32. The Cost of Childhood Fame with Christy Carlson Romano

July 19, 2022

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn't cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don't personally use or believe in.

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

We all know what it’s like to let our spending get out of hand…

Sure, it starts small –– an extra purchase here and there, a flight deal you just couldn’t pass up… but soon, you’re checking your bank account and wondering WTF happened.

Today’s guest has been there…except she made AND spent a million dollars in a year. Yes, you read that right.

You may know today’s guest from her time on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens and Kim Possible, or maybe from her Broadway role in Beauty and the Beast. She’s also recently gone viral on YouTube and TikTok for her relatable content, millennial nostalgia, and recent podcasts.

That’s right, Kim Possible herself, Christy Carlson Romano, is joining Tori for today’s episode on the real cost of childhood fame. Christy does not hold back on sharing the hard lessons she learned as a teen in Hollywood but also talks about what she’s learned now that she has her own kids and is in charge of making her own way in the content creation world.

What you’ll learn:

  • How and when we develop our beliefs around money

  • What it’s like to make (and spend) a million dollars in a year

  • What laws are in place to protect kids in the entertainment industry

  • How to advocate for yourself and know your worth

  • How to sniff out opportunistic scammers

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Christy’s YouTube Channel


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Paulina Isaac (00:00:00):

Hi, financial feminist listeners. I’m Paulina Isaac, the communications lead here at Her First $100K. Before we get to the episode, we want to take a moment to address the June 24th Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade. This decision stripped away the legal right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all Americans. This decision could also lead to the loss of other rights. To learn more about what you can do to help, go to podvoices.help. That’s P-O-D voices.H-E-L-P. We’ll also have resources linked in our show notes. We here at Her First $100K and financial feminists encourage you to speak up, take care and spread the word. Thank you. Financial Feminists.

Tori (00:01:00):

Okay. I have good news and I got some bad news. Bad news, we’re going to be taking a break next week. I know. We’ve been going so hard, so quick. It is going to be a lovely one week summer break, but the good news is, not only are we getting a break, which is good for our team, but we’re coming back the following week and we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled programming with more incredible guests and solo episodes. So, during that week, if there’s episodes that you haven’t listened to, haven’t listened to fully, might be a good time to go back and tune into those. Okay. Anyways, back to this episode. Let me say, oh my goodness. If you love the drama, we got a lot of it in this episode, it’s pipin’ hot. We sit down with Christy Carlson Romano. Yes, that Christy Carlson Romano that played feminist icon Kim Possible, Ren Stevens and starred opposite Hillary Duff and Cadet Kelly in which we’re all deciding as Disney’s first romance story.

Tori (00:01:55):

Y’all remember Christy Carlson Romano. She was a huge part of my childhood and I’m sure a lot of people listening. Christy also did a few stints on Broadway and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as well as the musical parade and has two podcasts she currently hosts called, I hear Voices with Kim Possible co star and Boy Meets World star, Will Friedle and The Vulnerable podcast. She’s also engaged a whole new generation of fans on her viral TikTok and YouTube videos, becoming a content creating force to be reckoned with.

Tori (00:02:22):

We talk about her viral story of making and spending a million dollars in a year. This woman made and spent a million dollars in a year, including $60,000 on a psychic. We also talk about the laws in Hollywood that protect minors from money-hungry parents, the complexity of being a child who’s financially supporting your family, the biggest financial lessons she’s learned and some of the drama on exactly how Hollywood operates. We love Christy because she holds nothing back. And you’ll love this episode too. So let’s go ahead and get into it.

Tori (00:02:51):

Okay. You got your YouTube plaque, is that platinum in the back? Is that what that is?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:03:11):

Oh gosh. It’s the first level of YouTube. It’s 100,000 subscribers. The next one is so significantly… It’s higher, it’s 500,000 or something, and then it’s a million. It’s like a video game, YouTube. Literally, it’s like, you wake up and you live in a video game.

Tori (00:03:29):

Yeah. We post a couple things on YouTube, but it’s not something we’re doing consistently. And so, I’ve always wondered, do they ship them to your house? They’re like, “Oh, I need your address.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:03:39):

Dude, they know so much about you. When you’re in their good graces for real, when you’re new and you’re fresh and you’re verified, They’re going to send you things. And they actually sent me, because originally ,I started doing YouTube cooking content and they sent me spatulas, a three set of spoons and whatever with my logo on them, which nobody asked for. And I was like, “Wow!”

Tori (00:04:06):

They gave you your own merch. They were like, “Here’s some merch for you of your own brand.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:04:09):

100%. And I was like, these people know things. Initially, I felt like YouTube was really favorable and made a lot of sense for growth. And then over time, it’s been really interesting as a creator to understand growth and how much that equals in monetary value. And so my husband, who’s my producing partner and I, are very big into our weekly development meetings when we can eek them out with raising two kids together. And it’s really vital to really dig into the analytics of things in order to keep making a certain amount of money because of the way that works. That’s one part of it all.

Tori (00:04:54):

Well, it’s always been so interesting.
So I did theater forever and then decided I was like, “I want to take the practical route.” So I went into marketing and then I did social media marketing before taking it full-time to do my own thing. And so, it’s just been really interesting watching the landscape just dramatically change.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:05:09):

Interesting. What are your takeaways?

Tori (00:05:12):

Oh, I mean, yeah. I mean even platform specific, right. Everybody’s trying to compete with everybody else. Instagram’s trying to be TikTok now, and then you have YouTube that incentivizes longer form content versus TikTok, which is also weirdly trying to compete with YouTube. So it’s just been very interesting.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:05:32):

Oh absolutely. It almost demotes because it tells you to do seven second reels with a three second hook at the three second mark. And as a creator, it makes your head spin, because you’re just like, “I have an authentic voice. How do I now have to manipulate that authenticity into monetizing that?” It’s a constant on every level and you, I’m sure, go through this too. It’s like, “Wait, but I have something to say, that’s what has brought me here.” I will say that TikTok is obviously the newest shiniest toy for everybody. And the algorithm is, I think, the most favorable in terms of growth. I also think that that serves the hype of people using it. I still think they’re allowing that to happen. I haven’t done enough research to know why. Well, I mean, I do know why.

Tori (00:06:23):

Yeah. They’re trying to get people to the platform and continue creating, but we’ve seen even in the last three months, a huge decline in our-

Christy Carlson Romano (00:06:31):

Yeah, me too.

Tori (00:06:32):

In our growth. Massive. It almost like a-

Christy Carlson Romano (00:06:34):

On TikTok.

Tori (00:06:35):

Yeah, it was like a faucet literally turning off. It was like completely on and then it’s shut off.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:06:39):

That is a bummer. Do you know about shadow banning? I don’t really know much about it. Is it real?

Tori (00:06:45):

Yeah. I’ve been fully shadow banned. Yeah. I did a video early in my TikTok career about managing because this was at the peak of the pandemic where everybody was talking about Only Fans. And so, I did a video before I knew that you couldn’t mention Only Fans by name without getting flagged. So I did a video that’s like, “Hi, if you’re making money on Only Fans, here’s how to manage it.” And I got shadow banned and I reached out to TikTok and they’re like, “No things are fine.” And I’m like, “No, they’re not fine,” because I went from 99 notifications every minute to nothing for two weeks.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:07:19):

Ah. Ooh. For two weeks? Yeah. That’s a bad sign. So, I’ve always had some sort of a conservative growth, which is a double edged sword in so far that, I guess times that maybe shadow banning would be more persistent for some creators. I’ve been able to eek by, until I make the next viral thing or the next viral thing happen. So for example, I wasn’t posting a lot and then I did something for this Lizzo dance that’s currently trending and Lizzo put me in one of her cut downs. See, and then it was like, “Oh, this is amazing.” And then I feel like content has been back to that. So, it is a really interesting thing to live with as a creator, which I fully intended on discussing with you. Which I’m loving that we just got off and running on it.

Tori (00:08:20):

Well, and for you specifically, I feel, just the internet in general, for millennials, there is so much just nostalgia, right? That’s part of why I think a lot of these things do well. And do you feel that’s a good chunk of following or engagement is people recognizing you from Disney days?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:08:41):

Certainly. I mean, I am fully aware of my fan base now more than ever. I’ve recently launched two different podcasts. One is called Vulnerable, which is a direct descendant from these particular walk and talk, spilling the tea on my life memoir type vlogs that I was doing. And so, people started to make it a part of meme culture. And it was this funny thing. And I was like, “That’s great.
That’s flattering if people are talking about it, then that means they’re watching it.” And then I ended up doing a podcast that was more mental health focused. That serves my female demo, which is 81% of my nostalgic base. And then I started another animation focused one, which is doing well and growing in its own right with Will Friedle, who is from Kim Possible.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:09:29):

And so, we just launched that and the other one around the same time. And it was really interesting to see what my demo truly was in terms of the sticktuitiveness of people coming back. And yeah, it really is fascinating when you draw back the curtain on yourself, because we are given tools, now more than ever before, and they’re just like “Here, good luck. You figure out how to use these, but here’s the information.” And nostalgia though, I will say at least with TikTok, what I’ve noticed is, I tend to be the face of the fans. I went to 90s Con I hosted it. And part of it was just me being really excited to be the host. They didn’t pay me enough, but like I was excited to be there.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:10:17):

And I was like freaking out in the guest, green room, because Nick Carter was there talking to Melissa Joan Hart. And I was like, “Oh my God, there’s Christopher Lloyd.” And then all these people had to talk to me. And so, it was challenging to be professional in those moments and show people that were watching it, “Hey, I also have this hosting side of myself that I want people to start to embrace,” so to speak. But anyway, I digress. Nostalgia is a really important part of my brand obviously, but it’s also not the only thing that I can rely on, essentially.

Tori (00:10:53):

Do you feel resentful of that?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:10:55):

Not at all.

Tori (00:10:57):

Okay. Because I had a feeling if… I know you from Disney, I grew up watching Kim Possible. I loved Kim Possible, grew up with that. And so, I have a feeling, I would think that if you were a Disney star, Nickelodeon star, whatever and then now, you know that a good portion of people, following your content know you from that, does that lead you to yeah, bitterness or resentfulness of “No, I’m an adult now. I’m a separate person with like my own voice and my own things to do that weren’t the animated series I did 20 years ago.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:11:35):

For sure. And a lot of my elder millennial folks that are, I don’t know, 30 and above, they know me from my on camera work, like Even Stevens. They know me from Cadet Kelly. And so they do know my face and the fact that I can sing and that I was on Broadway-

Tori (00:11:55):

I was in New York. My first time to New York was when you were playing Belle. And I saw your face on every billboard.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:12:02):

And it’s the weirdest thing. So it’s this strange conundrum of, what I’ve called in the past a narcissistic purgatory where, you really can’t escape yourself. So you either have to lean into it and embrace it or it’ll eat you alive. And I think for decades, it did eat me alive. I’m very vocal about my mental struggles with some of that growing pains, drinking, stuff like that. And obviously, spending my money where I shouldn’t have with psychics and other stupid shit.

Tori (00:12:33):

Oh, I have questions about that, dude. I’m getting there.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:12:37):

Girl, let’s get into it. So yeah. I mean there was growing pains for sure. But I think what you’re catching me now is on a high of stability and focus and accountability to my audience. And if I’m telling stories, I’m not lying, I’m not hyperbolizing. If I’m telling them advice, it’s because I would follow it myself. And so, I’m in the business of authenticity. I’m fully aware of that. That’s where I’m at.

Tori (00:13:06):

And it’s also, I think to your point about embracing it, it is part of who you are, right? And trying to seemingly escape something is like, no, it’s part of you.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:13:17):

It’s like a benign tumor that you just have to live with.

Tori (00:13:21):

Sure, sure.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:13:23):

I guess. And that’s not to laugh at anyone’s health situations. I don’t want to get in trouble there, but for real, there’s nothing I can do to separate myself from it. So, I have to out create it. This would be a lot easier if I was getting offered the next Sopranos or traditional Hollywood opportunities. But when you enter the space as a creator, you become subject to SEO and just the scope of your life changes a lot. So I do struggle with very strict parameters for development and I’m not alone in that I do have the support of my husband and producing partner, but he’s more of a sounding board and he’ll take on certain parts of growth, but a lot of this has to do with what I’m ultimately wanting to see for myself. So, it’s tricky, man.

Tori (00:14:15):

It’s super tricky. When we did our research, we found the story about you spending money on a psychic. Can you talk to us about that?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:14:23):

Okay. So we’re in mid despair world of Christy basically… Actually, no, it was when you saw me. You saw me as Beauty and the Beast. That was my first interaction with this psychic was right around that time. It was after the stage door, a psychic came in was like, “I can help you with your love life.” That’s how it’s not a real person when they come after you like that. They’re not supposed to. Psychic people, spiritually are not supposed to advertise for their services. You’re supposed to come to them. So yeah. She targeted me and obviously, I had hundreds of people around me. I was the perfect mark, if you want to call it that. And then, we got into it.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:15:05):

And immediately when I called her, I was like, “I’ve got a boyfriend from college that broke my heart. How do I get back with him?” I mean, come on. What is she not going to try to do and get from me? She squeezed me as far as she could. And she was like… I was 21 at the time when… Oh no, no, no, no, sorry. 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. So I started writing checks to the psychic and they got bigger and bigger and more consistent. And it was probably for whatever she needed that day. “Oh, I’ve got electric bill.” Okay. I need this much from this girl.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:15:39):

Basically, it was a really shitty time where somebody took advantage of my magical thinking. And that is something that happens to child actors, I think is this concept of, “Oh my God, if I just keep auditioning, I’ll book it, I’ll book it, I’ll book it.” And so magical thinking is something that you’re literally raised to believe in. And then when you’re working with Disney, forget about it, magical thinking. So, it happened and I’m really happy to bring awareness to it because there were a few people that reached out to me and even influencers that said that that did happen to them. And so, yeah, there’s some people out there who are predatory in unique ways.

Tori (00:16:22):

I wanted to take us back for folks that might not be as familiar with your work and have just a discussion about what your experience was like as a child actor. And you had already mentioned making a lot of money in a short amount of time and seemingly having very little guidance as how to manage that money. So, can you walk me through how child actors get paid, how you maybe specifically got paid and what ended up happening with all of that money?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:16:54):

Okay. So basically it’s really interesting to unpack, but it’s hard because there’s so many levels here. When you’re a child actor, let’s say you get on a TV show, you start at a very base level. And if you get renewed for a season two, a season three, you’re able to renegotiate just like an adult would. And generally, because you’re a child, if you haven’t done things in the past, your rate isn’t high to begin with. So they’re catching you at a low already and all it costs is your childhood. But essentially, you’re getting that. And also I should mention, that you are working less hours. So, if they are paying you a rate, you’re working less hours too. And it’s not like you are… You are working in an adult environment, but you’re not working the same as an adult until you’re like 16 and emancipated because you choose to, or you’re 18, which is what I did. I didn’t emancipate.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:17:53):

So as the seasons progressed, my rate was negotiable. And so, I think at my height, I was making like maybe 10 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, other than maybe our guest stars that we would come. I’m pretty sure that I was favored nations with Shia LaBeouf, who was my co-star on Even Stevens. And then, I think I did a movie called Cadet Kelly with Hillary Duff. And I think I’m pretty sure she got more than me because I don’t think she had a favored nations with her cast and her rate was higher.

Tori (00:18:31):

When you say favored nations, can you tell us what that is?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:18:33):

Absolutely. So favored nations is
when… And I don’t actually know why it’s called that, which is my own ignorant thing that I need to rectify. But basically, it promises that no one else is making more than you. And that if your co-star and you are putting in the same hours and you’re basically the same appeal, because it was both of our show, then he can’t make more than me. And so, that’s a very important thing in terms of negotiation. And a lot of times, the cast will unite to have that mentality of all making the same. I think Friends-

Tori (00:19:08):

What Friends did, right? Everybody on Friends was like, “No one’s going to make more. We’re all going to make the exact same.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:19:12):

Yeah. And it was at that time too, which I find really interesting. It was right around that time that Friends, they were becoming millionaire millionaires from their episodes. By the way, they didn’t even have merch back then in the, what was that? 2000 pretty much was when we were really filming. And so, yeah. I was making that money, so it wasn’t a lot. And then so much of that goes away and then you start making more money in your residuals. So then you start to make money for not doing anything. And then if you’re doing other projects, it’s just residual passive income. And so, if you’re not-

Tori (00:19:49):

Right. So, right. If the show continues, even if you’re not producing it, right, you’re getting a cut of every episode that’s shown, right? And that’s what the residual is?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:19:56):

As you should for sure. And yeah. I mean, you’re getting that. And then 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, which is why my theory of why child actors are so bamboozled by making absolutely no money within a 10 year, that’s when they hit their limit. That’s when they hit their rock bottom is, their money starts to dwindle away and they haven’t learned how to save it properly. So you know what I mean? It’s that old thing of, it’s passive income. It’s not income you live on. And yet, if you’re not being hired for things…

Christy Carlson Romano (00:20:46):

I didn’t have the opportunity to get a normal job. I was actually really interested in babysitting at that time. I always sought out to be normal. I always was like, what is it like to just go to regular high school? I’ve written about this before. And I wanted that experience of being around children and still, to this day, after having two kids, I feel like it could have been really cool to just have those normal sets of responsibilities and to be paid for that. And it didn’t have to be some inflated value number. It could have just been what was worth my time. So I didn’t do that, but I did go to college and had a normal amount of debt that people have.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:21:32):

And so, something I will mention is the Coogan Law is a really vital law for child actors and beyond the residuals, what was happening was, I was living off of residuals and then eventually, I was living off of the Coogan fund because that was tucked away for me to go to college. I left college to do Beauty and the Beast as you saw on Broadway. And at that point, I had really become a, I don’t know, a juggernaut at, “I’m going to do a book deal. I’m going to do a record deal. ICM is invested in my career now.” I’d left my old agency and was trying to be packaged essentially. And so my mom, a lot of this is generational too, which we should definitely get into. I acquired their ignorance.

Tori (00:22:25):

We’ve talked about it extensively on the show. This might blow your mind. The majority of money habits are cemented by age seven.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:22:33):

Oh God. Wait a minute. I have a five year old, I’m like, “What am I doing?” Personal inventory, what are we doing? I’ll tell you what, we’re working really hard. And she sees mom and dad go to work all the time and they’re in the house, they’re together. We’re not fighting. We love working together. So, I think that’s good.

Tori (00:22:52):

Yeah. But I think we ignorantly think, “Oh, if I’m quote unquote bad with money, or if I have some financial trauma, it’s like entirely my fault,” and it’s one very societal or systemic. And the second thing is that it’s so influenced by the way we saw other people in our lives manage money, largely our family.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:23:11):

Oh my God. Now you just gave me some anxiety. I love it.

Tori (00:23:16):

Oh, I was meant to be reassuring.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:23:19):

No, I love it. No, I love it. It’s really good. I love it. You’re so smart. And it’s so wonderful to hear that. And no, but really though, money and value are so important for women. And they’re actually so intrinsically tied to young female child actors, and 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.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:23:57):

I really attribute my desperation and essentially what ended up becoming an addiction to people, places and things, that you hear about in either Al-Anon or AA. And I’m not actively working a program, I’ve just been to a lot of meetings. And so, I have taken a lot of those teachings to heart and applied them without a sponsor. But it matters a lot to me to have some accountability and some perspective, if I’m going to go and tell people, “Hey, I’m here for you. Talk to me. Tell me how can I help.” I want to be of service, but it needs to be… Sometimes I actually get scared because I’m like, “I need to be learning all the time. I need to be the one that has all the answers.” But, I digress again.

Tori (00:24:46):

No, I cut you off. I think we were talking about the Coogan Law and I really want you to explain it because I think it’s really important.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:24:52):

Wonderful. I love how audit you are. So 30% of all of my paychecks when I was a minor would go into a Coogan fund. I believe it was managed by the union and that money would be held and then it was a fund or yeah, it was a fund and it would be accessible when I turned 18. Honestly, don’t remember when I turned 18, how accessible that was. I think my mom must have handled all of the paperwork on that, but I would think, if I were to be a stage parent, that that would be an excellent time in a child’s life, to fully ramp them up into understanding, we have X amount, what are we going to do with it? You know? And that would be an excellent time to do that if you weren’t doing it beforehand, for some reason or another.

Tori (00:25:49):

So what happened instead?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:25:51):

Bad stuff. Bad stuff. 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. My dad was, he’s passed now. So, he had some issues with money too, and he was always an entrepreneur, but he was more on the riskier side of just really… I guess he grew up poor. Yeah. So, if you want to talk about generational and how this all comes into what it means to be a stage parent and what motivates them to get their child in the business to monetize their childhoods, essentially, it’s an extremely complex issue. And in my case, I did have statistically parents that I feel, they’re not wealthy, right?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:26:51):

Wealthy parents aren’t like, “Go in the business,” unless they’re already in the business. And then they’re like, “Okay,” like Judd Apatow’s daughters are in the business or Ethan Hawk and Uma Thurman’s daughters in Stranger Things. And it’s like nepotism at its finest really, because how could they not go in the business, I guess, is the point. But I think I have a little bit of a different take on that. So, with these stage parents, a lot of them are struggling and trying to figure out easy layups in life, I think. I don’t think a lot of them go in it being like, “I’m going to steal all my kids money.” I just don’t think that they have a plan because they’re like, “Well, she could make it. And that would be great. And then we’ll deal with it when it happens.” And I think nine times out of 10, that’s the mentality.

Tori (00:27:39):

Well, and we know from a lot of Shia’s work. It sounds very similar. His was obviously, and his telling extremely, extremely intense.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:27:49):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Shia’s father and mother’s situation was very life or death. If he hadn’t booked Even Stevens, I really don’t know. I’m sure he would’ve made it somehow, but…

Tori (00:28:02):

But I think about you and my heart just… I got my childhood, we got our childhoods off the back of yours.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:28:13):


Tori (00:28:14):

No, but it’s great for us, terrible for, you know?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:28:21):

And that’s why I am leaning into the nostalgia, Tori because-

Tori (00:28:25):

Right. But my heart just goes out for younger you where the pressure of that. And then also, the looking back and realizing “Okay, I worked really hard largely, to take care of my parents.” That shouldn’t be your responsibility when you’re 12, 13, 15.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:28:42):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, and it was 16 really, when it started to hit, certainly Shia, was dealing with that from a even way earlier age. And for me, I think that the justification was “Look, we invested so much already into this, to her training.” I had a $30,000 private school in the city that I went to a year and we were on financial aid of course. And my parents were, refining their house and robbing Peter to pay Paul was what we always were talking about in the house. And my first memories, some of… Not first memories, but some of my more crystal clear memories are my parents fighting about money and having to overhear that and run to my brother as a little kid being like, “Are they okay? Are they okay?” And my brother being like, “Don’t worry, go to bed.” My brother, interestingly enough, has become a financial badass. He manages personal wealth and portfolios. He diversifies portfolios. He had me literally memorize that because I don’t know what the hell that means.

Tori (00:29:50):

Is he like a wealth advisor? Is that what it is?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:29:53):

I actually think he manages like family funds and stuff and yeah. He’s really great. He worked at-

Tori (00:30:01):

That’s me coaching my family as to what I do. They’re like, “I don’t know, she owns her own business.” Especially when I was working in social media. I’m like, “I’m a social media marketer.” And they’re like, “I don’t know what that is, but okay.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:30:12):

I’ll say it, exactly. And I love him for it. And he’s literally worked at… So he started as a financial analyst, back in the day. And then he went to Babson. And I’m so proud of him. I never give him props, but maybe he’ll watch this. And then, he is the opposite of what my dad was. My brother’s very conservative in his investments. He has the spirit of an entrepreneur. So I think a lot of him wants to do artistic, cool stuff, but he struggles too with all that and he wants to be responsible and he has a family and children. And when you grow up that way, it creates barriers. It creates some trauma. And when markets are as unstable as they can be, sometimes I look at him and I’m like, “I have a lot more upside than he does,” in some ways, but I have a lot of respect for him and yeah. Where we’ve come from as a family.

Tori (00:31:15):

Yeah. Most definitely.

Tori (00:31:20):

So I mean, transitioning out of that, right? And even actually, before you were doing Disney channel stuff, you were in Parade, which is, this incredible musical that’s very heavy subject matter. And then, you’re dealing with a lot of personal things as well. How are you managing your mental health between doing fun, comedic things like Disney, but also having that double edged sword of being a Disney kid, but then also diving into a lot of this darker material?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:31:53):

Okay. So basically I had two roads I could have gone down. I was talking to somebody in New York and I was like, “Yeah, I just did this pilot for Disney.” And it had been somebody who actually ended up becoming a big Disney voice actress. And we were friends from New York and she knows about this story too. I laughed about it with her. And she was like, “Why do you want to do Disney stuff?” She’s like, “If you do that, you’ll never be taken seriously.” And we were 15. I think she was 16, 17. And I was like, “Oh no.” And so by that time, I had done a lot of Indie films in New York City. I had done a lot of really cool theater that was, like you said, Parade was pushing the envelope.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:32:44):

I’d been in an Indie movie called Henry Fool with Hal Hartley, who was this big cinema Indie filmmaker guy. He’s just massive. And then I was in a Woody Allen movie. There was a road set before me that if I had stayed in New York, I could have been… I don’t even know, who knows what I could have been. But I could have been down the trajectory of a Parker Posey, zany, fun, who knows what I would’ve done and the choices I would’ve made. I could have also just quit at a certain point if the money hadn’t come. That’s what’s interesting about it is that-

Tori (00:33:21):

Oh, say that for me, you would’ve quit if the money hadn’t come, is that what you said?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:33:25):

Probably. I probably would’ve quit. Yeah. Because I think my family being, the money that they had and didn’t have, the insecurity of that. I think it wouldn’t have fueled the desire for me to continue that if I had gotten older and just hadn’t continued along that path. I probably would’ve gone to college and just cycled out of it.

Tori (00:33:53):

Well, and it’s also, if you didn’t quote unquote, make it, it not only is that really expensive to continually pursue something with very little money. Yeah. But also, nowhere near the same level, but as a theater kid, you have to become very resilient to the point where you’re hearing, “No,” all of the time. And for many folks, totally understandably, that breaks somebody down at a point after eight years, 10 years of doing that.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:34:25):

Yeah. And I actually think as a stage parent, I don’t think I could handle that on behalf of my child.

Tori (00:34:31):

Right. Watching your kid. Yeah. No. That’s really hard.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:34:35):

It’s like, God, Jesus Christ, no. I don’t think I could do that to them. I’m unpacking that here.

Tori (00:34:41):

Well, yeah. Yeah. Watching your kid be very vulnerable and put themselves out there and then hearing. “No.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:34:47):

Yeah. It’s very hard. And, that sucks. Yeah.

Tori (00:34:51):

Right. I think uniquely for women or for girls really, in the 90’s and 2000’s, I don’t even know. It’s so much bullshit. The media scrutiny of folks who were rising up at that time, yourself, Hillary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate and Ashley, all of these women who were tabloid fodder during that time.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:35:17):

You were, yeah.

Tori (00:35:18):

Well, I think you gave an interview where you were like, “I will never trade the struggles of some of those people for the fame that they received.” Can we talk a bit about that? Because I think we’re having this reckoning with Brittany now, of, “Oh my gosh, we treated her so terribly.” Right? And we’re looking back at a lot of these girls who were girls or at least young women, right? What for you… How does somebody reckon with all of that and how did you escape it? Because I know you had all these other traumatic things happen, but I feel like uniquely, that experience was something that you managed to avoid.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:35:58):

Yeah, it’s crazy. So, I was on a trajectory, I think, if I had stayed in California, but I had left to go to college and I left at 18. I had tested for five pilots. I booked two. I chose one. When you’re coming off a show, you’re hot. So, I took the one that I thought I responded to and thought was cool, because it was the executive producers of Friends. It was something called Boarding School. I could be sexy. I could be the lead. And I wanted to be like Jennifer Anderson. So I was like, “I’m going to do this. “And then in my mind I remember thinking, “Well, if this doesn’t work, I can just go to Columbia. And so, it’s a win-win.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:36:42):

And I remember that a director on that pilot had said to me, “If you do this, you’re making a really big decision to leave Hollywood.” And a part of me was like, “Yeah, fuck Hollywood.” Can I swear on this podcast?

Tori (00:36:54):

Of course, you can.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:36:55):

Okay. Okay.

Tori (00:36:56):

Of course you can.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:36:57):

I was like, “Fuck Hollywood.” I was just like, “Fine.” Stick it in the ear of Hollywood. I’m going to do my thing. I thought I was better. I thought I was better than the system. And I thought Claire Danes, Natalie Portman. I was like, these women were doing that. And granted, they had had really big feature film success. And I was coming from this situation of being a co-lead on a Disney channel show that Disney was not High School Musical Disney. It was something under that scope. So I chose probably poorly, but I chose, I feel, in that moment I advocated for my mental health accidentally.

Tori (00:37:46):

Then you didn’t choose poorly.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:37:48):

I suppose. But what came with that, some of that you can’t fix, you know what I mean? Going to college, being an actor and then going and living in the dorms because you want to seek out a normal college experience, which includes heartbreak, clique-iness, gossip, confusion, isolation, depression, eating disorder, drinking, all that comes to you so quickly because you didn’t go to high school and you didn’t figure it out. It’s a delayed maturity. So that happened.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:38:21):

But yeah, so, I dodged it because I left. What that costed me, we will never know. And I find it funny because a lot of times I’ll pontificate in my YouTubes, like I say, “Oh, this is how…” We find these really funny click baby titles and people just go off on them because I’m like, “Oh, Katie Perry has my career or Ann Hathaway. And I could have been like Anne Hathaway.” I don’t mean any of that shit. I’m just having people click on it and then talking about it, because that’s the way the algorithm works. And I deliver on that. It’s click bait. If you don’t deliver on it, that’s click bait. But what I was finding was, I can reach more people and the algorithm can work in my favor if I’m just putting the best version of this SEO title out.

Tori (00:39:09):

Totally. And we’ve experienced that too. Yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:39:12):

I can only imagine. Yeah.

Tori (00:39:14):

Titling these episodes. For listeners out there, you think titling an episode of a podcast is easy. Anyone on my team can tell you, it is the most strenuous process to try to title an episode well.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:39:27):

Can you explain why though?

Tori (00:39:29):

SEO first thing. So that’s search engine optimization. So when you go on a Google and you Google a Tory Dunlap, Christy Carlson Romano, what shows up right is the SEO of how have you optimized a certain website in order to show up. The same works with podcasts, right? So if you search, let’s say, “Money podcasts for women,” in Spotify, right? I’m hoping that financial feminist comes up or if you’re searching a specific episode about, I don’t know, retirement accounts or about maybe child actors, right? Maybe I’m hoping this episode comes up. Right? And it’s also, you’re not just being measured in the algorithm by, “Oh, do people find it? But also, how long do people stay and engage with what you have?” Right.

Tori (00:40:14):

So that’s part of it too, is you’re hoping not only can people find you really easily, but that they’re interested enough to not only click play, but to maybe even download the episode, which is actually different than clicking play. A lot of people don’t realize that if you click on a podcast episode versus download it or listen up to a certain point. So I’m just trying to find you and then I’m trying to get you to care and I’m trying to get you to care for as long as I can get you to care.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:40:37):

Yeah. Very hard. Yeah.

Tori (00:40:40):

It’s very hard. But same thing with YouTube, right? Yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:40:43):

Same thing. It’s all the same. It all ends up in the same mentality of this AI.

Tori (00:40:49):

Right. And of course, you’re trying to provide value for people, right? You’re not just, to your point about, it’s only click bait if it isn’t, that’s a great quote. It’s only click bait if it doesn’t deliver. Right.

< p class="" style="white-space:pre-wrap;">Christy Carlson Romano (00:40:58):

Exactly. Exactly.

Tori (00:40:59):

If I am going to say, “Oh, I’m going to title an episode a certain way.” Well, you better walk away with the answer to that question I’m asking you,” or whatever that looks like.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:41:09):

And it can be exhausting, but I’m willing to go there for the sake and the health and the wellbeing of my channel, my content, my brand. I would say-

Tori (00:41:18):

And paying your rent, paying your mortgage, paying your-

Christy Carlson Romano (00:41:20):

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, what I always find ironic about people who are haters, which I’m getting used to them now. I never thought I would because I’m literally the person who cares so much about everything.

Tori (00:41:33):

I am too. A lot of people think that I’m just like, “Fuck it, whatever.” I secretly, I’m one of those chocolates that you crack the shell and then in the middle, I’m a little molten chocolate lava cake. I want you to like me and I want you to be really happy that you’re here and excited about what we do and when you’re not, it really makes me sad.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:41:51):

Oh man. But see, I’m looking at the Financial Feminist beautiful, the cover photo. And I read that brand and see how people could think that. It’s what you need to put forward-

Tori (00:42:03):

Which it is. A lot of it I don’t really care about. Right. Did you say tit forward? Is that what you just said?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:42:09):

No. What did I say? Oh my God.

Tori (00:42:12):

Oh, I thought you said-

Christy Carlson Romano (00:42:12):

I mean…

Tori (00:42:12):

I’m just like, it is. It is tit.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:42:15):

The girls are out there. They’re between the Fs. They’re between the two Fs.

Tori (00:42:20):

No, but it is. That it very much is a lot of who I am and the brand, but I’m also just like, “No, I’m Leslie. No.” Please, I just want you to love me.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:42:29):

You know what? I honestly feel exposure therapy has been the most important thing for me, in this situation. It’s been, okay, you can say maybe 10 shitty things to me in the comment section and I block you, and then ends there. That’s what it is. It’s like, “Oh, okay. Ooh, ooh. You did something big. Big man, big person. Okay.” Enough. Blocked. Bye. And then the other thing I used to say when I was getting some interesting interviews happening from these walk and talk YouTube thingies I was doing, which I’m going to go start doing again, by the way, which we can get into. But it’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be more broad and more mental health focused. It’s not going to be about tea and gossip and all that crap, which I didn’t really want it to be about. It just started to come out and I word vomited every time that I was talking.

Tori (00:43:20):

Yeah. Had to get through some shit.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:43:21):

Ah, yeah. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it. B
ut I started having some people be like in the interview section like, “Oh, well what do you think about people who are saying things against you or this or that?” And I was like, “Exposure therapy. These people are not my demo,” is what I used to say.

Tori (00:43:38):

Oh, I think that all the time too. Yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:43:41):

Right? It’s like, I’m obviously not here to serve this person. And so, if you’re not my demo. Click away, I say. Click away. It’s okay.

Tori (00:43:48):

Right. Do you feel, because this is a unique experience, right? The time you were on Disney acting, doing all of those things was before the constant feedback that we all get, what do you feel is different now that you’re a public person, but in a different way where you’re available to feedback all the time. Do you feel your experience might have been better or worse if you would’ve had the same social media or grown up during the time of social media?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:44:20):

Okay. So let’s see. If a Disney channel actor comes on the scene right now, they are immediately guaranteed millions of followers. What they do with that influence, is up to them. I feel, a lot of them aren’t really geared up to monetize as good as I am because I’ve been in the business for so long and I have certain things set up around me to really optimize my situation. I don’t have the numbers-

Tori (00:44:50):

Which props to you because… No, but the amount of people that I know, especially specifically with TikTok people, random people who have blown up on TikTok, they slide in my DMS and they’re like, “I can make money?” And I’m like, “Yes but you need to know how. What you’re doing.” And plenty of people don’t.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:45:07):

And I think it’s because I have the traditional Hollywood background that I’m like… I mean, it’s actually been a really positive experience. I don’t have the numbers that… And actually, if I want to go back, Ashley Tisdale was one of the first Disney stars to have a massive Twitter following. Do you remember that?

Tori (00:45:25):

Hmm. I don’t remember her on Twitter.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:45:27):

So she got-

Tori (00:45:28):

I remember her wearing skirts over jeans and I wore that a lot in middle school because I thought that was cool. I had a full skirts over jean phase. Completely prompted by Ashley Tisdale.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:45:38):

I get it. I got to say, I think if you Google, you’ll see some of that of me too. Not nearly as-

Tori (00:45:45):

Skirts over jeans?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:45:46):

Oh yeah.

Tori (00:45:47):

Oh, I’m literally doing it right now.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:45:48):

Oh my God. Okay. Look up the Miss 60 party on Wire image and I remember this one time, I actually thought it was a cute look. They’re boot cut jeans with some sort of a dress. But it was very much my version of that. Whereas I feel like hers was more of a skort over jeans.

Tori (00:46:08):

What was the?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:09):

Miss 60. Miss 60 Christy Carlson Romano.

Tori (00:46:14):

I’m looking. Look at you, such a young bean.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:18):

I know. Right?

Tori (00:46:20):

I just see all photos of you from…

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:23):

Miss 60. M-I-S-S. So M-I-S-S and then space and then 60. And then you can say Miss 60 party. Oh my God, what year was that?

Tori (00:46:32):

Maybe it’s you on SEO. At least for me, they’re nothing to be found. Maybe you got it.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:40):

I’m going to just send you the picture of the-

Tori (00:46:41):

You are?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:41):

Of the inquiring minds that are listening to the podcast, want to know about this look and honestly…

Tori (00:46:50):

We can also cut this if we want. But I am so excited.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:52):

And honestly though, that’s not the only time that I did that look. It was a look. I agree. I completely agree.

Tori (00:46:58):

I love it. It was a moment in time.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:46:59):

But Ashley was the first. She had come on my radar. Okay. And I had been out in California struggling for a little bit. I think I was actually starting to… That was in my more darker times, my more desperate times. Whereas, yeah, this Twitter thing’s happening, but this isn’t really for me. And these new kids coming up. They want to do this Twitter thing. I don’t really care about this, whatever. I’m going to try to just go back to New York. And I went back to college and I said, “I’m going to quit acting.” I’m just going to be… Okay, I want to direct actually. I was like, I’m going to be a director. I’m going to study directing. I want to get through it as fast as possible. So there were buzzes of that. I was 26 at the time that that happened. So, she was becoming this iconic moment in my mind because she had reached a certain amounts of a million followers on Twitter or something and it was what everyone was talking about.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:47:54):

Oh my God, she’s such a big Twitter following. And she’s launching her own production company. Now, this was before Rease Witherspoon had a production company. This was before a lot of people did. And I was shocked that like, “Oh my God, she’s a producer. That’s a big deal.” We weren’t empowered in that way, coming out of my generation of Disney stars. I don’t even know if you would own up to being a producer.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:48:19):

So for example, Hillary Duffs had her movie, the Lizzie McGuire movie. It had outside financing. And I think it was somehow related to her or something. That was the rumor mill. I’m not 100% certain on that. Disney was always the people that were a little bit shy to be like, “Well, we’ll give Even Steven’s a movie, but it’ll just be a Disney original movie. It won’t be it’s own feature or anything like that.” Yeah. So when it came time for Lizzie McGuire to actually have a feature, that was massive for Hillary, right? From that she had her album drops, her record deals.

Tori (00:48:56):

That had to be one of the first Disney channel movies to actually open in theaters.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:49:02):

It was.

Tori (00:49:03):

Maybe the firs

Christy Carlson Romano (00:49:05):

It was.

Tori (00:49:05):


Christy Carlson Romano (00:49:06):

Yeah. It was. And it’s what solidified her career. If you think about it and she-

Tori (00:49:10):

Oh, and all of it, speaking in nostalgia that whole thing’s back too.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:49:14):

It is, I mean, it blew up in Disney’s face. But I think that she’s done a wonderful job of pivoting. She’s been lined up for years with her people. I mean, she’s just freaking genius. She is that road that was the less traveled road of not going to college and sticking it out and aggregating capital to push yourself forward. And she’s what social media does for someone now, pushes them into the forefront. She did that for herself without social media, which is why she is iconic and why she does deserve to have a long standing career. It’s like she did Younger for a while. She was a little dark and then Younger launched her in. And now she’s on How I Met Your Father. So it’s like, who needs Lizzie McGuire when you can figure out how to get out of the Disney, brand.

Tori (00:50:09):

Yeah, totally.

Tori (00:50:15):

So you’ve pivoted right. And are doing so many different things. You’ve got the YouTube channel, the podcasts, and it seems like you are speaking of production, right? Or about controlling your own destiny. It seems like you’re really working to build something that you’re in control of, rather than an acting career where more power is in your hands than in the hands of a casting director. Do you feel folks should continue to build on their own land? Is that something that you’ve seen, a transition from and what do you love about it? What is different for you about it?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:50:57):

Yeah. I think somebody who grew up with hearing constant rejection and had to be barking like a dog and jumping through hoops and not living my life normally. I think if there’s any resentment, it’s there. And so far that I lived my life exclusively in California and had to stay there and had to date people that lived there. And I had to exist in those four walls or whatever. And I was so sick of it that when my husband was like, “We’re going to go to Austin.” I was like, “Sign me the F up.” Even before that, when we had kids and I stopped drinking when I was pregnant with my first, we went down to Orange County and it was like, my whole life could change because I didn’t have to be stuck in LA with the occasional New York trip. It was bye coastal or nothing at all.

Tori (00:51:39):

And constantly looking for somebody else’s approval. Your success is based on, have you won somebody over or not.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:51:44):

Sucks. And then what you had been saying, which I don’t think I really succinctly answered, but listeners bear with me, because this is part of my brand, is that I am charming, but completely erratic. Is that you had mentioned that, back in the day in the 90’s and 2000’s, that the women that were growing up had a lot of media coverage and a lot of scrutiny on them and whatnot. Part of that did serve them because if they were doing the Maxims, the FHM, they were getting casted in the romcoms, they were getting casted in all of those, the faculty or whatever. Whatever it was, they could segue themselves out of what people knew them as. And then it became its own thing though, of okay, when’s she going to turn 18? Which is just predatory and fucking awful and disgusting.

Tori (00:52:33):

I remember. Oh, it was awful. It’s awful. I remember Emma Watson giving an interview, I’m trying to remember. You’re not allowed to take a scandalous tabloid photo of somebody who’s under 18. And then she said, literally at my 18th birthday, there were paparazzi waiting to shoot under my skirt the moment I walked out. It’s awful. It’s disgusting.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:52:55):

That’s so disgusting. And therein lies that one question that you asked me where it’s, I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world because people didn’t come at me like that. I went to these places, I went to Hide and I went to Marquee and I went to all the clubs and generally, paparazzi just weren’t interested. They weren’t taking the bait. They weren’t interested because I wasn’t sloppy coming out of the club, I guess. There was either two roads you could go down. Usually, it wasn’t a good road to be seen out and about, but before social media, you could not get… And if you weren’t being booked, right? Right away on the FHM cov
ers and whatever, the only way that you could be seen out and about is through paparazzi. So you would hope to be seen at these clubs and if you didn’t date somebody famous, then it was like, you’re not topical.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:53:44):

So, when we talk about independence and growth and self-worth and self love, social media actually does give you that option to build, like you said, on your own land, there is no such thing as a free lunch. There’s going to be sacrifice from anyone. Right? So now, I can’t put my phone down because I’m constantly looking at trends and I’m constantly having to… I don’t have somebody forecasting trends for me. I don’t have a social media manager. I don’t have a creative director for Christy Carlson Romano Inc. That’s me and my husband, but I would rather it be that way to some extent and have conservative growth. I’d rather have that.

Tori (00:54:32):

Yep. And I feel the same way. I worked under people I didn’t like and didn’t respect. And I was like, “All right, the moment I don’t have to do this anymore, we’re not going to do it.”

Christy Carlson Romano (00:54:41):

Yeah. And so, you know what it means to then have that be related to your self worth.

Tori (00:54:46):

Oh, completely. I love the woman I am and the woman I’m becoming. 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. And yeah, I can imagine that you feel similarly, especially leaving an industry that was so… Yeah. It was hinging so much on somebody else’s opinion of you.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:55:10):

I find it ironic though that I had to have my heart broken a bajillion times and find a way to have a marriage that was healthy to only have him be my manager again. You know what I’m saying? So, there’s always a part of me that’s like, “Can I do this on my own? Or do I need my husband?” And the truth is that, I don’t think we need, as women, to be so harsh on ourselves and judge ourselves so harshly. If it’s working and it’s not making you feel shitty about yourself, then you have to embrace the good of what’s working, right? Work begets work. Money can beget money sometimes. And so, I feel like I’m learning a lot from my husband.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:56:00):

What I’ve chosen to do is, there was a point at which I looked at him, and we have these two young babies at the time and it’s right around the pandemic. And I look at him, I’m like, “We could make a lot more money if you just lean into this,” because he has his own career. He’s a writer. He has his own big projects and development. But I look at him and I’m like, “If you go in on this with me, all in, you have the backbone and you have the ability to say no on my behalf. And if you’re able to do that, I think this could be good for all of us.” So that was my consent in saying, “Please come in and do this.” And since he started making deals, he is maturity, his philosophy about our family, we’ve just bought our first house. He came to be in a different way that I had only hoped for him, you know? And yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:56:54):

So it really is a beautiful thing to work with your partner and to see them thrive amongst the stuff that you’re able to create together. So, we really do love each other and sometimes it does not work and you should just not do it. And we take it a day at a time too. I feel like if we hit a part in our lives where we were like, “Shit. We really can’t stand being in the same room.” I think we would be very honest with each other about that. But we really do take it a day at a time.

Tori (00:57:26):

Yeah. We had my friend, Amy, who her Monica is Queen Herby and she and her now husband were Carmen for a very long time and did music under that name. And now she’s the face of it. And he’s her producer. And she talked a lot on our episode about, how do you navigate both life and business with the same person. How is your life partner also your business partner? So, what have you learned in navigating business and navigating, building a lot of these things with your life partner, who is also your business partner?

Christy Carlson Romano (00:58:06):

You have to listen more than you speak, but you also have to do that for your own benefit. So, 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. It deadens in you the ability to not want to anticipate stuff. So for me, I’m like, “Okay, well, what am I getting out of this? Well, what am I getting out of that?” I think one of the things in just unpacking it here, that this has given me is the gift of a family transaction. Is that we all benefit from a good viral video or a really great ambassadorship that’ll last us for three to six months. We all are enjoying this. And so, I do find it ironic that when people want to hate on me for doing a sponsored ad or something, I’m like, “If you watch anything else that is sponsored on a big way.”

Tori (00:59:12):

Everything. Yeah. And if it’s free, you’re paying in some other way, you’re paying in your data, you’re paying some way.

Christy Carlson Romano (00:59:20):

The Mom and Pop stores that people used to go into their neighborhoods have become digitalized. Influencers are Mom and’ Pops shops. And so, I only gas people up when I see them doing a good deal. Get that coin, do your thing. I don’t have to use your promo code, but I don’t have to say something shitty to you.

Tori (00:59:45):

No. And support companies you believe in. Don’t fucking promote tummy tea. I mean, I get the same thing where it’s like, “Oh, it’s sponsor posted.” And I’m like, “How would you like me to pay my rent? How would you like me to pay my employees?” Because believe it or not, there’s actually 13 people behind this.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:00:02):

And that’s the thing. You’re employing 13 people because of that sponsored ad. My children are able to… We’re, we’re able to build-

Tori (01:00:09):

And I’m giving you all of this free content. I’m able to produce a podcast because there’s ads on this podcast because companies are willing to pay for. Yeah. No. You don’t have to preach to me. I’m like, I’m all in. But yeah. And I think I love the idea that… Yeah. It’s, okay, if a video does well, or a podcast episode does well or we partner with a brand we like, it’s not just my win. It’s the entire family’s win.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:00:33):

100%. We are the Rooney family. But on the other side of that is if it goes bad, right? We pivot quickly. We’ve learned how to fail upwards and we’ve pivoted quickly. And sometimes like right now, we’re going to go back to do these walk and talks. And I had told Brendan, I was like… He got intel from somebody who was at YouTube and was a big YouTuber and he was like, “This is the best thing on Christie’s channel. It’s sustainable. It does lots of different things for her brand, do this.” And he’s like, “Okay, let me talk to Christy about it.” And so we sit down, we have development meetings and we talk about the brand. The brand, the brand. And it’s more or less serving the demo than it is staying on brand too. Because I think that the demo wants you to grow because the demo wants to grow with you. Otherwise, they’re stagnant and then they’ll go find someone else.

Tori (01:01:27):

Well, and then it also becomes a little suspicious, right? Where they’re like, if this person isn’t growing or changing, then it feels more like a performance, right? You mentioned authenticity at the top. Right? All of it, whether we like it or not on social media is a slight performance. Even if are authentic, right. You’re showing up and there are cameras in your face. You are performing in some area. Right? Or to some level.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:01:51):

Oh yeah.

Tori (01:01:51):

But I feel, if you are doing the same thing you’ve done for a year, five years, I don’t know, 10 years it’s, yeah. People can smell that.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:02:04):

Yeah. 100%. 100%. Yeah. Yeah. I find that I don’t know that many people that have done that, or maybe they’re shadow banned or, you know what I’m saying? Maybe I don’t see their content because-

Tori (01:02:14):

Right. Or they were really hot for a year and then we’ve never heard from them again.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:02:17):

Exactly. Like where are they? Which is very similar to some of the child actor thing, where we are probably going to see a lot of these TikTokers, or, I don’t know if you actually will, but it will be very interesting to see how the fall of these TikTokers who are young and have fallen into this will be… They are today’s child actors [inaudible 01:02:45].

Tori (01:02:45):

I was just about to say that. I was just about to say that. Yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:02:48):

Yeah. In their own way.

Tori (01:02:49):

I think
even some pros where you hopefully get to control it more. I think of Charli D’Amelio, right?

Christy Carlson Romano (01:02:56):

Yeah. Yeah, but Charli D’Amelio takes care of her whole damn family. So does-

Tori (01:03:01):

Literally that’s was the next thing out of my mouth. Yes.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:03:03):

So does what’s her name? Addison Ray. Her whole family lives with her, from Louisiana. They went out there and she puts them up. And that’s great for her mental health of course. But her mom’s got every single body and her family’s got their own Insta and-

Tori (01:03:20):

And yeah. If you watched a second of the D’Amelio Hulu documentary or the series they did, you start realizing, “Oh, if this 17 year old wants to take a break or wants to go to prom and doesn’t want to work for a week, a bunch of other people don’t get paid.” So it’s…

Christy Carlson Romano (01:03:37):

That’s horrible.

Tori (01:03:38):

She becomes the CEO of a company.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:03:42):

I’ve not actually watched that show, but I’ve seen the commercials. And it seems she’s breaking down a lot. She is not the sunny face that we think. There’s a lot of struggle there, in my opinion. I think that there’s a lot going on.

Tori (01:04:01):

Right. So, a lot of the pros are a lot of money, potentially elevating your family out of financial trauma, but also, yeah. What feedback are you constantly getting on social media? How many people are telling you to go die every single hour of every single day?

Christy Carlson Romano (01:04:18):


Tori (01:04:19):

Plus the weight of that. And again, that’s what I was saying earlier of, I think about you and your experience. And there had to been so many pros, but that had to have been really tough. That had to have been really tough to navigate.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:04:31):

It was tough and I didn’t navigate well, and now I’m on the other side of that.

Tori (01:04:35):

But no one blames you. That’s the thing is nobody blame… Of course. Of course. Of course, you didn’t navigate well.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:04:41):

Actually, that’s not true. Some people do blame me. Some people are real nudges as I will call them, in some of the comments, which I read or I did read the comments because I felt very exposed and very vulnerable when I was doing those walk and talks. And some people are like, “Boo-hoo, so what? You missed your opportunity. Or you ruined, you squandered your whatever.” And it was hard. It was hard to stomach some of that stuff. But like I said, it’s exposed-

Tori (01:05:10):

Those are Monday morning quarterbacks. Those are people who… You can sit on the sidelines and never do this. And I mean, Brene Brown’s beautiful quote, right? You don’t get to talk unless you’re in the arena, blood, sweat and tears, right? If you’re out there being vulnerable, if you’re out there doing a thing, even doing it imperfectly, even falling flat on your face, you’re out there and the person who’s watching you, doesn’t get to say shit.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:33):


Tori (01:05:34):

They don’t get to say shit.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:35):

Oh boy, I like that. That’s tough.

Tori (01:05:38):


Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:38):

That’s tough.

Tori (01:05:39):

That’s her whole thing. It’s a beautiful… Yeah. She calls it. Yeah. Braving the arena or walking in and being like, people who are spectating with popcorn in their hands, they don’t get to say anything.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:48):


Tori (01:05:49):

They don’t get to talk shit.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:49):

But social media gives you the inference that you can say whatever you want. Right?

Tori (01:05:54):

Right. The anonymity-

Christy Carlson Romano (01:05:56):

And no one polices that, but you. And therein lies the trouble with that. I honestly do feel like social media has been a very big gift to me and I’ve not… You know what I’m saying? I feel there’s two ways of looking at it. People are always like, “Oh, don’t you hate Disney?” I’m like, “I don’t hate Disney.” It’s not a Disney problem, but this is an industry wide problem of trying to help child actors understand their worth. And I will say I have started to advocate more loudly for child actors, with groups of people that I’ve aligned myself with, like Alyson Stoner, [inaudible 01:06:35] Coleman, Corbin Blue, there’s people out there that really care and have experienced things that are positive, mostly positive.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:06:43):

And there is a program called the Looking Ahead Program that is extremely vital because it’s starting to go national. And it is what the union has done from the Actors Fund essentially. They have a clubhouse in LA where they have social workers on hand, they have financial fluency classes. They have all sorts of different events that they do, where the kids at different ages go with each other and do play dates, essentially. They talk about college. They talk about all this great stuff. But the children who are at risk the most, are not going to walk through the doors and electively be in those rooms. So, what I’ve been trying to do is start to understand the reach that a program like this can have either on set or grow a summit where we can educate the employers and the production companies and people can electively come through and understand who is at risk.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:07:35):

And if you’re hiring a stage parent, who’s seemingly very aggressive with their child behind the scenes, then that should be either reported to union, or there should be some sort of… It takes a village. You know what I’m saying? And if there’s some accountability, then it helps everybody and you got to weed out the weirdos. And luckily, I do feel this is headed in a really good direction, because we are talking about mental health. We’re talking about body inclusion. We’re talking about things that in the 2000’s folks like myself, weren’t able to really talk about. We had to suffer in silence. We had to struggle and figure it out and white knuckle it. And now, I’m able to make content about my struggles and it is the most authentic thing. And the best way for me to continually stay in the forefront of people’s minds in a really positive way. So I’m doing great. Nobody needs to worry about me. I hope that my story can help inspire some growth in people, but in no way am I trying to cram down any advice down people’s throat.

Tori (01:08:38):

Yeah, totally. I have one last question for you. 16 year old you appears, in this hypothetical scenario, what do you tell her?

Christy Carlson Romano (01:08:48):

So there’s this meme or it’s a TikTok. It’s not a meme, I guess, technically. But there’s a TikTok that says that, you are now the person that the younger you needed to have in their lives. And I fully, fully believe that. It wouldn’t be enough for me just to see myself and give myself a token of tidbit of information to just change everything. What I needed most was mentorship. And it’s what I want to do, now more than ever, but I am doing content and I’m figuring out my next steps of being a host. I just did GMA. And I was straight up. I was like, “Guys, you want my real? You need a sassy UN problematic host? Because I’m your girl.” I am not above, straight up looking people in the eyes and being like, “I’m worthy. Give me a shot.” No.

Tori (01:09:47):

I pitch myself constantly. That’s how you have to do it. Yeah. I think it’s the theater in us where it’s just like, “Okay, great.” Yeah. If I want it, I’m going to kindly ask you for it and then I might squeaky wheel until I get grease.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:09:59):

Yeah, yeah, no. And I’m learning that now, to not wait my turn. I don’t want to wait my turn anymore. I’m actively going for it. And I think that gives me confidence along the way. And otherwise, I do think that finding mentors who you respect and who are truly not predatory too because sometimes they can be toxic. Finding appropriate mentors is the best thing you can do.

Tori (01:10:29):

Christy, thank you so much for your time. Where can people find you?

Christy Carlson Romano (01:10:32):

Oh, everywhere. I’m on TikTok. I’m on YouTube. Those are my two big growth ones. So those are where you’re going to find a lot of fun content. But of course I’m on-

Tori (01:10:40):

The podcasts have been so fun too.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:10:41):

Oh my gosh. That’s right. Please go see my podcast. Yeah, please. So my podcast Vulnerable is a really, really wonderful show. And I’m going to go back in studio actually, in a couple weeks. I’m going back and I’m going to try to get as SEO friendly names as possible, to go in studio and wow everybody. So please. Please go ahead and download. Don’t just click, right Tori? They have to download.

Tori (01:11:06):

Yes. You got to download the episode.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:11:08):

And then if you guys happen to be part of that mail demo, who’s a little extra nerdy or a person who loves cosplay and animation, I have a podcast as well called I Hear Voices that is with Will Friedle. And also, both of these are everywhere you can find podcasts and Spotify and Apple and all that. But YouTube, we do have some fun full either Zoom versions. And they have their own YouTubes. So if you go to, say my TikTok or my Instagram, I have a link tree. Yeah. Go to my link tree and love me because I love you. And I love hearing from people. And Tori, thank you so much for having me come on. This has been such an honor. I’m so supportive. And like you said, you said that you are proud of you for building this, but honestly, I am very proud of you for everything that you’re doing too. From one feminist to another, it’s been really an honor to be interviewed by you and please keep doing it and don’t ever stop.

Tori (01:12:12):

I so appreciate that. And yeah. I was such a fan of your work as a kid and am such a fan of your work now and just so appreciate the grace and yeah. The self awareness as you’ve transitioned. I think it’s just so incredible and yeah. You’re building it for yourself, which makes me so happy.

Christy Carlson Romano (01:12:33):

Yes. Thank you. Thank you for your support and just stay in touch for whatever any of us needs. That’s also the other thing is building a network of people you respect.

Tori (01:12:44):

Yes, of course.

Tori (01:12:47):

It was such an amazing conversation. Thank you again to Christy for joining us. Please check out her podcasts I Hear Voices and the Vulnerable podcast, wherever you get your shows. Christy talks more about the financial lessons she’s learned and shares relatable stories on her YouTube channel and on her TikTok. And we’ll share all of those links in our show notes. Remember, we are taking a break from new episodes next week, but again, we have over 30 episodes out. So it’s a perfect time to catch up if you’re behind or if you want to deep dive again, maybe you need to hear a little more about emotional spending again. Maybe you need to figure out where you are on the financial game plan. Maybe you need to do some financial self care. So if you have listened to all the episodes, even going back and re-listening again, might spark something new for you. You might be in a different place in your financial life. You might just need to hear this information again.

Tori (01:13:31):

So with that in mind, make sure to rate, review, subscribe to Financial Feminists on your preferred podcasting platform. We so appreciate your support and we will see you in two weeks, catch you soon.

Tori (01:13:45):

Thank you for listening to financial feminists at Her First $100K podcast. Financial feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap. Produced by Kristen Fields. Marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Elina Helser, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning and Ana Alexandria. Researched by Ariel Johnson. Audio engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton. Photography by Sarah Wolfe and theme music by Jonah Cohen and sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests and episode show notes, visit financialfeministpodcast.com.


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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