I didn’t own a single pair of sweatpants before the quarantine is an objectively wild statement. And yet, Madison Bailey utters it casually during our conversation about 2020, just as you might discuss the weather. Then again, speaking her mind has never been a problem for Bailey, who’s known for playing the free-spirited Kiara on Netflix’s Outer Banks. Since her hit show aired, she’s gotten candid about being pansexual, her diagnosis with borderline multiple personality disorder, and finding love with UNC-Charlotte basketball player Mariah Linney.
“I’ve never been accused of shying away from important topics. I talk about things that matter, things that other people are uncomfortable to talk about,” she tells ELLE.com. “I feel like so much of my mental health, and so much of my sexuality plays a huge part in who I am. I want people to get a very clear idea of who I am, and I would rather share as much as I want to about myself than have other people fill in the blanks.”
Bailey’s bringing her ability to express herself to Brow Talk, a new tutorial with body language expert Blanca Cobb about how to shape your brows and communicate with a mask. Like mask-wearing, Bailey is embracing the rest of 2020’s new arrivals in stride. Not only has she found Sweatpants Life™ and a new relationship, but—despite all odds—Bailey’s back filming the show that turned her into a household name among Gen-Zers.
Ahead, Bailey mentions it all, including her secret to those enviable brows and why she and her girlfriend of four months have yet to go on a single date.
Hydro Silk’s Brow Talk initiative is such a fun concept. What made you want to get involved?
I wanted to get involved because it’s essential to learn how to communicate with a mask on your face. The whole video is just about defining your brows and learning how to use them in a new way because we’re all learning how to communicate non-verbally with masks. Masks are the new normal. Blanca Cobb, a body language expert, teaches me a couple of moves about sharing with your eyebrows. She taught me simple things like how to flirt. Girl, we all got to learn how to flirt with a mask on now.
How has your beauty routine changed during the pandemic?
I wear a lot less makeup, specifically face makeup because highlight and contour and blush and foundation, all of that are covered up. I don’t need to wear any of that. It’s just going to rub off on my mask, especially during the summer. You won’t catch me in lipstick or lip gloss. I’m just paying attention to my eyes and enhancing that part of my face over anything else.
I’m also getting used to wearing nice clothes from my waist up and then pajamas and slippers. I didn’t own a single pair of sweatpants before the quarantine. And now that is my entire wardrobe. I was such a person who was like, ‘Beauty is pain,’ and now I’m a total comfort person.
You’re filming Outer Banks season 2 in Charleston. What’s it been like to resume filming during a pandemic?
I think we were all nervous just because there’s a lot of pressure on the cast. If we get sick, everybody’s out of work. There’s no avoiding that. If a crew member gets sick, they’re out for two weeks, and they can potentially be replaced. But with any of us, the entire schedule’s changing, or there will be days off. We don’t go anywhere, don’t do a lot on the weekends, just resting up at home, and then working five days a week. It’s just everybody’s wearing masks and that’s the only difference. The energy is the same and I’m very grateful for that.
Has the approach to kissing scenes or group scenes changed?
I get tested three times a week and we wear masks in between takes. I know for kissing scenes there is mouthwash provided in between every single take. So that’s fun. Everything else feels pretty normal, surprisingly. I think it’s brought us closer since we can’t go out and do anything. We hang out more often now because not that it’s the only option.
Is there anything you can tease for the second season?
There’s so much new adventure in the new season. But I think the cool dynamic if you leave off with season one, we’re supposed to believe that John B (Chase Stokes) and Sarah (Madelyn Cline) are dead. We start season two with the three Pogues (Bailey, Rudy Pankow, and Jonathan Daviss) in the Outer Banks grieving and figuring out their life without John B, Sarah, and what that means for the mission. How are we going to go about this when it’s just us? Then you get to see John B and Sarah in the Bahamas doing their thing.
What was it like to have season 1 become a hit during the thick of quarantine?
There were so many pros and cons, but definitely more pros. The fan base, I believe, is bigger because of it. It was a summer show when no one got a summer. I think it gave people that summer craving. Drake is a fan of the show, which was exciting. I think he’s honestly the most surprising fan of the show. Then there was an older woman who stopped me on the street. She had to be like the late seventies, early eighties. She was like, “I love the show. My grandson and I watched it.” I was like, “That’s so cute. You are so precious.”
You also fell in love in 2020 with your girlfriend, Mariah. You share a lot of your relationship on social media. Was that something you talked about early on?
It’s not something that we ever talked about. We just started posting each other, as anybody would. We make TikToks together. That’s the only time I make TikToks is with her. She’ll teach me how to do the dances that I’m not fantastic at. I love my girlfriend. That’s all. I love sharing that with the fans.
I always end up in long-distance relationships, and I think the reason is that I travel with work. No matter what relationship I’m in, it’s going to be a long-distance relationship. It sucks that we’re away from each other, but it’s not like minus the pandemic we would be together anyway. I would still be filming and she would still be in school. That aspect hasn’t changed too much.
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What’s been a typical date night for you two?
We’ve been dating for four months now and we haven’t been on a date, not like an actual go out date. We haven’t done anything. We’ve already agreed, our first date is going to be an arcade. It’s right up both of our alleys. We’re both very competitive. But we love Schitt’s Creek. We sit and binge that a lot. We cook, we hang out. It’s mostly just like enjoying each other’s company because we’re not doing a whole lot. You’re just hanging out and talking to each other and playing cards and laughing. I feel like any relationship can survive when you’re out doing fun things or going on trips together. It’s effortless to stay happy in that. But you have to love the person sitting there doing nothing and having the best day ever.
Many are excited for 2020 to end. But is there anything you’ve learned about yourself this year that you’re bringing into 2021?
I think what I want to maintain next year from this year is taking time to myself. I’ve had so much alone time this year, and I think it’s been so beneficial to get to know myself a little bit more and have no other choice but to prioritize myself, which’s not always the easiest. I’m somebody where if I feel like it’s challenging to take care of myself, I’ll take care of someone else instead. This year forced me to take care of myself, focus on myself, figure out what I need, and give myself the space to do that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Stream season 1 of Outer Banks on Netflix
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