Vanessa Hudgens: Why Being Bad Is Good

Call it the rumor that won't go away.

Former Disney darling Vanessa Hudgens was spotted at Coachella in 2011 with a white substance, which she insists was white chocolate — and not cocaine. Although her rep immediately denied the drug story, Hudgens addresses the incident again, more than two years later, in the October issue of Marie Claire.

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"I couldn't do anything but laugh," the 24-year-old actress says of the speculation. "It's amazing how people like to create something out of absolutely nothing. I am human like everyone else. I am aware that there are people who look up to me. When mistakes are made, they aren't intentional, and I constantly push myself to be a better person."

Vanessa must be used to the constant gossip about her personal life by now. She has all the requirements for a celebrity who fascinates the public: former child star, who began her career in the phenomenally successful "High School Musical" franchise; risqué roles to break out of her reputation as a Disney princess, such as the recent drug- and sex-filled "Spring Breakers" and current crime thriller "The Frozen Ground," with Nicolas Cage; and a posse of famous friends, such as Ashley Tisdale and Selena Gomez.

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As a result, Hudgens has found herself in a spat or two with the paparazzi in recent years and splashed on the cover of countless tabloids. Still, Gomez says her friend has somehow managed to stay in touch with reality.

"She's not jaded at all," Gomez dishes. "The person you see and talk to is the same person I talk to."

In fact, Hudgens, who hails from the small agricultural town of Salinas, California, gives someone else — her family — all the credit for where she is in her career.

"Money was a big thing" when Hudgens was getting started, she explains. "My parents drove me up to L.A., which cost a lot because of gas, and took out loans so that we could move from location to location to be close to L.A. The family definitely struggled. They were very supportive of me. They gave up a lot so that I could get to where I am."

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These days, bringing home the bacon isn't as much of a struggle. The triple threat is worth an estimated $5 million and purchased her own home in Studio City, California, in 2008 for an estimated $2.75 million. However, Hudgens is clearly one of those people who believes that with great power comes great responsibility.

She says philosophically that her "sense of knowing I'm part of something bigger than myself has allowed me to enjoy life more. And not worry about the little things. Like paparazzi."

Instead, Hudgens, who is currently filming the 2014 horror comedy "The Kitchen Sink," tells the magazine that she's focused on enjoying what she does — even if she shocks moviegoers along the way with her choice of provocative roles.

"I am so comfortable with myself ­honing in on what I love and what makes me powerful," Hudgens shares. "Things I've been doing lately, I'm super-proud of. So I don't really care if someone doesn't like it, because I love it."

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It's that kind of attitude that will likely keep her rising to the top. "You have a choice whether you want to be happy or not. I choose to be happy. And it's been working out pretty well," she notes.

As for what the brunette beauty is hoping for in the future? Her wish list seems pretty simple for an A-list actress. She'd like "a vintage mustang, kids, and an Oscar."

Not too shabby!

The October issue of Marie Claire hits newsstands September 17.

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