Before #MeToo and #TimesUp, there was Bailee Madison's #ImMoreThanAWord.
Before #MeToo and #TimesUp, there was Bailee Madison's #ImMoreThanAWord.
Photo by Gray Hamner

South Florida Actor Bailee Madison on Her Debut Novel and #TimesUp

Adolescence is no easy period, especially in these Kardashian-obsessed times. But Kylie Jenner isn't the only young woman growing up in front of the world. Take, for instance, Bailee Madison. The Fort Lauderdale native has been acting in front of a camera since she was 4 years old. Now, at the age of 18, she has matured into a young adult worthy of role-model status.

Although she has been broadcast onto TV screens across the nation since before she hit puberty, Madison says her true home remains South Florida. The actor frequents her old Lauderdale-by-the-Sea neighborhood as often as her schedule permits and says she still has plenty of family in the 954. "It was always really important to me to keep my roots in Florida since that is my home base... I go back there whenever I can, especially when I have something to celebrate."

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In the first month of the new year, Madison has plenty to celebrate: The trailer for her latest movie, Strangers: Prey at Night, was released; she launched a clothing line with Nowadays at Macy's; and her debut novel, Losing Brave, hits bookstore shelves this week. Not bad for someone who isn't yet old enough to drink legally in America.

It was the day after the 75th Golden Globe Awards, and Madison was speaking with New Times from her Los Angeles home. The monumental Time's Up movement had captured the nationwide consciousness, and Madison said she'd been lucky in her career to work with some of the movement's leading ladies, such as Natalie Portman (Brothers, 2009), Jennifer Aniston (Just Go With It, 2011), and most recently Christina Hendricks in the soon-to-be-released The Strangers: Prey at Night.

Having worked with such powerhouse women, Madison says she knows firsthand the fire that burns within them, and she couldn't be prouder of their actions the night of the Globes. "It's such an important movement," she explains. "I look at it as not just as a movement within this business, but it's for every single industry out there and every single job and every single situation — no matter where you come from or what you're doing... Women have been placed in terrifying, unfortunate situations, and it's unacceptable. We're ready to stand together and say, 'Time's up!'"

Madison has two young nieces who make her optimistic about positive change. "I feel hopeful that they're going to grow up in a world where these conversations [about equality and women's rights] are being had. And I pray that they're going to get to be my age and not have to have these conversations anymore."

The starlet is no stranger to powerful movements. In 2015, after being bullied, she took to Tumblr to write about her experience. From that post, the #ImMoreThanAWord project was born. "It was incredibly personal, and I didn't know what people were going to think," Madison recalls. The reception was overwhelmingly positive.

The following year, she upgraded from blog posts to books. While she was producing and starring in the 2016 movie Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket, she met with writer Stefne Miller. The two bonded, and an idea of a young-adult novel was born.

From there, Madison says, the writing process turned into a long-distance relationship, because after filming Nantucket, she had to return to shooting her Hallmark Channel show, Good Witch, while Miller went home to Oklahoma. Madison assures there were plenty of Skype conversations, phone calls, and emails.

After months of writing, "we ended up with this book called Losing Brave," the new author explains. "It centers on a girl named Peyton Brave and picks up a year after her sister's disappearance. It follows her through this state of turmoil and confusion and sadness and pain.... Within all this self-destruction, she finds out that two other girls have gone missing, so she now takes it upon herself to find the person responsible and find out what is happening to these girls."

When penning the novel, Madison and Miller made sure that with every word, every scene, and every piece of dialogue could be easily translated into a film. "Stefne and I were determined to make this book 100 percent viable for the screen," she says. "I loved the idea of writing a book and getting to later adapt it into a screenplay."

With the book completed, Madison is busy promoting her latest flick, the second in The Strangers anthology. The story line is the same as the first, in which a group of masked strangers attacks an unsuspecting family. "It's a new experience but with the three classic killers from the first film," says Madison, who plays Kinsey, the troubled teenage daughter of Cindy, played by Hendricks. "Kinsey is incredibly fierce-minded and troubled, but to me, she's the epitome of a female powerhouse."

Prey at Night is set to open in March, but in the meantime, fans can step into her shoes — literally — via her new clothing line with Nowadays. The kids' fashion brand collaborates with influencers to design limited-edition collections each season. Madison's line, Nowadays x Bailee, emphasizes comfortable, effortless looks for spring and summer.

"We incorporated a lot of my personal style into the collection," she explains, "taking inspiration from the more feminine pieces in my closet along with my more tomboy looks."

So what's next for the teenage powerhouse? A year of learning and more adventures, she says. "My brain never shuts off. I love learning and creating, and I'm always looking for the next exciting chapter."

Shop Madison's clothing line with Nowadays at Macy's beginning Friday, January 26. Losing Brave is available at bookstores and online beginning January 30. The Strangers: Prey at Night opens in theaters nationwide Friday, March 9.

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