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Madeleine Keating may be a professional model, but she is so much more than a pretty face. In this interview, we discuss her "unlikely" success in front of the camera (she's only 5'2"), her passion for mental health advocacy, and how she's giving back by teaching others what she's learned about navigating her industry. 

You're a model, filmmaker and influencer who's expressed her passion for mental health acceptance on her social media channels. What is your own experience with mental health challenges?

I only just recently came out about my mental health struggles a few months ago. I was particularly nervous because I was unsure of the response I would receive from everyone. There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, so I was worried about people misunderstanding, or making inaccurate assumptions or judgements. But I quickly learned that being openly vocal about my journey with mental health, and more specifically depression, was something I really needed for myself. My depression started immediately after two back-to-back injuries that resulted in concussions. For a while, I was hiding and suppressing my emotions, and that was really unhealthy for me. I'm so glad I decided to be open, honest, and transparent about mental health on my social media channels, because it's not only helped me get things off my chest, but it's helped others see that [struggling with] mental health is not something to hide or be embarrassed of. I had a ton of people reach out expressing their similar struggles, so it was really encouraging to learn that I had a whole community of people behind me that could understand and support me.

Why do you think mental health is an important topic to discuss publicly? 

I think mental health is important to talk about because SO many people have mental health issues, yet it's seen as this "thing" that we aren't support to talk about. It's not something we choose or can control. I want people out there struggling to know that they are not alone, and that life isn't perfect. I want to build a community where we can feel comfortable talking about it in every day life and can help one another. I felt very alone in the early stages of my depression, so now that my friends and family know what I'm going through, I feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. And hopefully somewhere along my journey, I can find a way to help others as well. 

Blonde girl in clear glasses

Photograph by Brandon Woelfel. Madeleine is wearing WearMe Pro Eyewear in Winter that can be found here

What advice do you have for any of your fans and followers who may be going through a difficult time, whether circumstantially or chronically? 

I get a lot of people asking me for advice, and I'm no doctor or professional—but something that always helps me when I feel completely overwhelmed or like a panic attack may be coming on is focusing on my breathing. It sounds silly, but I'll stop wherever I am and take three massive deep breaths. I'll use up all the stale air thats sitting in the back of my lungs and just slow myself down from the inside out. It helps immensely, because it releases endorphins in the brain when you do so. It's like an instant happy. This always seems to calm me down and help me see things from a rational perspective. 

Sometimes, it's difficult to know how to help. In an effort to to be uplifting, we can say or do the wrong things. What advice do you have for people who are close to someone who's suffering? What actions can they take to be a light in someone's life? 

This is such an important question and the ultimate issue surrounding mental health, I think. A lot of people don't realize it, but mental health is not only detrimental to the person diagnosed, but every single person around them, too. Their family, their close friends, are all dealing with a great deal of stress, as well. I don't know the answer to this question. Doctors haven't even figured it out yet. But what I do know you can do to help someone suffering, is give them unconditional love. When I was really struggling with depression for the first time, my family really didn't understand it or why I had it, or how they could fix it. All they knew how to do was smother me with love. When I was sad, when I hated them and wanted to take my sadness out on them, they just loved me. And it helped. If they had responded or reacted to my depression in any other way, I can honestly say I wouldn't have gotten better. It's also important to know that it takes time. It could be a few months or a few years before it feels like you're making any progress, but it does get better. 

Blonde girl in clear glasses in winter time

Photograph by Brandon Woelfel. Madeleine is wearing WearMe Pro Eyewear in Winter that can be found here

You've previously briefly mentioned being involved in a project that shines a light on mental health through music. Can you tell us about that? What other efforts have you been involved in? 

A very close friend of mine, Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit, is both an insanely talented musician and probably the top advocate for mental health. I met him at such an important moment in my personal journey, and he has helped me more than anyone else has. He is completely reinventing what it means to be a mental health advocate in the music industry. He just locked down the biggest name in music streaming to partner with us on this project and open up the conversation in a massive way. I'm not sure that he's announced it yet, so I won't say it here. But I can say that I am beyond lucky and proud that Michael is allowing me to help him with this project. I'm so excited—it's going to change everything, I think. 

You've expressed that you're much shorter than the average model (at 5'2, I believe?). What does it mean to you to be so successful in an industry full of Amazons as a self-proclaimed shortie? What modeling contract are you most excited to have landed? 

I am very petite. I actually don't even qualify to be a petite model, that range is considered 5'7-5'8. It's so funny, this whole journey has been such a treat for me because I never thought I could really do this as a career due to my height. When I first got signed, that gave me major validation and confidence that an agency believed in me, and that this is something I could actually do. Even back then though, I classified myself as a "petite" model because I felt like I had to justify myself to be taken seriously. I just recently shot my first Maybelline commercial, and that was a big moment for me because it gave me the confidence to see myself just as good of a model as anyone else. The shoot was myself and two very tall, very thin "supermodel" types. When I showed up to set, I thought, "Okay, I'm here for a reason, and I'm rolling with the best of them." Now I don't feel like I need to say I'm a petite model to validate myself; I'm just a modelthat's what I do. 

The fact that I'm somehow able to pull this off in an industry based on size and height is really cool for me. I feel like I represent all the everyday girls out there who are proud to be shorter, more muscular, have hips and a booty, whatever. It's really all about feeling comfortable in your own skin and rocking it- that's all that matters. I'm most excited to be signing with a new agency at the end of the year that I truly never thought I could sign with!

What advice do you have for other girls on the shorter side who would love to be doing what you are? How do they stand out? 

The best advice I could give is just go for it until you get it. Take risks. You're going to hear a lot of "no's." I certainly did. But after so many of them, you'll finally hear a "yes," and it will all be worth it. As I mentioned before about signing with a new agency, I had set up meetings in Los Angeles with a handful of agencies that I know definitely sign shorter girls. I did some research before hand, and talked to some photographer friends. They all said I was a shoe-in! I showed up to my meetings, and I was immediately rejected with a "no, you're too short, thanks for stopping by" the second I walked through the door. I was super disappointed and discouraged because I realistically thought they were my only shot.
However, there was one agency at the very top of my list that I thought there was no way in hell I would ever sign with. They literally have stated on their website "DO NOT SHOW UP IF YOU ARE NOT 5'9 OR TALLER." You know what I did? "Fuck it," I thought. I walked right into that office, and by some miracle, they offered me a contract. I'm am so thankful those other agencies turned me down, because now I'm signing with my dream agency. I will be the shortest girl on their board. I am beyond excited to announce it very soon. 

You're currently running modeling and photography workshops with photographer Adam Chin. Can you tell us what exactly it entails? How many are there, and how long will they run? 

Photographer Adam Chin is a very close friend of mine, and we've had this idea to run a workshop where we teach and share industry tricks and advice for the longest time. We finally had our first class about a month ago, and it was a success! In our workshops, you learn the difference between shooting studio lighting and on-location lifestyle lighting. I teach posing classes for the models, and how to "read the camera". We discuss how to develop communication with your photographer/model for the best images, how to approach agencies, brands, and how to land your first campaign. Everyone in the class walks away with images from a shoot with me and Adam's preset packages for post editing. Our next class will be in early November in Manhattan. Keep an eye out for when we release the date! You can purchase tickets through the links on our Instagram and websites. 

Blonde model and photographer walk together

What are your plans for the next year, professionally and personally? What's next for Madeleine? 

My plans for next year are to continue with modeling, and hopefully take it to the next level. I'm very eager to sign with my new agency and work more in Los Angeles. I'm constantly setting goals that I want to accomplish each year, but I always just try to take it day by day and continue to work as hard as I can. 

You can view Madeleine's Instagram page here and photographer Adam Chin's Instagram here