Raven-Symone Says That Being a Disney Star Made Her Hide Her Sexuality

Raven-Symone attends the "Zoolander 2" World Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on February 9, 2016 in New York City. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Out and proud. Raven-Symoné opened up about how the pressure to maintain her pristine image as a Disney star forced her to hide her sexuality for several years.

Symoné, now 30, has worked in Hollywood since she was 3, when she landed a role as Olivia Kendall on The Cosby Show in 1989. In the early 2000s, she gained even more fame as a Disney star, appearing in TV movies such as The Cheetah Girls and leading her own show, the 2003–2007 series That’s So Raven, which became the most-watched show on the Disney Channel.

“Being on television sets from age 3 till age 30, I’m more comfortable there,” the View cohost said in a new Lexus L/Studio docuseries "It Got Better.” “I know what lines I’m supposed to say. Somebody else picks my clothes for me. I have makeup done. I have hair done. And you create a family with these people that sometimes are closer to you than your own family.”

“It’s not very healthy later in life for me,” she said of growing up on TV sets. “My likeness, whether you see it in an interview, whether you see it in print, however you see it at that time, had 15 people dictating what I should and should not look like. If I did whatever I want I’m not going to sell because it doesn’t go with the brand. I was branded at such a young age.”

The former child star said she realized she was gay at around 12 years old, but there were some signs even before then. At first, she tried to deny it to herself and like boys to maintain the image for her multi-million dollar Disney empire. “I kind of pushed myself to open myself up to look for boys,” she said, noting that she even imagined that she would have a husband one day. “I never thought I would come out because my personal life didn’t matter,” she said. "It was only what was supposed to be sold as the Raven-Symoné brand.”

After taking a break from the entertainment industry to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Symoné was able to come out to her parents and later to the rest of the world. “I don’t care anymore because I fell in love, and I was kind over the industry. I wanted to retire. I said if I’m not going to be in the industry, then I can come out. So I did that,” she said. “I went to college. I felt good. I had support there beyond belief, and that was the first time I felt like I didn’t have to have a ‘beard.' I didn’t have to have a man standing beside me because I’m in love with a girl.”

She further explained that she felt different — and so much better — once she no longer longer had to hide her sexuality. “I felt lighter. I felt like I could go out and not have to put on 17 different hats to be myself,” she said. 

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