COVER

Dove Cameron

By Sara Cation

F

For some people, confidence comes naturally. For others, it’s earned. Most often, it’s built over time through hard work, skillful self-talk, and lots of therapy. But Dove Cameron’s confidence is something different altogether.

Zooming in from her L.A. home with her cat, Peanut Butter, at her feet, the pop singer, actress, and former Disney star exudes confidence; radiates it. It’s casual, not conceited; comfortable, not forced. It’s friendly, welcoming, and wise well beyond her 25 years.

But Dove doesn’t call it confidence. Once upon a time, she says, it was delusion. Heavily bullied in her Bainbridge Island, Washington, middle school, Dove moved with her family to L.A. when she was 14 years old to pursue her passion for singing and acting. She didn’t have a job offer; she didn’t even have an agent, but that’s not the story she told her bullies. “I was like, ‘I’m leveling up! I’m going to be a big actress, and in fact, I’ve already booked my own show,’” she remembers the lie with a laugh. “I was so stubborn about what I wanted my life to look like that I thought, ‘If I say it out loud, it will come true.’” Sure enough, by the time Dove was 17, she was starring as twins in the hit Disney Channel show, Liv & Maddie. It’s a modern-day Wish-Upon-A-Star-style life lesson: “If you’re steadfast in your goals, the universe conspires to make it happen,” she says. “I tell myself these crazy impossible things, and nine times out of 10, they come true! You just have to get out of your own way, and the molecules fill in the space you create.”  

Dress, Vera Wang; Boots, Le Silla; Pearls, Palace Vintage; Gloves, The Residency

For some people, confidence comes naturally. For others, it’s earned. Most often, it’s built over time through hard work, skillful self-talk, and lots of therapy. But Dove Cameron’s confidence is something different altogether.

Zooming in from her L.A. home with her cat, Peanut Butter, at her feet, the pop singer, actress, and former Disney star exudes confidence; radiates it. It’s casual, not conceited; comfortable, not forced. It’s friendly, welcoming, and wise well beyond her 25 years.

But Dove doesn’t call it confidence. Once upon a time, she says, it was delusion. Heavily bullied in her Bainbridge Island, Washington, middle school, Dove moved with her family to L.A. when she was 14 years old to pursue her passion for singing and acting. She didn’t have a job offer; she didn’t even have an agent, but that’s not the story she told her bullies. “I was like, ‘I’m leveling up! I’m going to be a big actress, and in fact, I’ve already booked my own show,’” she remembers the lie with a laugh. “I was so stubborn about what I wanted my life to look like that I thought, ‘If I say it out loud, it will come true.’” Sure enough, by the time Dove was 17, she was starring as twins in the hit Disney Channel show, Liv & Maddie. It’s a modern-day Wish-Upon-A-Star-style life lesson: “If you’re steadfast in your goals, the universe conspires to make it happen,” she says. “I tell myself these crazy impossible things, and nine times out of 10, they come true! You just have to get out of your own way, and the molecules fill in the space you create.”  

Dress, Vera Wang; Boots, Le Silla; Pearls, Palace Vintage; Gloves, The Residency

You just have to get out of your own way, and the molecules fill in the space you create.

You just have to get out of your own way, and the molecules fill in the space you create.


It’s this kind of attitude that ushered Dove into dream roles such as Clara in Light in the Piazza on the London stage (“I had been coveting that role since I was eight years old”) and Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray Live! (alongside Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson). It’s the reason she’s blossomed from a Disney Channel darling into a girlie pop singer signed to Sony’s Disruptor Records with six singles released since 2019. Her seventh, “LazyBaby,” brims with sass, heart, and a happy, danceable beat. With lyrics like, “Uber lady’s outside waiting / If you don’t give a fuck / I don’t give a fuck / Get gone,” it delivers that shape-up-or-ship-out sensibility that boasts get-over-the-guy anthem potential, letting us all tap into her intrinsic confidence as we press play on our break-up playlists. 

Dove’s danceable discography is mostly co-written, including this song. “Co-writing is always some of your own experience, some somebody else’s. You show up on the day, find a common narrative. So, some of it is specific to me, but a lot of it is specific to other people who have been through similar experiences,” she explains. Perhaps that’s why it’s so relatable. A lot of ideas also sprout from the Notes app on her phone. “It can be something so small; just a download of information,” she elaborates. “I synthesize a feeling and then I run into it later and think, ‘Oh, that’s a lyric!’ It’s funny how something small or stupid-seeming can turn into the whole nexus of a song.” 

Dress, Vera Wang; Boots, Le Silla; Pearls, Palace Vintage; Gloves, The Residency

Trust your gut instinct and know that your compass is not broken.

Her Notes app came in handy the day before we spoke, when Dove was in the studio for the first time since the pandemic started with one of her all-time favorite artists, Upsahl, working on new music while fangirling over her talents. “Check out her new song, ‘Stop,’” says Dove. “I am a grassroots fan of this artist, so I was like, ‘I LOVE YOU!’ I’m such a freak for talent that I just get so overwhelmed when I really admire someone,” she laughs at her own awkwardness. “I’m like ‘Woah, your brain, dude!’” 

Working with intimidating talents is one of Dove’s raisons d’être. “For me, a project is colored by the people involved. I just love humans so much. It’s my whole world. It’s why I fall in love so deeply. It’s why I love to pretend to be other people. Humans are the spice of life, so my favorite roles are always tied to the people I work with—and I haven’t had a bad experience yet.”

Her latest project, Schmigadoon!—a musical comedy series executive produced by Lorne Micheals and Cinco Paul—is no exception, stacked with absolute comedy legends: Keegan-Michael Key. Cecily Strong. Alan Cumming. Fred Armisen. Kristen Chenowith. Jane Krakowski. “It’s been one of the highlights of my career,” Dove beams about the show that’s set to premiere on Apple TV this year. “These people are my personal heroes. I was so lucky, because I had a really rough last couple of months, and I got to spend those days with some of the funniest people on the planet. I could go to Keegan or Alan or Kristen and be like, ‘Guys, I’m having a breakdown, I’m going to combust,’ and they’d give me advice, make me laugh, make me a drink or just say, ‘We got you.’ It was super fucking special.” 

Talking openly about her mental health comes naturally to Dove, who’s seen a therapist since she was eight years old when her best friend was murdered. She also lost her father when she was 15 (“Dove” was her father’s pet name for her). “I witnessed so much pain early on in life, and I remember thinking that it’s so bizarre we pretend the pain doesn’t exist. Like, every person is in on this big secret, saying ‘We’re good,’ but, like, WHY? FOR WHO? What’s the point when the person next door could be going through the same things? These conversations help people, so let’s have them! There’s so much strength in vulnerability.”

Jeans, Levi’s; Tights, Gucci

This isn’t to say that Dove hasn’t wrestled with mental health just because she’s willing to talk about it. She is human, after all. “As a hero of mine, RuPaul Charles likes to say, our inner saboteur is constantly present. Everybody has moments when they think, ‘Woah, I’m the worst, I’m a fraud, I’m never going anywhere, everyone hates me.’” But confronting that inner saboteur was life-changing for Dove. “I realized that, when I would tell myself that I’m a worthless nothing, I’m basically saying, ‘Everyone else is the best, and I am the worst.’ But who am I to decide that? No one knows better than me in the same way that I don’t know better than anyone else. So if I place their judgment of me above my own, that’s a form of arrogance!”

 

Channeling more RuPaul’s Drag Race references, Dove shares what she would tell her younger self given the chance. “First and foremost, I’d say, ‘You know everything already. Have more faith in your observational skills. Trust your gut instinct and know that your compass is not broken. You don’t need to look outside of yourself for validation. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. The key to life is to hold yourself to your own standard instead of constantly checking yourself against what’s outside of you.”

 

It’s excellent advice; to build confidence from within. And if Dove Cameron is any example, it works in achieving your dreams.

 

If you can’t wait for the upcoming untitled Apple show, look for Dove in movies like Dumplin’ (alongside Jennifer Aniston), Angry Birds 2 (with Jason Sudekis, Josh Gad, and Leslie Jones), and Barely Lethal (with Hailee Steinfeld, Jessica Alba, and Samuel L. Jackson), any of the Descendants movies (in which Dove plays Maleficent’s daughter)—or on the ABC series, Marvel’s Agents of Shield.

 

Also, look for her as a guest judge on an upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. No, she hasn’t been booked yet. But Ru’s one of her heroes. She absolutely loves the show. And the desire is officially out there. 


Universe, work your magic.



Hairstylist: Clayton Hawkins
Photographer: Sarah Krick
Stylist: Erin Walsh
Makeup: Melissa Hernandez




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