Victoria Justice Says It Was 'Nice' to 'Slow Down' After Teen Stardom on “Zoey 101” and “Victorious” (Exclusive)

The singer-actress, who is teaming up with Arm & Hammer for its Power Sheets Laundry Detergent launch, opens up to PEOPLE exclusively about her career's journey and the lessons she's learned along the way

Nickelodeon/Everett; Bruce Glikas/WireImage Victoria Justice on Zoey 101 in 2005 and in 2022
Nickelodeon/Everett; Bruce Glikas/WireImage Victoria Justice on Zoey 101 in 2005 and in 2022

Victoria Justice became a household name as a teenager, courtesy of her roles on popular Nickelodeon shows Zoey 101 and Victorious. Along with starring in films, she was also building a career as a singer-songwriter, releasing her debut single "Gold" in 2013, outside of her musical efforts on Victorious.

But the former child star — who is currently teaming up with Arm & Hammer for its Power Sheets Laundry Detergent launch — became more selective with the work she sought out post-Nickelodeon. She starred on MTV's Eye Candy, Fox's televised The Rocky Horror Picture Show special and a string of films, including last year's Netflix thriller The Tutor, opposite Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp. However, her music career took a grinding halt.

"I definitely took a break from music. I had a deal that just wasn't working out anymore ... for a lot of reasons. And so, I asked to be out of that deal," Justice tells PEOPLE exclusively.

She continues, "I think I'd been so busy also for so much of my younger life, that it was kind of nice after all of that was kind of over to take some time to just focus more on what it is I want to do, slow down in certain ways and just kind of be more selective about what I want to do and when I want to do it."

Related: Victoria Justice Looks for a 'Love That Would Accept All of Me' in New 'Raw' Song and Video (Exclusive)

As Justice embarks on her musical comeback, she has taken control and carved out a new path for herself.

"I think music is always going to be a part of me, and who I am, and what I do. So I think even during that time when I wasn't actively making music and in the studio as much, I'm always thinking about music," the "Too F*ckin' Nice" singer, who is now an independent artist, explains. "I'm always writing down ideas on my phone, song titles and melody ideas, and [sharing them in] my voice memos. So it's always a part of me. But I think even those years when I wasn't making music, even those life experiences, that all comes into play into the music now. I also think at the end of the day, music is such a personal thing for me."

Justice believes that for her to "emote a song properly or to really sell a song, it has to feel authentic" to her. "I feel like now, I'm really in a place where I feel like my music, it feels very authentic. I feel like I'm saying the things that I want to say. I feel like I'm expressing myself exactly the way that I want to, and it's just been really fun to make the music that I want to," she shares.

At 31, the Fun Size actress is "still learning" many lessons about life. "But I think as I get older, the more I appreciate the sentiment of just, maybe don't sweat the small stuff," she says.

"I feel like at the end of the day, there's so many little life stresses or even big life stresses or things that can go wrong or things where you're like, 'Oh, I didn't didn't see things going that way,' or, 'I thought that this would've turned out differently,' or whatever," she continues. "But I feel like at the end of the day, the most important thing is your health and the health of my family, and the people that I love. And so to me, everything else is just kind of small stuff."

Related: Victoria Justice Puts on a Brave Face While Getting Her First Tattoo in Malibu: See Her Fresh Ink!

Although Justice is in a completely different phase of both her personal and professional lives, her roots in child stardom are still deep. She's even maintained close friendships with her former Zoey 101 and Victorious castmates.

Even though she couldn't participate in last year's Paramount+ Zoey 102 movie because it "didn't work out timing-wise" for her, Justice says: "I was supporting them. I was watching the movie when I came out. I was texting Jamie [Lynn Spears] and the rest of the cast."

Everett Victoria Justice and Jamie Lynn Spears on 'Zoey 101' in 2006
Everett Victoria Justice and Jamie Lynn Spears on 'Zoey 101' in 2006

"We all had a group chat, and I was just so excited for everyone," she continues. "I went to the premiere thing that they had in L.A., and it was really nice to reconnect with the girls and with some of my old cast members."

As for the Victorious crew, "we all have a group chat that we'll pop in on sometimes and chat about stuff," she shares.

"That's always fun when that goes off, and gets really active, and we're all chiming in," she adds. "It's like old times, which is really cute. But yeah, they're all great. We're all due for a reunion, for sure."

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<p>Nickelodeon / Courtesy: Everett</p> Leon Thomas, Victoria Justice, Avan Jogia, and Elizabeth Gillies in 'Victorious' in 2010

Nickelodeon / Courtesy: Everett

Leon Thomas, Victoria Justice, Avan Jogia, and Elizabeth Gillies in 'Victorious' in 2010

Beyond singing and acting, Justice has made it a priority to align herself with endeavors that are authentic to her. So, when she partnered with Arm & Hammer for the launch of its Power Sheets Laundry Detergent — a product that eliminates the mess and non-environmentally friendly aspect of plastic bottled detergent — it was a no-brainer for many reasons.

"Arm & Hammer has been around forever. I feel like they're such a well-known and well-trusted brand. I've been using their toothpaste since I was a kid. It's the only brand that I use, [even for] laundry detergent as well," she explains. "When I found out they were coming out with Power Sheets, I was like, 'Oh, this is great.' "

"I try to live a somewhat environmentally conscious lifestyle," she continues. "The fact that the power sheets come in this recyclable box, that there's no more plastic bottle waste, you don't have to lug around a heavy bottle. there's no more drippy mess."

Justice adds, "I really feel like in the future, we're all just going to be using Power Sheets. I don't think plastic bottles are even going to be a thing anymore for laundry detergent."

Related: The 'Zoey 101' Cast: Where Are They Now?

<p>Jared Blitz</p> Victoria Justice with the Arm & Hammer Laundry Power Sheets

Jared Blitz

Victoria Justice with the Arm & Hammer Laundry Power Sheets

Related: Victoria Justice Says Shooting Her 'First Ever Sex Scene' on Day One of Filming Depravity Was 'Uncomfortable'

In the meantime, Justice is going to continue enjoying life, which has been filled with lots of "exciting" endeavors.

"I went to the Cannes Film Festival. It was so exciting. My first time going. I just had an amazing time. It was so much fun. I got to dress up and wear beautiful gowns and do all the things. It was just an absolute whirlwind. And now I'm home, and I have a song coming out," she says, referencing her song "Hate the World Without You (Maddy's Song)," which is about her younger sister Madison Grace. "There's lots of exciting things going on."

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