That’s So Raven: Where’s Raven-Symoné today and what are the most controversial things she’s said?

By Alma Fabiani

Published Apr 23, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 7 minutes

Let’s just start by saying one thing: if Disney Channel’s iconic That’s So Raven and its lead character Raven Baxter (played by Raven-Symoné, also known as Raven) were actually a real story, I can assure you that the actress would have avoided a lot of compromising situations throughout her career. Had Raven been able to experience visions of future events involving her, she probably wouldn’t have made so many problematic statements.

But, before we delve deeper into the long list of controversies the former child actor has been involved in over the years, we owe it to all the That’s So Raven and The Cheetah Girls fans out there to recognise Raven’s impressive career and achievements. Only once that’s done can we spill all the tea guilt-free.

How did Raven-Symoné begin her acting career?

Although millennials and gen Zers alike will probably think of Raven’s first acting gig as her breakthrough on the Disney Channel hit series—which, fun fact, was initially supposed to be called Absolutely Psychic—it was aged only three that she made her Hollywood debut.

Joining from the premiere episode of the infamous The Cosby Show’s sixth season as Bill Cosby’s step-granddaughter, Olivia, Raven ended up remaining on it until the series finale in 1992. From there, she went on to feature in the Eddie Murphy comedy Dr. Dolittle as well as its sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2.

Fast forward to January 2003, and the iconic That’s So Raven debuted. Almost overnight, the actress truly started making a name for herself, and for good reason. Raven’s acting and overall presence on the TV show played a big part in making it the channel’s highest-rated and longest-running series—that is, until it was surpassed by Wizards of Waverly Place in October 2011.

Baxter, aka the high-school student who has a secret psychic ability that allows her to experience short visions of future events, was simply hilarious. Accompanied by incredibly loveable supporting characters like her two best friends, ditzy Chelsea and aspiring rapper Eddie, as well as her two parents, Victor and Tanya, and her money-obsessed younger brother Cory, Baxter made previous Disney superstars such as Hilary Duff’s Lizzie McGuire seem simply… lacklustre.

Once she got in, it was clear that Raven wasn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. One of her more niche parts was the voice role of Monique on Kim Possible, in which she had a recurring role as she was featured in all seasons of the show, and participated in the two films for the series, Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time and Kim Possible: So the Drama.

Other key roles for the actress include lead singer Galleria Garibaldi in the Disney Channel original movie The Cheetah Girls, which was produced by the one and only, Grammy-winner Whitney Houston. Raven also made an appearance in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement as Princess Asana, and came back for her role in The Cheetah Girls 2.

A jack of all trades, Raven also took over Broadway in January 2012 as Deloris van Cartier in Sister Act. And let’s not forget her impressive music career, which began in 1992, when the then seven-year-old signed with MCA Records. She spent that year and the next taking vocal lessons from none other than Missy Elliott.

More recently, in November 2019, the triple threat—we’ve all seen the actress’ dance moves in That’s So Raven—competed in season two of The Masked Singer as ‘Black Widow’.

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Raven-Symoné’s stint as a talk show host and her infamous Oprah interview

In June 2015, Raven joined the ABC daytime talk show The View on a permanent basis after guest hosting it multiple times prior. And although she eventually announced that she would leave before the end of 2016 to focus on executive producing and starring in the That’s So Raven spin-off Raven’s Home, that was more than enough time for the actress to come out with some questionable if not highly controversial quotes. Heck, she did the same when invited on other day-time TV outlets too.

On 5 October 2014, during a Where Are They Now? interview with talk host OG Oprah Winfrey, Raven spoke about her strong sense of self, her sexuality, and made a, let’s say, surprising remark about labels. The former Disney star’s sexuality had been making headlines since she tweeted in August 2013 that she was happy for the legalisation of gay marriage in the US, as it meant that she could “finally get married!”

“I don’t want to be labelled ‘gay’,” the actress first stated on the talk show, continuing, “I want to be labelled ‘a human who loves humans’. I’m tired of being labelled. I’m an American, I’m not an African American.”

As expected, Oprah pleaded: “Oh girl, don’t set up Twitter on fire—what did you just say? Stop the tape right now!” Raven went on to add, “I will say this: I don’t know where my roots go back to. I don’t know how far back and I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from. But I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American and that’s a colourless person, because we are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins.”

Oprah, telling Raven that she was in for “a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American,” gave her another opportunity to be precise about her perspective. “I don’t label myself. What I really mean by that is I’m an American,” the actress continued. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. […] I connect with each culture. […] Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

Understandably, and as Oprah herself predicted, Raven’s strangely worded comments divided netizens, who took to Twitter to share their views on it. “You know Ruby Dee and Maya Angelou and Rosa Park just turned over in their graves after hearing that,” one user wrote at the time. “Raven might not consider herself [African-American] but the police, courts, banks, etc. do. Miss thing needs a reality check,” added someone.

Raven-Symoné’s comment on “ghetto names”

It seems the backlash she received following that interview wasn’t enough to stop the actress from continuing to run her mouth, as only a year later, during a segment on The View about judging people based on their names, the co-host said she would never hire someone named “Watermelondrea.”

Her detractors said that the comment, coming from someone with a unique name, reeked of hypocrisy and perpetuated the idea that it’s okay to treat people poorly based on their names. The segment was based on a new study at the time about racial bias toward “Black-sounding” names.

UCLA researchers found people envisioned men with stereotypically Black names as bigger and more violent. During the episode, a clip was played from the popular YouTube video “Top 60 Ghetto Black Names,” in which Watermelondrea came in at number 12.

After the clip was played, Raven said that it’s not “racist” to judge people based on their names, it’s simply “discriminatory.” She then went on to add, “I am very discriminatory against words like the ones they were saying in those names.”

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Raven-Symoné took a bizarre stance on the Spring Valley High School assault

That same month, Raven came under fire once more for voicing her opinion on the heartbreaking viral video footage from Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, which showed Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields literally dragging a teen girl out of her desk and knocking her to the floor in the process.

The subject popped up on After The View (the post-show discussion of hot topics), leading to Raven continuing her fruitful streak of controversial commentary. While she admitted that the officer had obviously used excessive force, she also said that this wasn’t all his fault, pointing out that the unnamed high schooler was wrong for having her phone out and not following directions in the first place.

“The girl was told multiple times to get off the phone,” she told her co-hosts during the segment. “There’s no right reason for him to be doing this type of harm, that’s ridiculous. But at the same time, you gotta follow the rules in school,” she stated.

Sure, that teenager may have been defying authority, but she wasn’t contributing to an environment of violence in any way, shape, or form. It should also be noted that Officer Fields, the man who slammed the victim to the ground, had a history of unfairly targeting Black students.

There is simply nothing that can excuse Raven for seeming to blame the teenage girl.

What happened to That’s So Raven’s problematic cast member Orlando Brown?

Orlando Brown is an American actor, rapper, and singer best known for his role as Eddie in That’s So Raven—as well as the long list of controversies he ended up getting involved in later down the line. Most notably, on 28 February 2016, Brown was arrested in California and later charged with domestic battery, obstruction of justice, drug possession with intent to sell, and possession of contraband in jail following an altercation with his then-girlfriend in public.

Police were called to the scene after he hit her in the parking lot of a police station and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine, a stimulant drug, at the time of the incident.

Brown failed to appear for a scheduled court date in relation to the charges, which led to a warrant being issued for his arrest. He was ultimately taken into custody by police on 18 March of that same year after police were called to a house in response to complaints of a domestic disturbance between the actor, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s mother. Brown subsequently faced additional charges of domestic battery, drug possession, and resisting arrest.

Following his release from jail, Brown once more failed to appear for a scheduled court date. He fled California for Nevada and was eventually intercepted in Las Vegas by bounty hunters who found him hiding in the closet of a private homeowner.

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In another instance, Brown was arrested in Las Vegas while leaving a local hotel known for prostitution, and illegal drug sale and use. He refused to cooperate with officers after they stopped his taxi, and a subsequent search found him to be in possession of meth and a pipe. He was charged with drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and resisting arrest.

Several months later, on 2 September 2016, Brown, having recently been released from a medical facility where he had been hospitalised for undisclosed reasons, was arrested after breaking into Legends Restaurant & Venue, a Las Vegas establishment owned by his childhood friend, Danny Boy. Police found the former child actor on the roof of the building after security cameras showed him entering the building without permission.

That same year, he entered rehab after an intervention from friends and family, but remained in the programme for only one week, and was photographed shortly after his release walking down the street barefoot, carrying a box of wine.

In 2018, Brown appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil, where he made false claims about being Michael Jackson’s son, stating that his full name was Orlando Brown Prince Michael Jackson Jr., and that the iconic singer had four children, two of whom he had never met and whose names he did not know. The That’s So Raven actor later backtracked, claiming instead that Jackson was like a “father figure” to him, and not his biological dad.

After his appearance on the show, Brown opened up about his struggles with addiction at a church fundraising event in 2020.

On 22 December 2022, Brown was arrested in Ohio on charges of domestic violence. The charge, which was revealed to be on misdemeanour domestic violence, involved allegedly threatening his brother with a hammer and a broken-off knife blade.

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