Wonderland.

DOVE CAMERON

The Disney channel star talks the nuances of social media and narratives around mental health with boyfriend Thomas Doherty.

Dove Cameron gold mesh dress

Dress CHRISTIAN DIOR

Dove Cameron gold mesh dress
Dress CHRISTIAN DIOR

Taken from the Summer 2020 issue. Order your copy now.

Seven years ago, a 17-year-old Dove Cameron stole the childhood dream we’d been holding on to since The Parent Trap came out, landing the dual lead roles in Disney Channel sitcom, Liv and Maddie. Since then, the actor and singer, who grew up in Washington’s Bainbridge Island before moving to LA for high school, has been collecting accolades in film, TV, and theatre, releasing her own music, and starring in projects ranging from fantasy franchise, Descendants to our other teenage dream role of Cher, in Clueless: The Musical. With her latest haunting single “Remember Me” (feat. Boston-born rapper BIA) released not long after California went into lockdown, Cameron’s currently processing the completely novel experience of finding complete freedom in her career and clarity in her message, while having nowhere certain to turn to next.

Isolating with her boyfriend and Descendants co-star Thomas Doherty, they’ve been spending the time like many of us: she’s shaved his head, he’s tried his hand at baking, they recently celebrated his birthday indoors and have ordered a batch of fake tattoos to go with the matching ones they have already. Sitting down together on a Friday morning mid-April, Cameron reflects on the nuances of social media and narratives around mental health, coping without distractions, the new music she’s about to drop for us, and what she’s working on next.

Dove Cameron Blue dress Mirror

Dress GEORGES CHAKRA COUTURE

Dove Cameron Blue dress Mirror
Dress GEORGES CHAKRA COUTURE

DC: So what questions do you have for me?
TD: When you were growing up, did you always want to do acting?
D: Yeah. When I was younger I mostly grew up watching films. We didn’t have cable until the last two years that I was in the house; we had one of those basic
four-channel TVs and so we watched a lot of films. We were like a major movie family! Every night was a different movie, sometimes two movies and sometimes movie days. And a lot of those were musicals. I grew up watching Jesus Christ Superstar and when I was young, big, kind of epic dramas. I knew I really wanted to be a part of films and musicals from the time that I was very small.

T: So you left the Bridge and you came to Los Angeles, and then what happened? Was it an easy ride? Did you land your first role relatively early?
D: Well, first of all, you’re an incredible interviewer. You’ve clearly done your research, I can tell… Yeah. It was an easier transition than I would have anticipated. I just landed and I started in public school and started auditioning right away. I got my first agent I think six months after I got here, which was a big gift because it’s really hard to get an agent in LA.

T: Especially if you don’t have any training.
D: Exactly. If you have no acting classes, no college or anything, I feel like without that basically nobody takes you seriously. You’re just another actress and you send in your non-existent resume and basically a headshot that you’ve paid for to get taken by one of the five people who does it. Like what’s making you stand out? Nothing. So I was really, really lucky that I landed my agency. I went to high school for a little bit and then I started booking guest stars.

Dove Cameron white and pink dress
Dove cameron blue and white dress

Dress RALPH & RUSSO

Dove Cameron white and pink dress
Dress RALPH & RUSSO
Dove cameron blue and white dress

T: And then obviously Descendants happened…
D: Descendants happened a while after that, like a year and a half into Liv and Maddie, and then periodically off and on between those things.

T: And the whole time did you know you wanted to be a pop star?
D: Yeah, I knew I wanted to be a musical artist. It was always conflicting for me if I wanted to pursue music or acting, which is why Disney seemed like such a great thing when I was like 15 as they seemed to do both. It was almost like signing up for like a dual package; it was like being able to do your double major, one equally as much as the other. I think that whole time it was really about carving out what I wanted to do as a musical artist. Obviously when you’re on the Channel what you’re doing as an actor is pretty much set. The musical aspect is the only thing that’s open to interpretation. But I just clearly wasn’t able to find that sound until more recently, so it’s been really exciting to be able to pursue that now with a clearer mind.

T: You have a musical background as well. You’ve done a lot of musical theatre stuff on the West End, on Broadway. Did that influence [your music] at all?
D: I actually feel I had to fight the musical sound to find my recording sound, ‘cause they’re really different. If you try to bring in the musical sound it’s just not quite appropriate for pop music. It’s not something people really want to listen to.

T: I suppose, but with pop music, some of its just shit… I think with your musical theatre it’s almost like your pop music does have a story, you sing it as a story as opposed to just an album track.
D: Yeah, I was talking to someone the other day where I was saying I feel like all of the best musical artists that we really resonate with always infuse their music with emotion. Definitely Michael Jackson back in the day.

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All clothing LONGCHAMP

Dove cameron white fendi top and shorts
All clothing LONGCHAMP

T: Gareth Gates?
D: …Sounds like carrot cake. [both laugh a lot] Even Billie Eilish, who’s not singing all over the track, but you can just really feel her emotion. I feel like that’s always the stuff that translates the best, and I feel like having an acting background helps with that.

T: So do you have a social media? A Bebo? Where can I find you?
D: Yeah I’ve been mostly on my Bebo and my Myspace. You can reach me on my MSN…

T: How do you feel about it?
D: I don’t know, I know this is silly, but I just kind of feel not much about it. I know that part of that following is a fan base that is incredibly kind to me, very lovely, very warm. I feel genuinely engaged with that fan base. Sometimes I’m really surprised by their insight and surprised by the things they pick up on in me. They feel almost like really attentive friends. It blows my mind the care that some of my fan bases puts into just knowing about me and knowing the things to say to make me smile. It’s a really strange relationship because [they’re] people that you’ll probably never meet, and if you meet them you probably never get to know them, but they know you and they can actually know you a lot better than you think. Sometimes they say really observant things about my mental health or my relationship with my family or my relationship with fame, things I’ve never quite fully expressed. The- re’s really a lot of care that goes into something like that, a lot of sensitivity and effort and kindness and it makes me happy that there are people out there that have that kind of empathy for someone that they don’t even know. And then I think there’s a large majority of people who follow me just because they think they should be following me, just because I’m somebody of note. I don’t really know how to say it. It’s like you, sometimes do you ever just follow someone on Instagram because everyone else is following them? It doesn’t in any way feel like a mark on who I am… It just feels like part of a Hollywood thing. I’m active on it, like I’m not pretending I’m not active on it, I just never attempted to cultivate the following that I have. It’s something I feel like I stumbled into. My relationship with my fans I feel is separate, but the following itself I don’t feel should be as large or as engaged as it is.

Dove Cameron black blazer suit

All clothing MADEWELL

Dove Cameron black blazer suit
All clothing MADEWELL

T: I remember the first time I met you I was like, ‘You have 20 million followers! What the fuck?’ Man, it’s so weird.
D: It’s kind of an anomaly… But I do definitely find it a very useful platform to talk about mental health. I think that the more that we can normalise people who we look at as having perfect lives, having very imperfect lives, then maybe we can allow ourselves to have imperfect lives and to own that and to be OK with that. Because I think, especially in the Western world — and also especially in America — there’s this sort of thing where we talk about mental health like we know we should but it’s not fully shame free. People still hide the fact that they go to therapy if they go to therapy; people don’t really want to talk about anything being anything less than OK. In the UK as well I definitely find that. There’s a sort of a quiet shame where we all know we shouldn’t have shame around it. And I honestly think it’s an old, outdated, archaic thing; it’s been around for ages about keeping up appearances. The more that we can be like ‘it is no big deal, this is a normal human struggle’, then the healthier we’ll feel about talking about it and hopefully the more people we can help. I think it really has to be a consciousness revolution more than anything else.

T: So how are you finding this all, how are you coping with lockdown?
D: I feel like it’s up and down. Every day’s different. I feel like this is a time where we should all be really lucky to be ‘safe’ at home, not ‘stuck’ at home, and I could never complain about being stuck in one place because it’s incredibly fortunate that we are even able to be in one place and have all of our needs met. But I do feel like it’s definitely a strange time for mental health, for anxiety. I think a lot of our fast-paced lifestyle in the Western world is a bit of a coping mechanism to stay above certain things that we don’t want to face — or at the very least, even if it’s not a coping mechanism, it is definitely an aid even if we don’t know we are doing that. So in this time where there’s nothing really to face except for yourself, it can be very draining. I mean you and I know we’ve been having like nights when I’m not at my best, because it feels there’s a lot that comes up that there’s nothing really to distract you from.

T: You can only watch The Office so many times.
D: Yeah… I definitely think it’s a time for paying extra attention to how you feel, because this is probably the clearest that you’re able to be.

T: Without distractions?
D: Without distractions. So it’s been interesting to say the least, but I also think it’s a time that, if you are wanting to, you can take advantage of it and try to do as much work on your relationship with yourself as possible — without introducing too much productivity culture and being like ‘Ok, now is the time to work through my trauma!’ You know what I mean? I would never want to put myself under that kind of pressure…

Top MADEWELL Dove’s own jewellery

Top MADEWELL Dove’s own jewellery

T: It’s almost like you should have a month off every year.
D: I agree, like mental health month.

T: Earth Month?
D: Healing month!

T: Did you see oil’s gone way down?
D: I heard that, your parents were saying that. What does that mean, the oil stock has gone down?

T: Yeah, I think the consumption of oil has just gone way down.
D: that was one of the first things that we were wondering about; it’s very interesting. I was thinking the other day about how much our world does not revolve around mental health. People love to speak about mental health and say how important it is and how we should always put ourselves first, but then if there’s something like a deadline at work and you’re like ‘Oh my god I’m so sorry, this is going to be a day late because I’m so in the throes of it and feel sick with emotion’, they’re like, ‘Well, tough! That’s just not going to work for us’. If you told them on any other day, for another reason, ‘I’m so depressed, I’m so gone, I feel like I’m going to explode’, they’d be like ‘Wow, oh my god it’s so important that you talk about that!’ But not that it interferes with anything that you’re doing in your life.

T: It’s like the way society’s set up isn’t for…
D: Humans? It’s definitely not made for the health of humans! We are such a culture right now obsessed with mental health and being politically correct about approaching mental health, but what is the action behind it that really backs it up? How does it come to fruition in daily life? Where do we leave room for people to have mental health troubles?

T: You should be on Instagram right now…
D: Yeah… But I do think this has been an interesting thing where it really has brought a lot to light as to what we are doing in our daily lives that works and stuff that doesn’t. I mean obviously we’re not going to implement the one month of healing, but I think that’s a right thing to say, because that’s what we need. We need a constant finger on the pulse of how we feel and how our world feels, how our planet feels, and we don’t have that. There’s no system in place for that.

T: So I believe you were working on a film, you’re in mid-production?
D: Yes — I am in mid-production for two films actually.

T: Oh, for two?!
D: The first being this film called Isaac, that is actually… What would you call it? I guess you’d call it a thriller?

Dove Cameron close up for Wonderland 2020 issue

Top MADEWELL Dove’s own jewellery

Dove Cameron close up for Wonderland 2020 issue
Top MADEWELL Dove’s own jewellery

T: A psychological thriller?
D: A psychological thriller, there you go. It’s a psychological thriller about a boy named Isaac and his very strange life and circumstances. I can’t give too much away, but basically it’s one of those films where you never really know what’s real as an audience member. It’s very dark and it’s very different to anything I’ve done before. My character Cassie is Isaac’s girlfriend and something happens, there is an event…

T: Don’t say anymore!
D: …There’s an event and they have to decide what they’re going to do basically to correct this event, and they go on an adventure and their lives change drastically. Then there’s another film I’m working on that I can’t tell you the name of, but I really want to talk about because I love it so much. It’s this kind of thriller-comedy, which is a genre that I’ve not really seen very much. I can’t tell you the name of it, but we were filming it in New Mexico when lockdown happened. It’s incredibly comedic, I’ve never laughed more on a set. Tommy, you were there, how funny is it?

T: It’s so funny. Can I say…?
D: No, you can’t say! Basically it’s one of those things where you sit and you watch the other actors involved and you have to keep your shit together, it’s so hard. There were so many times when we broke. So I’m very excited about that, that’s coming quickly behind Isaac.

T: And music?
D: My new single “Remember Me” just came out and I’m so, so happy with how people are reacting to it. I’m hoping that we can find a way to do a music video because I have this really great vision for the video that I think people are going to love. Then I have a new single coming out soon. I think now is a really good time to be releasing music because people need it. It’s something that we can do from home as artists; we can always be writing, always be producing.

T: And I’ll be doing the music video?
D: Thomas is the videographer, the cameraman and the gaffer… If this quarantine keeps on, there’s probably going to be an EP in our future. So yes! I’m very excited.

Photography
Thomas Doherty
Fashion
Jessica Paster
Creative Direction
Dove Cameron
Entertainment Director
Erica Cornwall
Editorial Director
Huw Gwyther
DOVE CAMERON