while launching her brand, or looking anything but red carpet-ready at home in a tie-dye sweatsuit. (Fun fact: Tisdale discovered SHEGLAM on TikTok, too.)
And while the early aughts star is looking ahead to what’s next, a new generation is enjoying Sharpay and Candance Flynn—as am I. (Full disclosure: I watched High School Musical last week, and wondered if Sharpay was the true hero.) “I think that Sharpay knew what she wanted in life, and she was going to go get it,” Tisdale says matter of factly. “And I think that’s something a lot of people are seeing now…it’s something I always knew about her. I think that character is a part of me: I’m someone who, when I want something, I will work hard to go out and get it.”
Amid all the covetable beauty products at SHEGLAM, Tisdale spoke candidly about Y2K fashion, why Disney is upset with her, and her first celebrity crush.
Teen Queens Questionnaire
Name a 2000s fashion trend that should never come back.
The layering was a lot. I think I took that to another level. I remember when layering was a really thing—it was the layering of necklaces, and it was just…a bunch of layering. And I feel like it’s good to be more minimal now.
Is there a Y2K beauty trend that you are totally done with?
I’ll never do the thin eyebrows. It’s just never gonna happen. “But it’s coming back,” someone yells. Never again. Been there, done that.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Ashton Kutcher [smiles]. I mean, come on! The Von Dutch hats, Punk’d…that was everyone’s [crush], I think.
What’s the wildest rumor you’ve ever read about yourself?
There [are] so many. People are always trying to make something out of me and [my] co-stars. I never really date actors; that’s the thing, I do that for a reason. I might have crushes on Ashton Kutcher, but I was never into actors. I was into musicians!
What are some of your fondest memories from childhood?
Well, [during] my childhood, I was busy working. I’ve been working since I was 3 years old. But my fondest memory…I got to do the national tour of Les Misérables when I was eight. It was so cool to be with my mom traveling everywhere, and my dad and my sister would meet us in almost every city. It was an amazing experience. I thought that was normal for an 8-year-old. Looking back, that is not normal. But it was something I absolutely loved. It was so hard to get me off the tour. I was obsessed with it.
Have you ever kept anything from set?
Yeah, I have Sharpay’s whole wardrobe from the first [High School Musical] movie. And I know Disney was pretty upset about it, because the producer for some reason thought I was never gonna want her clothes. But I was like, “I love all my clothes! I have to have them.” We were working so much, and I was working overtime. The producer said, “Okay, you’ll get the whole closet for Sharpay.” I was so excited. And Disney was so upset because, obviously, of how successful it was, they didn’t have anything to put in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They had our costumes, and they did not have any of Sharpay’s stuff. And it’s because I have it.
Which episode of The Sweet Life of Zach & Cody was your personal favorite?
The pilot of Sweet Life was always really special to me. It was the first time that I had worked so hard. I had been doing pilots since I was 16, and they were not getting picked up. That was the first one that ever got picked up, so it was very special. I will always remember that moment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Danielle James is an award-winning entrepreneur, fashion and beauty journalist, and co-founder of Safe Space, a show that encourages viewers to have tough conversations with people in their respective lives. She has bylines with Allure, Essence, Nylon, The Grio, Huffington Post, and more, with an expertise is in retail, fashion, and beauty. Danielle enjoys writing about new trends and focuses on making beauty and fashion accessible to all. She is the founder of Model Citizen, a sustainable fashion company that encourages peer-to-peer clothing sharing and supports emerging designers. When she is not working, Ms. James enjoys brunch, travel, volunteering, and spending time with friends and family.