Before She Spilled Her “Guts ”and Got “Sour: ”Photos of a Young Olivia Rodrigo's Rise to Fame

The singer/actress has gone from child star to Disney star to superstar at a fast pace

<p>Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions</p> A young Olivia Rodrigo in 2011

Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions

A young Olivia Rodrigo in 2011

This is the story of a talented kid turned Disney star turned pop legend in her own time ... who's just getting started.

Olivia Rodrigo has been everywhere in recent years, thanks to her Disney Channel days and perhaps, most notably, the release of her blockbuster 2021 single, "driver's license." She's also the subject of PEOPLE's latest special issue, available on newsstands and Amazon.com now.

"When I wrote my first album, I was 17," she tells PEOPLE. "I think everyone is super insecure at 17 and doubting themselves constantly. 'Am I talented? Can I do this?' [Now] I'm a lot happier, and I take myself a lot less seriously. I trust my gut more, and I trust my intuitions."

Before that confidence came local talent contests, a stint with American Girl and more childhood dreams, as seen in the photos that follow. But they all brought Rodrigo, now 21, to where she is today.

"What is next?" she asks in her PEOPLE story. "I don't know! I'll get back to you in a few months."

Idol Eyes

<p>Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions</p> Olivia Rodrigo in 2011

Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions

Olivia Rodrigo in 2011

When Olivia Rodrigo's local Boys & Girls Club staged their take on American Idol in 2011, the singer introduced herself, explaining that "for fun" she liked having sleepovers with friends.

She's a Winner

<p>Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions</p> Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2011

Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions

Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2011

"I want to win Idol because I like having fun, and competing is fun for me," the young starlet said at the time.

First Steps

<p>Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions</p> Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2011

Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions

Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2011

Boldly taking on the Barbra Streisand showstopper “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” Olivia Rodrigo, at just 8, earned first place in her age group.

Magic Mic

<p>Olivia Rodrigo/Instagram</p> A young Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo/Instagram

A young Olivia Rodrigo

The young singer clearly had a vision, as evidenced by this Disney-devoted home photo.

Sing Thing

<p>Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions</p> Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2013

Courtesy Video Adventures Video Productions

Olivia Rodrigo performing in 2013

In 2013, Olivia Rodrigo reached for a big note to triumph in a Temecula, California, Boys & Girls Club Idol talent competition.

Commercial Success

A young Olivia Rodrigo in an Old Navy commercial as a child
A young Olivia Rodrigo in an Old Navy commercial as a child

Olivia Rodrigo was 12 when she landed this 2015 holiday spot for Old Navy (above) featuring Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

American Girl

<p>American Girl</p> Olivia Rodrigo on 'Grace Stirs Up Success' in 2015

American Girl

Olivia Rodrigo on 'Grace Stirs Up Success' in 2015

Next she scored her first starring role in this entry in the American Girl series, 2015's Grace Stirs Up Success.

Next Step

<p>Disney Channel/Nicole Wilder</p> Olivia Rodrigo on Disney's 'Bizaardvark' in 2016

Disney Channel/Nicole Wilder

Olivia Rodrigo on Disney's 'Bizaardvark' in 2016

One year later, the rising star made her small-screen debut on the Disney series Bizaardvark.

Besties for the Resties

<p>Nicole Wilder/Disney Channel</p> Olivia Rodrigo on Disney's 'Bizaardvark' in 2016

Nicole Wilder/Disney Channel

Olivia Rodrigo on Disney's 'Bizaardvark' in 2016

Olivia met Bizaardvark costar Madison Hu (together in 2016) at an early audition for the show. The connection was instant. Madison later told Vogue. “It was immediately like, ‘Olivia’s my best friend.’ ”

Disney Days

<p>Image Group LA via Getty</p> Olivia Rodrigo at the D23 Expo in 2017

Image Group LA via Getty

Olivia Rodrigo at the D23 Expo in 2017

Olivia Rodrigo (with her Bizaardvark castmates Madison Hu, DeVore Ledridge and Ethan Wacker in 2017) would admit that she found it hard to balance work with just being a kid.

Love Story

<p>Disney+/Fred Hayes</p> Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

Disney+/Fred Hayes

Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

On High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Olivia Rodrigo played Nini, whose ex Ricky (Joshua Bassett) joins the drama club to win her back after she finds a new love.

Cool Kids

<p>Troy Harvey via Getty </p> Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

Troy Harvey via Getty

Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

Olivia Rodrigo (center, with her costars) learned she was cast on the High School Musical spinoff while studying for a test in a cafe.

The Write Stuff

<p>Walt Disney Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

Walt Disney Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock

Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

“Nini and I are very similar,” Olivia Rodrigo (seen in 2019) told The New Yorker of her High School Musical character. “She writes songs about boys and puts them on social media, and that’s totally something that I do." She later added to Variety, "I write about what I know and what I am feeling intensely."

Pen to Paper

<p>Walt Disney Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

Walt Disney Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock

Olivia Rodrigo on 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' in 2019

The singer/songwriter frequently performed on the series and even composed a song that aired. "It's interesting — heartbreaks when you're 16 or 17 — because you don't yet have that perspective of knowing that life goes on," she told The Guardian in 2021.

All About Olivia

Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo

For all things Olivia Rodrigo, pick up PEOPLE's special issue on the star, available on newsstands and Amazon.com now.

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