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Disney star Dove Cameron reveals her struggle with self-identity

We love Dove Cameron in TV’s Liv and Maddie and we couldn’t be more excited that she’s starring as Mal, Maleficent’s teen daughter, in the new film Descendants. We had the chance to sit down with her and find out what it’s like to play a villain with purple hair.


The new TV movie Descendants is about the teenaged children of Disney’s greatest villains: Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson) and the Evil Queen from Sleeping Beauty (Kathy Najimi). But instead of focusing on the villains we all know and love, the movie is about their high school-aged offspring who seem to be following in their evil footsteps. Dove Cameron plays Mal, Maleficent’s daughter, who’s having a bit of an identity crisis.

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While most young girls dream about being a princess, we asked Cameron if she could relate to Mal, given that she’s a villain. For Cameron, it was Mal’s inner struggle that excited her.

“I think people yearn to watch movies and television about worlds outside their own lives, to experience something new and exciting. If you’re making a good piece of fiction, it should be outlandish and big and fantastical, but still relatable to everyday struggles. There’s something very relatable in the idea that where you come from is no marking on where you’re going. Whether you come from an extremely privileged background or you come from a broken home, nothing can hold you back from who you want to be and that’s a very universal truth,” said Cameron.

Cameron also admitted she was crazy about Mal’s purple hair.


So, does Cameron feel pressure to be a role model because she works for Disney? Yes, but not the kind of pressure you might think.

“Disney is such an exceptional group of people, everybody that works for the company is so kind and lovely that it really is like a big family and no one’s telling anyone to say that.”

Cameron says her loyalty and love for Disney comes from being treated so well. She also believes that anything expected of someone who works for the Disney Channel is expected from anyone in society.

“It is a wonderful position to be in, though, to set a good example, and that feels like a reward. So if I feel any pressure, it’s a good kind of pressure. I feel very grateful for the position I’m in.”

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Descendants, directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical), is super fun with eye-popping colorful costumes, but it’s also a bit edgy with its parkour dance moves and the characters’ questionable motives. We asked Cameron how Disney continues to stay relevant.

“Disney has their finger on the pulse of what’s cool. Descendants is a little edgier than the stuff they’ve done in the past, but not scary — it’s still family appropriate. But Disney are geniuses about staying on brand when it comes to content, while still keeping it new and fresh, knowing that their audience is growing and changing. Disney grows and changes with their audience.”


All Images: Disney

Just as her character is struggling to decide whether she wants to be a good or a bad person, Cameron claims she struggles with her own identity all the time.

“I’m 19, heck! I have identity crises every six months — who am I? Who do I want to be? That’s what it’s all about for a lot of people who watch the [Disney] channel and for a lot of people who are on the channel. It’s a super-pivotal time, which is why I think the channel is super saturated with amazing messages like we find in the film.”

If Cameron has any advice for young people, it comes from her favorite quote by Nayyirah Waheed, “The world has ended for me many times and began again the next morning.”

“I think that’s really, truly gorgeous. How many times have any of us sat in our bed at 1:30 in the morning, completely unable to sleep, crying, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not going to make it through this.’ And then you do. You always, always do.”

Cameron says she tries to look for the larger meaning when things go wrong in her life.

“Anytime you make it out of a challenge and you learned the lesson that you were supposed to is good. It’s that whole thing about how you’re never going to move on from where you are until you get what the universe is trying to tell you. There were so many times when I thought, ‘Why does this keep happening to me?’ And it’s because I was supposed to learn a lesson from it. Then you do and you graduate from it and you don’t have to go through that again.”

Cameron admits she had her own issues with being too much of a people pleaser. “A lot of performers are, that’s just the nature of performing — it completely relies on how people feel about you. I really dealt with that and trying to be someone else for every different crowd that I had. I felt like a different person at home, with my friends, with my boyfriend, classmates, bandmates, coworkers. It was hard for me, too, because I didn’t know how to stop observing myself from the outside-in and being so self-conscious. You just kind of experience it enough that you get to a point where you go, ‘Wow, no matter who I am or what I do, I cannot make myself into a million different people. There is one true version of myself and I feel really strongly that being anything but that is a disservice to myself.’ That’s something that I’m learning right now.”

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Cameron says it’s an amazing lesson to learn because it’s so empowering and life-changing.

When we asked if there will be a sequel to the Descendants movie, Cameron said, “The actors are just as much in the dark in that conversation as anyone else.”

Descendants airs July 31 on the Disney Channel.

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