Cover Story: Cameron Dallas on leading today’s millennial superstars
By: Sarah Engstrand
February 1, 2018
Cameron Dallas is taking over the world. The 23-year-old Californian shot to fame in 2013 with his quirky, prank-filled Vine videos (#RIP). He soon expanded to Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, and his rise has continued to be meteoric.
Naturally entrepreneurial, Dallas has made the most of this momentum, leveraging his all-American good looks and clean – but not too clean – image into 45.9 million followers across four accounts at the time of writing. He has two movies and a Netflix docu-series to his name, and is currently developing his portfolio as a model, designer and singer. When we speak on the phone the day after his photoshoot, he’s warm and self-assured. He carefully considers questions and artfully declines anything contentious with the skill of a charmed politician (specifically in reference to a certain controversial YouTube star). He’s confident but humble, poised yet relaxed. He peppers his normally casual speech with words like “fiduciary” and “user base”, revealing hints of a sharp mind that will hopefully keep him on the radar for years to come.
You’ve just walked the runway again for Dolce & Gabbana. How does it feel?
Every time I go to the Dolce & Gabbana runway shows, it’s absolutely amazing. Domenico and Stefano are legends, they treat us like family – and honestly, it’s really great. I’m honoured because I’m such a fan. To go from taking photos of myself in my bedroom to actually walking the runway and doing what I wanted to do is really cool. I’m super-stoked.
It’s been about a year since you first hit the runway. How have you changed since then?
I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who are super-cool and now when I go to the Dolce shows, I’m friends with all the other models. It’s such a fun vibe. I’m a lot more comfortable and it has sparked creativity in my brain that is just like, running rampant right now. I’m really into fashion. I’m so into fashion right now. Every time I see an out t, I can’t help but think of ways to rock it because I’m so inspired. It’s really helped me expose another part of myself that I never really knew I had.
How would you describe your own style?
Honestly, my style is always having different styles. I love changing it up. Like, I love to dress skater, and I love to dress super-nice like I could go golfing. And I love having a go at the hip-hop clothes.
You’re the voice of the new generation, so how do your peers view luxury?
I’m really not sure. A lot of my friends were telling me how cool the last Dolce & Gabbana show was, because not only is this luxury brand doing luxury clothes, but they’re also applying it to cool things like active wear. Like, my out t – I felt so cool in that out t. It was a white silk jersey jacket with white silk shorts and the coolest shoes I’ve ever been in. I literally felt like a king. They put a crown on me and it was so amazing. Their outfits literally make you feel an emotion, and that’s what I love.
How do your friends choose their labels – what’s important to them?
Well, you know, the thing is, it’s not so much about the luxury brand. When you get into fashion – recently, I’ve been working on a clothing brand – you get into the fabrics and things like that. I could make a hat for US$10 or US$100 and still call it a luxury brand, because I’ve put so much time into it.
I can’t tell you what luxury is to other people, but I can tell you what I think of it and a lot of my peers around me: it’s about the craftsmanship.
Do you have a favourite social media platform, and why?
Yeah, I like to stick with Instagram because I started off with them. They’re my day one and I’m such a fan of family, and sticking with people through thick and thin. They’re really responsible for me getting to do this; they played a huge role.
What was your mindset when you first joined Instagram? Were you looking for success or just to keep in touch with friends?
I actually got it because I wanted the filters! Instagram is so smart, because they leveraged the fact that people want filters on their phones to get their user base. I think that’s one of the most genius points of Instagram. It worked – their plan worked. I literally got Instagram for the filter, because the filter makes the photo look that much better – and people want that.
It didn’t take very long to realise you could make a name for yourself on Instagram.
I’m very much into business. I’m an entrepreneur-type person. I played a lot of RuneScape; it’s super fun and you have to be a mega-entrepreneur in it. I applied my skills from the game to real life and saw I had a very real opportunity to build a brand. Studying Instagram, I quickly saw how I could build my own audience.
Is fame something you strive for?
It’s not something I strive for, but it is definitely a by-product of caring, success and passion. People see how passionate you are and how good you are at what you do.
You truly are entrepreneurial – you pitched yourself for your Netflix show, run your own accounts and so much more. How do you hone those skills and keep improving? Do you read books or have a mentor?
I’m still looking for my mentor – if you know anyone, I’d love to chat! I’ve definitely read books. One of my friends gave me a really good book called Ego is the Enemy. It’s about perspective on yourself and how not to let negative aspects of your own personality overtake you as a whole. Another good book I would recommend is Boundaries. It will help you solidify your relationships and set boundaries with other people and yourself. You’ll know what your relationship is – both parties will respect it and you can build a healthy relationship. It’ll teach you to be assertive, not aggressive or passive-aggressive.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my music. I’ve spent the last three years learning about music and backing away from social media. I’m putting the time in, learning about myself, how to write songs, how to produce, how to play the guitar, how to be comfortable in a studio, getting vocal lessons. Really spending time meditating, understanding myself and learning how to communicate with myself, emotionally and spiritually. I’m learning how to not just internalise that, but externalise it and put it into a song.
Do you ever wonder who you would be without the cameras?
I mean, I’m still the same person, that’s the thing. But if I wasn’t doing social media, I’d probably still be an entrepreneur and I’d probably still be hustling. Before I got into branding, and putting the marketing skills I have behind myself, I was thinking about working with parody accounts – they’re very, very powerful.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. What would be your perfect night with that special someone?
I would love to drive to a big field, get in an airplane and fly to Hawaii at night. Then we’d skydive out of the plane, land in the water, unhook the skydiving thing and swim all the way to shore. I would have the beach lit up, so the girl wouldn’t be scared. Sometimes girls aren’t scared – and that’s pretty cool, too. But we’d swim in and dinner would be set up. It’d be chill; there’d be a cabana and a violin playing.
Have you done this before? It’s pretty specific!
No, I’m just imagining right now what my next perfect date will be like. I want to have a big projector screen in the water and I want reworks in the background! But that’s for after the movie is over. That way I know in my head that I have like an hour, and I can time it out and make the moment special. Kiss her when the reworks start, you know? Make it special. And doves would y, obviously. And my friend Brian would be hiding out, and right when the reworks went o he’d come in and take photos and it would be a cute thing. It depends on the girl – some girls don’t want there to be any photos, they just want it to be a private thing. So that’s why we’d keep it secret, I’d surprise her with a portrait of it, like, 20 years after when we’re married.
Speaking of romance, your post with Giorgia Caldarulo sent the internet into a frenzy. Was there something to it or are you two just friends?
It was for Dolce; they wanted to remake that really famous photo from New York [V-J Day in Times Square] under the Duomo. I realised how beautiful it would be and said alright, I’m down! Giorgia is an amazing person. I only met her that day, but she’s amazing. Such a great person, internally. She’s gorgeous as well, like, wow! She’s really gorgeous.
Why did you post it on Instagram?
A lot of fans were there taking photos and I knew it would get out, so I just rolled with it. I thought it was cool – our first kiss was under the Duomo, it’s very romantic.
What do you think about it?
I thought it was really romantic – maybe a little staged, but a great photo. Yeah, it was pretty staged, but it’s kind of like, maybe our parents brought us together!
What, if any, social responsibility do you feel towards your fans?
The way my mom raised me, there’s certain ways to go about certain things. If I’m 21, yes, I’m old enough to drink, but am I going to post pictures of me drinking? I don’t know, probably not. Am I going to post videos of me raging and partying? No, I’m not. I hold a fiduciary duty to be responsible with my fans and to not influence them to do that stuff until it’s their time to experience that themselves.
Running so many accounts, do you ever get social media-fatigued?
Honestly, I haven’t really been on social media lately, besides talking to fans on Instagram. I couldn’t even tell you what’s going on there [in the realm of social media]. It’s really just about my relationship with my fans. I get antsy if I can’t connect with them.
What do you think will replace social media?
I don’t think it will get replaced at all anytime soon. If anything, it just keeps growing at such a fast rate. It’s literally taking over the industry.
Who’s your legend?
My mom, because she is my sole protector. She is my angel.
Photographer / Mike Rosenthal
Creative Director & Stylist / Paris Libby
Groomer / Patricia Morales Assistant
Stylist / Claudia Perez-Kowalski
Photo Assistants / Daniel Marty and Joe Beckley
Location / Hubble Studios, Los Angeles
This feature originally appeared in the February 2018 print issue of #legend