Madeline Ford Says “Be the Exception”

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December 22, 2021

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Viral sensation Madeline Ford, a model and influencer with over 600k followers on Instagram and over 700k on TikTok, uses her authentic spirit and incredible wit to discuss controversial topics. This 24-year-old red-headed beauty based in Chicago is using her “pretty privilege” to talk about women’s rights issues and is even using her platform to shine a spotlight on Black creators to promote diversity within the fashion industry. 

The Click: How did you get started as a model? 

Ford: I started modeling when I was 13 [because] I was determined to be a model. Nobody ever scouted me or told me that I should be a model, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. At 13 years old, I would go on Craigslist to find photographers to build my portfolio, and my mom would accompany me. It was a very long process of finally getting an agency to sign me and getting clients to book me. I really had to work myself up for so many years; it definitely wasn’t an easy thing that fell into my lap, I’m just very determined. It took me three years to get signed to a very small agency, and from there I was a part of several modeling agencies, until I ended up at my current one: Select Model Management. They’re amazing. 

The Click: I also see that you’re an influencer, can you touch on that? How did you get so big on TikTok?

Ford: When I first started trying to be a model, I was facing constant rejection, and that’s when social media was picking up. I realized I could use social media to prove to them [agencies and clients] my worth as a model. I started posting a lot of pictures on Instagram and that’s how I got signed to my first modeling agency, and I quickly started gaining a lot of followers. Then, over quarantine, when TikTok started gaining a lot of traction, I decided to start using it for fun in a way where I was able to express myself in a more authentic way. 

Model and influencer, Madeline Ford sitting.

Photograph of Madeline Ford [Credit: Jess Paetzke]

The Click: What really brought or inspired you to be so candid on social media?

Ford: I feel like being an Instagram influencer really caused a lot of trauma, in the sense that it stripped me of my personality and took away my ability to be heard. Being valued only by how I looked at such a young age really affected me. A common experience for girls is being belittled into the way that you look and eventually you start to believe that about yourself. I wanted to be heard and valued by something other than my looks. And I started to realize the importance of authenticity. My biggest lesson during quarantine was: “The truth will set you free.” People love authenticity and you can’t go wrong with just telling the truth. With every single TikTok I make, I just tell the truth. I feel like the more that you lie, the more disconnected you get from your audience. 

The Click: How did COVID-19 affect your work?

Ford: It was so scary, nobody was hiring models at the time, but I was able to use social media [sponsorships] instead to pay my rent. Modeling completely changed forever after COVID-19. It’s beginning to get back to normal, however, travel isn’t really as much a part of the job like it used to be. Now companies are booking local models a lot more because of all of the travel guidelines. The runway models are struggling a lot more because they can’t really have shows like they used to. However, print is officially back! 

Model and influencer, Madeline Ford

Photograph of Madeline Ford [Credit: Madeline Ford]

The Click: In your opinion, how is the fashion world changing or evolving? Do you feel like the modeling world is inclusive enough?

Ford: It is absolutely not inclusive enough, but it is getting a lot more inclusive. There’s always going to be a lot of issues related to the modeling industry because it is rooted in the “beauty standard,” which in itself is not inclusive at all. There’s a lot to be done on a societal level, I think. However, from the time that I started my modeling career till now, there’s already been a huge change, which I love to see. Agencies are including different body types and races, while clients are recognizing the importance of inclusivity. Because of social media, we as consumers are holding these brands accountable, and I think that’s made a huge difference.

The Click: What would you recommend to someone who’s also trying to get into modeling or being an influencer?

Ford: In either field, you have to be your biggest advocate. Nobody’s going to believe in you if you don’t even believe in yourself. You have to have a steady foundation of self-love in your life because both of those industries are very toxic and you’re going to be facing so much rejection and criticism. Also, don’t take “no” for an answer. If I had stopped after a rejection, I would never have gotten anywhere. I faced hundreds of “no’s” before anything good ever happened for me. The beginning is the hardest, because you’re not getting any validation and you have to keep putting yourself out there. But it will be worth it, you just have to be persistent. 

The Click: Any inspirational words that have kept you going?

Ford: Be the exception. I used to compare myself a lot because I wasn’t really tall enough to be a model and I didn’t necessarily look like the models I was seeing working with the brands I loved. But be the exception. Don’t let what’s already happening stop you, be the one that changes it. Be the first.

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