Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (2024)

“Every voice is like a thumbprint,” Madeline Argy explains to me over the phone from the very same Mercedes in which she self-tapes her podcast Pretty Lonesome. Fifteen minutes into our conversation, we’ve fully detoured into a discussion about linguistics—specifically phonetics, which the Sussex-born media personality studied before graduating from the prestigious University of Kent in 2022. “You can tell everything from waveforms. There are cases where they’ve caught a killer based off the split seconds between a plosive and a consonant—tiny things that you see if you really analyze someone’s speech.” Argy’s voice betrays a marked excitement as we exchange little facts about linguistics from our school days, a distinct shift in tone from answering my more mundane questions like “How are you liking LA?” (For the record, she’s considering moving here full-time but misses her friends, mother, and dog.) Clearly Argy, unlike most Angelenos, detests small talk. She thrives in intimate one-on-one conversations; in fact, her career as a TikToker and solo podcast host relies on her rare ability to have one-on-zero conversations (sans guests, her podcasts are essentially monologues). When I ask her what it's like speaking to a camera alone, knowing an audience of millions will watch the footage, she says, “I'm so much more comfortable with myself when I'm alone. I can actually behave like myself. The second I'm in a room with people, that changes—I am not behaving like me.”

When Argy speaks to the camera, it’s as though she is divulging secrets to a close friend—which is precisely what attracted her audience to begin with. This style of digital monologuing began with her TikTok account a mere two years ago. But did she ever imagine amassing millions of followers? “No. Definitely not,” she says. “Me and my best friend were going through this really intense phase of only hanging out with each other, and we were in our own little world. When I started posting, it was a joke between me and her; I didn’t even consider the concept that other people were going to see it.” It doesn’t hurt that Argy has an offbeat sense of humor sharpened by her charmingly dry British accent. You see it in her first viral TikTok video, which was about a worm living in her sister’s leg. Her astronomical rise to TikTok fame eventually led her to the long-form world of podcasting under the wing of Call Her Daddy host Alex Cooper's production company, The Unwell Network. With infrequent guest appearances on her podcast, episodes are usually steam-of-consciousness musings on cultural trends, personal anecdotes, and emotional qualms. She and Cooper came up with the title Pretty Lonesome together. “I wanted something that gave the idea of it being very lonely because I did want the podcast to just be me,” she says. At one point, she told Alex, “The word 'lonesome' is great, but I want it to be prettier.” “Pretty lonesome” was the logical conclusion.

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (1)

Trench Coat and Vest: Dorothee Schumacher/ Sweater: Tibi/ Tie: stylist's own/ Socks: Wolford/ Shoes: AGL/ Jewelry: Grace Lee

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (2)

There is an inherent irony to Argy’s fame: her loner identity is at the core of her immense popularity. On the set of our Coveteur photoshoot a week before our interview, she was soft-spoken and polite. Although you could chalk it up to shyness, there’s a slight reticence and bemusem*nt in her eyes—as though she’s constantly negotiating the whiplash and absurdity of her rapid ascent to fame. In our interview a week later, I ask her about an idea she’s spoken about—that the internet used to be an escape from the real world, and now the real world is an escape from the internet. Has the internet turned into a hell of its own making for Argy? I wonder. “That’s a pretty good way to describe it,” she answers. “I find less joy in the TikTok algorithm, but I still do retreat to YouTube where you can settle into a proper video, and you’re not being bombarded with a different emotion every 20 seconds. There is still some sanctity there; you just have to look for it.”

Although she is averse to shallow conversation, she enjoys interactions with her fans. I assume it would be strange to encounter people who have developed such a strong parasocial relationship with her, but she says, “I don’t mind it. It actually makes me feel at ease. When people feel like they know you, they are very quick to open up and can be very genuine with you.” Due to the subject matter of her podcast, fans often share deep and personal experiences with her. “I do get a lot of hot gossip. A lot of people will come up to me and immediately tell me the most dramatic thing that’s happened in their lives. It must be breakup season or something because I’ve been getting a lot of breakup stories recently.”

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (4)

An aspect of Argy’s career that has run in tandem with her internet stardom is her emergence into the fashion scene. Prada step-and-repeats, brand partnerships with Asos and K18, head-to-toe ensembles for runway shows like Diesel and Ami Paris—after only two years in the public eye, she’s become a fast favorite of the fashion world. The attention would have been hard to imagine when she was experimenting with clothes in her bedroom in the early days of the pandemic. “It was lockdown, and I was so bored. I got heavily into fashion in a way I’m not proud of because I would never post those pictures now, but I was very experimental.” These ensembles were heavy on accessories: Matching scarves, hats, fingerless gloves, opera gloves, even a phase where she would “wear everything furry.” She explains, “I would spend all my money on Depop and put together the most outrageous outfits and just walk to Tesco because it was the only place I was allowed to go.” Were her fellow Tesco patrons fans of the looks? “I hope so. Probably not. But I’m going to say yes anyway.”

With her Tesco-aisle-as-runway days behind her, she gets her fashion inspiration these days from Kate Moss, Bella Hadid, and the evergreen Patricia Field ensembles from The Devil Wears Prada. Now that she’s in LA, she’s ordering pinafore frocks and small boxy black dresses to pair with a simple loafer. At home, she embraces what she calls the “rotten girl aesthetic,” which she coined as a middle finger to the “clean girl aesthetic.” Messy room, unmade bed, wearing the same cashmere sweatpants day after day; there is a very truthful and anti-trend ethos to the rotten girl. “I find the whole microtrend thing to be very exhausting and annoying,” she says. While the app that catalyzed her career is awash in trends like “strawberry girl makeup” and “blueberry milk nails,” she takes a more critical view. “I find it really draining. You'll see a girl literally just put blush on and call it something, and I'm like, ‘No, it's just blush,’” she says. “The microtrends are also so bad for the environment.”

As the clock on our interview comes to a close, I use our remaining minutes for a quick round of rapid-fire questions:

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (5)

Clothing: Miu Miu/ Jewelry: Grace Lee

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (6)

What is your favorite fun fact about linguistics?

“Deaf babies babble in sign language. When a non-deaf baby would be trying to spit out a word and start talking nonsense, deaf babies do that with their hands. I think it’s really sweet.”

Best gift you’ve ever received?

“Probably this car for Christmas. And I did get some cool diamond jewelry too, which I'm obsessed with because it says my podcast name in diamonds—really the most thoughtful thing anyone's ever given me.”

Guilty pleasure?

“Watching Love Is Blind.”

Do you think love is blind?

“I’ve never had a love-is-blind experience myself. I think physical attraction is pretty important, but I’m not against the concept.”

Current obsessions?

“Pilates has caught my attention. You feel the burn, but it isn’t miserable the whole time.”

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (7)

Madeline Argy’s Solo Act (8)

Hidden talent?

“I can do a headstand.”

Biggest pet peeve?

“People who don’t ask if they should take their shoes off when they come into my house.”

Worst advice you’ve ever gotten?

“When I was 10, my 16-year-old babysitter told me, ‘If you say it to their face, you’re not a bitch, you’re just outspoken.’ I took that very literally.”

Best advice?

“My friend told me that it’s really important to wear matching socks—not all ripped and mismatched—and frequently buy new underwear. She said, ‘You’re just going to feel so much more put together every day knowing that this little part of your life is taken care of.’ Honestly, it changed my life.”

Best mistake you’ve ever made?

“Oh god. Maybe getting back together with my ex. They gave me such a mental breakdown; that’s why I started making TikTok videos. So, hey, it worked out.”

Editor-in-Chief (at Large): Jenna Lyons/ Fashion Editor (at Large): Sarah Clary/ Senior Style Editor: Camille Freestone/ Art Director: Smiley Stevens/ Managing Editor: Hilary George-Parkin/ Casting Director: Yasmin Coutinho/ Executive Producer: Marc Duron

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