Olivia Rodrigo says she experienced 'an identity crisis on steroids' as a young Disney Channel star

Olivia Rodrigo gets candid about
Olivia Rodrigo gets candid about "Driver's License" fame and growing up on Disney. (Photo by JC Olivera/WireImage)

Olivia Rodrigo reached mainstream fame with the release of her song "Driver's License" in early 2021, after the song was trending on TikTok, broke Spotify records and even became the backdrop of a Saturday Night Live skit once people began speculating about the real life inspiration of the song. But the 18-year-old, who was cast on her first Disney Channel show when she was just 12 years old, called the attention paid toward her and her song "any songwriter's dream," while reflecting on past pressure she's faced as a child star.

"Who the f*** am I? Who cares about me? How do I treat people?" are some of the questions that Rodrigo had running through her head while experiencing "an identity crisis on steroids" at just 14. "Most 14-year-olds aren’t in a room with adults being like, ‘So, what’s your brand?’ " she told Elle magazine.

At the time, Rodrigo was starring on the show Bizaardvark and living with her family in an apartment in downtown Los Angeles — 85 miles from her hometown of Temecula, Calif. She might have been living out her dreams, but most of her time was spent on set where she said everything was just "within a yard of each other." The experience was quite different from most teenagers and likely more difficult when it comes to figuring out who you are. And that didn't get easier once she was cast in the Disney+ show High School Musical: The Musical—The Series, of which she currently stars as Nina.

"It’s hard to be something that is not one-dimensional on a medium that is inherently one-dimensional, you know?" she said of how she was personified on television and social media. It wasn't until she started posting her original songs and being recognized for them that her worlds began to collide and illustrate a truer picture of who Rodrigo is.

"They were like, ‘We want Olivia’s character’s song to sound like the song that Olivia wrote,'" Rodrigo recalled Disney's music team saying when the show's producers sent over a clip of one of her originals. From there, she was given the opportunity to write a single for Nina to perform on the show. Not long after, she wrote and released her hit "Driver's License," finding unprecedented and unexpected success for her first single. Now, the young star is ready for her bright future.

"I thought I was going to be really in my head, like, ‘I’m never going to write a song as good as that again,’ " she said. "This song has given me a lot of confidence in my voice."

Rodrigo has already followed her first song's success with the release of "Deja Vu." Her effortless vulnerability and authenticity in both songs, she hopes, will become her brand that she was once searching for.

"I think songwriting has really helped me home in on what I like about myself and my art. ...I just want to be effortless, I guess," she said. "Whether it’s in my fashion or my songs or my social media, I want to just be like, ‘Yo, this is me. And I’m sometimes weird as f***, and I’m sometimes polished and put together.’"

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