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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 model—that'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!
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.
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.