Creators on the Rise: Madeline Ford on going from 200 views to 2 million followers

By 05/09/2024
Creators on the Rise: Madeline Ford on going from 200 views to 2 million followers

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.

Madeline Ford was going to get people to watch her content.

Or else.


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“I started modeling at a pretty young age, when I was 13, and that got my creator career started, because Instagram was very big in the modeling industry then,” she says. That was 13 years ago. And though Ford had built an Instagram following that was nothing to sneeze at (nearly 700,000 people), she wanted to make more things, and reach more people.

“In 2019, a few of my friends were doing really well on TikTok,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Well, I want to do really well on TikTok!'” She launched own channel that year and started uploading videos about her modeling career.

At first, those videos were getting around 200 views apiece. Ford's content strategy at the time was “a bunch of random things,” she says. “I was just so determined to get people to watch my videos.”

Then, on one modeling job, she decided to do a sort of day-in-the-life video, where she vlogged about going into her modeling agency, and then heading out to a gig. The video was a simple voiceover, with Ford giving advice to people who wanted to get into modeling.

“On my break, I checked it, and it had 5,000 views. I was freaking out,” she says. “Then I think by the end of the day, it had like a million views, and it was crazy. It was the craziest adrenaline rush ever.”

Ford knew things were going to take off from there-until COVID hit. With the modeling industry shut down, she began focusing even more on content and expanding into more daily vlogs, lifestyle content, lip-syncs, and skits, hoping to supplement her income. Her new content did more than that, though: it helped stoke her burgeoning love of acting, grew her audience to more than 2 million followers, and snagged her some pretty sweet brand deals, like this recent Too Faced trip.

Now, Ford's career is about 90% content, 10% modeling, she says. She'd like to do more modeling this year, but has been taking a break from the industry and focusing on acting classes in hopes of scoring her first role.

To hear what else she plans to get up to in 2024, you can check out our chat with her below.

@madelineafordMaybe I’m always speaking in questions because I’m so used to being cut off.♬ original sound - madeline ford

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

B-ru: Hey there! So to give you a quick intro, for years and years, we've been doing creator profiles. We were mostly focused on YouTube, but over the last couple of years, we've really expanded it to TikTok and Twitch. About a month ago, we had one of our interview videos do really well on TikTok, so TikTok reached out to us to interview a few more creators, and you're one of the ones that they mentioned. Very excited to get to talk to you.

Madeline Ford: Yay! Me too. Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored.

B-ru: I'm familiar with you and with your videos, but for our first question, imagine somebody is reading this or watching this and they've never seen your stuff, they don't know who you are. Tell me about you. where you're from, and how you got on social media.

Madeline Ford: My name is Madeline Ford. I'm 26 years old. I'm based in Chicago, born and raised in the suburbs of Illinois. I started modeling at a pretty young age, when I was 13, and that got my creator career started because Instagram was very big in the modeling industry then. I started on Instagram and then, in 2019, a few of my friends were doing really well on TikTok and I was like, “Well, I want to do really well on TikTok.” I joined, I started talking about modeling, and it just all took off from there.

B-ru: Do you remember the first TikTok video that did well for you?

Madeline Ford: I do. I had been posting for a while a bunch of random things that were getting 200 views max. I was so just determined to get people to watch my videos. I remember, I think I vlogged a little day going to my modeling agency. I learned how to do a voiceover, because they didn't have the voices feature back then. I just talked about advice for people who wanted to get into modeling. I remember I posted it before I went to a modeling job. On my break, I checked, and it had 5,000 views. I was freaking out.

Then I think by the end of the day, it had like a million views, and it was crazy. It was the craziest adrenaline rush ever.

B-ru: Very cool. How did you get into modeling in the first place?

Madeline Ford: I don't know why, I just was very determined to be a model when I was little–literally, for no reason. Old ladies would come up to me in the grocery store and tell me that I should model, and I really took that to heart. I just was getting my mom to take me to open calls and take digitals of me to submit to modeling agencies online. It took a really long time. No one wanted to sign me, and I just worked my little butt off and eventually kind of worked my way, weaseled my way into the industry.

B-ru: Now, things are a little bit different for you, because you're doing both content and modeling.

Madeline Ford: Totally.

B-ru: How has your daily schedule changed since content became a big part of your life?

Madeline Ford: I think they're both very flexible jobs. My day-to-day hasn't really changed. I think overall, my relationship with creating has changed in terms of, I think of myself a lot differently because my audience now, I have such an intimate relationship with them based on my personality and my interests, like the things I have to say, whereas modeling is very just aesthetic- and looks-based.

I think just my confidence and relationship with myself honestly has changed a lot because the way I create content now is based on the things I have to say and not just taking pictures of myself.

B-ru: Your GRWM videos have become quite a staple for you. The way you engage with the camera is very interesting. How did you narrow down and build your own personal style on video?

Madeline Ford: It's so interesting you say that because I've had other people in my life say like, “You have such a specific style of making videos,” and I feel like I'm not aware of it. I feel like it's like handwriting. I can't help it. It just is there, because I don't really put a lot of effort into that. I think it's just literally, naturally the way that I talk and the way that I edit. My whole thing is keeping people's attention. I just talk as fast as I can and edit out every moment of silence, which probably comes across a certain way.

I think I've just tried to always evolve with the times of TikTok, because it's changed so much over the years, from 60 seconds to 3 minutes to now 10 minutes, and the in-app editing softwares… I've just stayed updated with that, and I think that that has translated into how my content comes across, if that makes sense.

B-ru: Yes. That's definitely important. I know you said you did Instagram. Did you have any video experience, like editing experience, before you got into TikTok or have you been learning all this on the fly?

Madeline Ford: I was obsessed with YouTube as a kid. I would make the Kesha music videos that everyone did and just stupid videos. I loved editing videos, but I didn't do anything with them. I have edited videos in the past, but I think the TikTok interface is so different that I've just been learning as I go. It is one of my favorite parts of the video-making process. I love editing. For some reason, it's just very relaxing to me, and it feels very natural for me. I can just quickly go through a video and crank it out. I don't know. It's really relaxing. I don't know how to explain it.

B-ru: No, totally. How much time goes into the average video for you now?

Madeline Ford: I think it depends, because my Get Ready With Mes are so easy because I literally just talk, stop, go, edit out little moments of silence, and that's it. Something like a vlog or something that's a voiceover takes so much effort. Even at the beginning of every month, I make these little videos where I reset my calendar, and those surprisingly take me forever to edit because it's 35 minutes of footage that I cut down to 60 seconds. It's just a matter of finding those little clips that are worth including, and then finding the right audio.

It depends on the video, but I would say those take me like an hour. I don't think I'm ever editing a video for more than 2 hours, which is still pretty long for like a 60-second video though.

B-ru: Yes, it is. I know you have a presence on YouTube as well, but you seem like you're focusing on TikTok.

Madeline Ford: Yes. TikTok is my favorite platform. I really would like to expand into YouTube, but I don't know what it is about TikTok. I don't want to say effortless, but it feels like TikTok is just a little bit chaotic and the least curated of all the platforms, which I really enjoy. I don't know. The idea of thinking through a video and making longer form content really stresses me out for some reason, but TikTok is like- It just feels so natural and easy. You're just talking to a friend, kind of thing. It's definitely my favorite platform. I would like to expand, but for now, my focus is on TikTok.

B-ru: Interesting. You said you noticed that TikTok is allowing longer videos. Do you plan to try and do a little bit of longer-form on TikTok?

Madeline Ford: Yes. I definitely have videos that are upward of eight minutes. It's like a blessing and a curse that you can do 10 minutes now. I talk so much that I almost miss being confined to three minutes because it shut me up a little bit. I think that for the people that want those companionship videos, the sit there while you're eating videos, I think it really works. I've definitely dabbled with longer videos. I'm still gauging the audience's interest in sitting there for that long, but I do appreciate the variety that it offers now.

B-ru: Very cool. Then has TikTok had an effect on your modeling career?

Madeline Ford: Oh my God, yes, totally. I've been at so many photo shoots where they're like, “Yes, we found you on TikTok,” and I had no idea because I think that a lot of the times, also, I had a period where I would vlog all of my modeling shoots, and they did really well so I'm sure brands were like, “Hey, that's free press. Let's get her out to photo shoot.” I definitely started booking a lot more and having new clients reach out to me as a result of TikTok, which is amazing. It's just such great exposure.

B-ru: Do you feel like your career is an even split now between modeling and TikTok? Or what are you thinking career-wise?

Madeline Ford: Oh my gosh. Absolutely not. I feel like TikTok is a 90% and modeling is a 10%. I don't really know. I don't really fully know why. I think that modeling is just so...It definitely has its pros and cons, but it can be a little bit of a toxic industry. I think that TikTok allowing me the break was really necessary for my mental health. I still love modeling, but not having to rely on it for my income is so healthy for me. I ideally would love my career to go more in an acting, film, television direction.

I'm in a bunch of acting classes right now. I love acting. That's my goal. It's hard to get into, I don't know how that'll go, but best-case scenario, I would love to be an actor.

B-ru: That's very interesting. I feel like that is one of the great things about short-form is that it really brings out aspiring actors' abilities. Even people who don't know they want to act discover a love for it.

Madeline Ford: Totally. I follow so many people that have gotten so many amazing acting opportunities just from TikTok. It's just so cool how TikTok has affected so many different industries.

B-ru: You're in acting classes right now. What does your average daily schedule look like?

Madeline Ford: I sign up for a bunch of classes just to keep me structured in my life. I do acting classes, I do improv classes. I was doing guitar lessons for a while. I do yoga. I do whatever I can just to keep my days full. Then I just live a very leisurely life. I'm not going to lie to you. I spend so much time consuming TikTok, it's ridiculous. I act like I'm studying, but I'm fully just doomscrolling on a daily basis. Then I'll make videos when I feel inspired, and that's it. I really don't do much.

B-ru: I mean, it sounds like you're involved in a lot of learning to do different creative pursuits.

Madeline Ford: Yes, I like to stay very creative. Literally, the last 48 hours I spent learning the dance to that new Beyonce song on TikTok for no reason. That's what I just decided I had to do. In my head, I'm like, “I'm being creative, so it's fine.” Just random things like that.

B-ru: You want to work toward acting?

Madeline Ford: Yes. Yes, that would be the dream.

B-ru: You mentioned that you watch a lot of TikToks. Is that what inspires you for your own content?

Madeline Ford: Oh my god, yes, 100%. I feel like I save every other TikTok I watch. It's so ridiculous because I never go back and watch them. I do have an entire folder on TikTok of content ideas, or just if the editing style inspires me or whatever it is. I save so many TikToks. I feel really inspired all the time by people on TikTok. They're so creative and so clever. I do think that that's a main driving force behind my content.

B-ru: What's your favorite part of being in the TikTok community?

Madeline Ford: That's such a good question. I feel like maybe my biggest takeaway is just that I'm not alone in so many experiences as both a viewer and a creator. I feel like TikTok is such a vulnerable platform, at least the side that I'm on. So many people are so honest, and I often really overshare in my content. Just hearing that I'm not all alone in these experiences and these feelings is so comforting. I feel like I find a lot of comfort in my audience in that way. We're all going through a lot of the same things together. Just being a girl in your early, mid-20s is really hard. I think that everyone talking about that and going through it together is really comforting in a lot of ways. I feel like I've learned a lot on TikTok honestly, just about life and confidence and things like that.

B-ru: Especially during the pandemic, I feel like it's been a really important source of connection.

Madeline Ford: Exactly. It is companionship and connection, 100%.

B-ru: In terms of modeling, how was your industry affected by COVID?

Madeline Ford: Oh my god, it was horrible. It was horrible because sets have so many people, and there were no photoshoots for a long time. Brands were trying to send girls clothes and have them shoot at home, but there were so many logistical issues with that. Luckily, that's when my TikTok was really picking up, so it supplemented my income, because I was very worried for a second there. Even now, for a while, they would just have us all test before we went to set. You'd have to wear masks. It eventually got back to it, but there was a while where everything just completely shut down.

B-ru: It's slowly gotten better?

Madeline Ford: Yes, I think things are pretty much back to normal. I mean, I think some things were forever just be changed. A lot of shoots where we used to have multiple girls going at a time, now, they just book one model for safety reasons and stuff. It's a lot better now than it was in 2020.

B-ru: You said the majority of your job right now is social media, and then you're learning to be an actress. Are you still booking modeling jobs? How often?

Madeline Ford: I haven't worked a modeling job in months, honestly. I think it's just for my own mental health, I needed a little break.

B-ru: Yes, you mentioned it was a toxic atmosphere.

Madeline Ford: Yes. I think I have a lot of body image issues as a result of modeling for my whole life. Taking a step back from my income being revolved around the way that I look and the way that my body looks is really nice. I just had a call with my manager today, and I was like, “I really want to get back into it. I really miss being on set.” Hopefully this year, I do plan to get back into it, but I took a really long break.

B-ru: That's important. I think, especially in modeling and in social media, actually, both have really important strong components when it comes to talking about mental health. Because you again, you're the center of your content. It's vulnerable to put yourself out there, so talking about mental health for creators is really, really important.

Madeline Ford: Totally, yes. I think just the dopamine of going viral and then not being viral is so unhealthy. Our brains, I do not think, are built to handle this much external validation, and then for it to be taken away at certain points, I've really had to get a grasp on that. My therapist is my best friend. That's been a challenge, all of it. Modeling and social media really have taken tolls on my mental health in different ways. Luckily, I stay on top of it. I'm in therapy, I'm journaling, I'm doing all the things.

B-ru: That's good to hear. Huge stress but hopefully, have you been able to find solace in terms of connecting with other people on TikTok, connecting with an audience?

Madeline Ford: Yes, 100%. Also, even just the fact that my audience is there for me, if I need to take a month off, which I definitely have, and then I feel like everyone's forgotten about me and hates me, but that's never been the case. They're so understanding and so sweet, and just having an outlet where I can be honest and be like, “Hey guys, I was really depressed for the last month, sorry. ” They're just like, “Yes, same. I get it.” It's really nice.

B-ru: Can you think of any interesting experiences you've had through meeting people online? Is there any particular experience or opportunity you've had that you want to highlight?

Madeline Ford: Let me think. I don't know. I feel like every TikTok event I've gone to is so amazing. Other creators are so sweet, and it's so nice getting to talk to people who have the same struggles that come with being a creator because it's such an amazing job and I feel so grateful and so privileged to live the life that I do. Even though all that's true, there are still cons that come with the job, but I don't like to talk about it because I feel like I sound like a spoiled brat. Being able to have other creator friends and just vent about those things or hear that I'm not alone in feeling those ways is really nice.

TikTok took me to TikTok: In The Mix in Arizona, which is their first concert. That was a really amazing experience of just meeting other creators. Yes, it's just so fun. It's so nice. It's so nice being around people where it's not weird to vlog or take pictures. It's so fun.

B-ru: It sounds like this collaborative atmosphere is really important for you.

Madeline Ford: Yes. That is a hard thing about content creation is you're alone in all of it. I love even just bouncing ideas off other people. My contact at TikTok, we meet every now and then, she is so amazing and so creative. She actually watches my videos. We actually have things in common. She's like, “You could do this. This is a good idea,” and I'm like, “Oh my gosh.” It's just so nice to hear another person's perspective sometimes because it's so easy to get lost in your own little world when you work alone.

B-ru: Yes. 100%. How did you end up establishing a contact at TikTok? Did somebody reach out to you once you hit a certain level of followers?

Madeline Ford: I think it was when I first started doing Get Ready with Mes and I started doing really well. This was years ago, when I had someone from TikTok reach out to me and just say, “This is my contact if you ever need any help. We can meet.” That was really, really cool because I've never had another social media platform treat me like that. We've just stayed in touch. It's been amazing. She's given me so many opportunities and even just content creation ideas or if I ever am like, “Hey, why did this video get taken down?” or whatever, I can reach out and get help, which is so nice. It's so reassuring. Like with Instagram, I have such a fear- Not really anymore, but I was so scared of it getting hacked, because what do you do? I don't know anyone on Instagram to help me. TikTok, I'm like, “I feel safe here.”

B-ru: Do you still put a lot of effort into Instagram? Do you cross-post your videos to Instagram?

Madeline Ford: I've started cross-posting my videos, but I feel like there's such a specific kind of video that you can post on Instagram that is not the kind of videos that I make. I feel like Instagram's so much more curated. I don't know. I feel like a lot of the videos are shorter and more audio-based and I talk a lot. I've been trying to find a nice balance, but I definitely do not put effort into Instagram, I'm going to be honest with you. I would like to, but I just don't really like taking pictures, which is ironic because I grew up modeling, but I think that's why.

Sometimes, I'm like, “Ugh, I just don't want to take a picture today,” you know?

B-ru: There's certainly that balance, yeah. It sounds like you feel like you have a lot more control on TikTok.

Madeline Ford: Oh, yes. It feels less like I'm being forced. When I'm posting on Instagram, I almost always feel forced. That's not true. I don't really post much. If I was posting more, it would be forced. That's why I really don't ever post at all. If I'm somewhere cool on vacation, I want to take pictures or whatever, that's one thing, but on a day-to-day basis, I don't really like feeling I have to try to make something look aesthetic because I just don't think I have that inherently in me. I don't think I'm an aesthetic-based person. I'm more of a word-based. I love to talk. I love TikTok. I'm so grateful for it.

B-ru: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?

Madeline Ford: I always go blank. I never know to say. I think that I would just encourage people to post on TikTok if they aren't. TikTok has changed my life so much. I tell everyone to just do it if you want to. It's really scary and it feels really embarrassing in the beginning, but everything that's worth doing is on the other side of embarrassment. I just think that it's so worth creating content, If you even have the smallest inkling to do it, I would just encourage anyone to do it. It's so rewarding in so many ways.

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