EXCLUSIVE! Kylie Cantrall's future is calling...and she's picking up

For someone who just landed her dream role, Kylie Cantrall is doing a really good job of keeping her cool.

Breezing into a downtown Los Angeles photo studio, the 17-year-old performer is all smiles and chill energy—pretty understated for someone who just days before was named the newest star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, following in the footsteps of arguably the most famous teen on the planet. With Olivia Rodrigo moving on from the show, all eyes are now on Kylie. Her role? Popular girl Dani, who's sort of a modern-day take on Sharpay Evans.

"She's captain of the dance team, she's the It girl of the school and she commands every room she walks into," Kylie explains of the character created just for her. "She's intimidating, and people are slightly frightened by her. But at the same time, she works really hard—and that's definitely something I can relate to."

Working hard to make her dreams happen is kind of Kylie's thing...though, ofc, none of it would have come together without a little manifesting.

The only child of a choreographer mom and music producer dad, Kylie caught the performing bug early—and knew *exactly* what she was hoping to accomplish down the line. "When I was 9 years old, I would tell people 'I have a Disney project coming out,' which was fully not true," Kylie shares, laughing at the memory.

But soon the life she'd envisioned became her reality: At 13, Kylie landed the spunky, tomboyish title character in Disney Channel's Gabby Duran and the Unsittables. And in just this past year, she's checked more to-do's off her bucket list, including voicing Savannah in the animated film Ron's Gone Wrong, recording her debut album...and now taking on the halls of East High.

While she's quick to shut down comparisons to the show's recently departed original star ("[Olivia] can never be replaced"), there's no doubt that Kylie's Dani is poised to rule the school, not to mention the hearts of the dedicated HSMTMTS fan base.

The significance of Kylie's new role certainly isn't lost on her. "I can remember singing all the [High School Musical] songs and watching all the movies over and over again when I was 6 years old. What little girl didn't pretend that they were Gabriella singing 'Breaking Free' with Troy Bolton?" Kylie recalls. "The fact that I'm going to be a part of the franchise is crazy. I want to do the show justice—it's so iconic and all of them are so amazing.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Kylie already has the whole "ridiculously talented singer and dancer" thing on lock. She spent her childhood in her dad's studio sessions and her mom's dance rehearsals—and quickly found her footing in both. She credits her dad ("my mentor and my best friend") for showing her the ropes as a musician and introducing her to all types of music, from Destiny's Child to Frank Sinatra to Nirvana.

Now, she's discovering her own sound. Almost a year after debuting her single "Switch Phones" (a smooth, Aaliyah-esque R&B track about testing an unfaithful boyfriend), Kylie recently dropped "Wish U Well," a song about stepping away from a sticky sitch. "Whether it's a romantic situation or a friendship, it's about being the bigger person—but still kind of dogging them out on the stuff that they did wrong," she shares.

When asked whether her music is ever inspired by personal experiences, Kylie directs our attention to the lyrics in the second verse of "Wish U Well": Cuddled up with her all on your story / That's so messed up / 'Cause she don't know all those posts are really for me / It's so obvious.

"This YouTuber I follow said one time, 'Don't date musicians; they're gonna write so many songs about you.' That is very true, 'cause everything that happens in my life ends up in a song," she confesses.

An astrology devotee, Kylie says her star signs (Cancer sun/Aquarius moon/Libra rising) truly define her vibe. "When people first meet me, they feel like I have more Libra qualities. Libras are very outgoing, they're leaders and they're really social. But the sun sign is who you truly are at your core—and I identify as the truest Cancer ever," she says. "Like, I'm such a homebody, I'm really sensitive, I love having close circles of people."

For Kylie, those close circles are everything, especially after having grown up in front of the camera. Being on set and in the studio meant missing out on the traditional high school experience, so she found her home among other people her age who also were chasing their dreams.

"All my best friends are either dancers, actors or musicians," she shares. "I'm constantly inspired by them. We push and support each other."

In that case, her hype squad is doing a pretty great job: With HSMTMTS and her new music on the way, Kylie's about to press play on what could be the biggest moment of her life. And we can't wait to listen.

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Credits: Photographed by MANICPROJECT. Styled by LoVonRumpf. Hair by Phillip Nathaniel. Makeup by Sophia Hutch. Story edited for digital coverage by Kathleen O'Neill.


by Keely Weiss | 11/1/2022