THE future head of the would-be Raven-Symoné Enterprises or Raven-Symoné Inc. sits in a Toluca Lake diner, chewing ice out of a plastic cup, outlining her plans for world domination.
"I want to have a record label and a licensing company," declares Raven-Symoné. "I want to have a publishing company and a management company where I can launch all kinds of artists. I want to do everything."
After a brief pause, Raven-Symoné delivers the bottom line, without a trace of irony: "I want to be Disney."
For the 22-year-old star -- who started out at 5 years old on "The Cosby Show" and was featured in several TV series, such as "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," before landing as the star and producer of the Disney Channel series "That's So Raven" and "The Cheetah Girls" movies -- it's a distant goal but a very real ambition.
As for now, she'll be content with conquering the big screen.
Next up is Walt Disney Pictures' "College Road Trip," which hits theaters Friday. She plays Melanie Porter, an energetic 17-year-old who finds her plans for a "girls only" road trip to check out prospective universities upended by her overprotective father (Martin Lawrence).
Her character is a mature extension of her aggressively loopy, rubber-faced character, who is at the center of the longest-running series on the Disney Channel (the comedy, which wrapped production in 2006 after four seasons, airs daily on the cable network and on Saturday mornings on ABC). The success of "That's So Raven" and its related merchandise prompted Ebony magazine last year to dub her "The $400 Million Woman" (just the mention of that label makes her cringe). "College Road Trip" also boosts her filmmaker credentials -- she is an executive producer and had script input on many of the exchanges between the two main characters.
Despite the presence of Lawrence, who has often dabbled in raw-edged adults-only comedy in his wide-ranging career, and a title that could conjure up images of sex-crazed frat boys and tasteless high jinks, "College Road Trip" pointedly earns its G rating and is compatible with its star's innocuous TV image. There's even an adorable little pig to amuse the toddlers.
Raven-Symoné's involvement with the squeaky-clean "College Road Trip" may at first glance seem like an unconventional move for an actress easing into young adulthood, particularly when her Hollywood contemporaries are moving in and out of rehab clinics or are seeking edgier fare, such as horror movies or tawdry reality shows.
While Lindsay, Britney, Paris and Jamie-Lynn continue to find new ways to set gossip websites ablaze, that's so not Raven. When it comes to the Hollywood club scene, Raven-Symoné not only flies under the radar, she's not even a blip on the screen -- a factor that makes her star power and appeal to tween audiences shine more brightly. It's all part of her calculated plan to nurture her fans and maintain a devotion to her craft while creating more opportunities for herself and her brand. In addition to the film, she is releasing her fourth album, "Raven-Symoné," next month and is preparing to go on a national tour.
"I'm not in this to be a celebrity," she says. "I'm in this to work."
She adds: "I see this movie as sort of the middle ground to help me move to the next section. I want to help my audience grow with me, and I see this as the perfect vehicle. I love being able to keep that family audience."
She was particularly attracted to "College Road Trip" because of its story about a father and maturing daughter discovering each other: "It's a story that hasn't been done in forever. In today's world, there are difficulties in that relationship, where both people don't know how to tackle it. They have to grow together, and it's not easily done."
And, unlike many of her peers, she is in no rush to find that hard-edged independent movie or project that will redefine her image. Says Raven-Symoné, "I'm not trying to be something I'm not. I like where I am. I don't have a problem with it."
Her demeanor as she sits in the diner -- one of her favorite off-the-beaten-path haunts -- is of a seasoned veteran who is poised and somewhat guarded, though she occasionally loosens up with a smattering of a youthful "Know what I'm sayin'?" and references to some of her musical idols such as Janet Jackson. She arrives at an interview sans entourage, manager or publicist and dressed in a stylish brown hooded sweat shirt. The only hint of show business are large eyelashes accenting her face.
And though she exhibits a polite warmth, Raven-Symoné makes it clear in her terse responses and tone that she is not keen about discussing the roller-coaster exploits of young Hollywood (Lindsay Lohan was her roommate several years ago).
"I don't pay attention to it," she says, looking down at the table. "It's really none of my business what they do. I don't read the tabloids. Maybe they feel they need to go through all of this stuff in the public eye -- I don't really have an opinion about it. There are so many other things to focus on, other than sadness."
She pauses, then adds, "And my personal life is nobody's business."
Despite her career choices, Raven-Symoné is no goody-two-shoes off screen. She loves raunchy comedian Katt Williams and Jay-Z. She's a fan of Lawrence, the late Rodney Dangerfield, Sam Kinison and other stand-up comedians ("That something I really wish I could do"). Alanis Morissette's rough-edged "Jagged Little Pill" "got me through middle school. It was pretty tough."
Roger Kumble, director of "College Road Trip," called the actress a well-adjusted professional who was totally focused on ways to improve the movie and the comedy. "She's very dedicated to her craft. A lot of people have drawn similarities between her and Lucille Ball. She knows how to play broad comedy very well. So many young people her age have problems, but she's so professional. All she wants to do is good work."
Gary Marsh, president of entertainment at Disney Channels Worldwide, said Raven-Symoné was the perfect model for the channel's strategy for its talent roster. "It's not about her just being a talent for the network but for the whole Disney company. You can see in the arc of her career our strategy in the ways we've been able to grow our talent. I see opportunities for her in other divisions such as film. We craft partnerships with our talent so that they understand the opportunities in front of them."
Raven-Symoné says she has a lot of goals in front of her, including her music tour, which she wants to fashion after a pajama party. But here's another that might really surprise her fans. "I want to be Ace Ventura, but as a girl," she says with a broad laugh. "Sure, I can wear a dress and be cute. But I also want to show that I can get buck wild!"