Madeline Argy on the complicated art of oversharing (2024)

Madeline Argy is sitting in an oversized hoodie, sipping a Joe & The Juice iced coffee and mulling over a recent conversation she shared with a cab driver. “We spoke about everything,” she remembers fondly, leaning back in her chair in a glass meeting room in central London. “The rise of Uber, his regrets, how making money is so different nowadays. He asked what I do for work, so I was trying to explain it to him. I said I do social media.” With over seven million followers across multiple platforms, a podcast on Alex Cooper’s Unwell network, a beauty campaign with Kosas and front row seats to Burberry, Prada and YSL fashion shows, ‘doing social media’ is putting it lightly.

But that’s exactly how 23-year-old Argy refers to her career, which all started with a video about a worm back in July 2022. The TikTok, which has now been viewed 28 million times, sees Argy deliver a story in her distinctive (somewhat frenzied) style, about the creature getting lodged in her sister’s leg. What followed can only be described as a snowball of views, and a loyal and highly engaged audience. Argy lets them into her life via unbelievable yet relatable stories about the minutiae of her everyday life, covering everything from moving out of her flat to dating red flags. Followers flocked in their thousands (now millions), which quickly led her to a talent agency, and in turn, internet IT girl status.

Argy grew up in West Sussex with her mum, sister, and an array of pets (“I had 10 hamsters. There was James Bond, Charlie, Fiddles, Sniffles, and Lily, who turned into Jaden Smith”), following her parents' divorce. She would see her dad infrequently, and was studying for a linguistics degree at the University of Kent when overnight fame found her. While lodging in a stranger’s house, the awkwardness of living with a family who weren't her own meant she was spending an increasing amount of time in her car; creating TikToks out of sheer boredom. Despite intentions of staying in education (“I didn't plan to leave university; whether I was teaching or learning, I wanted to be in those walls forever”), her plans quickly changed - heightened only by a post-graduate trip to New Zealand. "I was living in a van, I’m a big vehicle girl," Argy laughs.

"I was travelling in New Zealand after uni when everything just suddenly changed. [Talent agency] UTA emailed me while I was there; I remember Zooming them at 6am from my van. I decided this was going to be the best option, and I came home a month later to this as my job."

So yes, things practically changed overnight. In the blink of an eye, Argy went from everyday student to sitting front row, accepting invites to F1 Grand Prix races, partnerships with Spotify and, you know, dinners with Olivia Rodrigo. And that's on top of the seven million TikTok and Instagram followers.

Yet, it becomes clear during our time together that Argy is more surprised by her success than anyone. She doesn’t see herself as a content creator, influencer or celebrity, and seems unable to compute her level of fame. That is, despite her partnerships with household named brands like Kosas, Bose, and Google Pixel; nights out with Alix Earle; and her relationship with rapper Central Cee. “It's weird,” she admits. “If one of my friends had seven million [followers], I’d be like ‘oh my god’ but then because it's me, it doesn’t feel real. I think it's because it's a hard thing to actually compute in the human mind, what seven million even is? Whether it's money, people, or seven million ants. I don’t know what that would look like. I don't know how to even think about that number.”

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On why she doesn’t like the label of content creator, Argy is quiet for a second. “Content creator sounds so intentional and I feel a lot of what I do is never particularly thought out or pre-planned,” she explains. “When I post on Instagram, we don’t go and find a place to take a picture and pick an outfit. I wish I was that organised. Most of the time, my friends have just taken the picture. I don’t feel I’ve really earned the title.”

This unintentional and ‘off the cuff’ nature is what has endeared her global audience. Unlike so many other people on the internet, watching Argy doesn’t feel like you’re being spoken down to, or having unattainable standards - and endless products - shoved in your face. Instead, it feels like that friend who always has the wildest stories, and the ability to pick you up when you’re down.

'Content creator sounds so intentional, I don’t feel I’ve really earned the title'

But let’s be clear: she doesn’t post just anything and everything. Though she doesn’t have a meticulously planned schedule, with TikToks filmed weeks in advance, Argy is thoughtful about what she posts. “Some things make me so uncomfortable to speak about or put out there,” she admits, sharing how her gut feeling is often her driving force in decision making. “It could be a really random, small thing. Or it could be a huge part of my life. If you say it and you feel like ‘ughh’, just don’t post it. That’s how I figure it out. It’s also a bit of trial and error. I definitely used to say things that I now wish I didn't share or not have people know that about me.”

Argy also notes how she has become more private as she’s gained success, keeping much of her personal life away from social media. Though, having a podcast - Pretty Lonesome with Madeline Argy, which launched in September 2023 - has made her question being so closed off. “I was listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast, where he had a guest on who said, ‘people become to some small degree successful, and then they become fearful to lose what they've created. So then they become reserved’. I realised that was exactly what was happening with me.

“I used to think ‘I don’t want to lose anything so I'll just be really, really careful and not ever say too much or do too much. And I'll learn how to properly compose myself’ and then I listened to that podcast and I realised that's actually where I was going wrong. So I’ve been working on going back in the opposite direction, but with a bit more experience,” she said.

Now she seems to have a healthy balance of what she wants to share - a consideration that also extends to the events she attends and the brands she wants to work with. Unlike many typical ‘influencers’, Argy’s Instagram is not full of sponsored posts; a choice she made intentionally. “I spent so much time watching creators, and would always see product placement and brand deals. It was so obvious to me: you've done 100 of these, like, how are you promoting [that skincare today] when last week you were saying you use something else?

"I guess I've had the privilege of being an observer for so long that I can take that almost ‘job experience’ and apply it, and say ‘I don't want to do this because I used to think it was weird’.”

Pretty Lonesome is perhaps the project that has the most authenticity to it, which didn’t earn its name until a week before launch. Initially, Argy had started speaking to her followers in her car and uploading the extended monologues to YouTube. But in the summer of 2023, Alex Cooper of Call Her Daddy fame signed Argy to her Unwell Network, launching the podcast into a new domain - and throwing a learning curve in Argy’s direction.

“The way that [Cooper] thinks really shifted my mindset. When we first started talking about Pretty Lonesome, she asked me to tell her every idea that I had for the podcast. And so I was telling her, and then she would just be like, ‘Okay, well, this would work for this reason, this won't work for this reason’. I wanted to do a cartoon for the cover art, and she said no, because if people [are] scrolling, they're not going to recognise you’.”

The podcast’s name was also an issue. Argy suggested a name that reflected the podcast’s origins of being in her car. “[Cooper said], anyone scrolling is going to think it's about vehicles or is a car podcast.” The team strived for a more polished look and schedule for the channel, which included the addition of a producer. “[He’ll] sit in a separate room, and will say, ‘What did you mean? Like, go back? What were you just saying?’ Because I know what I was saying, but apparently no one else does.”

That said, Argy has fought to keep things authentic. The format, which was borne out of her love for conversational podcasts, still involves Argy speaking directly to the audience about whatever’s going through her mind, and her delivery is still chaotic and quick. “I remember when I used to work at a grocery store, I would listen to Emma Chamberlain's podcast because she was just rambling to herself. If you have two people on a podcast, it feels like you're observing, whereas if it's one person and the listener, you can think more about what they’re saying.”

Podcast aside, it’s full steam ahead in world Argy. In the days that follow our conversation, she’s heading to Paris Fashion Week for the YSL show, before rushing back for a talk at the Oxford Union. “So rogue,” she says of the booking. “It just fell into my inbox and I thought it looked fun. I really miss university and learning. So the opportunity to go back into that environment even just for a day and meet academics, it's an honour. It’s Oxford, you shouldn't turn them down.”

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While appearing confident on Pretty Lonesome, Argy is open about her struggle with appearing on other podcasts and interviews, fearing the lack of control when someone else is in charge of the SD card. The fear has developed in line with her success; in a profession where she is her own brand, Argy is acutely aware of just how much she can (or can’t) control her own image.

“I'm always scared of how I come off,” she admits. “A weird part of this job is that you see so much of yourself. Now I have this whole different perception of how my face and body are shaped. I have all these new things to be insecure about, like, ‘you don't actually smile when you think you're smiling’ or ‘I'm really bad at holding eye contact’.”

'A weird part of this job is that you see so much of yourself'

Often the title of her podcast rings true, with fame impacting how Argy perceives her own alone time and perception of herself. “I definitely take a lot of self loathing to bed at night,” she shares, opening up. “Any criticism is actually directed at me, and even though they might be wrong, it can feel more personal. I used to be a bit happier alone, because I didn't have anyone watching me. My opinion of myself was based on my opinion of myself and my experiences… Now, I think I get a little bit more scared. I’m probably a bit more fragile by myself now, because there's so many more people that could tell me something. There’s just a different power dynamic in my life now.”

Yet, from where I’m standing, it looks like Argy’s in the driving seat, holding the power in her own life. Yes, her fame might have felt overnight, but she’s playing the long game. “I would like to feel that I've built something that I can really be proud of. Probably not a brand, but something that feels more permanent than videos online. Even just to have longevity; enough of what I'm doing now for me to be like, ‘Oh, it wasn't a fluke’.”

This is certainly no fluke.

Madeline Argy on the complicated art of oversharing (6)

Lydia Venn

Senior Entertainment and Lifestyle Writer

Lydia Venn is Cosmopolitan UK’s Senior Entertainment and Lifestyle Writer. She covers everything from TV and film, to the latest celebrity news. She also writes across our work/life section regularly creating quizzes, covering exciting new food releases and sharing the latest interior must-haves. In her role she’s interviewed everyone from Margot Robbie to Niall Horan, and her work has appeared on an episode of The Kardashians. After completing a degree in English at the University of Exeter, Lydia moved into fashion journalism, writing for the , before working as Features Editor at , where she spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Talk Radio. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of Gilmore Girls and 00s teen movies, and in her free time can be found with a margarita in hand watching the Real Housewives on repeat. Find her on .

Madeline Argy on the complicated art of oversharing (2024)
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