Disney Channel and Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Ju-Ju-Be
- Christy Carlson Romano is a staple of Disney Channel nostalgia, famously voicing “Kim Possible.”
- Romano now reflects on her kid roles as an influencer, engaging her followers with real talk.
- She said she’s made and lost millions in one year, supporting her family’s mortgage and credit.
Christy Carlson Romano was a kid TV staple during her time playing big sister to Shia Labeouf’s character on “Even Stevens,” and voicing animated favorite “Kim Possible.” Decades later, Romano has made a name for herself as an influencer and podcast host, regularly discussing the pitfalls of childhood fame and the costs of not managing her money well at the time.
In a 2021 interview with Insider, Romano said she really wanted to connect with her followers and make the most authentic content she can. “We want it to feel like I’m FaceTiming someone or that they’re really there talking to me. What’s important about the videos is how intimate they feel.”
Romano’s content rings true to that sentiment, most notably when she described how she “blew” her Disney money and shared her “salty” feelings about her former costar Shia Labeouf’s success. She also described using a nice chunk of her Disney earnings on a psychic, who duped her out of $60,000.
The former Disney star delved deeper into lessons she’s learned about money and childhood fame in an interview with the “Financial Feminist” podcast, where she talked about how familial obligations put a drain on the money she made. “I think at my height, I was making like maybe $10,000 to $13,000 a week, which isn’t much when you think about what creators make, but at the time for a Disney channel show, that was top of show.”
Romano said she had little guidance on how to manage her money, and ultimately a lot of it went to her family’s financial struggles. “I helped my family out a lot. My mom was paid by me because she had some issues with credit. And so, I was helping my family rebuild her credit and thereby help their mortgage payments be lower, something like that. I’m not even really fully clear on it.” Romano said her lack of understanding about money management was generational, saying of her parents, “I acquired their ignorance.”
On top of helping her family financially, Romano also said the money from her Disney residuals dwindled, a reality she thinks many child stars are not prepared for. “In 10 cycles’ time, if they show the episode, every time that’s being shown, it drops 10%. So after 10 years, you get a significant drop off.”
But residuals weren’t the income that Romano would ultimately spend all too quickly — there was also money from her Coogan fund, which is protected money set aside for a child performer until they come of age. “30 percent of all of my paychecks when I was a minor would go into a Coogan fund,” Romano said, “I was 20. And I had all my Coogan money. I had all my money starting to come to me and I was writing checks. My mom gave me a checkbook.”
It was at this point that Romano encountered a psychic, who made a lot of promises in exchange for hundreds, and eventually thousands of dollars, until it totaled $60,000. “Basically, it was a really shitty time where somebody took advantage of my magical thinking. And that is something that happens to child actors.”
Romano said she went through a dark time and attended AA meetings to cope, saying she was addicted to “people, places, and things.” She reflected further, “What ends up happening when you go through that process of losing your passive income without any investments, is so humiliating. You start thinking desperately, you start making desperate moves.”
Decades later and with a family of her own, Romano is still learning to re-evaluate the thinking instilled in her from her childhood acting days. “Something about being a child actor really made me very transactional. And it’s something that I’ve had to come to understand about myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever not be able to think of life in a transactional way.”
Romano is determined to use her experiences to benefit others and also build on her income as a social media influencer. She said, “I love who I am and a good chunk of it is because I built a lot of this myself, and I’m really proud of how much I’ve built.”