The Rebirth of Maddy Crum

Anxiety and depression are common struggles that impact many people from all walks of life, including Maddy Crum, who sits down with Noctis Magazine for an intimate and introspective chat on her personal journey to overcome mental health struggles, learning to trust yourself and ultimately rebirth. Twenty-seven year old Maddy Crum is a passionate advocate for spreading mental health awareness, as well as a model and content creator having modelled for the likes of Alexander Wang, YZY, Mowlola and Marc Jacobs. 

Having moved to LA about 10 years ago when she was a teenager, she reflects on the trials and tribulations of figuring life out in the big city, sharing her journey with anxiety and depression, emphasising the importance of acceptance and self-care in managing mental health issues. She emphasises the need for a more comfortable and open environment for discussing mental health. We also discuss Maddy’s experiences with creative expression and personal legacy, touching on themes of vulnerability, self-discovery, and the desire to leave a positive impact on the world. And opens up about personal growth and vulnerability in Los Angeles, highlighting the challenges and opportunities of living in an urban environment. 

Hi Maddy, thanks for speaking with us. Let’s start with the project rebirth shoot, what’s the story behind it? 

I just kind of came up with it because when we were shooting it, the look and vibe of the moodboard before we even shot it was a rebirth. That was one of the first words we came up with to describe the mood. We were like “Okay, this feels like coming back to something new.” It stemmed from me interpersonally and how I’ve moved along through my life – the past 10 years being here, going through the beginning, then the rut of it, and then figuring out how to come out of that. I think the rebirth towards the end of the shoot is how I feel today, very much refreshed and new. Within that whole timeline there are a lot of mental health struggles, which is what I wanted to tie into the rebirth story. I feel that was a big part of my story in a sense, struggling with a lot of mental health problems, learning how to overcome that and the rebirth. So that was the basis of where it stemmed from – a lot of things that tied into mental health.

I noticed you have a mental health awareness hashtag on your Instagram as well. Would you mind sharing your journey with mental health awareness, and how you want to advocate for it to other people?

So right, yeah, it’s been a long period of time for sure. I feel like when, when I was, oh, gosh, 12, 13 when I started to deal with a lot of anxiety and just things that I didn’t know what I was feeling at that time. And unfortunately, I didn’t have the support system to help me understand what was going on through that. So, I was kind of very alone with it. I had a really hard time feeling like I could be myself because I was being hit with so much anxiety and then depression throughout my schooling years. And yeah, it kind of unfolded from there. 

When I moved to Los Angeles I had things that I was passionate about, a career path that I wanted to go with – but mental health issues really hurt a lot of my career. So I finally was able to see a therapist but I got diagnosed with anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and a lot of dissociation issues. I could go on and on, but it was just a very, very hard time and a very dark time for me, I definitely felt alone during that time.  It kind of stopped me from pursuing my passions and things I love to do. It was so debilitating, and I had to just figure out how to live with it rather than fight it. I felt like a lot of the past like five years of dealing with severe panic disorder and stuff I had to learn how to move with it. That was the biggest thing for me because I was always so used to fighting against things and being like, no, I’m going to do it my way because I could do it this way. And then I realised with anxiety and stuff like that, you can’t do that, you have to learn to just accept it, be with it, and learn how to move with it. 

I know I’m so much better at writing these things down. I have such an issue with saying it out loud. It’s something that is almost unexplainable, it’s really hard to say how you feel out loud. It’s such an interpersonal feeling that it’s very hard to explain for those who don’t deal with it, but for those who do, they’ll get it. But you know, I’ve had that in my bio for so long. Since I started social media, I’ve always wanted to have that known so people can understand that like – hey, I am an influencer, I do have a platform, I am human and I do have something that millions of people struggle with. It made me feel like I could allow people to feel more comfortable with me and my page and in general saying oh, she’s open about mental health in her bio, I love that, I relate to that. 

I think it’s so brave for people to speak out about mental health, especially as an influencer. When you look at someone from the outside, you might think oh, they have the perfect life. But as you said everyone struggles with it and I can relate to you because I also struggled with depression. Explaining those feelings to, for example, your family and talking about it out loud as you said, it’s so scary to be vulnerable and to put yourself out in the public. It’s amazing that you use your platform to advocate for mental health. Is there anything that you’re working on related to mental health?

Oh absolutely. I’ve always talked to my team about wanting to work with something mental health related because it’s such a big part of my life. It doesn’t define me but at the end of the day, it is me in a way and it’s built me into who I am today. And I seriously would not change that. Yeah it has its downs and it’s terrible, but the way I’ve come out of it has made me so strong. I would love to collaborate with or work to create a fund for something that’s mental health related because it is one of the biggest issues in our world and it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. And I know there’s free therapy available for some, and amazing platforms to be able to do this but it’s hard because so many people deal with it in silence. It’s something that I feel especially with kids growing up in schools that it’s important to push for more attention on mental health and let it become more of a comfortable topic to speak about. It can be scary and daunting but we all deal with it to an extent at the end of the day. So yes that would be so incredible, it’s a huge goal for sure of mine.

You’re very much in the public eye and you do so many amazing things like modelling, and how do you keep your balance? How do you keep your ground, especially as someone who struggles with mental health, how do you take a step back when you feel overwhelmed? Do you follow any routine and what keeps you grounded?

Oh man, I still haven’t quite figured that one out today. I feel like what keeps me balanced is just really allowing myself to take a day of relaxation. And that’s hard for me just because I feel like my brain is constantly going haywire, so it is sometimes difficult for me to balance out – like when I’m going through these mental health episodes or whatever it could be. Letting myself take a breather and relax is the best thing for me. 

And there is no routine because it feels different every single time. The depression may feel different, the anxiety, the panic attacks may feel different and that’s what makes it so scary. If it’s anxiety it’s very future based, if it’s depression it’s very passive – it always changes you know. I feel like my routine depends on my current state of mind – whether I need to relax or I need to maybe focus on doing something like a fun little hobby. I love having hobbies, it helps keep me distracted from thinking about something that maybe I shouldn’t be paying too much attention to. So, it just depends and varies on the actual onset of what I’m feeling – if that helps at all.

As you said, you’ve lived in LA for 10 years. What are some things that you’ve learned along the way that you would want to share with your audience?

I’ve learned a lot, but I will say trust yourself, always trust your gut. That’s helped me manoeuvre through a lot of situations here. I know that’s everywhere, but living in LA, just trusting myself more has been a big thing for me. I would also say patience, I’ve learned to be patient here. Those are the two biggest lessons for sure – but I mean, I’ve learned so much my brain’s exploding trying to think!

And what’s your favourite thing about being creative like modelling or content creation?

Having the freedom of self-expression for sure. I used to work a lot of jobs, I worked three jobs at once. At that time, it was so hard for me to find a lot of creative self-expression because I was incredibly busy with work and school. Being self-employed, doing social media and being an influencer, I have found so much time to be creative and have my self-expression back and being able to share that with people is so incredible. I’m so grateful for that because I love it, it’s my favourite thing in the world. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and yeah, I just love the self-expression of creating through anything, whether that’s photoshoots, creative direction, videos or little hobbies. I like to do music, make clothes, make shoes, just random things, anything I can share with the world is so incredible.

Do you have any creatives that you’d love to work with?

Oh, that’s hard. I love Nadia Lee Cohen. There’s so many designers, I love Miu, Miu, I love Prada. I love… there’s just so many I would have to come back on that one! There’s a ton that I would want to work with. I’m so open to collaborating with so many people. Even if it’s like an emerging smaller photographer or a small brand I really love, collaboration is such a great thing for us all. Especially with smaller brands because I feel like I can take a small brand’s vision and be entrusted with that, and be able to view it through my own creative perspective, then work together that way. That’s definitely one of my favourite things to do with smaller brands too.

When you started your career, what did you want to become? Did you always want to be a content creator and how did you envision your career?

When I first moved here I wanted to be a photographer. So, I was doing editorial and fashion work. That’s been my absolute dream since I was like, 9 or 10 years old. I started shooting literally at that age and then wanted to work my way up to moving to LA and start shooting for magazines and modelling agencies. That was my big dream, and now it’s weird how I kind of slipped onto the other side of the camera and started modelling. But it has helped me a lot just because I have been on both sides of it. 

Eventually my goal is to really work my way back into getting back into shooting because that’s like my passion for sure. So yeah, that would be amazing to get back into it, but I didn’t ever think that I would be doing social media or influencing or whatever you want to call it. I didn’t expect them to kind of just fall into my lap. I was like okay, here’s the opportunity to do something different, I’ll take it, and then it turned into a eight-year long career and I was like, okay, this is sustainable. This is great! And scary at times. I’m not going to lie, but it is something that really aligns with who I am as a person as well. I love to be on a platform, and I love to share things and it’s nice. So, I get to be creative. It’s really great.

What do you do when you don’t work?

I game a lot. I play so many video games. Some people know that about me, I used to stream a bit a long time ago, it’s my number one hobby for sure. I do it way too much, but it helps me when I feel anxious or like just not you know all there. Weirdly enough, gaming is very intense but for me it’s very soothing and calming and keeps me focussed for a long time. I’m so all over the place that it’s one thing that I could sit down and do and not have as much distraction, so I love gaming. 

I also like making things from nothing – right now I’m working on a mural on my wall. So, I enjoy little arts and crafts projects. Things such as painting and drawing, I do those things that keep you busy when I’m not working – but most of the time, I am. But yeah, it keeps the brain going.

Talking about LA, do you think living there has changed you for the better? And what were some challenges that you faced?

It made me more resilient in a way I would say it’s a lot different from where I grew up. I love it here, it’s great. I’ve had my challenges. Absolutely. I’ve been through the wringer and back, but I think everyone needs to experience things like that. It only builds character and it’s crazy, I used to feel so negatively, but it’s like a complete switch now in my head and it’s such a beautiful thing to feel so positive. Now when something bad happens to me here I’m like, okay, that’s fine. Let it be. I’m going to do something positive. The outcome from that has changed the way I’ve liked things. I don’t know how to explain it. When I’m more positive my outcomes are 10 times more positive in any bad situation. Just because I’ve seen so many. 

Now I change the way I perceive these problems and run forward, not back. That is something that has helped me grow as a person so much, within my career and everything. I feel like I’m just a completely different person now, like I’m completely switched. The growth is crazy to think about, I spent most of my pivotal growth years in LA from 18 to now I’m 27, that is such a pivotal time in your life of growth, and I’d say like, I did it well. 

It’s funny because I’m 26 so only one year younger than you but I lived in London for like six years but also from 19 to 25. And it truly does make you stronger living in a big city and you can face anything.

Oh, absolutely. Maybe I can live in New York now. I feel pretty, tough skin.

And how would you say the people in your life inspire you?

Oh my gosh, now, I am so inspired by every single person in my life right now. I have the most incredible friend group or literally family, I have the most amazing boyfriend and they have taught me so much. I feel like the biggest thing that I’ve learned from them is how to appreciate yourself and love yourself, just from that alone it’s inspired me to create more and to not be so afraid of being open and being vulnerable. That alone has opened so many doors for me to just be more of myself. They’ve inspired me so much with vulnerability.

And what else is next for you this year? What can we expect from you?

I can’t say right now, but I want to explore just more of myself in a very different light, literally like a rebirth. Like I feel like I have so many cool things that are coming but they are different from what people would probably expect from me, but it’s me. That’s like an exciting and vulnerable thing to put out. 

Follow Maddy Crum on Instagram

Photographer, Creative Director, Producer, Stylist: Raphaële Sohier 
MUA: Kayli Rachelle 
Hair Stylist: Kayla Casey 
Nail Artist: Mahiya Rahman
Model: Maddy Crum 
Photo Assist: Oceane Auclair 
Designer: Kaothaisong Species
Interview: Maja Bebber