Dove Conquers All
PHOTOS BY RANDALL SLAVIN WORDS BY TAMARA RAPPA
Leaping Past Hurdles Both Personal and Professional, Dove Cameron Is Here To Slay
Tamara Rappa: Dove, do you remember your first moment of true creativity as a child?
Dove Cameron: There were so many. My parents did a really good job of allowing me to go wherever I wanted to go, creatively. I was writing poems by the time I was 3 or 4, which I'm sure were shit, because I was a three-year-old but...
TR: That's incredible, I mean, a three year old writing poetry.
DC: Thank you. My mother was a poet and my parents were jewelry designers. I was writing poetry, I was singing. They allowed me to do things like design jewelry. It was a very self-expressed household, I felt very lucky.
TR: Your creativity was nurtured. What personality traits do you possess, that contribute to making you a creative person, a 'maker'?
DC: The need to connect is a big driving force behind a lot of anything I do, creatively. From a young age I was very into human beings and connecting, what makes people connect, and the mediums people connect through. Creativity was tied to interactions between other humans, rather than just as an expression of myself. A friend and I were talking about the fact that I never noticed how much of my inspiration comes from other people. I’ve always been a watcher of people. I just love to observe people and psychoanalyze...which seems like an unfeeling word. I've always been obsessed with how people work, understanding why they do the things they do, to the point where I live in my head and I won't live for myself. I'll only pay attention to the outside world as though it's something playing out in front of me; something I'm not really involved in. I think that has to change in order for me to become happier. I've become so disillusioned living like that, with a sense of accomplishment or feeling fulfilled by something that has to do with something external. That's changing rapidly now because I'm allowing myself to be more internally focused.
"When you see massive injustice in the world, and you see people speaking about it, you have to decide which side of the line you fall on, and then do it, with all of you. If you don't back up your statements, you'll communicate something you don't want to be communicating."
TR: Do you feel that you're somebody who feels things very deeply?
DC: Yeah, oh, very intensely. I would say that I, and a lot of the people I spend my time with, are true empaths, and very, very affected by everything and the people around us. I texted my best friend saying that I feel I'm in a strange metamorphosis, a revolution, an everything's-changing kind of place. Right now we're all spending so much time with ourselves that we're facing our own bullshit, our own stuff we don't want to face. Distractions are removed. A lot of this generation grew up thinking the world was going to look different. Now there's sort of a dark overcast over a lot of Western society and people are less easily distracted. It's bringing a lot of things to the surface, it’s accelerating progress.
TR: It's been an emotionally charged landscape out here in the world and for the last several months, with a long overdue fight to move the needle on racial equality, and you got heavily involved by attending protests. Can you talk a little bit about your experience?
DC: I got involved in the protesting pretty early on. I attended maybe seven different protests, because when one would end, we would drive to another one. Seeing the video of George Floyd was so emotional for everybody, it made a lot clear. [My boyfriend and I] knew we wanted to be out in it. We knew we wanted to be involved. We knew we wanted to use our platforms to speak about what was going on. It was just the two of us at the start, and then we started going out with our friends, Brittany and Harry. It just seemed like the right thing to do; I don't know how to say it other than that. It's a tumultuous time for everybody in the world, with health concerns and with the virus. So I would never, in a million years, say that it's everybody's responsibility to be out on the street. Obviously there are people with compromised immune systems, people who just don't want to risk it, and things like that. But for me it was the only thing to do. I know for a lot of my peers and a lot of the people I highly respect, we see massive injustice in the world, see people speaking about it, we decide which side of the line we fall on---and then do it, with all of ourselves. If you don't back up how you feel or your statements, you'll communicate something you don't want to be communicating.
"This time has given me so much clarity on things I’ve felt so foggy about for years and years."
TR: On the subject of communication, do you write down or record the ideas that you have? I think people would love to know whether it's a Notes app on your phone, or a notebook. What do you do when ideas strike for a song, or for something else?
DC: I'm loving your questions, these are such nice questions! If an idea strikes for a song, I use the Voice Memos app within my phone. That doesn't happen very often, where a melody will come to me and I'm like, 'Whoa, that's a melody I need to record'. Usually, it's words that come to me, and when it's words, I have this weird thing where I don't trust the Notes app. There's no reason for it, nothing's ever happened, I just don't trust it. I feel like it could just go. I’m a crazy person when it comes to notebooks and I always carry a journal with me. It has to be a beautiful journal, something unusual that I've never seen before. I always carry a couple of very heavy-in-the-hand pens. I have another notebook for just for lists of things. It's full of to-do-lists, grocery lists, and things that I need to do before ‘X' amount of time. I have another notebook that’s only an external schedule. I keep everything in those three.
"I'm having this conversation a lot, where I feel my image, the sort of quick and dry breakdown of who I am, is nowhere near who I actually am, and I don't really know how I did that."
TR: Is there anything that you think you've missed out on, growing up as a star in the spotlight?
DC: I think the way I programmed my mind was a little bit wonky. I was very in touch with this feeling of being in touch with the universe when I was growing up: I was in the right place, at the right time. And because my family dynamic changed so much right before I was recognizable, I freaked out and I was like, 'Whoa, I'm not a part of this, I don't want to be.’ Just because I'm born into a family, doesn't mean I have to stay in this role within this family. My version of rebellion was, 'You don't have access to me anymore'. I removed myself from my family's life because I felt unsafe, emotionally. There was just so much shit going down. When I did that, what I was doing was telling my brain I didn't need that relationship because A) I had it all in myself, and B) I was going to go to Hollywood. I was going to be surrounded by creatives, and I was going to be surrounded by people who saw and understood me. I emptied that space and made room to create my own family. But I tried to create it within the industry, and that's not always the best option.
TR: I do understand that instinct, 'let me go where I can be understood'. And it's true that there can be a lot of pitfalls there.
DC: It's an industry of creatives, but not entirely made of start-ups and creativity. I opened my heart and all my ventricles, all of my sensitive spots, to this space that’s the wild wild west in terms of what you're going to receive. And I just fucked myself. I was too young and too bullheaded to be shielding myself from what I thought was going to be, my safest place ever. I made a lot of stupid decisions. 'Here I am, this is the new me,' and I delved into a terrible relationship. I was very anorexic for a long time. I was doing everything I could to create a safe space for myself within a place I felt was a new home, and that wasn't smart, you know? It really came down to my age when I entered, I think.
TR: Is there anything that people don't know about you that you'd like to share?
DC: I don't know. I think I'm pretty vocal. Anything I share, I share because it's something I feel comfortable sharing. I don't know if there's anything that I'm dying to share. What I would say about Hollywood, in general, not about myself but with anybody in my position, is that it’s so hard to know people from what you think you know of them. I'm having this conversation a lot, where I feel my image, the sort of quick and dry breakdown of who I am, is nowhere near who I actually am, and I don't really know how I did that. I'm very much in this weird place where I feel like I'm like waking up from something. 'Whoa, how did that happen? How did I do that? Did I mean to do that?' It’s a very disillusioning feeling.
"Sometimes you need to turn off your phone and tell your managers and agents you’re not okay and whatever’s going to happen, you’re going to take time for yourself. ‘I'm gone, everything's turned off, don't contact me."
TR: We live in a society filled with lots and lots of sharing, and with lots and lots of sharing comes lots and lots of interpretation---wouldn't you say? Do you feel you've been more reflective during the pandemic, during lockdown? Have you felt a little bit more reflective of yourself and your projects?
DC: I think I'm always obsessed with reflecting. I have something called Chronic PTSD. I've had so many traumatic blows to my receptors, I now process through a lens of constant trauma and 'when's the next shoe going to drop?' There are so many times per day where I'll fully feel the feelings I've felt before in a massive loss, catastrophe, tragedy situation, over something that's unrelated and nowhere near that level. I'll feel those feelings as though they're happening right now. It was a big deal for me to learn that. I have depression, I have anxiety, I have OCD. I've been in therapy for years. I speak loosely about it, but I'm not trying to speak about it all the time because obviously there's more to me than that. My therapist explained it to me while I was on lockdown, and everything kind of came to light for me. I wouldn't say that I've been more reflective, as much as I feel more clear. This time has given me so much clarity on things I’ve felt so foggy about for years and years. It's so difficult because there's no real medication that can treat it. It's a very long process, to try to get yourself back to a place of normality. I may never get back there. But at least I know what to call it, what I'm up against. And at least I know that the multitude of feelings I feel in a day have an explanation. I know why I'm this way, and I can start to heal the judgment I've placed on myself for trying to rush myself out of a place of deep wounding. That's the biggest thing I've been doing in lockdown. And also to stop hating myself by attempting to be productive, keep up my career, be functional. There are so many days where I’m not functional. I was really turning on myself. My expectations were too high. I wasn’t giving myself the room to be not okay. I'm so grateful for the time to be quiet right now.
TR: Do you think that the combination of growing up in the spotlight and dealing with some serious issues early on, like death, have made you grow up fast?
DC: For sure. I think I had my first weird, crazy, trauma loss when I was eight, and I've been in therapy ever since.
TR: Which is a good thing.
DC: It is a good thing. Mental health and therapy are things that have helped me be very comfortable with those situations and conversations. I'm so grateful. Now that I have a platform, there are young people involved in my platform, and I feel so comfortable speaking about things that are still relatively taboo. As much as we'd like to think that they're not, they really are in a lot of ways. It's forced me to grow up faster, but I think it also gave me a lot of tools for dealing with life.
"I very much have to free myself of other people's opinions of what's appropriate to discuss, because I need to be comfortable in the reality of my life and not put taboo placements over a vast majority of my experiences."
TR: It's a wonderful thing to be able to share that with people who want to feel understood themselves. What kinds of things do you do to add levity to your life, to feel more relaxed and unburdened?
DC: That's a really good question. I’m working on that. I have to do a lot of basic physical grounding to get myself to feel comfortable in my life. It starts with me waking up with all these racing thoughts, all the things that could happen today, all the things that I've been dreaming about that are finding their way into my conscious mind. I wake up in that state, and I have to write a little bit, or breathe, or just take a minute to reposition my thinking. I seem to have a lot of energy stored in my chest, originating from when maybe I wasn't expressed growing up, or from when I repressed a lot of anger or fear. Sometimes I'll do this thing where I literally put my hand on my chest and say ‘You’re okay. You've got yourself.' I like to think thoughts that make me feel that reality doesn't have to be terrifying. Or eat nice food. Sometimes Thomas, if I'm really freaking out, will have me dance around the room. Or I'll speak to my best friend. A lot of it is that I need to feel seen. I've always had a really hard time feeling seen and feeling safe with the people around me. So sometimes I'll reach out to somebody who l know truly sees me, like my best friend, a mirror for me.
TR: It's so comforting, isn't it? Sometimes that's all we need.
DC: Yes, exactly. There’s another thing, I wouldn’t recommend this! But sometimes I need to go and do something crazy. Sometimes I need to get a tattoo. Sometimes I need to just drive somewhere. We took a road trip a couple months ago, during lockdown, because we couldn't travel otherwise. We took so much time for ourselves. Sometimes you need to turn off your phone and tell your managers and agents you’re not okay and whatever’s going to happen, you’re going to take time for yourself. ‘I'm gone, everything's turned off, don't contact me.'
"I need people who are going to fight for me, people who know me as a person---not as a product."
TR: Sometimes we just need a little spontaneity.
DC: You need to remind yourself that you’re in control of your own life. Sometimes that looks like, what some people might respond to with, 'Don't do that.' Well, I have to. I have to for myself.
TR: You've said that people in the industry have discouraged you from discussing certain subjects. Who were you referring to? Outsiders, or people you work with?
DC: I've actually always had a really supportive team. The world. The people I don't really know. The general public. And I have a lot of peers I've worked with that have been like, 'Don't talk about that if we're in an interview'. It’s absolutely my right to talk about my life. I'm not going to orient myself around someone else's opinion, just because they don't want to talk about their experience. If someone's going to ask me about mental health, I'm never going to shy away from it just because you think maybe it's taboo, or you think it's something that’s not appropriate to discuss. I very much have to free myself of other people's opinions of what's appropriate to discuss, because I need to be comfortable in the reality of my life and not put taboo placements over a vast majority of my experiences. If I tell myself that those are bad, to be hidden away, and that nobody wants to hear it, I'll be so sad. Because that's so much of my life. If I diminish, to things that are pleasant to speak about, I won't have...not that I won't have very much to talk about, but it won't be honest.
TR: There's the idea that 'you're as sick as your secrets'. Why hide who you are, it's about being authentic. There's no reason to hide half of your personality.
DC: I think it's really about the fact that I punished myself for a long time for having this life. I told myself when I was younger, 'Nobody wants to hear about this, this is sad, it’s going to make people sad. You're going to make people uncomfortable'. I had to work so hard to accept that this is the reality of my life, and it’s allowed. I don't have to hide it from myself, I don't have to hide it from people. Sure, there are loads of things, I want to be clear, there are loads of things, that I don't talk about publicly because I just don't want to, and that's also my right. In culture right now, the public is so heavily involved in everyone's life. They get very vocal. 'You should talk about this.' No, actually I don't want to. The point isn't that I talk about everything under the sun, the point is that I talk about what's true for me, what's important for me to talk about, and what's vital and essential to who I am. I need to be honest about it because otherwise I will feel shameful, I'll feel like I'm hiding myself, and I don't want to live a life like that.
"It's a very hard thing, breaking out of a niche, and it's also a very hard thing to change an image once it's established."
TR: Dove, is it ever difficult being surrounded by so many members of a team... from agents to managers to glam to PR? Does it feel supportive to you, or can it feel stressful?
DC: I feel very supported by my team. I've worked hard to curate a team that's very nurturing. What I love about my team is that they’re a really great group of fully-formed, healthy individuals. They're also good at nurturing themselves, so they allow me all the room I need to nurture myself as a human and not a product. In this industry, you run into a lot of people who maybe don't do that for themselves. Then they expect that you won't do it for yourself either. I've spent time with those people. I've had those people on my team in the past, and it's just unhealthy. You need to surround yourself, (even in business, because we live our lives in this industry) with strong women, strong men. I need people who when I’m not okay and I need to go away, they all say, 'Your life is more important than your career, do whatever you need.' I need people who are going to fight for me, people who know me as a person---not as a product. I feel really good that I've cultivated that. Who you spend your time with is so important.
"I want to play something that maybe I'm nervous about. A role where I get to really be ugly. I really want to be ugly and stretch myself."
TR: You learned that very early on in your career, so that's fantastic. Dove, you've played roles that are very niche. Roles for Disney, roles for Marvel. What kinds of roles are you just dying to play in the future?
DC: I came to LA full of so much emotion, and what I would have said at the time, darkness---for a kid. And grit, and anger. I had so much to express. Then, I ended up playing these very, like you said, niche-y roles. ‘Characters’, almost. One begets the next, and then someone sees you in this, and thinks…
TR: That's how it works.
DC: Totally....that is totally how it works. Right now, I'm doing two roles that I feel are very much a departure from what I've done in the past. But when are those movies going to be finished?! I think the roles I’m interested in playing are roles that are more akin to real people, somebody, maybe, who's had a similar experience to my own. It's a very hard thing, breaking out of a niche, and it's also a very hard thing to change an image once it's established.
TR: You can do it. If anyone can do it, it's you.
DC: Thank you, that's so nice of you. I want to play roles where I feel very exposed and very challenged, roles that I don't feel I can hide behind. A lot of the characters I've been able to play are characters I feel I know how to do.
TR: A superhero.
DC: Or Amber in Hairspray. Characters I feel we know. I want to play something a little less linear, and I want to play something that maybe I'm nervous about. A role where I get to really be ugly. I really want to be ugly and stretch myself.
TR: You have so much ahead of you, there are many different types of opportunities that you could pursue. How do you think you'll approach those dramatic roles, the ones that have especially serious subject matter. Because you're this deeply empathetic and deeply feeling person, do you think you'll need to work hard to make sure the material doesn't drain you?
DC: Oh, that's such a good question, I think about that all the time, and when I watch other actors. I think, ‘this actress has cried nine times in probably a two week span.' If I'm doing something really taxing, I'll be sure to think of the future. I'll tell my people, 'I can already tell you I'm going to be dead at the end of this, I need a three week break. I just did a production of The Light In The Piazza, which is the most taxing role I've ever played. I played Clara, the main ingenue. The story is focused on the sort of failing marriage of the mother, and the mother-daughter relationship. Clara’s mother decides to take her away on this trip to Italy to escape the failing family home. It starts out with a very normal kind of a relationship. Everything seems very business as usual, here's this lovely, American mother-daughter couple in Italy. It's slowly revealed throughout, that Clara is a bit different than the other girls her age. Biologically she's 26, but she had an incident when she was younger that prevented her from aging mentally past the age of 12. She has all the physical and biological components of a twenty-something young woman, but the mental capacity of a child, and it's a difficult line to navigate. She falls in love with this boy in Italy and has sex for the first time. It's a moral dilemma. What does this young girl deserve? What kind of life can she be given? From the mother's perspective, can she be having sex? Can she be falling in love? Can she be having these feelings? What is allowed? To play somebody who’s full of so much youth and joy, then, be embodying it as a twenty-something woman having temper tantrums and breaking things...to play that every night while singing, singing opera, some of it in Italian, having sex on stage, having all of these breakdowns where you are a child in a young woman's body, discovering that your whole life has been a lie---was such an incredible opportunity for me as an actor. And to do it every night on stage while singing the works of Adam Guettel? Was just incredible. But I had to recover from it for a month afterwards. So it would be a dream to play something so harrowing and dark and complex, and I would have to delve deep. I would have to expose so much of myself. I would definitely have to set everything aside. With that kind of work, it has to be all that you're doing.
"I could do five indies in a year and feel so creatively fulfilled. I don't give a fuck if anybody sees those films, I just feel great. With music it's different. You need both: you need the music to work, and you need people to like it."
TR: What was it like living and working overseas in the UK for Piazza? How did it change you?
Dove: It was amazing. I was so stressed out. With any new, difficult project you're like, 'Oh my God, I can't do it. I've never done this before.'
TR: Fear of the unknown.
DC: You dive into it, and you're like, 'I'm fooling myself, I can't do this, there's no part of me that should have signed up for this'. Then, you're seeing your face all over the London tube. But it was so great for me to have an adventure, and to go somewhere like London. I really love the UK. I spend a lot of time over there anyway, because my boyfriend is from Scotland, we've spent loads of time there over the last three years. I really love the people. I really love the sense of community. I love the banter. I love the environment. I love how old it is, like life has happened there. It makes you feel more in touch with yourself.
TR: What's more appealing to you, working in TV or film, at this point? Or is it both?
DC: Either one. At this point TV is so high quality. Much of TV is a like a really long film. I like doing film right now, because I like to dip into little worlds and then come out of them. I like the ability to do three or four [projects] a year, more than doing one consistently, because I've had that experience. But I’m open to all of it. I love the idea of a limited series, that's kind of the sweet spot.
TR: Is there an actor or a musician you admire, and when you think about your own career aspirations?
DC: I think a lot about the career track of Amy Adams. A big one for me has always been Nicole Kidman. I think she has a sort of darkness while also having an unbelievable lightness and charisma to her, a weird contradiction. I love Renee Zellweger. I love Saoirse Ronan, I think she's incredible. My favorite actress has always been Jessica Lange. I think also a lot about actors like Stanley Tucci. I love Amy Adams so much because she's had this very interesting career path, and I was lucky enough to speak to her recently. We were talking about the difficulty of transitioning away from how people want to see you. If you're really good at one thing, how do you show people that you can do other things, things other than what you've come to be known for?
TR: What did she have to say?
DC: She was speaking about her experience with Enchanted, and how after that, people wanted to put her in every musical. She had to really fight to be all different types of things. She spoke to me about when she came to LA at age 23 or or 24, thinking, 'Can I even do this?' She wanted to go to New York to be a dancer and she came out [to LA] on kind of on a whim. I talked to her about being in that age bracket now, but starting young. The age that I'm at now, the age that she was when she came to LA, is an age when a lot of people start. I realized, I've been doing this for a long time. She said, 'I didn't come out here until I was your age, there's so much room for you to basically go wherever you want to go.' That's what I needed to hear. I need to feel like I can just go wherever I want to go.
TR: How do you view your music career versus your acting career? Are you spontaneous, allowing each opportunity to take shape, based the opportunities that present themselves?
DC: We obviously plan in theatrical. In the acting world we plan things far in advance. With music, it's very much that I'll be texting my people, 'Hey, we have this single', or, 'We have the next five singles laid out, when's it happening?' And then we're releasing it in two weeks. It's very much wild wild west, but I'm trying to learn how to function within it. It's a very different world than I'm used to inhabiting. However, I think I'm pretty spontaneous when it comes to work. I prefer that to having two years booked out in advance. I love the exciting feeling of running off to do something crazy for a couple of weeks, and then moving on from it. I think I have to work a little bit harder within music to really be purposeful and..
TR: Thoughtful about it?
DC: I need to be thoughtful, exactly, instead of just filling a role and believing in my ability. It's not just showing up and singing, right? I need a song to resonate. Is this really what I want to put out there? How do I expose myself so completely in my music and feel comfortable doing it, to the point where I'm actually proud of the stuff I'm creating and not thinking about what's going to be successful? With film, you want to do the same. I could do five indies in a year and feel so creatively fulfilled. I don't give a fuck if anybody sees those films, I just feel great. With music it's different. You need both: you need the music to work, and you need people to like it. But you also need to feel proud of it, and that it’s not something you’re just putting out. So that people can like it. That's something you really need to fight for, because a lot of the music industry is purely based on people liking what you do. It's something I'm massaging right now, trying to find a little bit more of a middle ground. I can't treat it like a business, I have to treat it like a process.
"I used to be ‘I, am, a, robot’, because I was just more comfortable in that space, there was less room for pain. But I can't do that anymore."
TR: What lifts you up in life, Dove?
DC: Adventure, the people that I love, and possibility.
TR: What do you do to practice self care?
DC: I have to say no a lot. I have to allow myself to fully break down. l can't force myself out of it, like I used to. I need to cancel plans a lot. I need to do therapy. I need to be patient, to express, to write, to not say sorry for my trauma---which is really hard. To allow myself time to be human. I used to be a ‘I, am, a, robot’, because I was just more comfortable in that space, there was less room for pain. But I can't do that anymore, so those are my self care things.
TR: Who are your closest friends?
DC: My best friend Veronica is from another planet, she's an earth angel! And then my boyfriend is also my best friend, he's also from another planet.
TR: Very important, to have a boyfriend as a best friend.
DC: Very important. You can't have one without the other. Well, you can have a best friend, not a boyfriend. But you can't have a boyfriend without that connection, not allowed. I have so many others, like my friends Rob and Celinde, who I did Light In The Piazza with. I have a lot of close friends.
TR: Do you find it helpful to have friends in the business, with whom you can share some of your unique life experience?
DC: Yes, I would say it's been better for me to find friends in theater, for example. A lot of my friends do everything. I used to think when I was younger that there was no competition in the industry, because I was just very friendly. Now as I've gotten older, my perspective has changed. I know a lot of people who are very career-minded, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I would say they aren't very expressed or very social, as much as they're, 'I need to get my nine hours so I don't age prematurely. I need to drink my water.' There's not much room to connect. They're all about their career. I could probably use a little bit more of that. But I do connect more with theater people, writers, people like that.
"Integrity. I don't fuck around with liars. I study people so obsessively, if they lack integrity in one part of their life, I decide I could never work with them."
TR: What kinds of people do you think you gravitate towards, generally speaking?
DC: I gravitate towards people who are so expressed in whatever it is that they do. I gravitate towards very strong people. All of the people in my life are extremely sensitive. I need someone who I can say 'Hey, I'm so mad at you,' to, or 'Hey, shut up, don't speak to me like that', and we can fight. And they can say the same thing to me. I need people who I can push against, they can push me back, and it feels like an equal driving force. I'm incapable of tiptoeing at this point. It can be hard to find those people, those that are strong within themselves.
TR: How do you trust people in business? Is there anything that you look for, signs that are a 'Hell yeah', and other signs that are, 'Oh no, never’?
DC: Integrity. I don't fuck around with liars. I study people so obsessively, if they lack integrity in one part of their life, I decide I could never work with them. That sounds so discriminatory, but if they show me something strange like, ‘Oh well, we just don't have to tell them that', or, 'We can fake it by doing this', or, 'Let's take the easy way', then that's the end of it there. I'd never call them out, I just don't want to worry about weird vibes. I don't like sneakiness.
"We're born watching stuff from Disney, and we have this idea of everything that comes with it. Then, we put the people who work within the realm of Disney into that same category, as though they’re meant to be cut from the same kind of cartoonish cloth."
TR: Why do you think people reacted so strongly to that bikini photo you posted? Do you think people are too comfortable with categories? She's a Disney actor, never mind that she's 23.
DC: I think it's so many things. I think we do label. Disney is one of the oldest, most recognizable brands, we're born watching stuff from Disney, and we have this idea of everything that comes with it. Then, we put the people who work within the realm of Disney into that same category, as though they’re meant to be cut from the same kind of cartoonish cloth, and it's very bizarre. It's so funny to me. I got my first tattoo when I was fourteen years old---I was never, ever, a good fit for Disney. I've said that to Disney ever since they cast me in the first thing they cast me in. Wrong girl, not me, not who I am. But when I was on Disney, I did the thing. You sign the contract that says, 'Don't swear in public, don't represent us badly.' And I thought, fair enough, I'm an employee. I'm not going to fuck that up for you guys. So I didn't. Then when it was over, I was back to my thing, back to who I am behind closed doors, and I think people got very disturbed by it. They thought, ‘Who is this she-devil’? But I also think it's more than that. I think we’re so uncomfortable with women's sexuality and bodies, because it’s been commoditized. There’s a perspective on women, not everyone’s perspective, definitely not mine, but I think 30% of people feel you can do what you want with your body, but only if it’s to the collective liking, in a hyper-sexualized, objectified way. And it gets to be controlled, we get to see it how we see it, whether it's through magazines, threads, or porn, or certain highly hyper-sexualized environments. We get to control your body and your sexuality by deciding if you are a pure angel. If you have any sexual impulses, then you’re dirty, we cast you out and you are a harlot. It's never comfortable for anyone when a woman is like, 'Actually yes, I enjoy sex, here's my body, here's the body that I've always had, here's what I look like. Here are my nipples, not only for your viewing pleasure, or for babies, this is my anatomy.' People absolutely hate it. We're not very far down the road with that right now, with women being able to be sexual, just like men. I have a body, and it's my body. It's for me to decide what to do with it. That really triggers people. Whether being told to hide it or being told to show it, we're still only comfortable doing it in the way that other people are comfortable. I always encourage women to express themselves with their body and sexuality in whatever way they feel comfortable, because it's not about anybody else.
TR: Do you see Instagram and social media as a creative outlet?
DC: No, I don't think so. I think I used to, and I think I probably could. I think maybe I've made it such a toxic environment for myself that I don't feel comfortable expressing there.
TR: How so?
DC: I don't really know. Like I said in the very beginning of this conversation, I have, up until this point, felt so tied to other people's opinions and points of view. I thought, if I'm connecting with people then I must be doing something right. If I'm not connecting with people I must be doing something wrong. It was a means of connection. [Instagram] is a very visual medium, but people can't get the full scope of who someone is from visuals and videos and texts. Putting myself on it fully was something I was doing for a while, and then I'd be very heavily disturbed when I saw that people don't see me. I'm being honest, I'm speaking about all these things, and they just don't see me. My best friend said, 'Why are you looking to be seen on an Instagram?' I guess it was because it was my biggest means of communicating with people. I thought, you have so many followers, might as well try to connect with them. But you won't connect with everybody, so I feel I need to take the pressure off. If I feel I want to be authentically received, and I want people to really know who I am, I’m not going to find that on Instagram, no matter how many people are looking at it. It doesn't mean they're seeing it, just because they're looking at it. And I think for me, in order to authentically create and express, I need to remove the national megaphone element of it, and just do it for a while. My boyfriend told me 'You just need to do stuff only for you’. If you're constantly doing it as an interactive experience, it won't ever be authentic. It can't be.
"I always encourage women to express themselves with their body and sexuality in whatever way they feel comfortable, because it's not about anybody else."
TR: Do you limit yourself now? In terms of how much you look at it, how much you read, how much you go through?
DC: I do. If I’m on it regularly, I feel this weird low-level toxicity. If I'm off of it for a long time and then I go on it, I really notice how badly I react to it. I'm not saying that it's inherently bad, but for me right now, I'm not able to be on it without feeling affected. I have to do it less, be selective, and maybe I can come back to it when I feel more replenished.
"[Instagram] is a very visual medium, but people can't get the full scope of who someone is from visuals and videos and texts. Putting myself on it fully was something I was doing for a while, and then I'd be very heavily disturbed when I saw that people don't see me."
TR: How does it truly feel when you think about over 30 million people following you?
DC: This is going to sound so weird, but it doesn't really make me feel almost anything. I don't think that they’re seeing me. I look at it as just a number of people who don’t even know who I am. I'm sure there are a couple million of those people, where, if someone said my name, they'd be like, 'Oh yeah, I think I follow her on Instagram'. Do you know what I mean? I don't think it's really 37 million devoted fan friends.
TR: ....devoted to your career.
DC: I don't know what it is, I have no idea. I can't even pretend to know what it is. Because of that, I don't want to assume. I know so many of them are unbelievably kind, warm, sweet, and very dedicated. They’re a passionate group of really special people and I think, 'Wow, I can't even that you guys exist, and that you care about anything I do.' And for that, it's really kind of mind-blowing. I know this sounds so douche-y, but I feel weird using the word 'fan' because they're such lovely, fully-formed human beings who just happened to be interested in the stuff creative people do, and I happen to be one of those people. Every once in a while, they'll say something so astute, so observant, it means they must've been paying such attention to my life. It's powerful. I feel very touched and humbled that anybody would care. But when I think about the sheer mass of it, I don't know. I can picture a bunch of them in one place, and that's really weird. That's so many people. I hope my fans are happy, I hope they're good in their lives. But I don't know… I don't know if they actually even know who I am.
TR: What did you think of your boyfriend's role in the Hulu reboot, the film-to-series, High Fidelity?
DC: He’s so fucking talented, it's crazy. It was such a well done production. I got to go to the premiere, and everybody involved was so passionate about it, and so lovely. He had such an incredible time doing it. He's amazing, such incredible young actor. One thing that I love about how he performs, is he's so present with you all the time. You can really feel that in his work and his acting; the way that he connects with the other actors, the way he interacts with the camera, the way he's able to be so walls-down while on camera. It's amazing to me. It's something I feel as a viewer, you can really feel. I'm so proud of him.
"I hope my fans are happy, I hope they're good in their lives. But I don't know… I don't know if they actually even know who I am."
TR: What do you look for in a love relationship?
DC: Patience, room to be wherever you're going to be, sensitivity, understanding, good communication, support and honesty.
TR: Is there anything that you are wishing for, both in your career and in your personal life?
DC: I take things day by day. I'm really in a groove where I want to do a bunch of indie films. I want to work so much that I discover new levels of myself. I think indie films are the best kinds of sets to explore what it is that you want, and who you are as an actor. I want to do a lot of that, I'm doing that right now, and I'm happy about it. I want to do the same with music, I want to strip back what I think everybody's going to think of my music, and I want to express in the most honest way possible. My goals are to express myself as honestly as possible, in every medium I have. To see myself, to the point where I both celebrate and make room for myself. Then, I can turn my attention to, 'Alright, what's next?'
AUGUST 2020 COVER
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
STORY + RAIN
"We just blow through all of Jo Malone's candles..."
"I have these big, nasty Dr. Martens that are three sizes too big for me, and I wear them with everything. I played a mega-villain for this Marvel series, and they kept dressing me in men's, army-inspired villain clothes. It was like the height of my life, because that's how I want to dress every day."
"How f***ing good is Kush mascara?! It's really good."
"I love to use oils as hair care products. Any oil will do. I love to put jojoba oil or avocado oil in my hair to keep it alive."
"I love fresh flowers, especially white roses. It's an investment I make in myself. I'll order myself big bouquets just to have all over the house."
"@chessiekingg is very body positive. I love to follow accounts that make me feel like a normal human, rather than a product."
"I haven't violently sobbed like that in such a long time. Suffragette is one of the most incredible films I've ever seen in my life."
"I got to go to the High Fidelity premiere, everybody involved was so passionate about it and so lovely. My boyfriend had such an incredible time doing it."