Madison Paige Proves Even Models Are Affected by the Gender-Neutral Bathroom Issue
While aspiring musician and model Madison Paige obviously stands out for her androgynous look, she’s also probably the only person I’ve ever heard identify as a “third-generation model.”
“My grandmother was like, this beautiful housewife model for all these household appliances, and my mom had this high-fashion super skinny heroin chic look,” she tells me over the phone. “And then there’s me, with my whole alien, androgynous something or other…”
Having a family with so much experience in the fashion industry also meant that she was advised to stay away from the industry. So how did Madison — who’s always been more passionate about music anyway — end up traveling the world as a model, creating a “Genderless” line of clothing with Photo/Genics, and racking up 216,000 Instagram followers? And how does her “genderless” look influence her life on a daily basis? Madison Paige kept it real about all that and more, in her answers below.
How did you get into modeling?
I got a full ride to an acting conservatory out here in Los Angeles, but two weeks before school started, I decided to go to a couple of modeling agencies, since I’d been working my ass off for acting, and was still barely making ends meet. I got a contract everywhere I went, so I just started modeling, and just kind of popped off. It was a blessing and a curse, because I got to do so many amazing things, and then five years down the road, I’m like wait, I haven’t done anything that I’ve actually wanted to!
Do you feel like modeling doesn’t fuel you creatively?
No, it does, I mean, I got to travel all of Asia, and it’s hard not to write poems when you’re depressed in Tokyo, you know? [laughing]. It’s more just that like, when you’re working with a modeling agent, they don’t want you to be doing things other than what they think your goal should be. I’d bring my guitar around everywhere, and even like, play music outside of castings, but I’d just kind of accepted that I’m a model, who also plays music.
And so what changed?
When I was living in Thailand, my roommate would just force me to play. It wasn’t until then that I realized that it was actually me people might want to listen to, and not just anyone messing around with a guitar. And you don’t realize how much better life can get when you’re proactive about changing it. Not that my life was bad, but I was just so stuck in my ways, and was convinced there was no way I could pursue music professionally.
What about your “Genderless” clothing collection with Photo/Genics?
It’s actually really cool, because they allowed me to put some of my lyrics on clothes, and so there are these shirts that read “I am sHe”—which I used to write on my clothes. And people have come up to me while I’m wearing them, being like, I’ve never really seen that idea on a tee shirt. Being that, you know, there are masculine sides and feminine sides to every person. So that’s been cool.
Is there any issue for you with declaring a need for a certain category of clothing that’s specifically genderless, instead of just shifting our notions of what masculine and feminine clothing are?
Definitely. I do wish that we lived in a society where you can look at a dress and not think “female.” So many people put stuff into one big category. If it was up to me, I’d honestly change all of the vocabulary. Everybody would be called “it,” and that can be the fucking end of that [laughing]. Ultimately, the most important part about the clothing being “genderless,” is that I just want to make people feel like everyone can wear it.
Right. And it also is just so frustrating and exhausting to have conversations with people where you have to explain these things to them so often. Is that a big part of your life?
You know, I actually just decided I was going to shave my head last week, and I don’t look more boyish than your average fuckin’ lesbian whatever, but once I shaved my head, it went from 0 to 60. Since shaving my head, I’ve been yanked by my collar out of the women’s bathroom three times in the past week alone. And at some assumingly gay-friendly events! It’s just crazy that that’s happening at events like that, right under the noses of people who think they’re helping.
That is so insane. Was it men or women who pulled you out of the bathroom?
Two of the times, it was men, and the other time it was a woman. But often, it’ll actually be women who take more issue with me in the women’s bathroom. If you’re in the men’s bathroom, I guess it’s just more like… if you’re ballsy enough to be there, they usually won’t say anything to you, probably because they don’t want to seem threatened. But all this bathroom stuff is really so insane.
What you’re saying about women reacting more to you actually makes sense to me. I feel like women very naturally react to issues, whether subconsciously or consciously, more so than men do.
I get that. Women are way more interconnected than men are. The old-fashioned explanation was that men use logic and women use emotion, but then again, it’s just absurd at this point. You think we’d be way ahead of arguing over things like gender neutral bathrooms, and it really reflects the oppression we’re still under. Like don’t you have a gender-neutral bathrooms your house?
I really feel you. Also, do you plan on using androgyny as part of your music brand?
I was actually thinking about that the other day. You know, when you learn something new about yourself, you’re so excited about it. So when I came out as being gay, I was gay, gay, gay, gay—I was at gay events every week, I wanted to tell everyone I was gay, all the time. Until I settled into it, and that’s not one of the first things I say about myself anymore. I don’t want to put myself in these finite boxes, so I guess that what I hope to do, is at least send a message strong enough to get the word out there, in a way so that it’s like, hey, look at this, you can be whatever the hell you want to be! There are always going to be people who believe that only men and women should be together, and I’m not saying that everyone needs to be like me, but I think it’s cool that I don’t want to be like anyone else either.
So what’s really exciting for you now that you’re pursuing music?
Sometimes I’ll just literally sit in my apartment playing guitar, and just be excited about the fact that I get to sit and play guitar [laughing]. So that’s what excites me. I’ve got a new song coming out, and Photo/Genics is going to help me launch it. We’re going to try to put a teaser video out shortly, and the single is called “Reverse,” which will come out a couple weeks after. I’m going to be performing at a different Pride event in different cities every weekend in June, so that’s great as well.
That’s so cool! And what kind of music are you listening to right now?
I’ve been getting into a lot of soul, and electro stuff. I love hearing musicians who are kind of fusing live music with electronic elements. I’ve always loved Miguel, and I’m really into Grimes right now. There’s been been this one song, what is it—oh, Tame Impala. Tame Impala’s great. If you don’t know who they are, anybody reading this should stop what they’re doing right now, and check out Tame Impala, right now.