My kids have always liked "That's So Raven'' on the Disney Channel, and being kids, they never seem to notice what is glaringly apparent to me: while Raven Symone, the show's star, gets fatter with each passing episode, her side kick Chelsea, is becoming a babe.
Once an awkward-looking teen with bangs, a big nose and a few extra pounds, in the past two years, Chelsea has lost weight, grown out the bangs and had some subtle rhinoplasty. She might also have had breast implants, but because she was busty during her ugly duckling phase, I think the breasts might be real.
Anneliese Van der Pol, the actress who plays Chelsea, isn't exactly crowding the pages of "Us,'' however, since her fan base is comprised entirely of seven-year-olds. Her transformation has gone untnoticed by the entire adult world---except for me!!!
When my kids are watching "Raven'' I must constantly supress the impulse to yell: "Oh my god! Chelsea--has she been augmented?'' or "Raven, she's so pretty, why is she ballooning out of control?!''
I remain silent because I don't want Lulu and Zeb to care that their beloved Raven is getting fat or that Chelsea is obviously angling for post-Disney roles that will make use of her sizeable breasts.
I also resist the urge to air my many opinions regarding Raven and Chelsea's career prospects.
Raven has evolved from scenery-chewing Cosby moppet to black Lucille Ball. She's funny, and can probably transcend the weight. And since America allows famous black women to be fat---and in some cases, insists upon it--I think she'll do okay when the show is over.
As for her music career, I don't know. Whenever, I hear Lulu playing Raven on her Disney compiltions, I wonder why she hasn't found better material. She has a good voice, If only she could find the right producers, if only she would hook up with Timbaland or the Neptunes....
I feel especially invested in Anneliese because I interviewed her once for a newspaper story about Disney divas and the success of Hilary Duff.
Anneliese, who is 22, was finishing up the show's final episodes and Disney hadn't renewed her contract, like they had for Raven. Their label, Hollywood Records, which launched Duff, wouldn't give her a deal, even though Anneliese, who has a throaty, Broadway-esque voice can sing.
She'd been to auditions for some independent films, but no luck.
"I don't want to be a teen sitcom actresss my whole life,'' she said plaintively. "I'm capable of a lot more. I'd love to do the roles that Scarlet Johnanson gets.''
When I asked her why she thought Duff's music had sold so well, she sighed heavily.
"I wish someone would tell me,'' she answered, despite the fact that a Disney publicist was listening in on the call. "Sometimes when I think that's what people want, I worry, because its not what I am at all.''
Now that "Raven'' was over, she felt free to vent about her exclusion from the Disney Channel's "Express Yourself'' segments, where stars hold forth on topics like helping others and the importance of family.
"They hardly ever used my stuff,'' she complained. "I didn't answer the questions the way they wanted me to.''
Ever since, I've been rooting for Annelise. When I recently saw photos of her in a cleavage-baring dress, attending some Disney premiere, I hoped the whole sexpot stratagy would work.
I don't want Anneliese end up like Lalaine, Hilary Duff's side kick, or Christy Carlson Romano, teen stars who can't make it in the grown-up acting world.
Long after their final season has ended, they hang around the Disney Channel, taping "Express Yourself'' segments and promoting their failed solo albums, like last year's high school graduates, cruising the school parking lot when their factory shift is done.