Dylan Mulvaney Talks Musical Theater, Fashion In SPA Lecture

Trans actress and content creator Dylan Mulvaney spoke to a crowd of students Tuesday night in the HUB as part of Penn State’s Student Programming Association’s (SPA) guest lecture series.

She entered Alumni Hall decked in a blue and white Penn State jacket and promptly led the audience in a “We Are” chant, stating she thought it might have been “cringe” but felt it was necessary.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t Mulvaney’s first time in State College. She previously held a part in the Broadway musical “Book of Mormon,” which stopped at University Park on its tour. This time around, though, she’ll also be visiting the Berkey Creamery.

Her recent rise to fame has brought its fair share of challenges, and Mulvaney wasn’t hesitant to share them with the crowd.

“It was the hardest year of my life,” she explained, stating that she often hid her depression from her loved ones.

Mulvaney divulged that while she’s still adjusting to fame, things are getting better, allowing her more time to focus on growing her career. However, she has encountered several challenges since her transition — specifically realizing her voice isn’t quite right for some of the Broadway musicals she auditions for.

“My next musical theater dream is to do a production with a lot of trans people on stage,” said Mulvaney. She explained that the keys of the songs can be a challenge for trans actors and actresses.

Throughout the night, Mulvaney continued to discuss theater in her answers, and it was clear where her true passion lies. She even shared that she is currently working on a one-woman show, which she hopes will premiere next year.

When asked about recognizing the trans women of color who came before her, Mulvaney explained that she continues to listen and learn from others, while simultaneously recognizing her own room for growth.

Though labeled by many as a trans activist, Mulvaney shared she still struggles to see herself as one.

“I never thought of myself as an activist, and then I got invited to the White House to interview the president,” she laughed.

She expressed that even though she knows she doesn’t have all the answers that may be expected from an activist, Mulvaney is still honored to have a “seat at the table.”

On some lighter topics, including her fashion sense, Mulvaney explained that her clothes change in correlation with her emotions. There are many things she can’t put into words, so she attempts to express them through her clothes and hairstyles. She told the audience that she always finds herself coming back to the Audrey Hepburn, vintage vibe, though.

Mulvaney encouraged students to embrace their more daring pieces of clothing.

“If you have that favorite outfit and you’re too afraid to wear it to campus, just put it on in your room,” she coaxed.

When asked to advise students in the audience, queer or not, Mulvaney had some wise words.

“You have to lean into the fear sometimes,” she shared, explaining that she had found the most of her courage when she was the most frightened.

Furthermore, she emphasized that whatever may be going on in an individual’s life is not their defining point but just one of many things that will occur.

“You are not limited to the one thing that’s happening in your life right now,” said Mulvaney.

Several students then had the opportunity to ask questions, and one student asked for advice on how they could get their family to use their preferred pronouns. Mulvaney shared her own story, explaining that she ended up not speaking to her mom for six months to express the importance of her gender identity. Ultimately, Mulvaney said, “You’re entitled to be treated with respect.”

Another student who couldn’t be there but submitted their question early asked Mulvaney what she would change if she could do one thing in her career right now. Referring to a brief period in her teenage years, Mulvaney stated that she would love to be a fashion designer.

Mentioning her friendship with musician Reneé Rapp, Mulvaney also divulged that she would be interested in being a pop singer — but only for one song.

“One song for the gays in the club.”

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a 2024 graduate of Penn State with a degree in immunology and infectious disease. She relocated to Williamsport but will not be taking any questions about what’s next in her career. Haylee continues to be fueled by dangerous amounts of caffeine and dreams of smashing the patriarchy. Any questions or discussion about Taylor Swift’s best songs can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter if you must.

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