At the beginning of Dove Cameron’s new music video for “Breakfast,” the second single from her upcoming debut album, the 26-year-old actor and musician is getting ready for work. She pulls up the collar of her crisp white shirt, loops on her tie, and slips into an ‘80s power blazer before settling down to read the newspaper over her morning coffee. Her husband arrives with a cooked breakfast, which she knocks out of his hands, before looking down at him on the floor with a withering stare. “So you wanna talk about power?” Cameron sings in a purposefully sickly sweet cadence. “Let me show you power.”
At this, electric guitars erupt, and the video’s playfully warped take on traditional gender roles becomes clear. For while Cameron is perhaps best known for her work as a Disney star, in the likes of Liv and Maddie and the hit Descendants film series—and more recently, for roles in the Apple TV+ musical series Schmigadoon! and B.J. Novak’s comedy thriller Vengeance—over the past few years, she has stepped out of her shell, revealing a side of herself that is more complex, frank, and politically engaged.
The shift began after Cameron came out as queer in 2020, but it reached its truest expression yet with the release of her single “Boyfriend” earlier this year, a viral hit on TikTok for its thunderous bassline and razor-sharp lyrics about hoping to poach a girl from her boyfriend. “I wrote ‘Breakfast’ around the same time I wrote ‘Boyfriend,’ at a time when I was feeling incredibly disempowered as a young woman,” Cameron says. “I was just expressing my feelings of being discounted or cajoled or underestimated, and thinking, What the fuck is this power dynamic between men and women that constantly leaves women getting the shitty end of the stick?”
Earlier this summer, Cameron had an entirely different video for “Breakfast” in the can when the news about the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade broke. Like so many others, she felt hopeless and frustrated at first, but after talking to other women in her community (and feeling encouraged by her fans’ interpretation of the song as an ode to female autonomy, with its deliciously ruthless lyric, “I eat boys like you for breakfast, one by one hung on my necklace”) she felt galvanized to reinvent the video as a statement about the oppressive impact of traditional gender roles on young women today.
You mentioned that the song has come to serve as a kind of emotional outlet for your fans and listeners. Does writing a song like this, or making a video like this, feel cathartic for you too?
Absolutely. I don’t think I’m naturally an angry person. I’m very much a communicator. I like to dissolve boundaries, and I like to feel close to people, and I like to be surrounded by a community. I grew up being very much a lover, not a fighter. That being said, I also find that I have a lot of anger and pain and this collective feeling of injustice as a young woman, and songwriting has definitely been an interesting key for me—almost like therapy—where I’ve found out that I actually have a lot of unexpressed anger. I think as women and as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are not encouraged in the culture to express our anger. Anger is not a trait that is welcomed from us. It goes back to things like telling women to smile, or expecting women to be the ones who are repairing others and being selfless or self-sacrificing. I think I definitely have been someone who has spent my whole life trying to make other people feel comfortable and be what I knew was expected of me. I definitely think a large part of my writing is this sort of horror of discovering that a lot of men don’t have to do that that.
Another aspect of the video I wanted to ask about was the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that runs through it. Was it important for you to include that alongside the heavier stuff?
Oh my God, absolutely. First of all, I think that life is camp, and I think that’s a huge part of everything that I create. I think that it’s important for things to have a sense of humor, because it shows a sense of self-awareness about what you’re trying to say. Because obviously, at the end of the day, this is a music video, and I’m not saying anything wildly new or revelatory. I’m just trying to use my small platform to make some sort of difference. But there is that great Oscar Wilde quote, that if you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh. I think that you can’t be too heavy-handed with whatever message it is that you’re trying to communicate. I also think that this very feminine Stepford Wife character, with her blonde wig and her performative femininity and this sort of manic energy, just heightens the ridiculousness of what we have become so comfortable with, you know? It’s like she’s not even a human anymore. It’s a pop music video, so it’s not meant to be heavy. It’s meant to be informative entertainment, hopefully.
Finally, you have so many irons in the fire right now between your acting and music, and you’re constantly moving between these different characters. How do you retain a sense of self when you’re keeping so busy?
That’s something that I am currently trying to figure out myself. [Laughs.] I was writing about this the other day, about the fact that acting requires you to have no identity, whereas music is all about your identity. And when you’re doing both at the same time, you definitely get into a headspace where you’re like, What am I doing? I’m trying to optimize myself constantly to be the best version that I can be and it’s difficult, but I’m working on it, and there are tools that help. I’m definitely in therapy, and I’ve stopped watching any sort of scripted media for a while—apart from Veep, which is my safe show. [Laughs.] It’s the best. I’ve proposed to Julia-Louis Dreyfus about 100 times in my head. I pray to her. I love her. But yeah, I need the levity of that. I also watch The Great British Bake Off. I realized I need to watch people doing something other than what I do, and that truly love it. Watching someone cry over a quiche that has deflated or joyous because they finally got the vegan buttercream just right is wonderful. I need to know that there are people who are so passionate about something that I have no idea about, as it reminds me that there’s so more than just what I’m doing. Sometimes I think that this industry is so insular and self-promoting, and I have to find my ways out of that. I’m trying to have a real human life for the first time, which I think is important. But I think I’m doing okay.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.