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Leave Bella Thorne’s OnlyFans Pivot Alone

She’s merely cashing in on her fame in the most Extremely Online, 21st-century way possible

When a former Disney Channel child actress wants to shed her good girl image, she also typically sheds her clothes. 

It’s a tried-and-true strategy by now. Former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera stripped down to a white crop top and baggy orange pants to become a “Genie in a Bottle” in 1999. Two years later, another Mouseketeer, Britney Spears, famously put on a ruffled bralet and low-rise blue jeans to announce “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” A decade after that, Selena Gomez starred in the raunchy Spring Breakers with fellow 2010s Disney alum Vanessa Hudgens

Now, Bella Thorne is the latest star to ditch her Disney days by way of raunch — following her recent(ish) Pornhub directorial debut by joining OnlyFans this week, and quickly becoming the first creator on the site to earn $1 million in a day.

Expectedly, pearls were clutched. Per usual, the New York Post had something negative to say, declaring Thorne’s OnlyFans as a “stark contrast to Disney bestie Zendaya’s career.” On Twitter, users continued dunking on Thorne’s less prestigious career than that of her former co-star (she now of Euphoria and Spider-Man fame).

But the notion that Thorne is somehow a lesser success for her adult pivot is rooted in a dated view of Young Hollywood. If anything, she’s much better off for having developed her online persona and exploring her sexuality since leaving behind the Disney machine in 2015. She came out as pansexual last year, having begun a polyamorous relationship with rapper Mod Sun and YouTuber Tana Mongeau, which came a few months after she released her own nude photos after threatened with extortion by hackers. (In between, she made her Pornhub film.)

Along the way, she’s associated herself with a community savvy enough to be unembarrassed by fame-mongering and appreciative of a direct line to fans.

If there’s reason to critique Thorne’s presence on OnlyFans, it’s because she’s riding on the backs of sex workers who put the site on the map and who now fear the actress and other celebrities joining the platform will hurt their bottom lines. But to say it’s inappropriate for a Disney Channel player to strip for fans is bullshit. The star is meeting her young audience where they are — online and sexually progressive. 

And, make no mistake, Thorne is a star. 

Sure, she’s yet to snag an Emmy nomination for her role on a prestige HBO drama, a la Zendaya, but that’s more of a testament to Zendaya than a critique of Thorne. It’s also worth noting that no other former Disney star has an acting Emmy nomination. (That’s why the Z in Gen Z stands for Zendaya.) Moreover, Thorne has consistently worked as an actress since she left Disney, including the Freeform show Famous in Love and films Assassination Nation and Midnight Sun. Next, she’s co-starring with Alec Baldwin and Malin Akerman in an upcoming action-comedy.

She’s found her biggest success online, though, embracing a distinctly 21st-century path to sustained fame. For instance, in 2018, at the age of 21, Thorne was charging brands 65 grand for a single sponsored post on her Instagram account, using all that cash to buy a $2 million house. At the time, she had 18.2 million followers; today, she has 23.6 million.

It makes sense then that she’d pivot to OnlyFans, along with hoards of other Instagram influencers and celebrities. Cardi B has an account. Beyonce name-dropped the platform on the “Savage” remix. And reality TV stars Blac Chyna, Safaree Samuels, Dorinda Medley and Sonja Morgan are all sharing SFW content on the predominantly NSFW site. 

Not to mention, it’s basically the same thing as the lucrative payouts actresses such as Denise Richards, Drew Barrymore and Lindsay Lohan received in the 1990s and 2000s to pose nude for Playboy 

And so, her post-Disney life is most reminiscent of Miley Cyrus, who infamously killed off Hannah Montana in 2011 to become the sexed-up partier on her Bangerz album. Since then, she also came out as pansexual, further solidified her musical (and progressive) chops on two follow-up albums and appeared in a critically lauded Black Mirror episode. 

That said, Cyrus still works within the traditional Hollywood system. Even her infamous fuck you to Hollywood came by way of a longstanding award show — twerking on Robin Thicke while licking a foam finger at the 2013 VMAs. Thorne, on the other hand, is forging a career that gives her agency, which is clearly something clearly important to her after admitting she only had $200 in her bank account after her Disney Channel show ended. 

Best of all, she’s set to get the last laugh. As she told the L.A. Times earlier this week, she joined OnlyFans as research for an upcoming movie with The Florida Project director Sean Baker. Essentially then, she’s made $2 million — bare minimum — for researching a film that she stands to make at least another $2 million for acting in and marketing. 

That’s not gauche. That’s being a good businesswoman.

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