Troye Sivan is just 23 years old and a Hollywood dream – young, beautiful and painfully cool. These qualities have already taken him from YouTube star to international pop sensation, but he’s only just starting to bloom, writes Danielle Gay. Photographed
Troye Sivan is listing the names of guests he dined alongside while attending his very first Met Gala last May. “Frances McDormand, Anne Hathaway, Adut Akech and Pierpaolo from Valentino,” recalls Sivan, a line-up that reads more like a bucket list of dinner party guests than the people accompanying a 23-year-old out on a Monday evening in New York. “The whole experience felt like a dream,” he says. “I was really, really nervous, because I hadn’t been before and I didn’t know what to expect.” Sivan showed up in an all-red custom Valentino look, having been invited as a guest of the brand’s designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli. He’d just landed a major menswear campaign for the label and with his slim build, platinum blond hair and piercingly blue eyes, it’s no wonder he has become a designer’s muse. “These people that you kind of see as these titans in the industry, suddenly were just really human and we just all kind of had dinner,” Sivan reminisces of that night. “It was so wild.”
While it might have felt wild to Sivan, for observers, it’s not a shock to see him walk the most notable red carpet of the year. The South Africanborn star, who grew up in Perth but now resides in Los Angeles, has been slowly inching toward fame for the better part of a decade. In 2007 – at the age of 12 – Sivan started a YouTube channel using his first and middle name, Troye Sivan, dropping his surname Mellet. He performed songs and spoke candidly to the camera about everything from his school life to his siblings. He even came out on camera in a video posted in August 2013 (which now has almost 10 million views). He was one of the early adopters of the platform and by 2013 he had one million subscribers – which, five years later, pales in comparison to the 6.5 million subscribers he has now, or even the 8.8 million people who follow his every move on Instagram.
For context, out of those he dined with at the Met Gala, only Oscar Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway comes close to the number of followers Sivan has on Instagram – Hathaway has just over 12 million. In fact, Sivan is so used to connecting with the loyal fans he’s been accruing since his early teens, it’s unclear whether his current level of fame has caught up with him. Case in point: when he picks out the most memorable moment of his night at the Met Gala. “I met Elon Musk! He was there with Grimes and Grimes and I technically have a song together from way back. We were just chatting and she was like: ‘Oh, this is Elon’, and I’m like: ‘Hello!’” Does Sivan realise he has even more Instagram followers than Musk’s 8.4 million?
“I definitely pinch myself,” Sivan reinforces of his extraordinary new life. He looks every bit the pop star with his curly blond hair, nose ring, jeans and black leather jacket thrown over a printed sweater. When we meet, Sivan has been in back-to-back interviews for two days since arriving in Sydney from his LA home a week earlier. Still, he is calm and relaxed. Like in his YouTube videos, he is quietly energetic. He
continues: “I pinch myself very, very often. I had my first little scandal,” he says, sounding genuinely concerned. “I had been given some flowers by a fan and I was flying out that day and I didn’t know what to do with them and I threw them in the bin.” Unfortunately for Sivan, paparazzi snapped photos of him throwing them out. It was headline news on celebrity gossip websites less than three hours later. “I think if you know yourself and are ready to apologise for dumb mistakes then it’s fine, you do your best,” he says of how he handled his first major media controversy.
Truth be told, these days, going from your bedroom to skyrocketing to the level of fame Sivan enjoys isn’t exactly a unique tale. But most bloggers, or vloggers, stop there. Sivan’s own story could have stopped there. He could have returned to school and his small Jewish community, his life with his parents and three siblings. Instead, Sivan went from webcam to the silver screen, auditioning for and starring in X-Men and the Spud trilogy. Having secured a few minor film roles he pivoted again – in 2015 he released his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, with lead single Youth, winning an ARIA for Song of the Year. Now, having successfully reached verifiable pop-star status, he has just released his sophomore album, Bloom.
“I think this one was really fuelled by just where I was in my life and where I am in my life. I feel like I’m in a really good place,” Sivan says. “I went through this roller-coaster, crazy journey, of just starting to travel a lot, and I toured, and I went through a break-up and I was away from my family. I was kind of finding my place in this new industry that I was getting into with the first album. On the other side of that, I settled down finally, I got a place in LA, I got into a relationship that I’m superhappy in and I was just really happy. I wanted to capture that and have it as a time capsule for when I’m 50. I can go back and listen and be like: ‘Oh, that’s what that was like.’”
Now is a time in Sivan’s life that is going to be hard to forget. This year, Sivan has secured magazine covers, been interviewed by music legend Elton John, and appeared on Saturday Night Live. In May, he performed his own song, My My My!, alongside Taylor Swift at her concert in front of 60,000 people: “That was a really surreal moment because I really look up to her and admire her as a songwriter and just as a person. That’s the kind of thing where it still doesn’t feel real.” A video he uploaded to Instagram of the performance has clocked up 3.5 million views and comments by everyone from Hailey Baldwin to Pierpaolo Piccioli expressing their excitement for Sivan. (“Ready to walk a runway!” Piccioli hinted.)
Not content with adding Taylor Swift to his orbit, Sivan’s new album features a sensual, shape-shifting track with Ariana Grande called Dance to This. “We’ve been friends for a couple of years now. I had this song that I knew I wanted a female vocalist on but I wasn’t sure who the voice in my head was. But then all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks that it was written for her subconsciously,” he says. Sivan sent the song to Grande, who loved it, and they started recording two days later. “She’s just a really special girl and I love her to death,” he says.
At this juncture in his career, Sivan is still as committed to his fans as he was when he launched his YouTube channel back in 2007. His accounts – on Twitter and Instagram – are personal and updated almost every day. On Instagram Stories, he still speaks directly to the camera, sounding like he’s talking to a friend, the way he did in the height of his YouTube days, and speaking to him now, he’s the same. He is full of superlatives – everything is “super, super” fun or “really, really” good. But these statements don’t seem disingenuous – you believe him. After all, it is a really, really good time to be Troye Sivan. He seems to want to give back to the internet, the medium that made him. “I really needed the internet when I was a kid. I didn’t know where else to look to find people like me. Any time I’m lonely or, you know, just need that sense of community, it’s the first place I turn. I’m also really lucky to have the fans that I have. They’re just so sensitive and smart and funny …”
How does he balance this with having a private life? Sivan is currently dating model Jacob Bixenman and the pair have drawn the line with what they do and don’t allow social media to see. “Generally, we avoid posting on social media, but when we do it’s on our terms, which makes me feel completely safe and comfortable,” he says.
Sivan also credits staying grounded to his collection of friends and family back in Perth. In July, it made headlines when Sivan took to Twitter with a picture of himself and his Perth friends visiting in LA. “My besties since i was literally 2 came to stay w me in LA and we went camping,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re still my best friends. We get to hang out not as often as I want to, because they have real jobs that they need to stay in one city for,” he says with a laugh. “We make an effort to keep in touch. I’m so lucky to have them. It’s the most reassuring, comforting thing that I know that they’re there.”
Now, having recently turned 23, Sivan is going back to acting, a move he said he always knew he’d make when the right role came along. He stars alongside Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in the Joel Edgerton-directed film Boy Erased, a movie about small-town parents who want to send their gay son to conversion therapy, which is out later this year.
Sivan says the role “hit him over the head”. “I was so moved by the script and then I found out the people who were working on it, just such an incredible pool of talent, that I wanted it so bad.” Sivan auditioned and a few days later, while preparing for further auditions, he took a video call from Edgerton who told him he had the part. “I was supposed to do a second audition and at the end of the FaceTime he was like: ‘You know what, are you down?’ I was like: ‘Yes!’” While Sivan sounds happy with his performance, he said he did make one error when it came to working with Nicole Kidman. “I made the mistake of watching Big Little Lies the night before, so I was incredibly star-struck,” he says, laughing. “She is so good!”
While working on the film was fun, for Sivan the project was a personal one. “I’ve got close friends in the States who had either been through it or their parents had tried to send them off. For me, it was a very real issue and it was heavy. I came out on the other side really driven to try to make a change and with a lot of empathy for everyone involved in that situation,” he says. “I think the key thing in this situation is education and showing people that that is not the right way to handle your kid coming out.”
The film will surely propel Sivan’s career in Hollywood and open him up to an even bigger audience, although it seems as if growing his audience is low on Sivan’s list of priorities. When this album cycle settles down, he wants to start his own charity or foundation. In so many ways, it still feels like his career has just begun to bloom, but he is already focused on being remembered for the right reasons. “I want to be memorable for standing up for what I believe in and making great art that survives time,” he says.
It is this same ever-expanding trajectory that earned Sivan a seat at the table at his debut Met Gala that first Monday in May. “It’s been a journey that I didn’t really expect to take, but now that I’m on it I’m so, so, glad,” he says of that night. The same could be said of his career. Bloom (EMI Australia) is out now; Boy Erased is in cinemas from November 8.
For me, it was a very real issue and it was heavy. I came out on the other side really driven to try to make a change
Troye Sivan wears a Valentino jacket, $1,310, shirt,s $1,130, and jeans, $850. Dries Van Noten boots, $1,380. All prices approximate; details at Vogue.com.au/WTB.