Spreading her wings – Glass speaks to multi-talented actor and singer Dove Cameron on her rise to fame on Disney Channel, finding her voice and the power in being vulnerable
There are very few 25-year olds with a CV quite like Dove Cameron. Her own Disney show, performing on stage, winning an Emmy. That’s only naming a few of her achievements, but you get the drift. So, when I picked up the phone to call the American actor, I expected to speak to someone turned giddy by all the accolades but instead found a woman overwhelmed that her dreams had come true.
Rewinding back to the start, she grew up on Bainbridge Island, a small, isolated town in Washington about the same size as Manhattan. There, she attended drama classes. “When I was little, I was put into musical theatre because I had a lot of emotional energy,” she explains. Describing herself as a dramatic kind of a kid with “no middle ground”, this hobby alongside watching classic films engendered the belief that one day she would replace being sat at the cinema for being on screen.
“I would go to Seattle to audition for films out of this tiny casting office – I never saw anyone else in there,” she recalls, amused. “There was this woman who would put me on tape and then send it off to Hollywood.” Having got close to securing a role in the film True Grit aged 13 – “or whatever really close means coming from a small town and never having done films before” – her mum realised this was more than a “childhood delusion” but a serious talent and moved her family to Los Angeles.
Not too soon after arriving there in 2013, Dove landed the main role in Disney’s Liv & Maddie playing both the identical twins. Growing up as a star in the Disney “machine”, there is always speculation of how you are going to turn out. “This is what I think people don’t understand about being on Disney,” she explains carefully.
“It is very regimented, but not in the way people think. People think that they pump girls out of this machine and use them of all their energy in dire conditions, but they don’t. They really don’t.”
It is clear that this misconception bothers her because she was taught to be a professional actor much younger than most. “I remember when I got Descendants [2015 musical fantasy film for TV] and it was in the middle of season two of Liv & Maddie they said, ‘hey we are going to take a hiatus on season two, you leave the day after tomorrow for Vancouver for two months and when you come home you will have two days’ break, and then you will finish season two over the following five months’.”
My audible gasp prompts Dove to reply, “It is crazy, but it’s the same thing you would be doing at an internship or even at college. Like you’re putting your back into it to get where you want to get, but this time everyone is watching you and you’re on a global platform.” She does have a point and maybe we forget the bigger picture when it comes to those growing up in the limelight.
The actor was propelled into fame overnight after the debut episode of Liv & Maddie was watched by 5.8 million people. “There is this narrative of you know what you’re getting yourself into but nobody actually knows,” says Dove. “I walked into it thinking I was going to be handling it one way but my body reacted differently”. At the start, she remembers how she used to get panic attacks when she was recognised in the street and her walking would speed up to avoid being spotted. “I was too much of an introvert to handle public attention in that way,” she states.
After four seasons and three films, Dove graduated from her Disney Channel roles. Since then, she has flourished both on screen and stage. Playing Amber von Tussle in the television production of Hairspray Live!; Cher Horowitz in the theatre adaptation of the hit ‘90s film Clueless, and more notably was handpicked by composer Adam Guettel to play Clara in The Light in the Piazza – all three she considers to be the highlights of her career. At the time of our call, she is in Vancouver on set of a secret project and in the middle of filming two films, one of which has been announced–a psychological thriller titled Isaac, which she admits is “so fucked up”.
Dove has proven beyond all doubt her capabilities stretch further than children’s television. Now she is forging a career in music. During her time at Disney, she was a session singer, an impersonal contractual task that she admits anyone could have done, where you are told to sing a song you hear for the first time when you walk into the studio.
“When I started to do my own music, it took me a long time to discover what my natural singing voice sounded like. And now people don’t even know it’s me,” says Dove. “That is exciting for me as an artist because I know that people have an idea of who I am that is light years away from who I actually am … you’re liking something I have never been able to do before.”
Her music is as authentic, honest and vulnerable as she comes across, three characteristics that also shine out in her social media channels. Dove doesn’t hide from the lows of reality or pretend to her followers they don’t exist, “I don’t want to live in a world where mental health is taboo,” she begins. “I should probably be more tactical in how I speak about it but honestly it makes no sense to me. I don’t know one person who doesn’t struggle with mental health. We are all pretending and that makes no sense.” Though she regards social media potentially harmful, she recognises that if she can open up the conversation regarding mental health then it can be a force for the good.
Throughout our conversation, the concept of connection is a common theme and one that the current issue is centred around, so before we say our goodbyes I ask what it means to her.
“The only thing that matters to me is people,” she declares right off. “I think that growing up, I felt very alone and even in my adolescence I felt very alone … I am such a lover, I am so contact and connection-based.
It is the reason why I became an actor and the reason why I love people, but it is also the reason I am afraid of people because I love them so much that they terrify me. I feel exposed because of it to the point I become introverted. That may not make sense to a lot of people though. But contact is the reason I am alive.”
by Imogen Clark
Photographer SSAM KIM
Stylist ERIN WALSH
Makeup MELISSA HERNANDEZ at THE WALL GROUP using BOBBI BROWN
Hair CLAYTON HAWKINS using UNITE HAIR AND GHD at A-FRAME AGENCY
Photography assistant ALYSSA FIORAVANTI
Styling assistant TAYLOR HUBBARD
Talent DOVE CAMERON
Trousers CONG TRI
Jacket VERSUS VERSACE
Top, trousers NOUR HAMMOUR
Dress OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Shoes ROGER VIVIER
Jacket, trousers DIOR