Miley Cyrus, whose new single “We Can’t Stop” is already a #1 iTunes download, is quick to assert that she’s both a self-proclaimed party animal and the “hardest-working person you’ll ever meet.” Or at least that’s what she told MTV in the back of a limousine while reflecting on her image. Frankly, I believe her. The 20-year-old megastar powered through her teen years with Top 10 hits, movie roles, and — oh yeah — that insanely popular, concert tour-spawning TV series Hannah Montana. This got me thinking: What other superstar teens never got credit for their extremely hard work? Here are my five favorite hardworking celeb teens ever.
I’m going to suggest that the role of Helen Keller is one of the most daunting in human history, particularly as a stage role. It requires unrestrained commitment and some amount of actual violence. Patty Duke’s Oscar win for the movie role is one of my favorite Supporting Actress wins in Academy history, and frankly, she deserved it over very stiff competition from Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. And she definitely deserved that Emmy in ’80 for playing Annie Sullivan in the TV version of The Miracle Worker with Melissa Gilbert.
2. Debbie Gibson
It always sort of offends me when Debbie Gibson and Tiffany are compared. Yes, they were both mall-friendly icons and denim hat connoisseurs, but how’s this for a trump card: Debbie Gibson wrote all of her songs. From “Foolish Beat” to “Only In My Dreams,” Debbie Gibson, she penned ’em all. To this day, she remains the youngest female artist ever to write, produce, and perform a #1 hit (at 18 years old). When it comes to Billboard feats, I think she’s alone now.
I believe it takes a sixth sense to realize a self-penned ditty called “MMMBop” can not only sell, but become a #1 hit in 27 countries. The mop-top gents from Tulsa defied expectations and the English language by making “MMMBop” such a phenomenon in the summer of 1997, and I’m particularly impressed with how they were able to mock their own mania on SNL with Helen Hunt, who held the boys at gunpoint for terrorizing the nation with the infectiousness of the song. A pretty impressive smash for a band whose oldest member was 17 at the time of critical mass.
4. Kristy McNichol
Not many teenagers have won Emmy Awards, but Kristy here scooped up two for her work on Family. She garnered her first at age 15, which is a remarkable achievement even for someone who starred in more than a dozen projects by the time she reached her twenties. Also: She made a go of the pop charts with her brother Jimmy, and that included a glorious dance track called “He’s a Dancer.” Respect.
5. Lucas Cruikshank
The Nickelodeon wunderkind and originator of the true phenomenon known as Fred Figglehorn generated an entire career and a minor cultural revolution just by turning on his computer and filming himself being crazy (with material he wrote himself). Born in ’93, this gent has had two Nickelodeon TV series, multiple hit TV movies, and is — as far as I can tell — one of the only internet-born stars that has truly catapulted into the mainstream and, in doing so, transformed the face of the most well-known children’s TV network. Justin Bieber is an obvious musical parallel, but it’s not like the Biebz invented and wrote a beloved character that won him all those fans, y’know?