Dove Cameron Opens Up About Being Queer Amid Anti-LGBTQ Legislation: ‘It’s a Very, Very Scary Time Right Now’

Dove Cameron first rose to fame for her work playing the title roles on the Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie” followed by her starring role in the “Descendants” franchise.

Now 27, she returns for the second season of “Schmigadoon!” as Jenny Banks, a character based on Sally Bowles from “Cabaret.” The sophomore season of the Apple series, titled “Schmicago!,” is inspired by Broadway musicals of the 1960 and ‘70s.

“It was transformative, an education awakening for so many of us,” Cameron says of the legacy of “Cabaret” on this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “Especially, I’m sure you can relate, but growing up as a queer person and seeing queer representation in an environment that was also so sexually liberated — those two things coupled together were really healing and necessary to see growing up for me to become the person that I am. I know for so many other people, they feel the same.”

I caught up with Cameron over Zoom video from her part-time home in New York City. We talked about why her record label agreed to film a second music video for “Breakfast,” going public about her mental health issues and her message to LGBTQ youth as anti-queer bills continue to find momentum in state legislatures.

While Cameron’s music video for “Breakfast” has more than four million views on YouTube, it’s not the original vid intended for the single.

“What basically had happened was I filmed another music video for ‘Breakfast’ first before I left for Vancouver [to shoot ‘Schmigadoon!’],” Cameron says. “And it was good. It was very sexy, pop girly. It was adequate and I liked it. But when we were working on the edit, the news of Roe vs. Wade broke, and I was in Canada. I was just feeling so desolate. I hadn’t felt that low in a while. I had no hope or faith in our government.”

Her label asked Cameron if she wanted to shoot a new “Breakfast” video to better express her feelings. The result is a video featuring a gender-swap story highlighting the fight for women’s rights and equality.

“It was heavy, it was weighing heavy on me,” Cameron, who is currently working on finishing her first album, says of the abortion ban. “My mom actually flew out because I struggle with depression like so many people do. And I was starting to feel that familiar dark cloud thing where when it’s creeping back up and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, not right now, I need to work.’ I was like, ‘Mom, I actually think I really need you out here.’”

Cameron opened up about her mental health issues in an emotional and very raw Instagram post in May. She wrote about struggling with depression and dysphoria.

“I just wanted to open up a dialogue about an ongoing conversation I’m having with myself in hopes that somebody would be like, ‘Oh, okay, because me, too. It’s been confusing and I’m glad to see that someone else is speaking about it publicly so that I can feel like I can access it more,’” Cameron says. “My father took his own life, and so suicide has been a big part of my life for a long time. And I’m very much in the camp of…secrets will kill you.

“And I think that the more that you believe you have to play a role for other people, or you cannot live as yourself or you have no outlet for the pain to find its way out, it never ends well. It never ends well. I make it a very personal crusade to attempt to give people permission and safety to talk about where they’re at while also making it clear that I’m a safe space, but not every space is safe.”

Cameron came out as queer almost two years ago during an Instagram Live. Her hit, “Boyfriend,” has become an out-and-proud queer anthem. We talked about the recent surge in anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed through state legislatures: “I would love to say I feel incredibly hopeful, and everything’s gonna be fine, but I think that it’s a very, very scary time right now.”

But then she insists that the hate is “not more powerful” than the LGBTQ community: “It’s just louder sometimes.”

Listen to the full “Just for Variety” interview with Cameron above or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

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