[A]t face value, Madison Beer is the exemplification of Generation Z: being ‘found’ at age 13 on YouTube by Bieber, his Tweet of her Etta James cover rose her to fame and she then gained herself 10.2 million (and counting) Instagram followers who praise and troll her every move. But Beer is not going to be determined by her follower count or her filter editing abilities, at 18-years-old she is interested in empowering girls online and finding creativity in the non-digital life. “Wow is that a film camera”, she gushed to our photographer, explaining how much she loves film photography and would love to have one of her own, “I think it’s so authentic”. Describing her wish to appear as real as an app allows her to be, her love of Tame Impala and her interest in improving body positivity – for herself and her millions of followers – Madison Beer talked honestly and eloquently, proving herself to be more than a profile, more than a pop star. Coming-of-age online is a growing phenomena, one which requires you to develop a skin thicker than an iPhone screen: check out our interview below, and find out how Beer has kept her authenticity amongst the follower facade.
How do you feel social media has affected your teenage years?
It’s affected it in so many ways. I’m in a peculiar situation. Let’s say I’m at a party and there’s alcohol, I won’t drink just because I’ll be afraid someone might take a picture. There are so many precautions I have to take because of social media. I think sometimes I’d take these regardless.
As a social media phenomena it’s interesting to hear you talking about how much you love film cameras and the Analogue Age, what about it compared to digital do you enjoy?
I love photography and physical stuff like that, so I try and take a lot of photos on my camera. Even if I then upload it to my phone! Even though digital is just an updated version of it, I feel like it’s not as valuable now. I think the reason film was so interesting was because you have a roll, and then each photo on it really has to count. Now it’s just like you could shoot a gazillion pictures and you edit them etc, but film you shoot and that’s it – you get what you’re given. That’s why I think some of the best photos from history were shot on film – I love it when photographers will literally take one photo.
Do you find it hard that people online who follow you aren’t as interested in that?
It’s funny, online a lot of photos I upload are taken on film now. And people will comment on my Instagrams like “why is this such bad quality?!” But they don’t realise it’s suppose to look like that. People will be like, “oh my god what app is that?” and it’s film! But I mean I think a lot of young people now aren’t interested in it, in older technology, but I love it. I think it’s so authentic.
Do you personally find it hard to be authentic online?
Hmm… People are just so accusatory online. One of the things I hate the most is when people put up stuff like “this person in real life VS this person on Instagram”, saying how different people look. But they don’t realise that what you post on Instagram, let’s say it’s a photo of yourself, you’re posting the best possible photo: that’s been edited, that’s been filtered, that is posed, that was taken 500 times before you got the right one. And then they’ll post one of you in real life that someone else probably took when you weren’t looking, saying that what you see online is fake. But people need to understand that it’s kind of like a portfolio, I mean Instagram’s not who I am, it’s more of like this is me at my very best after taking 500 pictures and editing the shit out of them. I choose to show what I show.
What is your personal relationship with social media like?
I mean I can show you right now what my personal relationship with social media is. (Shows iPhone home screen) I have Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr in a folder called ‘Hell On Earth’. I love social media but I also hate it. If I got hacked and I had to start on 0 followers on all my platforms, I wouldn’t shed a tear. It’s just a number. I think so many people really take the ‘m’ next to my count as a stamp of approval, we should know her. But I just post what I like, I try and post things other than my face – things that I’m interested in – obviously I post selfies because it’s my Instagram, but I like to show followers who care what’s happening in my life too. I want people to follow me for my creative vision, for my songs, for my imagery, not just because I have a lot of other followers. I think social media can be pretty lame.
How do you feel it affects your psyche, your confidence?
It definitely did affect me a lot when I was younger. But now I really try and not let it. I’m very confident in who I am now, I own who I am. But for a long time, being signed with a label and whatever, they’d tell me what I can and can’t say, what I can’t post, how I can’t act. But that’s not reality, I’m not polished, and social media is a way I can own that. So my relationship has got better. I’d say the hardest part still with internet trolls is when I’m already feeling insecure in reality about something, and then they point that exact thing out online. For example, I’ve always thought my legs were so skinny and didn’t like them. I know that sounds like a stupid thing to complain about, but it’s an insecurity of mine that meant I used to never wear skirts or shorts, people would say I had an eating disorder and be mean to me about them. But then I started to think fuck that, who cares? But then I’ll post something that I was unsure about, and someone will say you have such skinny legs! Or I’ll post a picture where you can see what my skin is like, and someone will comment “you have such bad skin!” and it would upset me, because it’s something I’m already insecure about without it being pointed out by strangers. It’s so stupid though, let’s say I get 10,000 comments on a photo, and only 50 of them are negative, those are the ones that stick out that I remember. But I should try and listen to those positive things.
It happens on a small scale too, cyber bullying in America especially is at its worst. As you’re an idol to a lot of young people, you think you’d like to be an advocate for stopping this?
I am really interested in raising awareness for online safety and cyber bullying. Five days ago one of my followers committed suicide, and it happens to others so much. People don’t realise how serious what they say online is, it doesn’t just disappear. Even for me as a young woman, what if that day I got broken up with, I got into a fight with my mom, and then my brother told me he hated me, and then I go online and I see your mean comment. You never know what someone has been through that day, or that minute. People do things in a moment of anger, even if they’re not going to commit suicide, why are you hurting someone’s feelings who you don’t know, or who you do? For me, I try to laugh at it, as they look stupid. But it’s so hard for young people.
Do you find that having an online presence, an almost brand, affects the music you make?
I would say my aim is to make songs that are inspirational, that are empowering. I have a song called ‘Unbreakable’ that is very uplifting, but now I am a bit older I try to convey a message of female empowerment. I’m a bad bitch and you’re lucky if you get me, kinda vibe. I want to make sure my fans love their bodies, are confident. I like to be honest on Twitter and stuff with them, so if my skins bad, I would Tweet and tell them and ask what I should do.
Do you think that you find it hard as an American young woman that there’s something particular you have to deliver?
Yes and no. I think at the current time people really want to see something that is authentic, I try to be real and honest. I think when I have young fans I need to treat them as friends, and show them what’s important to me. To use social media as a way to communicate, I feel really close to them.
I know you’ve spoken about how much you love England, and London especially. What is it about the creative culture that is so different to you?
I love it, honestly. Living in LA is like living in a bubble. There’s such a certain style of living, I love London as it reminds me more of New York where I’m from. I see friends I don’t get to see much, meet fans who don’t get to interact with me as an American much. It’s such a great, chic place.
How did it feel when Bieber tweeted about you? Did the change in your status feel immediate?
I wouldn’t say it was like overnight, it was a climb. But it was intense. I think that’s why I feel close with my fan base, because I was so young then, and we’ve kind of gotten older together. It’s been great to grow with people who support my music. It was so unexpected because I was so young back then, but was worth it.
What is the biggest inspiration you’ve had in your career?
Tame Impala I think are who inspires the sounds I like the most. On my EP you’ll hopefully hear little things that are in that vibe. There’s so much random stuff that I’m interested in, I think people would be surprised how varied it is. I think after I watch movies that’s when I feel the most creative. My favourites are probably Fight Club, Shutter Island, Breakfast Club and The Matrix.
What’s something that’s caught your eye recently?
There’s this hysterical guy on YouTube called Kyle Mooney and he got hired by SNL, and he just made a movie called Brigsby Bear that was so good. He’s really funny and really cool.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would you choose?
Probably Rihanna. That’s my answer every time so maybe if I say it enough it will happen.
If you weren’t a musician what do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’d be in college, I’d be majoring in philosophy, and I’d hopefully be going to get a MA and go on to do counselling or something where I can help people. Or I’d love to be an investigator for the FBI. But in reality I think I will take courses when I can, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the full college experience. And I’ve been to enough frat parties to get the vibe.
Do you feel that you have missed out on things by being famous so young? By not having a high school experience?
Yeah I can’t drink alcohol for shit. (Laughs) But there’s ups and downs, to it both. I missed out on things like prom, on having a routine where you get up and go to a class every day, I only went to 6th and half of 7th grade. But for some reason I never felt natural there, I never saw myself going to high school. Home school was really good in a lot of ways as you can learn what’s important to you, and also it’s not determined on the teacher. I used to get picked on in Math by my teacher, so I thought I hated it, but then I learnt one and one and it was amazing. So I was lucky to have that experience. But I was in a Math class when I found out Justin tweeted me. I missed out on a lot but I gained a lot.
What’s next for you?
I’m going on tour in 2018, my first headlining tour. I hope it’s everything that I picture in my head.
Click through the gallery to see our full exclusive shoot and check out the music video for Madison Beer’s new song ‘Say It To My Face’ below. Stay tuned for her 2018 EP.