From Debbie Gibson, who topped the charts with her hit “Foolish Beat” at just 17, to Lindsay Lohan, who got her big break in "The Parent Trap" at age 12, look back at the careers of these former child stars from Long Island, and find out what they're up to now.
Then: In the '80s, Merrick-raised singer Debbie Gibson was a teenage music sensation. By 16, her song “Only In My Dreams” had made it onto the Billboard pop charts, and by 17 her song “Foolish Beat” topped the Billboard Hot 100 – making her the youngest female artist to write, produce and perform a No.1 hit, a record she holds to this day. But her musical talent isn't the only thing she's known for. By age five Gibson was already exploring her threatrical talent, which led her to be featured in a number of plays throughout her career. She has starred in Broadway plays including "Les Miserables," "Grease," "Beauty and the Beast," "Funny Girl," and other plays such as the national production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," as the titled character. Gibson is also known for her one-woman show "Pop Goes Broadway," which as the name suggests, fused the top two things she's known for: Pop Music and Broadway. Gibson has also taken her talents to on-screen roles -- starring in films like "The Music in Me" (2015) and the Hallmark TV movie "Summer of Dreams" (2016).
Now: Gibson, 48, starred in the Hallmark TV movie “Wedding of Dreams,” which premiered in September 2018, and appeared on season six of TLC’s “Long Island Medium.” This year she will be touring with boy band New Kids on the Block, which will stop at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on June 30.
Then: Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar in 2011 for her starring role in “Black Swan,” moved to Jericho with her family as a child. In 1994 at age 13, she landed her first magazine cover (Elle) and starred in her first movie, “Léon: The Professional,” in which her character becomes an assassin’s protegee after the death of her family. The following year she appeared in the film “Heat,” alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. As her stardom grew, she appeared in more big releases with A-list casts, including “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Closer” (2004) and “No Strings Attached” (2011).
Now: Portman, 37, is a household name in Hollywood. She starred in two 2018 movies, “Annihilation,” and “Vox Lux" which is earning her awards buzz for her portrayal of a troubled pop star.
Then: Before her big break in the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap,” Merrick native Lindsay Lohan was a commercial actress and child model. She went on to star in other Disney films -- “Freaky Friday” (2003), “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” (2004), and “Herbie: Fully Loaded” (2005) -- but it was her starring role in “Mean Girls" (2004) that cemented the LIer's stardom. Lohan released her debut album, “Speak,” which hit platinum status, at the height of her fame in 2004. Throughout the following decade, Lohan's personal life (partying, legal issues, rehab) overshadowed her acting career, though she did tackle projects including a role as Elizabeth Taylor in the 2012 Lifetime movie “Liz and Dick," and guest appearances on sitcoms including “2 Broke Girls” and “Anger Management." In 2014, a reality series on Oprah's OWN network followed Lohan after she completed a stint in rehab. The same year, Lohan received decent reviews for her stage debut in a revival of David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" in London's West End.
Now: Lohan, 32, has made her home base in Dubai. January 2019 saw the debut of her MTV reality show, "Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club," which follows the actress as she manages the staff of one of her clubs in Greece. Lohan also appeared on the second season of the British sitcom “Sick Note," which arrived on Netflix in 2018, and will reportedly star in an upcoming female-led Saudi Arabian film, "Frame."
Then: Chances are you know this North Bellmore native from her breakout role as Ashley Banks in the '90s sitcom, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Before that, she appeared in "Sesame Street" as a toddler and later, stage productions including "Fences" on Broadway and "Orfeo del Campo" off-Broadway. Also a singer, at age seven Ali competed on the CBS talent show "Star Search" twice, which she won both times. While she played Ashley Banks, Ali made guest apperances in other shows including "The Cosby Show" and "The All New Mickey Mouse Club." When her breakout role came to an end, Ali went on to star in the film "Fall Into Darkness" (1996), appeared in the film "Fakin' Da Funk" (1997), and to release her first album "Kiss the Sky" (1998) at age 19. Later film projects she starred in included "Dysfunctional Friends" (2012) and "November Rule" (2015).
Now: Ali, 39, and a mother of one, appeared in Christmas movies on Hallmark ("Christmas Everlasting") and Lifetime ("Jingle Bell") in 2018, as well as the BET miniseries "The Bobby Brown Story."
Melissa Joan Hart
Then: Smithtown native Melissa Joan Hart’s first big break came when she starred in the Nickelodeon sitcom “Clarissa Explains It All" (1991-94) as a teen. Hart went on to star in both the TV series and made-for-TV-movie versions of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1996-2003), and “Melissa and Joey" (2010-2015), the ABC Family sitcom that cast her opposite fellow child star Joey Lawrence ("Blossom," "Brotherly Love"). Hart has appeared in various other shows and movies, from the debut season of "Dancing With the Stars" (2005) to Christmas movies including Lifetime’s “The Santa Con” (2014) and Hallmark’s “Broadcasting Christmas” (2016).
Now: Most recently, Hart, 42 and a mother of three boys, has starred in more Lifetime Christmas movies (“A Very Merry Toy Store" in 2017 and “A Very Nutty Christmas” in 2018). Her next acting project is a Netflix sitcom called “No Good Nick,” which is set to debut in 2019.
Then: Jericho native Jamie-Lynn Sigler may be best known by Long Islanders for her role as Meadow Soprano, daughter of mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) on HBO's hit “The Sopranos” (1999-2007), when she was in her teens. Before that big break, Sigler had appeared in musicals both locally and regionally from the age of 10. During her "Sopranos" run, the LIer branched out, releasing an album “Here to Heaven" in 2001, starring in Rodgers and Hammerstein's ''Cinderella," making her Broadway debut as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” and penning her memoir “Wise Girl,” in which she detailed her struggle with anorexia. Sigler also played the lead role of "The Hollywood Madam" in the 2004 made-for-TV biopic “Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, among other film roles, and has appeared on various TV sitcoms including “Baby Daddy” and “Last Man Standing."
Now: Sigler, 37 and mother of two boys, has two movie projects set for this year: the drama “Apalachin,” and a horror/thriller, “Hunting Season.”
Then: Massapequa Park native Matt Bennett, is best known for playing quirky ventriloquist Robbie Shapiro on the Nickelodeon sitcom “Victorious" (2010-13). Bennett’s acting career began at age 18, when he acted in a pilot for Cartoon Network's “Totally for Teens" in 2009. But his big break came when he co-starred in Will Ferrell’s film “The Virginity Hall” in 2010, followed by “Victorious.” Since then he’s made appearances in TV shows including “Fresh Off the Boat,” and films such as “Bridesmaids” (2011), and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" (2015).
Now: In 2018, Bennett, 27, appeared on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy," and season two of Netflix’s “American Vandal." And he most recently appeared in former "Victorious" co-star Ariana Grande’s “Thank You, Next” music video.