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Child stars: blessed or messed?

Stacy Ferguson joined the cast of “Kids Incorporated” in 1984 when she was 9 and stuck around for six seasons. Fast-forward twenty years later and she has a successful solo career, a gig promoting Candies, and a spot in the inexplicably successful band Black Eyed Peas. But there was a meth addiction in the intervening years that she blamed on her time as a child actor.

Bottom line: She’s rich now, but she’s earned it. (Matt Sayles / AP)
Ryan Gosling
Gosling reportedly had no formal acting training when he auditioned for the revival of “The Mickey Mouse Club” at age 13. He stayed on the show for two years but left relatively unscathed. Relatively. He did star as Hercules in “Young Hercules” for a year, but then landed a lead role in the Sundance winning “The Believer” and has since become an Oscar nominated actor.

Bottom line: Could totally pass as a non-former-child actor. (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images)
Keri Russell
Russell’s career has had its ups and downs ever since she got her big break on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in 1991, at 15. When she left two years later she hung around L.A. until she got her second big break, the WB show “Felicity.” Since that show went off the air in 2002 she’s had some successes -- a starring role in the film “Waitress” (pictured) and a guest spot on “Scrubs.” Next, she joins Will Arnett and David Cross in the new TV comedy “Running Wilde.”

Bottom line: Those years on “MMC” didn’t seem to hurt her, since more people probably know her from “Felicity.” She, like Gosling, would totally blend in at a normal actor’s party. (Business Wire / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Britney Spears
Spears was just 12 when she joined the cast of “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and just 17 when her hit single “Hit Me Baby One More Time” exploded onto the charts. She kept up that creepy child star cheerfulness until she entered her early-twenties. We all know what happened after that ...

Bottom line: If mom hadn’t seen all that talent in little Britney she might have kept all her hair. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
Justin Timberlake
Timberlake has yearned for fame since he was a little kid, singing country songs and entering “Star Search” as Justin Randall. Landing a role on “The Mickey Mouse Club” was just phase one in his planned rise to superstardom. Phase 2: *NSYNC, the boy band he sang with from 1995-2002. Phase 3: A solo career that put him on par with the world’s biggest stars. And with the formation of his own record label he entered the final phase: Tycoon-dom. In his spare time he acts, such as with 2010’s “The Social Network.”

Bottom line: An unstoppable force of nature. A few years as a child star wasn’t going to hurt him. (Getty Images / Getty Images)
Christina Aguilera
After an early childhood of winning every talent contest she entered, Aguilera joined “The Mickey Mouse Club” in 1993 when she was 12. The show was canceled after a year, and it took her a while to restart her career. But in 1999 she was able to release a self-titled album and her worldwide domination began. After a few years of crazy antics, multiple body piercings and very big hair, the singer has settled into letting her big voice take center stage. She will soon appear in the “Moulin Rouge"-style musical film “Burlesque.”

Bottom line: This girl had a lot of anger but she got it out early. Now she’s on a good track. (Liu Jin, AFP / Getty Images)
Melissa Joan Hart
Hart got her first role in a commercial in 1980 when she was four and has been employed ever since. At 15 she starred in “Clarissa Explains It All” on Nickelodeon. When the show ended in 1994 she went to NYU for a bit and then starred in “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” which lasted seven seasons. After it ended in 2003, Hart has been basking in motherhood and living out her star’s luster with gigs like appearing in a season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

Bottom line: Hart has an extensive collection of Shirley Temple memorabilia. Is that weird? (Jeff Gentner / Getty Images)
Hilary Duff
After her Disney show “Lizzie McGuire” went off the air, Duff had a high profile breakup with rocker boyfriend Joel Madden, but has mostly managed to stay out of trouble, make a few records, appear on “Gossip Girl” and do a few movies. Even her August 2010 wedding to hockey player Mike Comrie was fairly discrete -- they only invited 100 people.

Bottom line: She has an album called “Dignity.” We think that’s a fitting name. (Richard Drew / AP)