Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
Though she's only 23, Madison Pettis has spent over 70% of her life in front of the camera. Like many child stars, her acting debut came via Barney & Friends in 2005. However, most of us came to know Pettis through her leading roles on Disney: Peyton Kelly in The Game Plan and Sophie Martinez in Cory in the House. Over the last 17 years, the Texas-born actress has maintained a steady momentum in her career, landing a role (or two…or three) every year.
Now that she's an adult, Pettis is having fun exploring her passions in new ways. With acting, she's been challenging herself to take on characters she's never played, like "mean girl" Alden in Netflix's He's All That. When she's not on set, Pettis is just as busy. Her massive Gen Z reach (over 4.4 million Instagram followers) has made her an in-demand influencer. She's an ambassador for Rihanna's lingerie line Savage X Fenty, one of the stars in Forever 21's L.A. campaign, and one of the newest faces of skincare brand Bubble.
It's clear Pettis is enjoying the fruits of her nearly two-decade career, but there's still much more in store for her. Ahead, she talks about her upcoming projects, the most significant lessons she's learned in her 20s, and her go-to skincare routine.
Many of us have watched you evolve from child star to young adult. What has it been like growing up in the spotlight?
It's been cool to have my fans grow up with me. I started my acting career with Disney, and as I've gotten older, the projects I've done have naturally matured over time. I also love that my fans can keep up with me on social media because it's a great way for them to get to know me better.
You’ve worked consistently since 2005. What has kept you motivated all these years?
It's because I've never stopped having fun with it. Drake has a lyric that says, "The moment I stop having fun with it, I'll be done with it." When I was little, my mom always told me that if acting ever wasn’t fun anymore, I could stop at any time. I still think about it that way. That mindset helps me because it's a tough business with so much rejection and competition. But every time I’m on set filming something, I feel so fulfilled. I love working with a cast and crew who also love what they do. Sets are my happy place.
How do you decide which projects to take on these days? What types of characters or stories excite you?
I’m always looking for a role or project that I haven’t done before. I was excited to do He’s All That because I had never played a "mean girl" character before. I have a movie coming out soon called Margaux, my first horror movie, and that’s a genre I have always wanted to do. Playing various characters has always been a priority for my career because I love the challenge.
You recently became a Bubble ambassador. What has your relationship been like with your skin growing up?
My skin is really sensitive—I have combination skin, and I’m acne-prone—so I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what products are right for me. I’ve seen some people have skincare routines that are 10 steps long, and it seems so fun, but I’ve learned less is more with my skin. I love that Bubble makes it easy to create a simple yet effective routine. I especially love that their products are vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, and created with dermatologists.
What’s your current skincare routine?
In the morning, I wash my face with the Fresh Start Gel Cleanser ($16), follow up with their new Day Dream Tone and Texture Serum ($15), and finish with the Slam Dunk Moisturizer ($15). I follow a pretty similar routine at night, but I also love to use the Come Clean Clay Mask ($19) to take off the day. I also gua sha a couple of times a week.
You’ve always embraced your curls and provided us with so much hair inspo. What does your hair routine consist of?
Thank you! One important tip for curly hair is getting it trimmed regularly and finding a hairstylist who cuts curly hair properly. They need to cut it while it's dry, ringlet by ringlet, so you can accurately see how much is getting cut, so it doesn't end up being shorter than you wanted. For years, I got hair cuts while my hair was wet. Curly hair is longer when it’s wet and shrinks up when it’s dry. So I had a few traumatizing haircuts where it looked like they were only cutting off one inch, but once it dried, they had actually cut like four inches. Another tip is to dry curly hair with a microfiber towel to prevent frizz. Deep conditioners are also my best friend—my hair can’t get enough moisture.
What does beauty mean to you? When do you feel most beautiful?
Beauty to me means doing what makes you feel good about yourself, no matter what other people think about it. Some days I feel great without makeup, and some days I want to do a full beat. Don’t ever let someone tell you what you should do to be beautiful. Do you.
How do you practice self-care? What does “me time” look like for Madison?
Self-care is watching a basketball game, ordering food, and drinking a glass of wine.
I’d love to know about your hobbies outside of work—it seems like dancing is one of them. What do you enjoy most about the classes you're taking these days?
Dancing was my first love before acting. I started competitive dancing when I was four years old, but there wasn't enough time to compete once I started acting full time. A few years ago, I was missing dance and decided to get back into it. Dance makes me so happy, and the environment in my classes is so incredible and supportive. We all hype each other up. I love watching everyone perform and shine at the end of a class.
You’ve already accomplished so much at 23-years-old. What are you excited to do next in your career?
Thank you! I’ve been working for so long that sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m only 23 with a lot still ahead of me. In addition to acting, I want to start writing and producing my own projects. I have some ideas I'm working on developing.
What are some of the most significant lessons you’ve learned in your 20s?
Know your worth. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and set boundaries. Your gut is your guardian angel, listen to it and trust it. All of those are lessons I’ve learned both professionally and personally.
What’s coming up next for you?
I have two new films coming soon. One is a horror movie called Margaux, and another is an independent film, Deltopia. Both are very different projects than you've seen from me before.