Madison Beer "I don't think how I was treated on the internet was fair. Nor was it okay, nor has it stopped. I'm an adult now, so I can handle myself. I know who I am. I know my heart and what kind of person I am."
Alice Gee | 23/06/2023
When I think of Madison Beer, many words pop to mind, strength, determination, authenticity, with resilience right up there alongside. There's more than meets the eye. There's more than a pop icon who can turn out one hell of a show. There's more than the girl spotted by Justin Bieber, and there's more than what she's endured over the years. There's a whole identity where kindness remains at the forefront. Kindness for her fans but also now herself. As the clock turns the to hour, I join a prompt Madison over a call with it being early morning UK time, almost midnight in LA.
You're a trooper, I tell Madison, even more so a night owl, the complete opposite of myself. "I much prefer it. I stay up until 3am most nights." It's terrible, she exclaims, telling me she'll do almost anything to avoid early morning calls. Madison knows the scenario herself, and as someone myself who takes to bed around 9:30 most nights to ensure I'm up early, it seems her internal body clock has come to terms with the mornings a little better than my own, waking up naturally even after a late night. I guess it comes in handy when on the road touring, state to state, country to country. "It's funny. I was on a really good sleeping schedule before I did my book tour in New York. I went to New York and woke up on average at 5am New York time, which is 2am LA. So I actually ended up switching my schedule. When I returned to LA, it switched itself, so I couldn't fall asleep before two." I'm not surprised, knowing all too well the hard work when Jet lag is in tow.
Having been a fan for quite some time, I'm excited to be able to sit down with Madison. It's an effortless moment rolling out of bed, more so than in a while. In fact, it would be reckless not to be excited - excuse the pun. I take the time to talk to Madison about our aim as a publication, creating communities and a safe space with mental health at the forefront. It's something I check in on, with the good, the bad, and the ugly often cropping up in conversations, only for Madison to tell me mental health is something of a favourite to talk about. It's music to my ears, hearing her speak of the passion she has for the topic, and having had immense pressure over her career, I'm keen to talk about the pressures that come within the public eye, something that presented itself instantly overnight following Justin Bieber's online reaction to her cover of his music in 2012. Being 24 and crediting her career to its beginning 12 years ago, her answer differs from others she may have given over the years when talking about the revolving pressure in the industry.
"I feel like my answer has changed throughout the years a lot. I answer that question much differently than I would have when I was 18/19 years old or even 14. I feel, first and foremost, that I've been able to have perspective and look back at the last 12 years. I have a lot of empathy for myself and take away so much of that. I don't know if shame is the right word. Still, for a really long time, I was made to feel like getting bullied relentlessly and being told to kill myself was just part of the gig". In an industry known for its dog-eat-dog environment, it seems it was no different in assuming individuals like Madison should get a thick skin suggesting that to toughen up was paramount. "Now I look back. I know that's not true, and I won't let anyone tell me otherwise." Madison empathises with her younger self when talking about her with me. "I don't think how I was treated on the internet was fair. Nor was it okay, nor has it stopped. I'm an adult now, so I can handle myself. I know who I am. I know my heart and what kind of person I am." When you're 15/16 years old, there's no way you're not figuring out who you are, I respond. "It was so hard for so many years. It confused me more than anything. I didn't know what was okay and what wasn't. I felt like I couldn't learn freely. I felt like I had to be overly cautious with everything I said, the places I went, or the people I talked to. It wasn't a normal way to grow up." There's an element of pride as Madison opens up about the abuse and her resilience in the face of it. "I don't think I would change anything, but I am proud of who I am today. There's so much that has happened to me as a kid that should have never happened. And I think as an adult, being able to tell myself that has actually given me a lot of peace."
In terms of peace, I wonder about the exhaustion that's present while desperately asking for boundaries online in a world where the word kindness is so easily thrown around yet so tricky to find, especially in a world with social media. I'm curious whether the limbo between the uncertainty of what you'll receive makes it harder or if there is a sense of therapy to it, no matter the reaction. I wanted to know what is essential to Madison when sharing her reality through her music?
"It's really about honesty. I feel like I'm in a place where I can be honest and vulnerable and not feel that that is a weakness. It actually feels more like a strength to me. I think that a lot of my writing is honest. I try to let myself channel all the hardships and use them to hopefully make a great song if that's what I want to come out of it. I guess I think let's make it all worth it. But it can be hard. Being vulnerable in any capacity to a big audience is difficult." It's all been worth it, Madison explains, and as for the connection, she's felt writing from an honest place has created a fan base, or more so, a community where grace is not only allowed but encouraged. "They (her fan base) are amazing. They're so receptive." In a moment of reflection, Madison quickly rewinds and second-guesses how many of her followers will read or care about the interview. It is overly modest, but the chance they will is all she needs. "It's really awesome when people want to give other people a chance and not just write them off as whatever they read online. I think it's cool when someone wants to make a judgment for themselves rather than buying into nonsense and whatever."
The effect of years of judgment has played a part in her struggle and growth in her evolving identity.
"My adolescence has been really confusing to me, actually, my whole life, it's been something I've struggled with understanding." Is it something you feel has been defined by others, something you've searched for over the years I ask? "I've only felt like I've been able to figure it out for myself in recent years, but even still, I have moments where I have this imposter syndrome, part of me where I just don't feel like I belong anywhere and certain places." It sounds tough. "It's hard, for sure. I sort of blame my very youthful, pivotal years and having people critique everything I did. Who even Am I if someone has something to say about it. It's been a journey. I feel like I've now been able to find myself a bit more". Having made it through or at least partially through the maze that is public perception Madison still has several questions. "Who is Madison? What does it mean?" She asks, "I think we all forget that everyone is doing it for the first time. We're all just trying our best. And I believe that."
Hearing Madison's belief system is an absolute comfort. I have found many questions left in the wake of trauma, especially PTSD, so to speak to one another in the comfort and safety of our homes on the subject is a breath of fresh air. The honesty and vulnerability are absolute. I asked Madison if, like myself, she found herself overnight having no idea about anything or who you are anymore due to how our bodies present PTSD and the rebuilding of those blocks.
"I think that trauma shocks our system, especially if it's something you have never been through. It was an experience that was so unique it was hard to process. It's like, you're trying to understand what has happened and how to make sense of it. And sometimes, you literally can't. It can be confusing and completely throw off everything you thought you knew about yourself. Because even your reaction, you're like, I didn't even know that I could feel so dissociative from who I am. It's such a bewildering experience to go through a massive trauma, then to have PTSD and have all these triggers that linger within your life that you can't anticipate. They come on, and you feel it all over again" The empathy felt is apparent as we connect. "It's just so difficult. I often remember my first long-term relationship, which I was in for four and a half years of my teenage years. And I was like, who am I without this? Who am I alone? I didn't know, because I'd never experienced it before. We all have such a hard time being like, this is me, especially when something makes you feel so unlike you." Having been there, it's confusing however Madison won't let others tell her any other way. "I know in my heart no one can tell me otherwise. People have been throwing shit at me my whole life. I know who I am, and no one's gonna change my mind about it."
Such strong values and determination seem to have a real place within Madison's reality. They have seeped through every part of her life, as I'm sure it's been part of putting on such a good show for the fans she so clearly adores. I'm curious how expressing herself and letting go has allowed her to bring her creative world to life so that she feels safe completely being herself. "Specifically, touring and that hour and a half i'm on stage, I can't really describe the true impact that has on me positively. I spent years believing that everyone hated me and that I had no real fans, that no one cared about me." When you're conditioned into thinking that everyone hates you from 12 years old onwards, there's no surprise you start to believe it. "So especially this last tour of mine, I just had so many moments of looking out at the crowd, taking a big bow at the end of the show, and to me, it would feel like 20 minutes. I would look around the room, make eye contact with everyone, and soak in that moment, knowing these people love me. People care and spend their whole night dressing up, planning this, getting an Uber to come here and wait in line. It's so rewarding. There are people out there. It changed a lot for me mentally. It was the catalyst to make me truly want to live and feel loved. I will never forget those moments, and I will spend the rest of my life chasing them forever."
I can feel a breath of fresh air and the overwhelming sense of relief from Madison. It's a feeling she's tried to emulate on tour over the years, taking a little piece of home with her. "There's a couple of things that I do. On my first tour, which was my EP tour, I brought these two little stuffed animals that I've had since I was born. I brought those on the road with me on my US tour. I don't remember fully, but I'm pretty sure the anxiety of having them on the road was part of it too. Still, it was helpful to me." And as for a routine that has become part of unwinding from the adrenalin? "I always make sure that whatever bus I have have a shower because that's part of my unwinding routine: taking a shower and getting in bed. I have a heating pad that I sleep with at night, even candles something as simple as that, and a comfy blanket that smells like home is enough for me." And as hard as it can be with separation anxiety from home, Madison explains. "I'm a very homey person. I feel safest when I'm home."
With her new album on the way, I ask about the priorities involved in creating new music and the parts of the album she hopes to convey to fans. "There's been so many, I'm just excited to get it out. But my vulnerability on this album has made me feel really proud of myself. There are many songs that I'm sincere in ways that I didn't think I ever could be. I'm just trying to give myself kudos and say, damn, people really wanted to knock you down, and you didn't let them. It's a testament to you and your strength. We must tell ourselves things like that. We would tell our best friends or family, so why not yourself. So I listened to the album and said I'm proud of you to myself."
In terms of giving herself a little grace, that's her goal. "I feel true that that's my truth now."
And in terms of what Madison does regarding self-preservation, she has two answers for me; the first is to not be hard on herself. After all, she's not a songwriting machine. Secondly, the other part of herself is comforting the side of herself that has the capability of doubt and gaslighting herself "I get upset and wonder If if I'm creative enough? We all get in those sort of mental spaces where we gaslight ourselves into thinking the worst, but I try to not do that as often" it's something she just doesn't subscribe to.
As Madison embraces things she's found immense joy in within her creative practice, including directing her music videos, it seems her mission has become more about autonomy and exploration instead of being hard herself. After all, it's been a long time coming to feel her own truth.
Words Alice Gee