The Complete Evolution Of Dylan Mulvaney

As Millennials and older Gen-Zedders know all too well, there once was a time when trans representation in the media was nearly non-existent. If trans people did appear on TV, they were almost always portrayed by cis actors or reduced to the butt of the joke (see: Kathleen Turner on "Friends"). But in recent years strides have been made to rectify these ills, with greater trans representation in the media thanks to actors such as Hunter Schafer and Elliot Page appearing in high-profile productions. And one individual who has proven herself as a trans trailblazer for the TikTok generation is Dylan Mulvaney.

The Broadway star turned social media celeb has received praise for being instrumental in mainstream transgender visibility, her videos imbued with trans joy. Though much loved for her infectiously positive online persona, it was no easy feat to get to the enviable position she now finds herself in.

Throughout the years, Mulvaney has struggled with family woes, career disappointments, and transphobic bigotry. But she's fighting back against this toxicity with a beaming smile on her face. "Hold on to any piece of joy that you have in your life right now, because there's a lot of people trying to take that from us and they're being really, really loud," she told Gay Times. "And we need to be equally loud and proud and accepting, especially our allies out there." She's living her best life and we're living for the complete evolution of Dylan Mulvaney.

Dylan Mulvaney came out at the age of 4

Born in San Diego in 1996, Dylan Mulvaney grew up in the small town of Alpine, California, and was raised by a strict Catholic family. At the age of 4, she came out as transgender to her mom. Unfortunately, being extremely religious, the topic was outside her realm of experience. "She was like, 'God doesn't make mistakes,'" Mulvaney told Variety. "But I didn't know that I could transition. I didn't know that there were options or resources."

Subsequently, she struggled as a child due to a lack of transgender visibility in the media. In fact, she told Variety that she didn't encounter a trans or nonbinary role model until she met actor E.R. Fightmaster at an improv comedy show many years later. For Mulvaney, these experiences highlighted the importance of representation; as such, she told Los Angeles Magazine that she essentially became her own role model when embarking on a TikTok career. "Four-year-old, eight-year-old, 15-year-old Dylan, they didn't have a 'me' to go on TikTok ... But I want to be that for my younger self," she explained.

Despite the difficulties she experienced with her parents, they have since learned to embrace their daughter for who she is. She and her mom have reconciled and are now BFFs, while her dad attends her live shows. "I've seen my entire family grow and completely evolve in their views," she added. "I know those things are possible."

She was a theater kid

Dylan Mulvaney was bitten by the performing arts bug at a young age. At only six years old, she appeared in a minor role on "7th Heaven." Coming from a lower-income family, she knew she had to pay her own way through life, but supplemented what little income she made from acting with retail jobs. At age 11, she began working in a pet store. "I would get paid in pets," she told Allure. "My parents had gotten divorced, so to make me feel better, they would just let me have pets."

A self-professed musical theater kid, after graduating high school Mulvaney studied the subject at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Theater was her solace and refuge from the conservative sensibilities of her hometown, enabling her to meet kids who, while not openly trans, were members of the LGBTQ+ community. "Theater got me through," she told Them. "It was where I got to live with other queer kids, even if we didn't know we were at the time."

By 2015, the teenager scored her first major acting gig, appearing on the TV series "Awkwardness" as Mac. That year, she also featured in the comedy "The Honest Show." In her interview with Gay Times, she said that acting and performing are her first loves, and she favors them over social media fame. "This is what I really want to be doing rather than, you know, this really higher level of activism or brand deals," she explained.

Mulvaney moved to New York in pursuit of Broadway dreams

After graduating from college, Dylan Mulvaney set forth to the Big Apple to chase her Broadway dreams. Though she has since enjoyed a Hollywood ending, things hardly started out as she planned. As with so many aspiring actors, she found herself working menial jobs to make ends meet. "When I moved to New York, I was handing out flyers at Brookfield Place," she recalled to Allure. "I was handing out deodorant wipes in the subway, because I didn't want to get a real job that would take me away from auditioning."

But in addition to these financial pitfalls, Mulvaney found herself dealing with yet more setbacks, namely with regard to her gender identity and desire to transition. Speaking to Los Angeles Magazine, she said she felt pressured to hide her identity in order to secure roles and was thus often cast as male characters in the early stages of her career. "I put so much of my own identity away just so that I could have opportunities in my industry," she conceded.

In an interview with E!, she revealed that her parents were concerned that, as a trans girl, she wouldn't be able to find success as an actor. "Or I wouldn't find love, or I would face quite a bit of hate," she said. "What my family is seeing now is that the world has cast this safety blanket over me and is choosing to cherish me."

She starred in the Book of Mormon

Soon enough, Dylan Mulvaney's Broadway aspirations materialized. In 2019, she scored the role of Elder White in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Book of Mormon." On Instagram, she expressed her elation at starring in the hit Broadway musical, sharing that it was her dream gig. She was set to tour the US, Canada, and Mexico. In February 2020, she performed at the Ahmanson Theater and was praised for her sincere performance as Elder White.

But the show was sadly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to pursue what she loved the most, Mulvaney felt directionless. She told Rolling Stone, "[Theater and music] has been this streamline of my life that's been the constant. [The pandemic] was the first time that I got to go inward and be like, 'Okay, who are you without these characters that you're playing?'" Her friend Alyah Chanelle Scott, who also starred in "Book of Mormon," helped her throughout the ordeal, the pair having both lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

It was during this hiatus from performing that Mulvaney began questioning her role both on stage and within society. "That was the first moment since I was a child that I really got to ask myself like Dylan, like, 'Who are you without acting and without playing a boy part?'" she told Los Angeles Magazine.

The performer became a TikTok star

Following the abrupt cancellation of her "Book of Mormon" stint, Dylan Mulvaney moved back to San Diego and began some serious soul searching. Rather than seeing lockdown restrictions as a hindrance, the pandemic offered her the opportunity to finally live as her authentic self. At 25, she began hormone therapy and privately came out to her family and friends. As she explained to Allure, she always knew she was a girl, but hadn't felt safe or comfortable enough to publicly reveal her gender identity. "It wasn't like that day I woke up and said, 'I'm a girl,'" she emphasized. "This was something that had been in the works."

Despite now being a TikTok megastar, Mulvaney is the first to admit that she had no idea what the app actually was at the time the pandemic hit. "I found myself jobless and without the creative means to do what I loved," she explained to Observer. "I downloaded TikTok, assuming it was a kids' app." During lockdown, she began filming stand-up comedy videos to post on the platform, but then she had an epiphany: What if she used the app to document her transition?

The path to influencer status was unexpected for Mulvaney. "'Social media influencer' was not on my radar of something that I wanted, but I am still finding my way in what that means," she told Gay Times. But what happened next would prove unprecedented for the musical theater-loving girl from San Diego.

365 Days of Girlhood

In 2022, Dylan Mulvaney went viral after posting her "365 Days of Girlhood" video series on TikTok and Instagram, documenting her transition. The series was poignant for the star, who didn't get to experience girlhood growing up and was finally having the childhood she never had. "I'm now learning all the things that little girls got to learn so long ago," she told Los Angeles Magazine regarding her decision to use the word "girlhood" as opposed to "womanhood." "I am going through many of the experiences of a child or a young adult, and that's why I don't feel really guilty about calling it that."

The series saw her navigate the highs and lows of girlhood, including learning makeup techniques and getting to experience her first hot girl summer with the help of a Burberry bikini. In her Day 4 video, however, she emphasized that makeup, cute clothes, and removing facial hair are not paramount to validating one's identity as a woman. "Women can have facial hair. And women can have body hair," she clarified. After posting her 23rd video, she hit one million followers and had become a household name.

In 2023, she was able to return to her first love, the performing arts, by turning her online video diary into a cabaret show, "Dylan Mulvaney's Day 365 Live!," which she performed at New York's Rainbow Room. "It truly is just an onstage manifestation of all my TikTok videos this past year," she told Rolling Stone.

She discussed her journey with Ulta Beauty

Following the success of her TikTok series, Dylan Mulvaney was approached by a number of high-profile brands for collaborations. In the fall of 2022, she was a guest on the podcast for Ulta Beauty, in which she and David Lopez delved into "The Beauty of Girlhood." During her appearance, she discussed the gendered nature of colors and how a black skirt came to symbolize the death of who she terms "boy Dylan." "That grieving process of boy Dylan was a real thing that my family is still going through very much," she explained. "And it's weird for me because now I feel so successful, I feel so happy ... I'm like, speed up the funeral, babe! Let's leave that party and come over to this one 'cause this one's a lot more fun!"

Following the poignant interview, she faced a transphobic backlash, with the hashtag #BoycottUlta trending on Twitter. Anti-trans campaigners misgendered Mulvaney and accused her of wearing a female "costume." Responding to the furor on Twitter, the brand defended Mulvaney, highlighting that beauty is for everyone, not just cis people.

In her interview with Gay Times, which was conducted months after the backlash, Mulvaney said she refuses to let transphobes hinder her joy. "There are a lot of people out there that still do not see me as a woman ... We're trying to win them over, which I feel sometimes is this constant struggle that's not even worth it," she admitted.

She got to meet Joe Biden

Testament to her monumental success as an influencer, Dylan Mulvaney met with President Joe Biden towards the end of 2022, becoming the first trans woman to hold talks with a sitting U.S. president. In a video for Now This News, the pair discussed the state of trans rights in America. After being congratulated on her coming out journey by the president, Mulvaney highlighted the disparity in trans care across the states; as she pointed out, she lives in a state in which she has bodily autonomy and her transition is no one's business but her own. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many trans people in the country. Biden offered her his support, explaining that he doesn't feel any state has the right to withhold healthcare from trans people.

When asked how the Democratic Party can advocate for trans people, Biden said, "I'm not being facetious when I say this, but being seen with people like you," praising Mulvaney for being instrumental in greater trans visibility. "I genuinely mean it. People fear what they don't know ... And [then] people realize, 'Oh, this is what they're telling me to be frightened of?'"

Despite her history-making achievement, Mulvaney was targeted by the right following the interview. Though she herself is a trans woman, Caitlyn Jenner reiterated disparaging remarks made by Senator Marsha Blackburn. Mulvaney responded with a TikTok video, saying, "A trans person invalidating another trans person's trans-ness is pretty evil in my eyes."

The star has highlighted the importance of gender-affirming care

In her interview with Observer, Dylan Mulvaney revealed that the money she made from TikTok enabled her to pay for her gender-affirming care. Without a lucrative social media career, Mulvaney explained, she doubted she would ever have been able to afford the healthcare she needed. "I think about all the trans people that have to wait years to save up those payments," she said. "Actually, one of my dreams in life ... I want to do trans showers for new trans people when they come out. You gift them clothes they've always desired and starter kits, or maybe a down payment for a surgery." 

In December 2022, she underwent facial feminization surgery and uploaded a letter to herself on Instagram, noting that she had to say goodbye to her old face as it had all too often sparked sadness rather than joy. She received a rhinoplasty, a procedure to alter her hairline, and surgery on her Adam's apple. In her musical "Day 365 Live!," she dedicated the song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" to her surgeon, Dr. Harrison Lee. 

Despite undergoing these changes, Mulvaney has pointed out that such procedures are not integral to a trans person's worth or identity. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," she told Allure. "People say, 'Well, we'll take you seriously when you get bottom surgery. When are you getting your boobs? When are you changing your name?'"

Mulvaney faced transphobic hate after her Bud Light deal

In April 2023, Dylan Mulvaney appeared in an advertisement for Bud Light. As part of her promotion for the brand, Mulvaney dressed as Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," showcasing a beer can with her likeness on it. Despite the fun and lighthearted nature of the ad, it made a lot of people angry.

In a bizarre move, '90s rapper Kid Rock inexplicably decided to film himself shooting Bud Light cans out of protest. However, this boycott appeared to be purely performative, as a CNN investigation found that Rock was still selling Bud Light in his bar. Right-wing senator Dan Crenshaw tried and failed to boycott the beer brand (he boasted that he only had Karbach in his fridge, which, unbeknownst to him, is also owned by Bud Light producer Anheuser-Busch).

As critics argued, the outrage was fueled by transphobia, with those from the right seemingly feeling threatened by an empowered trans woman. "The right-wing media ... seem very upset by the idea that she's become popular for a series that's focused on the trans experience and trans joy," Media Matters for America director Ari Drennen told The Washington Post. In Mulvaney's first TokTok video since the furor, the visibly upset star compared the backlash to the bullying she was subjected to as a child. She also traveled to Peru for her own safety and called out Bud Light for not protecting her against the harassment.

The future is looking bright for Dylan Mulvaney

Amid all the hate she's received, Dylan Mulvaney is standing tall and refusing to let the transphobes grind her down. In July 2023, she celebrated 500 days of girlhood on Instagram. She reflected on her people-pleasing tendencies, noting that prior to the negative reaction she faced, she was overly trusting of others. "That's definitely changed," she said. "On day 398, I learned that misery loves company. I think a lot of people have difficulty seeing others happy and successful." Subsequently, she emphasized the importance of having a supportive network, noting that many people pitied, rather than uplifted her when she was targeted by trolls.

Mulvaney also discussed the changes she's recently undergone, namely receiving hormone injections. The experience has been an ecstatic one for the TikTok star, who has loved watching her body slowly align with her sense of identity. However, she did point out that striving to be pretty in order to be liked ended up having a negative impact on her, potentially setting a bad example for trans youth.

In her interview with Gay Times, Mulvaney discussed her hopes for the future, including getting into TV, returning to Broadway, and taking on Hollywood. "I want to see a trans girl in a rom-com," she enthused. "I want to see trans people finding love and success and not just playing prostitutes or victims on TV. So that's my goal right now, going forward this next year."