At just 25 years old, Dylan Mulvaney has accomplished more than most people have in their lifetime. She’s a singer, actor, dancer, comedian, TikTok-famous content creator, vinyasa-certified yoga instructor and wildlife rehabilitator among other things. She toured North America with the Broadway musical Book of Mormon playing Elder White, appeared on shows like 7th Heaven, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Price is Right—oh, and accumulated more than 6.2M followers on TikTok (nbd) with her viral “Days of Girlhood” series, where she documents her transition. Mulvaney recently hit the 100-day mark and celebrated by launching her first merch collection and eating lots of ice cream cake.
But before the millions of followers and iconic collab with Jonathan Van Ness, Mulvaney had the kind of jobs we all had growing up. “My first real job was at a froyo store when I was 15,” she said. “And I did a lot of retail. I worked at Lush and Brandy Melville. I loved fashion growing up.” Then, for college, Mulvaney went to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to pursue her love of musical theater. “There, I learned how to be confident. I think what's so great about having a degree like musical theater is it prepared me to perform—and that's what TikTok really is, it's a performance in a way. As much as you're playing yourself, you are still giving the energy to a character.”
While touring with the Book of Mormon in early 2020, the pandemic shut down the production and sent Mulvaney back home to her parent’s house without a job. “I finally asked myself these questions about gender,” she said. “I had never asked myself those dark questions because when I was four, I tried coming out to my mom as a girl, but it just wasn’t a thing then. Being trans was very taboo. I come from a very conservative part of California—and not even to my family's fault, it just wasn't really in the cards for me. Then, during the pandemic, I was back at home living with my family and asking myself, ‘Dylan, do you feel like a boy?’ It was really during that period of unemployment that I finally asked myself, ‘Who am I without this career?’”
Photo: David Muller (above); Six Musical (feature)
So, Mulvaney turned to TikTok, as many of us did while being stuck at home. She started out doing more comedy-style videos (and even threw a gender-reveal party for herself—iconic) and then decided to document the first day of her transition. “That video got some negativity because a lot of it was me talking about the stereotypes that are placed on women,” said Mulvaney. “A lot of women had a problem with me doing that because they felt like it was pushing the wrong narrative. And then, on the other side, women were saying, ‘You have every right to joke about this because you're now a woman.’ So, it was very two sided.”
But that didn’t stop her from posting every single day. From buying her first set of boobs to discovering tampons and pads and throwing the ultimate slumber party, Mulvaney candidly shares both the good parts and also the messy, vulnerable parts of her girlhood journey. “It was very scary because ultimately, I'm just trying to have women on my side and feel supported by them. I'm still so early in my transition. Even right now, I've got this beard hair. There's a lot of pressure because now I have this following where I have to do and say the right thing, but at the same time, I'm still so new to my journey that I just don't have all the answers. And I think that's part of my content: my followers experiencing these things for the first time with me.”
We asked Mulvaney a few questions about girlhood, advice to her younger self and what’s next.
On building connection beyond the screen
“All these exciting things are happening to me, but I’m still showing Dylan without makeup with facial hair. I think there is like relatability and authenticity, and seeing the rawness and that's what TikTok really is. My followers feel like my videos are like FaceTimes. I think the internet can be so isolating, but my favorite part is when I get to meet a follower out in public and I'm like, ‘Oh, these are real people that I can connect with.’
On getting love from the community
“I never expected to be a woman who could help other people access their femininity or their confidence. Trans women reach out and support me, which is the best feeling in the world. It’s about being relatable to cis women too who have gone through the same things and haven't had to think about them. I've gotten a lot of messages from trans men, or like masculine, nonbinary folks who really appreciate the confidence that I have in my transness. I think they feel that because I value my femininity and girlhood in a way that they couldn't. I think that has probably been one of the coolest things.”
On the definition of girlhood
“Girlhood means to me the ability to fail, but having a community of women around you, ready to hype you up and dust you off and put you back in your heels. And when I do fail, I have this feeling of a support from women that I didn't experience as a gay man or even a nonbinary person. I do my content to make other women and feminine people feel like we have power together and that we can rely on each other. That femininity isn't a weakness—it's actually our strength.”
On what she would tell her younger self
“Every piece that you chip away of Dylan that you're ashamed of, or that feels weak, or feels feminine, you will end up having to find those pieces in the rubble of my life. So, if we can keep as much of that as possible, I think that is where our power lies. I wish that little feminine Dylan would have celebrated more of those things like playing with Barbies and dressing up. There was a sweetness there that I think got taken away for a while because of how sad I was that I had to let so many of those things go. And now, I've never been happier because they're back. In a way, they've always been there, but we had some cleaning up to do.”
On what’s next
“I’m trying to expand Days of Girlhood into something a little bit more stable than just TikTok. A podcast could be really special, maybe a scripted romcom—sort of like an early 2000s vibe or a TV series showing my transition and a nonfiction book about everything that's happened so far.”
Photo: Justin Inman
And now onto Rapid Fire… Who are you inspired by?
“Jonathan Van Ness—not just because Jonathan just did my hair or because they’re a new friend of mine, but because they have such an amount of joy and goodness in their heart. They’ve inspired me to share a similar energy with the world, and I can look to them for inspiration and for advice. They’re just a great role model.”
How do you unwind?’
“I sit myself in the bathtub and I let the shower run over me for like… kind of a long time. And then I put my Cetaphil on and watch Love on the Spectrum, and it makes me really happy.”
How many unread emails do you have?
“Unread? Maybe 200. And then unanswered, I would say 400-500. I'm drowning.”
What do you look for in a collaborator?
“They have to be fun because I don't want to work on anything where I'm not having a good time. I look for kindness because I'm noticing a lot of the industry can be very money-driven and all about the who's who. And I really am looking for those people who are very trans friendly; people that are actively trying to move this world in the right direction.”
Best piece of advice?
“My aunt, she said, ‘There is power in saying “no,” or saying, “Let me sleep on it”’ and just being patient with yourself. There's so many times I've jumped into bed with a company or with a situation in my life, and then pretty quickly realized that it wasn't the best idea. And sometimes, it's nice to just take time to really sit with it, whether that be a day or a week or a month.”
Worst piece of advice?
“I was told by someone in my family that I need to be much more private online and that I should not share my stories and ‘our family is not the kind that shares personal details for the public,’ which I think is so hilarious because that's all I do now.”
What does the term ‘girlboss’ mean to you?
“I want every woman in this world to be in a place of power and have confidence and feel important. I want every woman to feel like a boss. As for the term ‘girlboss,’ it feels like what I'm doing right now: I'm forging ahead. I'm making my own path. I'm doing it in a feminine and really fun, positive way. And I'm lifting up other women as I go. So that’s what girlboss is for me.”