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

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.

Introducing Nikocado Avocado, the YouTuber slowly killing himself for views

Some people quit smoking for their New Year’s resolution, others join the gym. YouTuber Nikocado Avocado, however, has the aim of hitting 400 pounds (just over 181 kilos). Chances are you’ve seen the famous mukbanger’s content recommended by the YouTube algorithm—known for his aggressive outbursts, his jarring persona and gluttony.

It’s the fuel that’s propelled him to stardom. It’s his identity, his brand—from KFC to Burger King, you name it and over the five years of his YouTube career, he’s eaten it. It’s what makes Nikocado Avocado (real name Nicholas Perry) stand out among the sea of countless other mukbang content creators. Let’s just say, if mukbang was pop music, he’d be Beyoncé.

Yet despite his success on the surface, Nikocado Avocado’s journey has a darker underbelly—a story of addiction to engagement that is leading him to an early grave. To understand how he got to this point, we have to look back.

The story of Nikocado Avocado

Only half a decade ago, Nikocado Avocado was a vegan vlogger living a modest life in Colombia. At the time, he weighed between 150 to 160 pounds, a stark contrast to his weight now, which is approximately 350 pounds. On 5 October 2016, the first of many mukbang videos were uploaded to his channel—and while he made the decision to start eating meat, he would still maintain a relatively clean diet.

At the time, the content creator stuck out like a sore thumb in the mukbang community, as in the beginning, these types of videos were almost entirely dominated by women creators. During his early career, Nikocado Avocado would almost always include his pet parrot in his videos while he ate—a novel and slightly absurd characteristic which would assist him in standing out from the crowd.

In the early stages of his mukbang career, he seemed to be relatively unscathed by his diet. According to research on the psychology of mukbang videos, this type of content impacts the “viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness because mukbangers who were very thin and slim consumed very large portions of food and did not gain weight.” This is no doubt a spell which Nikocado Avocado found himself under—claiming to be a long-term fan of mukbang videos, it’s plausible that he was convinced he was immune to obesity caused by mukbang eating.

This was short-lived, however. When he weighed himself in May 2017, he’d gained 50 pounds. The problem is, instead of seeing this as a genuine health concern, he instead integrated it into his content with the goal of gaining both more weight and more views. In another upload titled “I’m getting fat & don’t know why,” he would state that his weight gain was “a medical mystery” that it was just “water weight” or “stress.” 

By the time he hit the 300 pounds mark in April 2020, his mindset had visibly changed. No longer was Nikocado Avocado claiming any ambition to change his ways—instead, he’d claim he passed the point of no return and that it was easier to embrace his weight for views rather than going through the effort of losing it. This only amplified his viewership—as his weight continued to grow, so did his ad revenue.

By April 2021, with more than five million subscribers across six channels, he’d earned enough money to move into a $2.3 million penthouse flat. A comment left on the video announcing his new move states, “enjoy your house bro. You got not much time left.” It encapsulates the dilemma Nikocado Avocado faces: the exchange of health for money. Or, on a deeper level: the exchange of health for meaning.

Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos?

But how has the YouTuber amassed such a vast and loyal fanbase? According to Kagan Kircaburun—a psychology researcher at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) who specialises in behavioural addictions online and is the first academic researcher into the addictive behaviour of mukbang watching—the answer is not black and white.

“According to our research, there were many reasons why people watch mukbang videos. We pinned down six main reasons why people are drawn to the videos: entertainment; sexual gratification; obtaining healthy eating gratification; discovering different foods—particularly Asian cuisine; using mukbang to escape from real-life problems or unpleasant feelings; and, finally, to watch their favourite YouTuber,” Kircaburun told SCREENSHOT.

That said, the researcher also added that, in some circumstances, mukbang watching can have therapeutic value. He recalled a time when he interviewed a woman who watches mukbang videos to help her deal with the symptoms of anorexia. “It made her feel relieved, reducing anxiety and helping her eat,” Kircaburun noted. “Listening to the sounds of eating, as well as watching the facial expressions of mukbang creators, can also have a therapeutic effect for those dealing with eating disorders,” he continued.

This echoes the views of mukbang video creator Rammseth Mukbang, who noted that watching someone “eat a certain meal can soothe people who are on a diet—like they are ‘eating in spirit’. I’ve had feedback that my video helps people after a stressful day. We are entertainment, but there is also a human touch… We bring comfort to viewers, we make a positive impact.”

Emily, a 26-year-old student living in Philadelphia—and self-proclaimed “lover of mukbang”—highlighted how it was the “relatability and human aspect” that draws her to mukbang content. She shared that she often watches mukbang videos while eating too and that “reading the comments helps me feel like part of a wider community.”

This is also something Rammseth Mukbang touched upon, describing the online community as “flawed yet beautiful.” In his experience, there is a significant disconnect between larger and smaller creators. “Bigger channels naturally move away from the community. Between smaller channels, you develop some fun banter and real connections. You all want to grow, so there is a sense of camaraderie.”

Like with most things in life there are always two sides to the coin—the good always comes with the bad. Mukbang is no different. Kircaburun warned that there are numerous ways in which watching this type of content can lead to unhealthy behaviour. Not only can the videos “affect someone’s eating and table manners negatively,” it can also lead to “some adolescent and young people becoming obese as a result of watching the content for a long time,” he explained.

“Making these videos involves consuming a very high capacity of food, some creators are professional eaters. But young people see this and think it’s normal. This can lead to a warped perception of food quantity and ultimately obesity,” Kircaburun added. Nikocado Avocado’s story is an embodiment of this, a reflection of the impact mukbang making can have on the health of its creators (and viewers too). A hyperbole and amplified reflection? Perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless—and something which urgently needs addressing.

On one hand a success, on the other a death sentence

“On one hand it’s a success story, at least from a marketing perspective,” noted Paul Smith, CEO of Baked Bean Marketing—an online marketing agency that specialises in managing high profile influencers—when speaking to SCREENSHOT. “In five years, he’s amassed almost three million followers and hundreds of millions of views.”

But at what cost? It’s clear Nikocado Avocado has bitten more than he can chew. Smith added, “On the flip side, he’s 300 pounds more than he weighed when he started making videos. You have to ask whether all that money he’s generated from this brand is worth it. Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of this is about money—but is it worth the health implications? That’s the burning question.”

Given the fact that obesity is linked to more than sixty other chronic diseases, the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. So why does he continue to grow bigger? Smith described this as a snowball effect—a damaging cycle caused by YouTubers “all fighting for the same view.” He explained, “You make one video mukbang video today where you eat a certain amount of food. Tomorrow, to keep up engagement, you’ll have to put out a video even better than that. In Nikocado Avocado’s case, for instance, it’ll be a bigger portion of food. It’s a never-ending spiral.”

This is on the mind of every online content creator. It’s the toxic nature of the internet that, unfortunately, keeps us all hooked—tapping into our primal drive to keep growing engagement and, ultimately, feel valued. The Nikocado Avocado case can be likened to clout-chasers hungry enough for views to throw themselves on top of trains for TikTok views or fall off cliffs for a selfie.

This isn’t a secret either, social media apps are designed to be like this. Often in our mind’s eye, when we think of social media addiction, emphasis is placed on the consumer, but it impacts creators too. Akin to the addictive behaviour of doomscrolling, Nikocado Avocado (and most similar YouTubers sacrificing their health for viewership) are showing tell-tale signs of an addiction disorder. With Nikocado Avocado’s story in particular, his deadly habits have been cemented through an unmistakable brand: with extravagant, violent freakouts and a merch empire of T-shirts that read “you made me do it” or “it’s just water weight.”

An addiction to food, views and meaning

Smith “absolutely” believes that this snowball effect can breed addictive behaviour. “If you make three to five thousand pounds from advertising revenue—sometimes five to twenty thousand—off the back of your videos, ask yourself: would you stop?” And I agree. It’s easy to paint him as the perpetrator here—an individual who has damaged his health through the consequence of his own actions.

But that viewpoint is narrow-minded. Instead, it’s better to think of him as the victim—a person who’s dug himself a hole he can’t escape from. This rings true when you consider how his diet is not just drastically altering his body, but his mind too.

Behavioural science experts believe that “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever “a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” Nikocado Avocado has created a situation where his habit of eating vast quantities of food in front of a camera has turned into an obligation. To treat such an addictive disorder requires a multi-level approach: from personal support to specialised training. But to what extent should YouTube and similar social network channels step in—and do they at all?

Luckily, the internet isn’t as Wild West as it was 15 years ago. YouTube does have policies that every content creator has to abide by otherwise their videos will be removed, but these are nowhere near as stringent as those on traditional television networks, Smith further explained. “It’s a completely different ballgame to mainstream television. I believe there should be more control over what’s posted online. YouTube doesn’t take action 95 per cent of the time—unless it’s explicitly dangerous—so where does it end?”

Perhaps it’s the mere-exposure effect, but from researching his journey over the last few months, I’ve developed a soft spot for the guy. Indeed, Nikocado Avocado is the manifestation of modern-day internet culture—the good and the bad. He represents how new media, unlike traditional TV, has allowed any creative who sees a gap in the market to make a success of themselves, just with a camera and an internet connection. On the other hand, he embodies the worst of what digital culture has to offer: an addiction to engagement which can lead to a death sentence. Until measures are taken, from outside sources and Nikocado Avocado himself, he’ll continue to eat himself into an early grave… One mukbang at a time.

Debunking recent rumours about Nikocado Avocado's death

In July 2022, reports of the YouTuber’s rumoured death flooded the internet. “Apparently Nikocado Avocado is dead? Honestly I don’t believe that. Sometimes he gets offline to probably prepare more of his atrocious mukbang videos,” wrote one Twitter user at the time.

The unfounded claims appeared on TikTok too and a YouTube Shorts too, with one clip titled “Nikocado Avocado Passed Away (Trigger Warning), pray for his family” trending on the platform. The video has since been deleted.

The rumours that he has passed away stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t been very active on social media recently, leading many to suspect that something bad had happened to him. On 27 October however, Nikocado Avocado shared yet another video on his YouTube channel, in turn reassuring all of his fans.