04/10/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
HOMETOWN: West Deal, New Jersey
LATEST GIG: Starring on the Disney Channel comedy The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
and the network's hit movie High School Musical
BORN TO BE A STAR
"When I was 3, I was at the mall with my mom, and this manager came up to us and asked if I wanted to be in commercials," says Tisdale, who nailed her first audition, a spot for JCPenney. Within a few years she was in the national tour of Les Misérables
, rubbing elbows with Catherine Zeta-Jones
for a T-Mobile ad ("At the time, I had curly hair and she'd always compliment me on it") and doing guest spots on shows like 7th Heaven.
Between acting, dance classes, and going to high school in Valencia, Calif., where her family moved when she was in eighth grade, Tisdale worked at clothing stores like Abercrombie & Fitch. "It wasn't fun, but I did love getting a discount. Everything I earned went back to whatever store I was working in!"
Tisdale is the only female artist in history to have two songs—both from High School Musical's
soundtrack—debut simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100. "It's weird to see my name up there with people like Beyoncé," she says.
LEAVING THE NEST
"I just bought a condo and I'm moving in with my best friend," says Tisdale, whose Maltese poodle Blondie will go with her. The granddaughter of Ginsu knives personality Arnold Morris and the cousin of Ron Popeil, she's well-stocked with kitchen gadgets. Still, don't count on her throwing together any gourmet meals. "My parents are just down the block," she says. "So we'll be eating at their house!"