Having amassed over 15 million followers on Instagram, 8.5 million on Twitter, nearly 5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, and 2.3 billion loops on his Vine, Dallas is—it is fair to say—very popular. Yet, the origins of his fame, according to Dallas, stem from his involvement in 2012 with The American Giving Awards—a charity fundraising competition—and the Dallas brand retains that generous spirit in all its iterations.
Tellingly, if he has a role model it is Rob Dyrdek—pro skater, co-founder of DC Shoes, MTV reality star, and founder of a charity that builds skate parks in disadvantaged communities. “Instead of taking sponsorship money right off the bat, [Dyrdek] would take equity money,” Dallas explains. When asked about Magcon—the “Meet and Greet” conference for social media stars to come face-to-face with their legions of fans, he remarks, “I pulled Bart Bordelon [founder of Magcon] to the side, and said ‘I want equity,’ and I got it.”
Dallas and I are sitting poolside under some bougainvillea. Flanking us are members of his entourage, and the camera that is documenting his life for the upcoming Netflix series on his rise to fame. In his Vines, Dallas comes across as a typical goofy kid, albeit one with supernaturally high cheekbones, and gravity-defying hair. In person, he is warm to a fault, if a little distracted. Ten minutes earlier he swept into the house with camera in tow, greeting everyone personally with either a handshake or a hug before having a quick pow-wow with his publicist, and joining me in the garden for our interview.
With some people, a tendency to compulsively over-share could be seen as a desperate attempt to overcompensate for, or distract from personal shortcomings. But Dallas and his ilk have built their careers on sharing both the bad and the good. Having shut down Milan fashion week last January, when thousands of screaming Milanese teens surrounded the Calvin Klein Collection Fall/Winter 2016 show he was attending, Dallas is thoughtful when I ask him what he thinks his legions of teenage fans are responding to: “I’m very open with [my fans], and I let them in on my struggles and what I go through. Just like anyone, if I was talking to you and I opened up on my whole life… you would obviously reciprocate, and I think that’s one of the things that’s very different in what makes a strong connection.”
For someone who has already found an audience online much larger and more engaged than that which a TV show can likely provide, Dallas’s jump to the small screen seems beside the point, but, characteristically, he sees it as a way to give back and nurture the next generation of social media stars. “I used to love to watch TV as a teenager,” he says, “I used to watch Rob & Big, the Kardashians, and I was thinking about all that stuff, and thinking about the new generation, and what the new definition of fame is, and what the new lifestyle is, and bridging that gap, and seeing it’s conquest over the world, I thought that was a very interesting thing.
“Applying that to myself, I think I’m on the forefront of it, I thought it would be a very interesting and educational piece for people to learn. And it’s also really fun.”
We end our interview on that note and with a hug. Dallas wanders off to hair and makeup, and I wander through the once peaceful house, now abuzz with activity. The cameras have all followed Dallas, and I breathe a sigh of relief that my brief time in the periphery of the spotlight has come to an end. I am reminded of what Tennessee Williams said on fame: “Luxury is the wolf at the door and its fangs are the vanities and conceits germinated by success. When an artist learns this, he knows where the danger is.”
It’s a good thing then that Dallas’ door, like that of the French Consulate’s is solid French Oak, with custom wrought iron handles.
Photographer: Doug Inglish for Brydges Mackinney Agency.
Stylist: Sean Knight.
Groomer: Florido Basallo for Tack Artist Group using Tom Ford.
Cameron Dallas was featured in 2016 in Flaunt: A Few Favorites from a Fabulous Year