Considering she was seen in the bubblegum pop musical Hairspray only last year and has been quietly designing her own clothing line for tween girls, Amanda Bynes hardly seems a likely candidate for a Whatever Happened To...? segment. However, considering she mastered the art of multi-tasking at the early age of thirteen, embarking on a career that had her bouncing back and forth from television show to television show to movie, this recent change of pace has left her always sunny demeanor and manic peppiness sorely missing in action on both screens alike.
Beginning her career on the Nickelodeon hit All That!, Bynes quickly proved herself as quite the little sponge, soaking up as much as she could from those that went before her in similar roles (the title may have been flippantly tossed at Debra Messing a few years ago, but Bynes truly is the next Lucille Ball), as well as all she could from the set. Though she entered into this business at a young numerical age, Bynes' wide eyes were not merely with awe; she was overly alert, the wheels turning as she took careful note of how things were working around her and how she could work to improve and further her talent.
Bynes just as quickly won over young fans, as well as their parents, for her girl-next-door appearance and clean sense of humor, which garnered her her own headliner, aptly named The Amanda Show. There she spent two years introducing sketch comedy to a new generation before taking on her first feature in Big Fat Liar, opposite fellow child star Frankie Muniz (ironically, someone who just announced his retirement from entertainment). Bynes' popularity began to take off like a snowball rolling down a hill, and while voicing a character on the (also Nickelodeon) animated favorite Rugrats, she was given her second show, What I Like About You with Jennie Garth. Finally Bynes was playing to girls her own age.
Proving time and again she is not just another trendy but dumb member of the Young Hollywood elite, Bynes has always chosen her parts carefully, picking scripts that allow her to shine as both a comedienne and a role model. She knows where her talent lies, as well as where her limitations do, and she embraces both, determined to do the bet she can do. She is exceptionally professional, but she is also smart about her decisions; from day one, she was creating a brand, and now she has expanded to do so in the most literal (and lucrative!) sense with her fashion line. Additionally (and exceptionally importantly today), she has kept her personal life out of the flashing paparazzi bulbs, as well, focusing on her work instead of what club she'll hit tonight. She poured herself into cute and personable turns in teen chick flicks like What A Girl Wants, Lovewrecked, Sydney White, and even a modern day take on Shakespeare with She's The Man, a group of films which helped parlay her onto the list of the Richest People Under 21 (in 2007).
Perhaps this break, then, is just Bynes choosing to follow in Natalie Portman's footsteps, someone who said she choose college because "[she'd] rather be smart than be a movie star." While Bynes may not have enrolled in a university (or maybe she has but has managed to keep that from the press as well), she is undoubtedly off learning something, whether it's about how to successfully transition from child star to adult actor or just some new things about herself. In that way, she is an even bigger breath of fresh air. Maybe she's holding out for the perfect script; maybe she's finally slowing down and taking a much deserved break; or maybe she's considering pursuing a life in another field altogether. Whatever the case may be, Bynes' choice to walk away while she was still climbing to the top is admirable; she is a breath of fresh air when she is working and also when she is not.