There are two types of people in this world: those who love Disney and those who lie about not loving Disney. It’s a fact. So the next time you go on a date with that really cool guy/girl who perfectly pulls off that un-ironic pair of dungarees and who only listens to psychedelic-folk music from Tasmania, just remember that they definitely ugly-cried watching Bambi like the rest of us. And if they actually didn’t cry watching Bambi, dump them immediately. Emotional unavailability does not bode well for a fairytale future.
Disney fandom spans generations and although the classics will always be hailed as cinematic greats, the success of Disney Channel’s own original movies can’t be ignored. High School Musical scored two sequels and Disney Channel’s own TV shows have produced an entire generation of showbiz phenomena: Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Zac Efron and Zendaya to name a few.
Now adding her name to the enviable roster is Colombian-American 24-year-old, Sofia Carson. Star of 2015’s Descendants and the 2017 sequel, Descendants 2 (which made its UK debut on Disney Channel in October) Carson is settling in nicely – and humbly – next to Disney’s alumni. “Just saying those names is always the most surreal thing, to be in that same sentence,” a smile spreads across her face. “Not only did I grow up loving Disney and being obsessed with Disney Channel, but to be a part of this family and a part of that legacy is such an honour.”
“Honour” is a term Carson continually repeats during our chat, laughing when she realises. “I keep saying the word ‘honour’, but it really is! I think it’s probably the most overwhelming feeling that I feel every day.” Stars gushing pre-prepared monologues on their career opportunities can get tiresome, but Carson’s the real deal. Recounting the moment she attended the Descendants 2 premiere surrounded by her family, the emotion overcomes her and we have to take a pause for a quick makeup refresh. “Sorry!” She laughs, “I didn’t think I was going to cry during this shoot!”
“It felt like such an honour to be able to be part of something so big and so special,” she continues, unfazed behind a flurry of sponges and brushes. “What I loved about Descendants – apart from the costumes and the blue hair and the magic of Disney – it’s such a powerful story. It’s about four kids who are outcasts, who didn’t belong. I think we kind of speak for the outcasts of the world. The kids who were weird, who came from the wrong side of town, whose parents are whoever they may be and they’re not proud of who they are and where they come from. And we tell them that you don’t have to change for the world. The world will love you as you are and you will find people who love you as you are… I think that’s so powerful, especially considering everything that is going on with the world.”
Following the lives of the children of iconic Disney villains, Carson plays Evie, the daughter of Snow White’s Evil Queen. “[The Evil Queen] raised her daughter – like a lot of girls in the world are, sadly – to believe that she was defined by her reflection in the mirror and that she needed a Prince Charming to give her a happy ending and whisk her away into the sunset on his white horse,” Carson explains. “But she teaches us that as girls we cannot let anyone – society or any person – define us by our reflection in the mirror, because we are so much more than that. We are capable. We are strong. Beauty is what’s in here, that’s what it means to be the fairest of them all.” Of course, it wouldn’t be Disney without a moral to the story.
Now writing her own narrative off screen, Carson is inching into the realm of pop. Schooled by Michael Jackson collaborator, Kenny Ortega for the musical numbers in the Descendants movie franchise, her foray into the charts is no surprise. After dropping her debut single “Love Is the Name” last year, she recently released, “Ins and Outs” and it’s already racked up over 7 million views on YouTube. “The song is a really vulnerable, kind of sexy, love song,” she tells me, explaining how she’s flipped gender norms on their archaic heads. “It’s a girl telling the boy that she loves not to be afraid to be vulnerable with her, to tell her his ins and outs because she will only love him more for that.” A hypnotically moody melody cut by Carson’s syrupy vocals, it’s the first taste of, what we can only hope, is her TBA debut album.
Already establishing herself amongst pop royalty, Carson was drafted to recreate Britney’s iconic “…Baby One More Time” video at the 2017 Radio Disney Music Awards, in front of the original Mickey Mouse Club member herself, alongside her mum Lynne. “That was definitely one of the most surreal moments of my career, hands down!” Her eyes widen, “We were playing the music video right behind me the whole time so I was like: ‘If you mess up one move the whole world is going to know!’ I remember going onto the stage and I was like, ‘Think back to when you were 10 years old listening to Britney on your little boom box – they don’t even exist anymore – and here you are, how ever many years later, singing for Britney Spears!’”
Making a slight detour from the interview to divulge into fan-girling over the original Disney Channel darling, we find out we’re both in full agreement that Carson got to embody the ultimate era of Brit. “It’s the best song and the best outfit!” She rightly exclaims, “I had the pigtails!” While pigtails are timeless, Carson’s adult fashion sense is a little more sophisticated, professing her love for strong female British designers, including Vivienne Westwood who designed the gown she wore to the Descendants 2 premiere. “Fashion, like music, is an expression of an artist's soul. So, as an artist, you connect with fashion in a deep and personal way,” she says. “You appreciate and respect the work of designers, for what they create truly is a deep and beautiful art. Designers inspire me, for their work transcends the purely aesthetic, their work has a voice, and a powerful voice at that. The fashion industry is sending a powerful message of equality, inclusion and sustainability, concepts that are ever important in the world and political climate that we live in today…”
With so many fans eager to follow her own message, Carson is determined to put her position to good use. “Zendaya and Selena have been trailblazers,” she explains. “They changed the perception of the ‘Disney star’. But, most importantly, they have used their platforms and voices to communicate and share important messages to their fans and beyond.” I ask her whether the pressure to follow suit and be a role model ever gets to her and she shakes her head. “I’m so lucky to be able to have this platform where not only do I get to do what I love every single day but I have the power to potentially influence girls and boys and adults all around the world, so I do see it as a responsibility that I take very seriously. There definitely is a pressure, but it’s one of my favourite parts of what I do! I really enjoy being lucky enough to be able to have that sort of an impact.”
Carson’s influential reach is hard to grasp until you see the stats. Amassing 500,000 followers on Twitter and over 8.5 million on Instagram, when I sit down to write this article, her social media channels are full of pictures of people replicating her Evie look for Hallowe’en. In fact, Carson’s iconic blue outfit become the #1 trending costume on YouTube. Admired by millions, Carson may have found fame from “Chillin’ Like A Villain” but she’s living the fairytale now.
Photography - Carlijn Jacobs
Fashion - Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Hair - Susanne Lichtenegger
Makeup - Colette Trudy
Nails - Liga Tukmane
Set Design - Alun Davies
Wonderland Magazine Winter 2017/2018 Issue