DIGITAL COVER: THE METAMORPHOSIS OF DIXIE D’AMELIO

DIGITAL COVER: THE METAMORPHOSIS OF DIXIE D’AMELIO

DIGITAL COVER: THE METAMORPHOSIS OF DIXIE D’AMELIO

In a V Magazine exclusive, pop culture phenom Dixie D’Amelio talks to rap superstar Wiz Khalifa about navigating the industry as a new music artist.

In a V Magazine exclusive, pop culture phenom Dixie D’Amelio talks to rap superstar Wiz Khalifa about navigating the industry as a new music artist.

Photography: Damon Baker

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Czar Van Gaal

Dixie D’Amelio cannot be defined. After solidifying her place as one of TikTok’s reigning queens with 45 Million followers, D’Amelio is switching lanes to take on her biggest challenge yet — climbing the music charts. Born in Connecticut and now residing in the city of stars, the starlet has always been musically inclined, tapping into her theatrical ethos at an early age.  “I've always been into music,” she says. “I think that love came from my parents. Growing up I did theater and other music-related activities. I just kind of lost the passion for it once I got into high school...but it [all] came full circle.” 

With dusky vocals complemented by her flair for addictive pop, D’Amelio hit the ground running by independently releasing her debut single “Be Happy” in late June. The ballad chronicled her battle with—and triumph over—depression racked up nearly 100 million YouTube views and caught the attention of L.A. Reid. Shortly after she was signed to the mogul’s new label Hitco. Since then, D’Amelio has scored collaborations with some of the biggest names in music, from pop heartthrob Liam Payne to 10 time Grammy-nominated rapper Wiz Khalifa featured on her new single “One Whole Day,” a pop-trap banger exploring love and heartbreak.

Dixie wears #ValentinoDiary Collection throughout.

The 19-year-old is honing in on her craft and on a mission to find her voice as a new artist. “I'm working on trying to find my sound, what kind of music I want to do and to be taken seriously,” she says. “Yes, I do this for fun, but I work really hard. I put one hundred percent into everything I do. I don't want to just be another influencer in music messing around.”

For her exclusive V Magazine digital cover, D’Amelio and Wiz Khalifa hopped on the phone just after Thanksgiving to discuss navigating the industry, D’Amelio’s documentation of her mental health struggles in music, and how she put college on the back burner to focus on her new chapter. Read the full interview below.

Wiz Khalifa: Would you say you always saw yourself being a performer?

Dixie D'Amelio: I think so! Naturally, I'm very shy but when it comes to an actual performance, I do love turning it on, and I just love being the best at everything I do. So when I do have a chance to perform, I give it my all. 

Dixie wears Valentino Garavani #RomanStud bag and clothing #ValentinoDiary Collection.

WK: Who would you say are some of your major influences? It could be musically, it could be actors, it could be fashion. Who would you say really influences who you are as a music artist or your style [in general]?

DD: I think a huge [influence] is Billie Eilish. She's so young, she's family-oriented and she’s transparent about mental health. So she's been a huge influence for me recently. I also have people who I've listened to growing up like yourself and other people I've worked with, that have influenced my taste in music. 

WK: With this being new for you, what are some lessons you’ve learned already as a new artist? 

DD: Just that work ethic is everything. Also even when I talked to you at the music video [shoot], you gave me great advice about saving my money. I’ve basically been a sponge throughout this process, everything someone says to me, I take it in. I am just starting out, this is all so new to me. So I'm grateful for every experience and having opportunities to work with you and so many other artists. It's just great and I love getting advice from people.

WK: For sure, thank you. Glad I was able to inspire you as well give you some insight on the game. You're going to meet a lot of great artists who will try to rub off on you instead of trying to take away from you. Speaking of Billie Eilish’s influence and you, what are your personal goals with your career in terms of your debut project? Do you have themes you are attempting to attack or address musically?

DD: I haven't even opened up about my personal mental health struggles yet, which I want to do and that's what I might do with my debut project. My first two songs are kind of upbeat and happy. Obviously [my song] “One Whole Day” is a little bit of a song of empowerment and speaks to just being yourself, getting over things quickly, and not dwelling on the past. My ultimate goal with music going forward is to definitely share my struggles with mental health, how I deal with it, how I move past it, and how I work with it every day. For me right now it’s about finding a way to get that across to people since I don't like actually talking about it, and I don't like sharing it on the internet. But seeing people like Billie Eilish and so many others, who are so open about their mental health -- it makes you want to do it, and I feel like I can do it. I don't feel ready just yet though.

WK: Yeah, I feel like when you're inspired you naturally inspire people. So even just by being yourself, you're going to be able to guide yourself and find your path when it comes to all of that. You don't have to rush anything.

DD: Yeah.

WK: Is there anybody other than the great Wiz Khalifa that you want to collaborate with out there?

DD: It will be very hard to top having Wiz Khalifa on a song. (Laughs) But yes, there's so many people I’d love to work with or just meet. It's not only just about collabing. I've only been doing this for a year, and there's just so many people I want to work with but the whole world is shutting down, so I haven't had that opportunity. I met Chance the Rapper right before quarantine and lockdowns began. I love him, I'm a huge fan of his music. That would be an awesome collaboration. There’s so many people, and just the fact that I've worked with so many artists already is insane. I still have trouble comprehending that every day. 

WK: Yeah. That’s dope, you have to make like a list of dream collaborators then go for it; just attack each person on the list. I know, personally [that] finding a way to work with people could be a little bit difficult, you know? It can be difficult to reach out because sometimes you're such a fan of somebody you really don't even know how to step up and ask them to do a collab. 

So would you say that your success in social media helped your musical transition? Or do you feel like it held you back? 

DD: It definitely helps being on social media to get things out there. But I feel like the transition of being on social media as a content creator to becoming an music artist who is taken seriously is what's going to be very hard [for me]. That’s why I'm working on trying to find my sound and what kind of music I want to do and to be taken seriously. Yes, I [make music] for fun, but I work really hard. I just want people to know that and understand that I love everything I do. I put one hundred percent into everything I do. I just want that to come across. I don't want to just be another influencer in music messing around.  Music is the direction I want my career to go in.

WK: Yeah, that's dope, because you have a really big opportunity to not only make money doing what you love, but also build a brand that can last for a long time. So that's really good. Going off of what you said about working really hard. You recently teamed up with Valentino! How has that partnership widened your view on your personal style or fashion? 

DD: I pay closer attention to accessories now, and I’m not afraid of bold colors. Everything in the shoot that I did with V Magazine and Valentino was insane. The clothes I was wearing were insane. It was so natural because I modeled way before I did everything else. I've always loved modeling and this shoot was a combination of everything I am into. Being able to be photographed and model but also hold a guitar and literally destroy it while looking like a rock star was so fun. Literally, everything I love came together in that moment. 

WK: That's fire. I'm a model too if you didn't know. (laughs)

DD: (Laughs) Totally!

WK: What was the process like of signing your record deal?

DD: I feel like I wasn't able to really understand what was going on because everything happened so quickly. I literally had no idea how to really even sing in the studio, I've never recorded an album. I recorded one song and then a few months later, I signed a deal. I kind of had no idea how big of a deal it was signing with a record label, like Hitco. The whole process was very confusing because I was just ready to go to college. Then I was like “Wait, okay, I like music. I'm going to maybe wait on college and work on music instead.” But this entire experience has been so exciting. Everyone I've worked with has just been so helpful. I've learned so much, I ask a million questions. I'm probably so annoyed, I ask things like “What does this button do?” when I'm in the studio, but it's helped a lot and I'm learning every day.

WK: How would you describe your sound? 

DD: Right now I'm kind of going for a pop sound, but I also have a very deep voice. So I kind of like that [juxtaposition]. And then there’s also a little bit of sadness in some of the songs that are coming next, I’m definitely putting my emotions into my sound, I don’t know how else to explain it.

WK: I feel like you're really talented, you have a great voice, you have a great sound. And the songs that you pick, whether you write them, co write them, or they're given to you — it's just all about your feelings and how you want to express them. Just like you did on our song. The song has a great message and it’s something all ages can enjoy. It’s mature enough for adults to know about but it's still fun enough for kids to be able to enjoy it as well. As long as you keep being a bridge for that gap of mature adults and kids on their way up —  I think your music will speak for itself. You’re already on that path of just being real and being you. So just don't be afraid to express and go through what you got to go through and you’ll get it right. Sometimes you might get it wrong, but that's what being a real artist is. So just stick with it.

DD: Thank you so much.

WK: I wanted to ask you about advice you have for me as an OG in the game, what do you think I should do to “stay poppin'”? And then I’ll give you some OG advice.

DD: Okay, so there are a lot of celebrities on TikTok. You can tell when someone comes on the app to just promote a song and they don’t take it seriously. But then there are other people who get on the app and do the trends, they do dances and then tag the creator. People love that and then want to interact with you more, for example, Liam Payne, Jason Derulo, Tyga. They have all kind of done that and I feel like they've gained a whole new fan base — younger fan base in addition to their old fans who know and love them. So if you do want to promote songs on TikTok, I would just say get on the app and try to have fun. It's addicting and it is very dumb sometimes, but it's a great way to connect with others. People just want to be a part of what you do and they also want you to understand what they do.  It’s kind of a way to normalize yourself, it’s like everyone being on the same level. And that’s not just for TikTok, it applies to all social media. That's the advice I can offer from my experience with the brand that I've kind of made for myself,  it's really just being natural and myself. 

WK: Yeah, I could dig that. I appreciate that.  

DD: What advice can you offer me as someone just getting into the music business?

WK: When it comes to building and maintaining your brand a lot of people come and go, and they have little sparks of success here and there. It’s all about creating those moments and that same tenacity that you have towards TikTok, put that towards your music but also you put that towards your fashion and your business, your merch, and your overall brand. Just be aggressive all across the board and that's how you keep that longevity. Take those things that are the blessings in the beginning and just extend those moments — then that's how you have a chance of having a great career because that's what I see you having. You have the brain for it, you got the drive for it, so now you just have to put time in and work in. Remember to keep that formula of being yourself and, and knowing who your audience is and you'll be good.

DD: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me this advice.

WK: No doubt. Thank you, Dixie! 

Credits: Hair: Patricia Morales (The Visionaries Agency), Makeup: Ozzy Salvatierra (Lowe & Co. Worldwide), Stylist Assistants: Marta del Rio, Hunter Clem, Digital Tech: Anthonie Gonzalez, Prop stylist: Enoch Choi, Production: Savvie, On Set Producer: Zach Riddle, Catering: City Kitchen

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