The Outer Banks star opens up on her starring role in the hit TV show, chasing her dreams, and what’s next.
FULL LOOK Ferragamo
FULL LOOK Ferragamo
Two women sit down for a video call. One under the rainy morning skies of L.A., the other settling into a gloomy London evening. Madison Bailey is the former, her optimism unscathed by the weather, and I the latter – all the more excited to explore the life of Netflix’s rising star.
The 23-year-old actor is counting down the days until the season three premiere of the hit Netflix TV show, Outer Banks, in which Bailey stars as Kiara Carrera. “I’ve been sending my stylist inspo pics for the last three months. I know it’s in February, but this is our first premiere,” she says with palpable excitement.
Yet her eagerness is to be expected, given that the first two seasons were released during the pandemic with strictly no red-carpet events allowed. “I’m just excited to see people and celebrate the work that we’ve done,” she says. “I do feel like there’s overlap, especially in this storyline, of her feeling like she kind of discovered who she was a little earlier,” she says. Something which resonates with Bailey herself, who defines her adolescence as one filled with incessant ambition and self discovery.
Talking of her own backstory, I learn Bailey is of African and Italian descent but grew up in the small town of Kennersville, North Carolina, where she was adopted by White parents. While for many, the growing up process can prove a breeding ground of doubt and vulnerability, Bailey was determined to write her own narrative. “I always saw my future pretty clearly and knew what I wanted,” she says. “I didn’t even think about what would happen if [acting] didn’t work out.” Jump-starting her career with acting classes at 15 years old, despite her parents’ apprehension, she made no plans for school and plunged headfirst into her dream.
With acting jobs came travel, meeting new people on set, and the ability to explore a community that barely existed in her town, but one she instinctively had felt a part of: the queer community. “I realised that was a part of my world and I just had a disconnect,” she says. “I just had to meet more people and experience more things to connect that to myself.” Since then, Bailey, who identifies as pansexual, entered a relationship with basketball player Mariah Linney. In true 2020 fashion, Linney asked Bailey out via TikTok, leaving the actor smitten ever since. “We’re roomies. I live with my best friend and my girlfriend,” she says with a smile.
(LEFT) FULL LOOK Siedrés (RIGHT) FULL LOOK Valentino
FULL LOOK Siedrés FULL LOOK Valentino
While the stars may have aligned for Bailey in the realisation of her sexual identity, there was a conversation that the actor found more challenging to confront. At 18 years old, Bailey was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Opening up on her experience, Bailey shares that the diagnosis, until recently, led her to resist therapy. “Before, I wrote it off because I wasn’t in a position to hear somebody else’s opinion on my life when I myself didn’t understand certain things,” she explains. “The older I get, the more I’m realising that having help isn’t the worst thing in the world. You don’t have to be invincible or do everything on your own to still be considered strong and tough.”
With 2023 marking Bailey’s eighth year in the industry, her priority is to focus on what truly matters. “We’re always looking [for] more, more, more. I’m supposed to want an Oscar tomorrow or an Emmy tomorrow. Really, I just want to be content, to be happy and keep doing this.”
Though accolades are not Bailey’s first priority, there is one Emmy-award winner she can’t help but be inspired by: Zendaya. “I’ve held off on mentioning her for so long. It’s a tough act to follow, but her performance in Euphoria speaks to me very specifically,” she says, championing the series for its representation of mental health struggles, sexuality, and intersectionality.
So, what’s one thing Bailey would change about the industry if she could? She pauses before laughing: “Just one thing? Make everything more inclusive. Tell more stories. Tell stories differently. We’re in a time where we’re remaking movies, but I think we also have a lot of new stories to tell. I think really diving into creativity and telling an inclusive, realistic story matters.” Before taking on such a monumental task, Bailey’s own objectives for the year hinge on something a little simpler. “My intention is to slow down, and take the time to answer the questions regarding what’s really going to make me happy and to stay in high spirits and not let my mental state get the best of me. My favourite part about where I’m at right now is that I’m in a position to creatively go in the direction I want. I really could do anything right now.”