Christy Carlson Romano Is Giving the People What They Want
Christy Carlson Romano isn't like other former child stars. She made her Broadway debut at just six years old; she played canonical Disney Channel characters Ren Stevens, Kim Possible, and Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone; she once paid $40,000 for a crystal from a psychic; she was even invited to ring the New York Stock Exchange bell in 2008, but missed her cab. The stock market crashed later that day.
These are a few of the stories the 37-year-old actor-turned-YouTuber shares on her channel, which she launched in 2019 alongside her husband Brendan Rooney. "Christy's Kitchen Throwback" started as a nostalgia-infused cooking show featuring other former child stars as guests, who would reminisce alongside Romano about their early days in entertainment. However, over the past month viewers have noticed a pivot in her content. Romano has traded her kitchen for long outdoor walks and David Fincher-esque tracking shots around her Austin, Texas neighborhood.
"Why I Don't Talk to Shia LaBeouf Anymore" and "How Katy Perry Got My Record Deal" are among some of her most popular vlogs, with more than 4.5 million views between them. Some might call them clickbait; Romano considers them outlets for vulnerability. No longer portraying a character in front of a camera, she's finally ready to be herself. And her 340,000 subscribers are along for the ride.
InStyle caught up with Romano to discuss her career, her most iconic characters, and the mystery person behind the camera.
So I wanted to ask you a very pressing and serious question. What year did we land on the moon?
Oh my god. [singing] We went to the moon in 1969. Not 1968, but a year later.
Oh my gosh. Thank you so much. Can you take me back two years ago to when you first started your YouTube channel with Christy's Kitchen Throwback? How did you come up with that concept?
So many people were [asking], "What have you been up to? What are you doing?" Really, it just was just too often for me to not think and say, "There's obviously a need here that people have." When you look around, the nostalgia buzz is everywhere and it was really just growing.
Did you ever want to distance yourself from your characters?
I think I might be one of the first people that's made it OK to embrace your past when it comes to the way that you've been cast in things, at least in the Disney/Nickelodeon kind of elder-millennial-world. For a long time, I did struggle with that, but like I said, once I realized there was a need, I was never really against the concepts of the characters that I portrayed. I mean, they were really empowered and they were super positive.
Even to this day I'll hear the Kim Possible beep on someone's phone.
Right. It's in the most random places. I'll be at Starbucks and I'll think someone's punking me because, oh, maybe they know I'm there. But obviously the world is not revolving around me. Kim Possible is just that iconic.
Oh, truly iconic. With your most recent YouTube vlogs, why talk about your past in such detail now? Do you think that your perspective of events has changed?
I have never really been vulnerable [on screen] because the characters that I've portrayed are so put together, and so empowered, and literally saving the world. So I've never been able to be myself in front of the camera. Obviously, I've struggled just like many people have struggled, but ultimately I've come out with knowledge of how to be a mom and how to get your craft together.
So in a way yeah, I think that my appreciation for these characters has deepened, because I think what they represent is this archetype of a character that can be coming of age but still sticking to their guns.
I was looking through Twitter and the people want to know who's behind the camera. Who directs your videos?
I'll never tell. That is one thing I cannot say. I don't know why this has become the conspiracy of 2021 on Twitter. But wow, people are really funny on Twitter. I didn't realize they're so funny.
Everyone on Twitter is loving your videos. You've been candid about past co-stars and industry peers that you've grown up with. Have you heard from Shia, Hilary, even Katy?
No. I think that even if [the videos] are on their radar, there's a part of these people that has moved forward to the point where bits of their past don't hold as much ... I wouldn't say impact, because I would think that these moments were impactful for their lives.
When Shia was on Even Stevens, that was important to his life and we all know that's important to him. So it's one of those things where I know that there's a quiet understanding of the relevance and the impact that the crossroads of my life with their life has had.
That reminds me of other Disney stars like Alyson Stoner, who has been very vocal about her experience. Have you reached out to her?
Oh my gosh, Alyson's great. We recently chatted a couple months back about her initiatives. She's trying to spark round table conversations. I fully support her.
One of your videos was about the music industry and your experience with that. I just wanted to say after watching it, I did a deep dive into your demos and I am so upset that we were robbed of an early-00's pop icon. Your songs were amazing.
There's some bad ones.
"Dive In"? Watching that music video on the Disney Channel was incredible.
Can I just tell you about "Dive In"? I didn't even play the guitar. It was a Daisy guitar and they're like, "Here, hold this guitar." Somebody taught me two chords.
It looked very real, so you did a great job. Do you ever think about getting back into music? Will we ever see any singing videos on your YouTube channel?
Yeah, that'd be great. You know how it is, when you're doing the content creation, you struggle with what to reveal when. I did definitely have some stage fright and some shyness about my voice, so I think that's maybe another reason why I didn't go full on into the music industry and whatnot.
You're always walking somewhere in your videos and doing so stylishly. Where do you get your workout gear from?
I recently went to Alo. It's online and it's got really, really great cuts and fits.
As we were talking earlier, you played so many iconic and formative characters for many of us. Where do you think some of your favorite characters would be now?
So I would approach, say Cadet Kelly. We've always thought that there could have been an LGBTQ underlying thing there, but we're not sure.
I think that KP [Kim Possible] — I think she'd be out of college now, but me and Will Friedle [Ron Stoppable] always chat when we do Comic-Cons and we think that they would've definitely gotten married, had kids. The kids would've ended up being twins because twins run in the Possible family. The kids would be super duper smart, and one might be like Ron, one might be like Kim. Maybe they would fight crime together? That would be really cool.