Madison Bailey is the truly unfiltered celebrity we actually deserve. She’s been as open a book as possible. About being a mixed-race Black daughter of white adoptive parents. About living with borderline personality disorder. About being pansexual and in a loving relationship with her girlfriend of three years, former UNC Charlotte basketball player Mariah Linney. On the cover of Cosmopolitan’s May/June issue – the PRIDE issue – Madison opens up to journalist Tre’vell Anderson about wildly successful Netflix adventure drama Outer Banks, bringing representation to new projects, and more. Plus, watch Madison’s Cosmo video—“Expensive Taste Test”—to see if the Pride Issue cover star can beat the ultimate test and guess which truffle potato chips, sour candy, and tequila are more expensive.
On quickly going from having 2,000 followers to millions once Outer Banks took off during the pandemic, and what that was like in real life: “I always thought things would feel different on the other side, and then it’s like I woke up the next day and literally nothing has changed except all these people are looking at me. In a way, I’m like, ‘Boom. I’m ready for this.’ Because I believe that my beliefs are correct. I believe the way I see humanity is helpful. I was excited to have a platform so I could preach what I preach. But there are other ways I wasn’t 100 percent ready. People are looking to me for answers, but I’m still filling in so many of my own.”
On representation, and being a possibility model to many and a spokesperson to others: “It’s overwhelming at times. I have a love-hate relationship with it because sometimes I don’t think I am the best example. It’s hard to sift through what version of myself to bring out—I love so many different sides of me—and I’m still all over the place. A lot of the demographics I’m representing, I’m just now learning about. Being raised by two white parents, I’m learning about my ethnicity as I’m getting older. Being queer but not from a queer family, I’m learning about that too. I’m also trying to explain myself at the same time. I feel like people are looking for somebody who’s more concise or put-together.”
On navigating the spotlight alongside her Outer Banks castmates? “It’s been comforting to have people to rely on when you need to explain something that nobody else understands. We’re all having our own experience, but we’re the only people who can closely relate in this way. I don’t know what I would do without them, without Jonathan and his whole family and Chase, who’s the oldest of the group and like our leader. We know each other’s pain and this love-hate relationship with being in the spotlight.”
On online comments from fans who say Outer Banks doesn’t handle race well: “I think it would be good on the writers’ part to start considering that critique—slightly late but better late than never. In season 2, we added Carlacia to our main cast. She brings a vibe to set that we very much needed. I think it’d be in the writers’ best interests to start emphasizing it more. You have three characters who are Black, and I’ll speak on my character specifically. Her whole theme is a foot in both worlds, and we’re lacking a huge part of that, which is her race. That said, there are moments. They’re too brief, but there are moments.”
On what other show she’d like to place her Outer Banks character on: “Why is my first thought Euphoria? Then I was like, ‘No, no, no. Kiara should not be on Euphoria.’ She’d be like, ‘Y’all are doing way too much.’ I don’t think Kiara would like the characters on it. Maybe Stranger Things. I feel like she would do really, really well. I don’t think the Demogorgons would catch her off guard. She would be a badass.”
On keeping her eyes peeled for a queer role: “Obviously, my eyes are peeled for a queer role. Where are they? I don’t know. They’re not coming through my inbox. I would love to get cast in a queer role and them not ask me to cut my hair or add something more…’more queer.’ Like, ‘Add another piercing!’ I get it because that be us.…But also, this be us.” [She points to herself.]
On how she’s navigating reality in this moment of intense legislative attack on LGBTQ+ culture: “I’m just living. I hold my girlfriend’s hand everywhere. We’re PDA all day. I think I’m navigating it with a ‘f*ck you’ attitude in a way. Like, ‘I’m here. Nothing you’re saying is changing attitudes.’ I feel like I’m very, very lucky to be in a position where my safety has not been affected. I get hate—but all I can do in my position is keep advocating, keep being proud of who I am, keep spreading whatever word I can spread.”
The May/June issue of Cosmopolitan, The Pride Issue, hits newsstands nationwide on May 2.
[Photo Credit: Josefina Santos for Cosmopolitan Magazine]
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