At first glance, Cameron Dallas may seem like another pouty-lipped male model—and in many ways he is. Tall, athletic, and with a gift for shirtless selfies, Dallas fits in with his camera-ready contemporaries at IMG, but there’s one small difference—well, 20 million to 2 billion small differences, depending on whether you’re counting followers or Vine loops. Dallas has amassed the kind of online numbers typically reserved for Rihanna or the assorted members of the Kardashian family. Album sales, Nielsen ratings, and box-office earnings used to be the barometer by which celebrity was judged, but these days followers, likes, and engagement data can serve as an equally powerful career launchpad—a fact that is not lost on the model. “In the beginning I was doing it for fun, which I continue to do,” Dallas wrote via email, “but I also saw an opportunity to create a name for myself by doing the things I love.”
What Dallas loves are the kind of short, self-made video clips that trade on his humor and willingness to be silly. Engaging, seemingly off the cuff, and, best of all, sharable, Dallas’s accounts offer a comedic take on the life of a 21-year-old rascal—the kind who’s goofy but ultimately harmless. (Read: Your mother would love him.) While it’s tempting to assume that he simply stumbled upon a winning formula for viral success, Dallas has actually been honing his social savvy for years now. “One of the biggest misconceptions that has been thrown out there is the fact that I started on Vine. Crazy as it seems, I’ve been doing this since 2011, when I started on Instagram,” says Dallas. “Building my presence on there was important to my brand, but I wanted to take my audience to other platforms, so I then crossed over to Twitter second, then YouTube third. It wasn’t until I made my fourth crossover to a different platform that I went to Vine. Now I am very analytical with these platforms, and I knew Vine would blow up, so I decided to blow up with it. It has definitely helped me and my other ancillary businesses get launched. Just like other platforms have, and will continue to with the right moves.” So maybe not so off the cuff.
Approaching his online presence as both a creative outlet and a business has helped Dallas garner the kind of work previously unattainable to celebrities who began online. Sure, fashion bloggers have been courted by brands for years now, but unlike the style-centric bloggerati, Dallas didn’t spend his days and nights posting about the latest collections—fashion sought him out, not the other way around. “Never in a million years would I imagine Calvin Klein flying me out to my first men’s fashion show,” says Dallas, who fondly recalled seeing the brand’s iconic advertising. “I’ve always wanted to be associated with them, since I was a teenager.” Calvin Klein is no stranger to a viral moment, and since the Fall ’16 show in January and the Beatlemania-esque outpouring of European fans—to the extent that crowds of screaming girls shut down entire streets in Milan—Dallas has been a regular presence on the label’s social media channels, appearing in special Instagram shoots as well as the #MyCalvins campaign.
In recent months Dallas has delved even further into fashion, shooting with Jack Pierson for Vogue Hommes and getting a crash course in menswear that may or may not get his siblings off his back. “My sister has always told me I’m terrible at matching, and lately she hasn’t hounded me for that—so I definitely think it’s helped me with personal style!” And though the opportunities keep rolling in, in an age where online candor can provide the illusion of personal interaction, Dallas values his real-world moments with followers above all else. “The best thing for me, and I say this all the time, is meeting all of them,” says Dallas, “and getting the chance to…[put] a face to a fan account.”
And about those fan accounts—what does the future hold for modeling’s most-followed man? More time in front of the camera, of course, as well as a few savvily timed surprises. “I always seem to be really mysterious when it comes to my future and answering what’s next, partly because the new generation moves so fast with certain trends and motions,” says Dallas. “But when it comes down to it, I think the fashion world is definitely something I want to stay in touch with.” Hollywood may be within his sights, but the big brands should rest easy, as Dallas has no plans to step away from the social platforms that started it all. “I will continue to try and be innovative to keep it fresh for my fans,” says Dallas. “You never really know what you’ll get out of Cameron Dallas. That’s the beauty of it and what keeps me (and my audience) interested.”