A striking young woman stands outside the Wallis Annenberg Building at USC with a well-manicured hand on her hip, dressed in high-waisted dark blue flares and a rainbow-striped long sleeve crop top with her hair in immaculate waves. Only the day before she wore a 60’s-esque Peter Pan collar black mini dress with black Mary Jane style Doc Martens and winged cat eye makeup accentuated by her bangs, which graze her big brown eyes.
In the glow of a summer afternoon, she sits twisted in her Beverly Grove apartment in an upholstered high back slipper chair donning a pair of black cotton shorts, a boxy white t-shirt with her hair thrown up into a topknot. In the comfort of her room, Madeline White isn’t any of the characters that she dressed as earlier. She’s stripped down to who she is, to those that know her the best – just Maddie.
White, who grew up just off the coast of San Diego, is the 5th generation of her family to inhabit the island of Coronado. Although the former island is now a peninsula connected to the mainland, it had a small town feel that never had White dreaming of living in Los Angeles.
She was a self-proclaimed clown growing up and her personality a bit bigger than what the island could contain so her parents channeled her energy into music, dance and acting. White attended Coronado School of the Arts (which is literally a part of Coronado High School) where “musical theater was my focus, so I got to do a lot there but I was in a normal high school setting so I had my friends in theater and I had friends outside of theater, who kept me sane,” said White.
It was in that setting that White’s personality began to take shape but a large part of her yearned to feel the struggle and to go through a miserable time in order to understand an artist’s standpoint of things. So White made the decision to leave the home where she’d grown up, and the island where she was related to at least a quarter of the population, to move to 3,000 miles away to New York.
New York was a bit of a cultural shock because of the small-town feel of Coronado Island. White says “There was only one black student in my high school, so coming to New York was like a complete cultural immersion. But I loved it.”
After four years of thriving off the energy of the city and earning her BFA in acting from Pace University, New York proved to challenge White in the way that she was. She signed with an agent right after graduating and the excitement of the potential to launch her career was thrilling. “He was a 40-year-old bachelor who was had a bunch of pretty young girls as clients and only wanted to take advantage of me,” said White. When it came down to her career or her dignity, White chose her dignity and fired her agent – a moment in her life that defined her career trajectory. “I grew a lot from that experience because of the decision I had to make,” said White.
Not long after, White returned to her hometown of Coronado and reevaluated where her true passions in life lay. White channeled her love for independent music by launching “Twenty First Century Foxx” a blog with music reviews and starred in a webseries called “Raymond & Lane”.
It was her blog that reminded her of her love of stories. So White decided to apply to the USC Annenberg MS in Journalism program with the hopes of becoming a broadcast journalist. “I hate being limited to one way of thinking. I like to experience life in a lot of different angles,” said White and the program at USC gives her the opportunity to explore all the reasons why people are the way they are and to continue to cultivate the brand that is Madeline White.