Staying on message is so Raven-Symone

Times Staff Writer

Raven-Symone wanted to talk “Cheetah.”

The 20-year-old star of Disney Channel’s longest-running series, “That’s So Raven,” was holding court during the TV industry’s press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena on Monday and was not about to be dissuaded from the task at hand: promoting the August premiere of “The Cheetah Girls 2.” (As anyone who lives within the proximity of a young girl knows, it’s the sequel to “The Cheetah Girls,” the 2003 Disney TV movie about four teens who form their own singing group.)

The afternoon news conference on the first day of the television industry’s summer 18-day junket had been ho-hum until the force that once was Olivia on “The Cosby Show” showed up. Looking poised in a white blouse and black skirt, Raven-Symone took her throne and served up mega ‘tude and sizzle to the media in attendance.

When one TV critic referenced the success of “High School Musical,” another Disney Channel movie, in his question to the young lady it was met with a pointed attempt to get the query back on track: “I just have to say with all love and respect that ‘Cheetah Girls’ 1 was fly.”

Another who wanted to know if she still speaks to Bill Cosby got a quick and forceful, “We are talking about Disney!” and then the milder follow-up, “We’re all very busy in this industry. I don’t talk to him as much as I should.”


A third critic asked her why the artist formerly known as Raven and Raven Symone has changed her name. Again.

“I’m so sorry that I’m not P. Diddy even though I try so hard,” she replied.

Then she explained that she initially changed her name to separate herself from the Raven character on her show, but then realized that her young audience was connected to her original moniker, so she’s back to being Raven-Symone. And then she pointed out the fact that nobody can ever seem to spell it right.

Later, outside in the hotel’s lush garden, the young actress, who also was executive producer for “The Cheetah Girls 2” and her TV series in its recent seasons, grew more thoughtful and explained that, basically, she wanted to take over the world.

To that end, there are “That’s So Raven” dolls, perfume, electronics, clothes, board games, regular card games, jewelry. Even though she’s barely out of adolescence, she’s not satisfied with being just an actress and singer anymore. (She’s currently on a music tour.) And she’s starting her own production company.

“My ultimate goal is to have a business that caters to young girls, that shows them that it’s OK to be yourself and to have self-respect and to know that you’re beautiful no matter what you look like,” she said. “To do that through music, television, lifestyle magazines, Internet, publications of all sorts, in schools and your home. And also being behind-the-scenes of television now that I’m getting older and really put other people’s dream into fruition.”


Although she started her show business career at 16 months, Raven-Symone grew up in Atlanta, where she went to a “normal” high school, failed classes, made them up in summer sessions and watched “old-school” television. The way she was raised, she said, instilled in her values and confidence. And a sense of appreciation for un-mainstream look. (In other words, she’s not a size 2 blond.)

“I want to bring a new beauty to television,” she said. “I would love to bring what normal people look like to the screen. I would love to watch people who look like me, and I’m not saying that egotistically, but you know what I’m saying? There’s so many people in the world, but there’s only two or three types of people on television. I want girls to know it’s OK to be who you are.”

So would that be Raven, Raven-Symone, Raven Symone, or.... ?

“Back to Raven-Symone. Love her!” she answered.