Being on the cusp of 21 is an odd and exciting age; you’re old enough to vote and can almost legally drink. Add to that the work of reinventing a career you’ve established the first two decades of your life while coming into your own as an adult without triggering a rush of “Disney star gone bad” headlines, and this is the life of Peyton List.
Known for appearing in the Disney Channel series Jessie and its spinoff, Bunk'd, List is a television fixture to so many who either grew up, or babysat a lot, in the past decade. This also means that tabloid editors are almost orgasmic anticipating a misstep.
“There’s something so pure about the Disney image that I think people like seeing the opposite happen,” List says in a recent phone call, adding that she routinely gets jocular warnings from fans for her not to turn out like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, the textbook examples of Disney stars-turned-trainwrecks — though, importantly, both of those have turned into redemption stories over time. And while she understands that she is walking the infamous divide of being not a girl and not yet a woman, she wonders how many more headlines she’ll see with the Disney descriptor every time she does something that she calls “remotely scandalous.”
After a recent sexed up ad campaign, and semi-public breakup, List is turning the corner on 21 with a clearer view on what she wants.
Since Bunk’d finished its three-season run in September, List’s resume has gotten a lot more eclectic. She’s appearing in the upcoming second season of YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai as well as in the Eva Longoria-directed comedic pilot Glamorous for The CW. On the film side, she is in the rom-com, Then Came You, and the thriller Anthem of a Teenage Prophet. A trained singer, she’s also released music for the latter and released the electric, poppy single “Liar Liar” last year — of this side hustle, List says music writing makes her feel more exposed than acting does, because it’s just her and a microphone the process is "sort of bearing my soul to my writing partner” as opposed to “playing someone else.”
But List also knows how to play the grown-up-Disney-star card in her favor. In addition to her busy career, she also appeared (fully clothed, but Latex-clad) in a risqué ad for makeup line Too Faced’s Better Than Sex liquid eyeliner. This only served as more publicity for her campaign, as people ate up the Disney angle.
Now is also a great time for List to redefine her personal style. She says it “took me a second” to develop her own aesthetic, after being on set and playing other people for so much of her formative years. This is why she's such a devotee of comfortable, fashionable basics like a black bodysuit tucked into high-waisted jeans (her two favorite denim brands are James and Mother). But she's not afraid to play with a full-on look, and she said she fell in love with the sheer, tulle Tory Burch and the large, detailed Marc Jacobs dresses she wore for her InStyle photo shoot – the latter so much that she saved cellphone videos of herself dancing in it, and convinced crew members to try it on too.
List's personal life is also evolving. Over the holidays, she quietly broke up with her long-time boyfriend, Anthem co-star Cameron Monaghan. Her experiences with dating someone while under a cultural microscope will certainly fuel future relationships.
“I never really thought about sharing a relationship with the public, but then it sort of happened because he was so much of my life and I do share bits of my life on my Instagram from time to time,” she says. Next time, she says “I’ll have to make sure that it’s really real because I don’t want to share someone who’s just going to be around for a few months and that’s it.”
Like so many other 20-year-olds, List is learning from her past to ensure she has a stronger future. By the looks of it, she's dressed for it, too.
Photographs by Aingeru Zorita/De Facto Inc. Hair and makeup by Erica Whelan. Art direction and production by Emily Shornick.