There’s something immensely likable about Raven-Symoné and it’s been evident since she was a baby. Folks of a certain age first met her as Olivia on The Cosby Show when she was just 3. Others enjoyed her as Nicole on Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. But, today, kids especially know her as Raven from her major Disney breakout move on That’s So Raven.
Still she’s appeared in several big screen hits, including Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Dolittle 2 and, most recently, College Road Trip, which she executive produced. On the small screen, she rocked in The Cheetah Girls and its sequel. And now she’s back on television for ABC Family as the lead star of State of Georgia where she plays Georgia, an aspiring Broadway actress who has relocated from her namesake state, where, in real life, she was actually born, to the Big Apple in pursuit of that dream.
In an industry where child stars notoriously crash and burn, not to mention very few African-American actresses call the shots, Raven has done more than just stay relevant. At just age 25, she’s quietly amassed her own little bit of Hollywood nirvana and she’s done it unconventionally.
While the mainstream media has tracked that other Disney star Miley Cyrus’s every wrong move and Lindsay Lohan, coincidentally a former roommate, has managed to turn her partying woes and house arrest blues into an ongoing reality show-quality, true-life saga, Raven-Symoné’s biggest public criticism had come from her weight and, now, that she’s slim and svelte, she’s nipped that one too.
Growing up in the public eye has proven difficult for several child stars, regardless of race. Both Dana Plato and Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes fame died way before their time and their other co-star, Todd Bridges, has been racked by his own problems, mainly a past drug addiction. Even when certain child actors conquer some of their demons, few have transitioned as well as Raven-Symoné. If ever there was a person born for the spotlight, she seems to be it.
Success hasn’t come easy, though. During a recent appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, she attributed her eye-catching weight-loss to alleviating stress. “You have to realize at 15, there was a whole, entire show that I had on my shoulders,” she shared about her experience with That’s So Raven.
“It was a very big cast and crew that if you’re sick for a day people lose money and that’s a problem. So normal 15 year olds are worried about who is going to invite them to the prom but I was worried about taxes.”
Still, part of Raven-Symoné’s rarely duplicated longevity has come from starring in roles completely appropriate to her stage of life as well as accepting grown-up challenges and maintaining her cool. Although she’s literally grown up in front of our eyes, so far, there have been no rebellious growing pains. And while she’s flirted with the music industry since the age of 5, she’s never let her lack of commercial success on the charts push her to extremes. There have been no raunchy appearances in music videos. No photos of her engulfed in a cloud of smoke. Even her recent sexy photo in Vibe somehow captures her clean-cut appeal.
And, yet, Raven-Symoné is plenty sassy, as her memorable appearances on The Wendy Williams Show have revealed. Surprisingly, her relaying her tale of how she took control of her first kiss as a high school freshman and landed one on a senior boy who flirted with her constantly comes across as more confident than slutty. By the way she carries herself, it’s evident that Raven-Symoné has been raised well. In 2009, during her acceptance speech as a Trumpet Award honoree, she spoke of being conscious of representing her family and her race and it shows.
“I’m so chill and relaxed and I guess because when I was younger I wasn’t allowed to put up posters of people that I was admiring at that time — I was only allowed to watch TV Land and Discovery Channel and we had family night where we sat down with a bag of potato chips and pickles and watched A Few Good Men. So I didn’t really get out of that as I got older,” she told Vibe.com last year.
To put it simply, Raven-Symoné continues to win because she dares to be herself. Although she’s plenty rich, she, as Wendy Williams noted during a September 2010 appearance on the show, doesn’t come across as boastful when she speaks of her love of Louis Vuitton and diamonds, not to mention selling her Lotus for a Porsche.
“My friends and my family and the fact that I know that this is a job and it might not last forever” is how she explained her well-grounded attitude to Vibe.com. “I refuse to do botox so when I get too old[,] I’m gonna move along while a younger prettier girl can take my place as long as I sign her underneath my company and I take 10 percent,” she also shared.
And that’s exactly why Raven-Symoné is still here; she’s not trying to stay forever young and her smart business moves have forced even her earliest fans to grow up with her.