1985 – 2004: Childhood and career beginnings
Ashley Michelle Tisdale was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, on July 2, 1985, to Lisa Morris and contractor Mike Tisdale. Her father is Christian and her mother is Jewish; she was raised with “a little bit of both” religions. Tisdale’s elder sister Jennifer is an actress and producer. She is also related to businessman Ron Popeil through her maternal grandfather Arnold Morris who was best known for being a pitchman for the Ginsu knife. At the age of three, Tisdale met her manager, Bill Perlman, at a New Jersey mall. He sent her to various auditions for commercials, and she was placed in more than one hundred national network TV adverdisments as a child. She bagn her theatrical career by appearing in Gypsy: A Musical Fable and The Sound Of Music at Monmouth County’s Jewish Community Center. Tisdale was eight year old when she was cast to play the part of Cosette in the musical Les Misérables, and only recalled taking a single singing lesson before landing the role. In 2007, Tisdale told Newsday, “When I was little, I saw the play Les Misérables on Broadway. I thought it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, so I went to my manager and told him I wanted to be in it”. Tisdale toured for two years with Les Misérables before landing a role in a touring production of Annie in Korea.
When Tisdale was twelve, she sang for then-President Bill Clinton during an event at the White House as part of a troupe. Hoping to expand her career, Tisdale and her family moved to Los Angeles, California. She landed her first role in 1997, guest starring on an episode of both Smart Guy and 7th Heaven. During this time, she also began doing modeling work for Ford Models. The following year Tisdale appeared as voice actor in both An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998) and A Bug’s Life (1998). She guest starred in an episode of Boston Public in 2000, earning a 2000 Young Artist Award nomination for “Best Guest Performance in a TV Drama”. Tisdale continued to make guest appearances on television shows and appear in minior film roles throughout the following years, with roles in films such as Donnie Darko (2001) and The Mayor of Oyster Bay (2002). During this time, Tisdale continued to work and attend school, stating “I was always in regular school and I worked in clothing stores growing up. I didn’t ‘make it’ until I was 18, so I had already graduated public school. I definitely feel like I had the best of both worlds”.
2005 – 2008: Breakthrough with films and music career
Tisdale joined the main cast of the Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody in 2005, and would continze to star in the show until 2008. The show proved to be a hit for the network, and earned Tisdale a Nickelodeon UK Kids’ Choice Awards. Tisdale had her breakout role as Sharpay Evans in the Disney Channel film High School Musical (2006). The film was the network’s most successful film of 2006, receiving 7.7 million viewers upon its premiere. The soundtrack for the film, featuring numerous contributions from Tisdale, went on to sell over three million copies in the United Stated alone. The song “What I’ve Been looking For” (2006), a duet with Lucas Grabeel, became her first top forty hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Tisdale, along with the rest of the cast, embarked on the High School Musical: The Concert (2006-07) tour to promote the film. She met dancer Jared Murillo while working on High School Musical, and the two later dated for two years; they split up in 2009. During this time, Tisdale began appearing on soundtracks for the Disney Channel, and relased a cover of “Kiss The Girl” (2006) to promote The Little Mermaid.
With the success of High School Musical, Tisdale was offered a recording contract from Warner Bros. Records; she began working on her debut studio album in 2006. “Be Good To Me” (2006) was released as the album’s lead single, with “He Said She Said” (2007) being released shortly afterwards as the second single. Tisdale’s debut album, Headstrong (2007), was released in February; the album featured elements of dance-pop and hip-hop music. The album sold 64,000 copies in its first week of release in the United States, debuting at number five on the Billboard 200. The project was a commercial success, selling over 500,000 copies in the country. “He Said She Said” was later re-released as the album’s second single to promote the album, and went on to earn a gold certification from the RIAA. The album’s final two singles were released exlusively in select Europe territories. Tisdale embarked on her Headstrong Tour Across America to promote the album. She also co-executive produced a documentary, There’s Something About Ashley (2007), documenting the recording of the album and the prduction of her music videos.
Tisdale returned to her role as Sharpay Evans in High School Musical 2 (2007). The film was viewed by seventeen million people during its premiere, making it the most-watched movie on cable television. She received positive reviews for her performance in the film, which earned two Primetime Emmy Awards nomintations. The film’s soundtrack topped the Billboard 200, selling 615,000 copies in its first week of release. Tisdale joined the cast of the animation Disney Channel series Phineas and Ferb. which debuted immediately after High School Musical 2. The show earned ten million viewers and became the most-watched animates series among kids and tweens in 2010. Phineas and Ferb has also received acclaim by critics and has won three Primetime Emmy Awards. Tisdale remained on the series until its conclusion in 2015, appearin in various television films in the role as well.
In 2008, Tisdale formed her own production company, Blondie Girl Productions. The television film Picture This (2008) marked Tisdale’s debut as an executive producer and as an actress in the leading role; she played Mandy Gilbert, an unpopular and bullied teenager. The film premiered on ABC Family in 2008 to 4.3 million viewers. Tisdale again appeared as Sharpay Evans in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which premiered in October 2008. It earned $42 million in its domestic opening weekend, and grossed a total of $255 million worldwide. Her performance in the film earned her critical acclaim, earning an MTV Movie Award for “Breakthrough Performance Female” in 2009. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly labeled her one of film’s breakout stars, and Mark Kermode said Tisdale was 2008’s “best supporting actress”.
2009 – 2014: Commercial decline, production work and marriage
Tisdale began working on her second studio album in 2008, taking more creative control over the record than with her last. The album served as musical departure from her prior record, with Tisdale hoping to attain a more “rock-oriented” and “edgier” sound. The project was preceded by the release of “It’s Alright, It’s OK” (2009), whcih went on to have some success in countries such as Austria and Germany. Her second studio album, Guilty Pleasure (2009), was released in select territoried on June 11, 2009; it would not receive a release in the United States until July 28. The album sold an estimated 25,000 copies in its first week of release, debuting at number twelve on the Billboard 200. The album’s second and final single, “Crank It Up” (2009), was released in select European territories. Tisdale parted ways with the label following the release of the record. During this time, Tisdale began dating director Scott Speer, who had directed her previous music videos; the couple would break up in 2011. Tisdale also starred in the film Aliens In The Attic (2009) as teenager Bethany Pearson. Although she is credited as one of the main characters, The New York Times said Tisdale “spends much of the film off-screen”. The film was a minior success in box offices, grossing $60 million worldwide.
Tisdale announced her return to television in 2010, starring as head-cheerleader Savannah Monroe in The CW drama Hellcats. Tisdale was reported to be the highest paid cast member on the series, earning $30,000 episode. The show ran for one season, and was cancelled by the network in 2011. Blondie Girl Productions signed a producing deal in 2010 to create, develop, and produce both films and television shows. During this time, Tisdale did voice work for the adult animation series Family Guys and The Cleveland Show, she appeared in two episodes of the former. In 2010, Disney Channel announced its intention to produce a High School Musical spin-off focusing on the life of Sharpay Evans in New York after she concluded high school. Tisdale was confirmed to return as Evans for the spin-off and serve as executive producer of the project. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure premiere on Disney Channel to five million viewers in August 2011. In 2012, she made a guest appearance in an episode of Raising Hope and had a starring role in a CBS pilot procuded by Louis C.K., which was not picked up by the channel. Tisdale also portrayed a desirable and high-priced escort in two-episode arc in the fifth season of FX’s Sons of Anarchy.
She served as the executive producer of the reality-television series Miss Adised (2012). In 2013, E! aired a television special produced by Tisdale named Inner Circle that focused on her friendship with actress Vanessa Hudgens. The next year, Tisdale teamed again with DIsney Channel on the film Cloud 9, on which she worked as an executive producer. ABC Family’s comedy series Young & Hungry is also produced by Tisdale; its stars Emily Osment and premiered in June 2014. In June 2012, The Weinstein Company announced that Tisdale had been given the leading role in Dimension Film’s Scary Movie 5. She portrayed Jody, a dancer in her late-20s. The film was released in April 2013, and grossed $15 million on its first weekend, making it the lowest-grossing weekend for a Scary Movie film; it was also panned by critics. Tisdale had a recurring role in ABC’s sitcom Super Fun Night as Jazmine, the sister of Rebel Wilson’s character, and guest starred on CBS’s The Crazy Ones in 2013. That same year, Tisdale was cast to voice the title character of Hub Network’s animated series Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch. For her performance as Sabrina, Tisdale was nominated for “Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program” in the 41st Daytime Emmy Awards.
Tisdale told MTV in 2013 that she had begun working on her third studio album. She said she was inspired to make music again and that she hoped to “surprise people a little bit, something different from what I’ve done before”. Tisdale announced to MTV that she opted to pursue a dance-pop sound on the album, which was expeted to be released in 2014. In December 2013, Tisdale teased on her Twitter account about a “special project” related to music. She confirmed that the project was a single titled “You’re Always Here”, which was written about her late grandfather. The song was eventually released independently to digital stored the same month. Tisdale confirmed in 2015 that she was no longer working on a new album. Tisdale became engaged to singer Christopher French in 2013, having dated for over one year; the couple wed on September 8, 2014 in a small private ceremony held in Santa Barbara, California. In 2014, she promoted the U.S. launch of Lindt HELLO chocolates by producing an episode of the online series It Started with HELLO.
2015 – present: Return to music and business ventures
In December 2014, The Hollywood Reporter announced Tisdale was cast to star as a prostitute in the comedy Amateur Night alongside Jason Biggs. In 2014, Tisdale auditioned for TBS’s workplace comedy series Clipped, on which she was eventually cast in a main role as Danni. The series ran from June to August 2015, and was canceled in October after one season. In September 2015, Tisdale became the creative director of Signorelli; she launched a clothing line with the company in 2016. She will also be overseeing the creation of their spring 2017 sportswear line. Tisdale launched her Illuminate makeup line through BH Cosmetics in 2016. She began working with her husband on her third studio album in 2016. The couple have collaborated on covers of songs that she posts onto her official YouTube channel; she collaborated with Vanessa Hudgens on a cover of “Ex’s & Oh’s” (2015) posted in 2017.
Tisdale has said that she brings something different with every character she portrays in order to make them her own. After the completion of the High School Musical series in 2008, Tisdale was at first reluctant on accepting older roles because she felt “you can never go backward”. She eventually began to accept more mature roles in 2012. Her first adult roles were Emma Jean, a high-priced escort in the drama series Sons of Anarchy (2012), and Jody Sanders, a mother of three children in the feature film Scary Movie 5 (2013). Tisdale commented after Scary Movie 5 that the role had taken her out of her comfort zone, and that she pallned to continue to challenge herself in the future. While discussing her portayal of Logan Rawlings, a lesbian, on Young & Hungry (2014), she said she likes “to play different characters and push the envelope out of [her] own comfort level”, but confessed she had been nervous about the idea of playing a lesbian. Her main acting influences are Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Depp, Robin Williams and Rebel Wilson. Tisdale claims that she would like to emulate Shia LaBeouf’s career because “he did it so well” and is inspired by Wilon’s ability to work simltaneously as a writer, producer and actress in ABC’s Super Fun Night.
Her acting performances have been met with praise by citics and film producers. She was named a “scene stealer” in High School Musical 2 (2007) by Laura Fries of Variety. Jennifer Frey of The Washington Post says that Tisdale dominated the film despire not being the lead character, while Andy Webster of The New York Times praised her acting style, mainly because of her “elastic face [that] lends itself to numerious rection shots”. John Schultz, who directed the film Aliens In The Attic (2009) in which Tisdale starred, says she is a “big comedic actress” and has a “gift” for comedy. The creator of the television series Hellcats (2010), Kevin Murphy, praised her acting skills and said Tisdale “can hold multiple colors in the same palette”.
Tisdale’s music, which is predominantly considered pop, has included ballads, dance-pop, hip hop, and rock influences. Boys, heartbreak, and relationship breakups are common themes in Tisdale’s songs. She defined her music career as a way to connect herself with the fans and to inspire them. She claimed that, while Headstrong (2007) allowed her to “learn [herself] as an artist”, with her second album, Guilty Pleasure (2009), she knew exactly what she wanted to do as an artist. Tisdale has named many influences on her musical career, including Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Pat Benatar, Pink, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC. Tisdale said that “almost anything” inspires her, but she is mainly inspired by female pop singers. She often co-writes the songs she records; for her debut album Headstrong, she had writing credits in four songs, while she co-wrote five tracks for her album Guilty Pleasure. The songs in which she has songwritting credits are often personal. In 2009, while discussing the songs she co-wrote for her second studio album, Tisdale said that “a lot of the songs on the album [were] about survival and staying strong” and that she wanted those songs to be “a statement and a reflection of what [she went] through over the past year and how [she has] grown up”. She named the song “What If” as the most personal song she co-wrote for Guilty Pleasure. She discussed the death of her grandfather in the song “You’re Always Here”, which she wrote with her husband French.
Her music has received mixed reactions by critics. Her debut album Headstrong was compared to the first works of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera by Billboard. Heather Phares of AllMusic defined Tisdale’s voice as “pleasant enough” but not “distinctive” while reviewing her debut album Headstrong and added she had “more character singing” in her role in the High School Musical series. Phares later praised Tisdale’s voice by saying her “chirpy, slightly saccharine voice is perfect”. Her second studio album Guilty Pleasure, released in 2009, achieved a 48% rating on Metacritic, which indicated “mixed or average reviews”. Keri Masson of Billboard stated that Tisdale “can deliver the radio-ready goods” with her 2009 album Guilty Pleasure, but criticized the album as whole; she believed the album “doesn’t give the singer room to comfortably let loose”. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, also of AllMusic, said she is not “convincing” on Guilty Pleasure, but praised the overall quality of the songs on the album. Despite the mixed reception by critics, the album was well received by fans; it achieved a user score of 6.5 on Metacritic, which means “generally favorable reviews”, and was also named the seventh best album of the decade by Billboard readers in 2009.
Tisdale is considered a sex symbol, rankin on Maxim’s Hot 100 list of sexiest women and hottest celebrities in the 2008 list (at number 10), in 2013 (at number seven), and in 2014 (at number 33). She appeared on the cover of Maxim’s May 2013 issue, and was in the 2011 annual “nude” issue for Allure in May of that year. She told Allure that “being in this shoot was me saying, ‘I’m not just the young girl everybody thinkgs I am. I’m actually a woman.’”. Tisdale has become a popular and active figure in social media; she has attained more than thirteen million followers on Twitter and she has more than 22 million likes on Facebook both as of July 2014. Her popularity on social media led her to appear for three weeks on Billboard’s Social 50 chart, peaking at number 18, and to win the award for “Social Media Superstar” at the Young Hollywood Awards in 2014. She was named the 45th most influential woman on Twitter by The Huffington Post in 2015.
Tisdale has supported various charitable organizations and causes during her career. She collaborated with the Make a Wish Foundation in 2008 by visiting sick children in hospitals and helping to raise funds for the organization. Tisdale is also a support of Habitat for Humanity, a charity devoted to building homes for people in need. She was scheduled to perform on Idol Gives Back 2008, along with her High School Musical co-star Vanessa Hudgens. However, they were unable to appear due to their High School Musical 3: Senior Year schedule; they recorded a video from the film’s set to support the cause instead. She contributed to the A Very Special Christmas 7 album with her rendition of Wham!’s “Last Christmas”, proceeds from sales benefited the Special Olympics. Tisdale was a phone operator during Hope for Haiti Now: A Global benefit for Earthquake Relief, a charity telethon held on January 2010 to raise funds for seven non-profit organizations that carried out relief work in Haiti following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Tisdale volunteered for the “Get on the Bus” charity campaign in 2011, which was hosted by the television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. She helped to build a house for a family and later performed some of her songs to raise funds. In 2012, she became the face of Project Pink, a campaign launched by Puma SE to raise money for the researche of breast cancer treatments. As part of the campaign, she visited Los Angeles’ BEST After School Enrichment Program at Pacoima Charter School in California and presented each child that attened with shoes, clothes, and gift cards. In 2013, Tisdale recorded her song titled “You’re Always Here” and later released it to digital stores as charity single. During an interview with On Air with Ryan Seacrest, she confirmed that 30 percent of the proceeds of the song would go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.