One of TikTok’s most-followed content creators, Dixie D’Amelio is making the leap from social media to pop stardom.
If you don’t really do social media and are wondering, “Who the hell is Dixie D’Amelio?”, let us fill you in. Put simply, Dixie D’Amelio is your standard 19-year-old who loves doing standard teenage stuff: hanging out with her boyfriend, fooling around with her friends and watching videos on the internet. But she also just so happens to have more than 51 million TikTok followers. What comes with that level of internet clout is, by now, fairly well known: a record deal, a modelling contract and millions of dollars. Speaking to HUNGER from LA, where she now lives, D’Amelio seems unfazed by the weight of overnight celebrity, describing herself and her fellow TikTokers as “dumb teenagers, at the end of the day”.
Perhaps she’s so well adjusted because she’s not confronting this freshly minted fame on her own – the Connecticut teen forms part of a fledgling internet dynasty. Her younger sister, Charli, is a high-schooler who (at the time of writing) runs TikTok’s most-followed account and, in the background, her mum Heidi and dad Marc have accumulated more than 19 million TikTok followers between them. But that’s not to say that D’Amelio looks down on other content creators from her ivory tower. “With anyone I see blowing up on [TikTok] I will reach out and say, ‘If you need anything, I’m here for you. Don’t let a couple of comments stop you.’”
With D’Amelio and her family glowing with understated East Coast affluence, their positioning as a salt-of-the-earth version of the Kardashians is clear. Away from the cameras, the pressures of celebrity don’t seem to have done much damage to their dynamic, with D’Amelio citing her family as one of the main sources of joy in her life. She’s remained tight with the clan, despite recently moving out of the family home. “Having this opportunity to be on my own but also being so close to my family is great,” she says. “I’ve taken this [step] to grow up, spend time with myself and get my act together. I should be in college right now.” D’Amelio has deferred her place at the University of Alabama, but it would be hard to imagine her trading a life of photoshoots and Valentino fittings for lukewarm pizza in a dorm – particularly as she’s currently on the fast track to the kind of financial security that people go to college for in the first place.
That’s not to suggest that D’Amelio’s reported $3 million net worth has been easily won. Between the family YouTube channel, a podcast run by the sisters, D’Amelio’s web talk show and those TikTok accounts, the D’Amelios are a veritable content farm and consistently dominate online conversations, even if sometimes it’s for the wrong reasons. A case in point is a family dinner (captured for YouTube, naturally), during which D’Amelio had a run-in with a snail-filled paella prepared by the family’s private chef and Charli made a sarcastic comment towards him. It led to a furious cancel campaign against the siblings: Charli reportedly received death threats and briefly lost close to a million followers, with people posting that the duo were spoiled and entitled, among other more unsavoury terms. Given that the D’Amelios’ appeal has always been their relatability, to be so harshly critiqued for run-of-the-mill obnoxious teenage behaviour seems somewhat unfair.
So what would D’Amelio say to the haters? Well, nothing. She’s realised that sometimes her silence is the best resistance. “Ignoring the people who say these things and them realising that it isn’t hurting you makes them more upset. They’ve never met me but I know who I am and I need to remember that,” she says. At this point in her career, she has made peace with the fact that she can’t please everybody. “The people who hate me, hate me no matter what or are looking for a reason to hate me,” D’Amelio says. That said, she still manages to approach social media with a resolutely positive outlook, putting “Just For Fun” as her Instagram bio and posting light-hearted videos of her doing dance challenges with her sister on TikTok. And for her, TikTok isn’t just her livelihood – it’s a space for community, joy and spontaneity. “There are definitely communities for everyone on TikTok. Everyone has someone who relates to them, or their For You page might just be things they like,” she says. “I think I’ve created a good community around the things that I do, and I just try to keep it fun on there.”
It’s clear D’Amelio won’t be selling us flat-tummy teas anytime soon. And rather than keeping her professional and personal worth tied to social media and the label of “influencer” – which would be a short-sighted strategy for anyone – she’s pursuing her passions in fashion and music. When it comes to style, D’Amelio namechecks her favourite brands as Chanel, Saint Laurent, and Valentino, with which she enjoys a close relationship. In addition to being brand savvy, she gained on-the-ground knowledge working in retail during her high-school years, with all of this experience culminating in her first clothing line, Social Tourist, created in collaboration with her sister for Hollister. For D’Amelio, the line represents something of a personal milestone. “This is what I always wanted to do, to work in the clothing industry, and what I was going to go to college for,” she admits.
From the outside, though, D’Amelio’s greatest achievements so far seem to have come in musical form. Off the back of just a handful of singles, she has already garnered more than 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify and collaborated with Wiz Khalifa and Liam Payne. This pop career hasn’t come out of nowhere, however – “When I was three I started in theatre and was part of vocal groups. Singing has always been a part of my life” – and D’Amelio’s relatively unknown musical background is helping her triumph over the trolls. The internet was poised to receive her new career in bad faith but – as a rash of “Vocal Coach Reacts to Dixie D’Amelio” videos concluded – yes, she can actually sing.
But she’s under no illusions that she’s already “made it” as a musician. Like every emerging artist she’s committed to the path of steadfastly exploring and defining her sound and direction, albeit receiving a fair amount more scrutiny than your average pop-star-in-waiting would. “People are seeing my process from the very beginning. Most people, when they start [out], don’t have this audience with all the judgment that I do,” she says. Always one to rise above hate, she says she’s putting the criticisms to good use: “I’m taking every piece of judgment and using it to better myself. I’m so grateful that I have that and I hope people continuously see improvement with what I do.”
It’s a strikingly mature attitude for a 19-year-old, but not quite as striking as the unfiltered rawness of her sound. While she’s not yet penning lyrics herself, the pop songs she’s gravitating towards all deal with much heftier topics than you would expect from a teenage social media star. Take her debut, “Be Happy”, in which she drops lines like, “Chips on my shoulder / Only getting older / So I keep to myself.” Candidly enunciating the weighty, repetitive thought patterns of depression, and the urge to hide away from the world that many sufferers experience, she has delivered fare that few were prepared for. And now smuggling hard-hitting messages into catchy pop has become her calling card – “I’m just trying to make fun dance songs about serious events.” Her follow-ups to date include “One Whole Day”, which explores toxic relationships (“The more that I gave, the more you held back / Now I am emotionally starved”), the empowering “FUCKBOY” and the Billie Eilish-esque “Roommates”, which adapts a poem by Demi Lovato to explore the realities of living with chronic mental illness.
For D’Amelio, it’s all a simple case of refusing to hide who she is. “I’m just doing what I love and expressing myself through music,” she says. She is, however, conscious of the wider impact that her openness about mental health could have on those listening at home. “I have millions of little girls and boys who look up to me and who might feel alone or not know anyone else who deals with [mental health struggles],” she says. “I can relate to them and show them that your worst days can turn into your best ones, and say, ‘I’m here with you, you’re not alone.’” Having already achieved so much, D’Amelio reveals her remaining ambition is simple: “As long as I can make one person happy, that’s all that matters.”
Dixie’s latest single, “FUCKBOY”, is out now. Check out her exclusive HUNGER digital cover video below.
18 May 2021