“Can you ever really imagine 100 million people?” The answer to the question, posed by 17-year-old Charli D’Amelio in the trailer for her family’s new reality series, The D’Amelio Show, is of course no. But that doesn’t stop one from trying, especially when those 100 million people are following your every move on social media.
The D’Amelio Show’s first eight episodes largely focus on how the D’Amelio sisters, Charli and Dixie (20), handle that fact. After shooting to the top of TikTok in 2019, the sisters have joined the growing group of online creators who turn viral fame into multifaceted careers in the entertainment industry. As two of the most followed people on the platform, their level of exposure rivals celebrities with decades-long careers. As they leverage their followings to branch off into other endeavors, like a clothing brand (Social Tourist) and Dixie’s growing music career, The D’Amelio Show charts their journey from Connecticut to Los Angeles as the whole family takes on the new experience, together.
While the series has some of the same aspirational voyeurism of familiar influences like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, it almost immediately tackles heavier topics, with scenes of Dixie in particular experiencing mental health issues as the pressure and negativity of fame triggers pre-existing anxiety. It’s clear the sisters, who have faced plenty of backlash and criticism since their rise to fame, want to tell their side of the story. NYLON caught up with Charli and Dixie ahead of The D’Amelio Show premiere on Hulu (September 3) to chat about the show, presenting mental health struggles in a realistic way, separating the person from the online persona, and whether it’s all been worth it:
After having aspects of your lives watched online by millions of fans, what made you want to open up the door even more with a reality show?
Charli: I feel like in the beginning and even now, people have tried to tell us who we are and tried to tell the story for us. I feel like it was our turn to share what it's really like to be in this new age of social media, and how accessible it is, and how easy it is to get into this trap of pretending to be who you're not, or struggling with so many things. I feel like it's so important for us to share our sides of things and be honest. And no one else has really let us do that. And I feel like this is such a great thing, not only for us, but for everyone else, because they get to see it too.
How do you decide what to share, and what to keep private?
Charli: I think it's definitely a day-to-day thing. Sometimes I don't feel like talking about stuff and sometimes I want to share it, even if it's not for me, because I know it will help other people. And as crazy as it can be sometimes, I think it's awesome to be able to keep things to yourself and not let everyone in all the time. And although the show was weird at first, I feel like we really opened up to it and we're able to talk about things that I think we want to be said.
There's a lot of talk on The D’Amelio Show about mental health. And Dixie, you’ve talked about this already on your podcast. Have you gotten any positive feedback to what you’ve shared and how that’s affected people?
Dixie: The people who support us say it's been helpful, but it is hard to get a positive response because I don't think people understand what we're trying to say sometimes. It's not that we're trying to be relatable, like, "Oh my gosh, I am so sad. I'm living this life and I'm sad." No, it's not that. It's past mental health history that was not helped before all this started. So now we're dealing with it, with this massive audience and trying to stay consistent and stay positive online and not be all upset, because you can't be upset. We are very lucky in the position that we're in, but some things, it's harder to control instead of just being like, "Oh yeah, everything's perfect. I'm so happy.”
On the show, one of your friends says her therapist describes social media as a third person voice that’s always there — speaking to the surveillance of social media and of having a large audience with you in your pocket, so to speak. Do you find yourself affected by that voice and that feeling of being watched?
Charli: I think growing up in this new social media age, it's definitely something that I really worry about. I worried about that before I had any followers, because you never know, if I post on my Snapchat story, is the boy I like going to see it? It's stuff like that. You never know who's watching and you always want to look your best and be your best self. But at the end of the day, sometimes we need to just be ourselves and be who we really are. And I feel like it is so difficult to get yourself out of that. You don't know who's watching, you don't know who's going to see this, you don't know if someone's recording there, it takes a lot.
And it's very, very difficult, but it is possible to kind of step back and be like, I'm me. And I will always be me and I have to be confident in me and know that I'm a good person and I am happy and able to do what I love and have amazing opportunities. And I just have to continue to do that and be confident. I think a lot of it's a confidence thing sometimes, that makes it a lot more difficult.
The first few episodes of the show really give a sense of the toll the negative comments take. Since filming, have you stopped reading them as much?
Dixie: I stopped reading the comments, and when I do, it doesn't really phase me too much anymore. I feel like for a long time, I felt weirdly that we were the only ones being hated on. And I didn't realize that the hate was everywhere. I was looking at these people and I'm like, everyone in the world loves them. I opened a comment section one day and was like "What is going on? I thought they were the most loved person in the world. What are all these comments?" And that kind of humbled me a little bit in a good way, that it wasn't just us, everyone deals with that. I felt like we were just the most hated people and everyone only hated us. So a mixture of that and just growing up and realizing these people don't know who I am, and they can't really have an opinion on me, because they don't know me, really helped me bring it all together and stop worrying about the hate comments.
Has the way you engage with social media changed at all as a result?
Charli: I think we post for ourselves. I think we know what we like to do. We know what our actual audience and what the people who actually love and support us like to see. I feel like for awhile, we were avoiding opportunities to make other people happy. And we're now trying to make us happy.
Being in LA and just being in the entertainment industry, have you had other people in the public eye reach out to you guys and offer any advice?
Charli: There's definitely been lots of people that have been super, super helpful. Whether I asked or they offered, it's always been extremely nice. I feel like so many people understand it. Although this might have been the craziest with TikTok — it's happened to the YouTube, Vine, and Musical.ly people, and everything, and people in the music business. It's just really awesome to find people, because they're so ready to just help with open arms. And when you do get those types of conversations, it's just so heartwarming because it really makes you feel like, "Well, they get it, they really get it," instead of just kind of pretending to.
Has the experience of moving across the country and filming a reality show brought your family closer or changed the dynamic at all?
Charli: I think we've always had a pretty close family, especially in these past few years because Dixie was getting ready to leave for college. Since Dixie has moved out, I spend a lot of time with my parents and we are definitely very close, but in a different way. Whereas before they were kind of my parents and teaching me and everything like that — now it's really gotten to the point where, I would have been leaving for college next year. So it's like-
Dixie: You're kind of learning together.
Charli: Yeah. And I mean, this is my job. And now I have so much more adult things that I'm doing, that we're working together rather than them being my parent and me listening to everything that they say. And they really do a great job at letting me have my own opinions, which is, I feel why we get so close because we can have open conversations and they respect me, which is something very, very important that I feel like every parent should have with their kid.
I know there had been plans to go to college before your careers took off like this. Is that still on the table?
Dixie: Right now college is definitely not what I'm looking at. I feel like college, you can go any time in your life, but you can't experience what I'm doing forever. So I definitely just want to keep going off the opportunities that I have right now and I don't want to be in college because you always want something you don't have. I think sometimes like, "Oh my gosh, my friends are having so much fun in college", but then I'm like, "I think I would be jealous seeing all my friends in LA having so much fun if I was in college." So it's definitely just a cycle and you always want what you can't have or don't have. So I'm happy with my decision. I'd love to go to school at some point, but definitely not right now.
Have you been able to stay in touch with your friends that were from before this era of your lives?
Charli: Yeah. Well, we were just in Connecticut before, so I went and I got to see some of my school friends, my dance friends. I am going to see my dance friends again this week, and it's been awesome. I feel like it's obviously different because they go to school together and things like that. But at the end of the day, when I see them, it's just like back to normal and we get to talk about like, what's going on in school? What boys do you think are cute? Things like that, that are just so normal. They treat me the same and I treat them the same and nothing's changed and they're happy for me, but I'm also happy for them because they're doing great things too.
It must be very grounding to maintain those relationships.
Dixie: I love it. I mean all my friends are just so like, "Shut up. I don't care. Let's just have fun and not care," which is really nice. Like my best friend from Connecticut, she literally doesn't even care. I'm like, "Hey, do you want to come here? Like, this person is going to be here." She's like, "No, I don't care.”
Like, private on Instagram, doesn't care about the followers, doesn't want that. It's very comforting to know that I'm not being used, because I feel like the only friends you can really trust are the ones who knew before and are still around.
What’s something you wish people knew or understood about you, that they don't?
Charli: I feel like I wish people understood that I don't just do TikTok. I feel like you see it a lot in the show, which is just so great. Both dance and work. I don't just make the video and then say, "Okay, well I'm done now. That's it." There's a lot of work that goes into every Social Tourist job. Every Dunkin’ Donuts thing. It's like, everything is a lot of work behind the scenes and balancing that with normal life and having a social life and dance and things like that. It's very difficult. And that's something that I really go deep into in the show, which is why I'm very excited for everyone to see that perspective.
Dixie: I feel like mine would probably be my sense of humor and sarcasm that do not come across online at all. Like one bit, it just never hits. And I feel like it would, people just don't get it. I look at other people who say similar things to me, it's usually guys. But a lot of times I'm just joking. I just have fun. I didn't not go to college because I didn't want people to hear my songs. That's the kind of things that get taken out of context and it's like, guys, it's a joke. I can joke with my supporters like that on Twitter. I'm brutally honest and mean, but they're mean to me, but in a funny way where we can joke around with each other that just does not come across online.
One of your friends was saying that you have to hold that part of your personality back on social media.
Dixie: I feel like people who get to know me like me a lot more in person, because I do hold back that whole side of me. Because I don't want to be a comedian online. I feel like that's scary, but I just love talking and joking around. And if that's just for the people who get to know me, then maybe that's a good thing. Maybe I can hold that part of myself to myself and not, I mean, some people just won't get it.
What’s happening next with your music?
Dixie: Lot of things going on just right now, continuing writing and recording and performing soon. Trying to see what's exactly next. Everything is always changing and what I want to do is always changing. Album, EP, how many songs I want to do. I love this song, I don't love that song anymore. It just keeps going back and forth every day just because I want it to be perfect. I want it to tell a story of me because music is storytelling and another way for people to get to know me.
What’s it been like to receive feedback on it all?
Dixie: It's really nice, especially from the song "Psycho," because that was a song I wrote on and that was a song I got to do the creative for the music video. So me putting my ideas in and it getting positive feedback felt really good.
Do you guys ever still go on TikTok for fun?
Dixie: All day.
Charli: Yes. When I'll meet certain people I'll be like, "Oh my gosh, I love your video. You did this and this and this,” and I'll go into detail, and they're like, "How do you know that?" I stalk people all the time. It's so much fun.
Dixie: I spend hours a day on TikTok.
Charli: Like hours.
One of the episodes asks the question, “Is it worth it?” And I’m curious how you’d answer that question now.
Charli: I think...
Dixie: We don't know yet.
Charli: Everything is part of the journey. We don't know. We don't know why this happened, but we do know that it happened for a reason and it's going to help us in a way, whether it's-
Dixie: I also think we can control whether it's worth it or not.
Charli: Are we getting the most out of it? Are we taking every opportunity? Are we saying no to everything and letting a bunch of haters control our lives?
Dixie: Yeah. I feel like we can control whether or not this whole change in our life was worth it by how we react to criticism and haters. Again, taking opportunities we have and not denying them due to other people saying we don't belong in a certain situation. I think we don't know if everything is worth it or not yet. I feel like every day is different where we might say, "This isn't worth it. I want to quit everything." Or, "Oh my gosh, this is the best thing ever. I love it." That's just a daily, emotional thing.
Dixie: But we don't know if this full journey is worth it or not yet.
The D’Amelio Show premieres on Hulu Friday, September 3.