When Sabrina Carpenter was 10 years old, she figured she’d play Madison Square Garden within five years. “I was that kid who was dreaming as big as I possibly could,” she says. Carpenter hasn’t made it to the New York arena yet, but the 19-year-old singer-songwriter-actress has built an impressive résumé.
At 11, she made her Law & Order: SVU debut; by 12, she was a Disney Channel regular, booking roles including a lead character on Girl Meets World; and by 2014, she released her first single with Hollywood Records, the label behind Disney-turned-grown-up pop stars Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and the Jonas Brothers.
Now, after two albums that drew in tweens and teens, Carpenter is at a crossroads: With her dead-on pop instincts, frank social media presence and devoted young audience (14.7 million Instagram followers), she’s poised to recruit more adult fans and become the biggest singer to emerge from her Disney generation.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve loved doing 10 things at once. I’m constantly moving,” says Carpenter, who’s zooming around New York as we speak. (She’s on a fan-event tour; Miami’s next.) Before year’s end, she’ll release her third album, Singular, and appear alongside Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give, the much-anticipated film adaptation of Angie Thomas’ young adult novel touching on Black Lives Matter (out Oct. 19).
Growing up, Carpenter was “mesmerized” by singers like Adele and Christina Aguilera, “those huge voices coming from these beautiful, intelligent women,” but her taste has evolved: She gushes over Brockhampton (“I really, really love them!”) and recently caught Arctic Monkeys on tour. As for her own live show (at Billboard’s Hot 100 Music Festival on Aug. 19), Carpenter says that as she’s matured, so, too, has her stage presence: “When you’re in front of a crowd every night, you forget you’re even putting on a show. That’s when it gets really good.”