One YouTuber on Acne, The Patriarchy, and Lighting Your Heart on Fire
Need help on baking cupcakes? There’s Tasty and Bon Appetit on YouTube. Don’t know how to use your new camera? YouTube it. Curious about what the 10-step skincare routine is? YouTube it. There’s no denying that in the past couple of years, YouTube has become a massive platform, with over 1.8 billion users monthly. We talked to Maddie Dragsbaek, YouTuber and filmmaker who has been creating videos for almost a decade.
Based in Brooklyn, Maddie has spent her entire life creating and shooting videos in her bedroom. From Youtube, Maddie has gone onto college to study film and has been making short films since. And as a major horror and thriller addict her work usually surrounds topics of body image and sexuality while using horror as a tool for a metaphor to weave complex stories out of these topics. But to be honest, she just makes “whatever inspires me[her] in the moment.”
What made you decide to be in the career you’re in? What do you love about your job?
I've been making videos my entire life so going full force into filmmaking was really a no brainer. I grew up making skits with my friends on my Dad's VHS camera and from there it turned into making videos on webcams, to then starting my own YouTube channel when I was 13. For the last 9 and a half years, making videos is what my entire life has been centered around. There hasn't been one day that's gone by where I haven't been brainstorming or creating some type of video content.
After I graduated high school, I went to college for film and sort of broadened my experience as a creator– taking it from YouTube-style content and vlogs to short films with a production budget and everything. Creating videos is literally what hops me out of bed in the morning. I am so consistently eager to make something that feels close to my heart, make people who have never met me feel something. I love how limitless video production makes me feel. I've been 100 different creators in the time I've been making videos. I've hopped from genre to genre, platform to platform, constantly allowing myself to evolve and just follow whatever inspires me in the moment, and my audience seems to follow me regardless. And that's kind of how I know my work is succeeding, when people follow me, not because they expect one specific thing from me, but because they feel like they know my heart from my work and wanna see how that spills into everything I do (even if it's totally different than what they originally started following me for).
You’re also a YouTuber! You’ve been on the platform for over 8 years now, how do you think YouTube has influenced your brand/career?
YouTube helped me find my style. And then find it again. And again. And again. Being able to grow up on YouTube, I was given the freedom to experiment with my creativity and present it to audiences all over the world. I got feedback, criticism, love, hate, everything. I got to create and feel validation as a small creator, listen to people's advice, find other creators that I connect with and learn from them, etc. I have always said, that my confidence came from being involved in YouTube at such a young age. I was relentlessly bullied in school and YouTube was my safe place, it was an escape for me. I felt misunderstood and lonely at school but online felt totally connected with people and well-liked. It gave me permission to be the person that I couldn't be in front of my classmates. It was the one place that I could be myself. And I think, the fact that that's where my love for video started, sort of influenced how honest and candid I've been with my audience throughout the years. I feel welcomed here, I trust my audience. And that's on top of the fact that it helped me find my style, my genre. It helped me get comfortable with shapeshifting and changing my content up depending on what inspired me in the moment. I don't feel stuck anywhere. I just feel totally comfortable being me.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your career?
I think one of the biggest challenges has been proving that I am just as capable as the men that also work in this field. There have been many, many moments where I've been discredited or overlooked because a man stood next to me and yelled a little louder. When I made my most recent short film, Aphrodisia, I made a point to ensure that the entire crew was made up of female filmmakers. From my director of photography to the tattoo artist that designed the body art, to the music that was featured in the short– it was all women. I feel a responsibility to make sure my work represents the changes I wanna see in the industry as a whole. I don't want to be good for my age or good for a woman– I just want to be recognized for my talent as a filmmaker, regardless of the labels you could place on me. And it sucks because since the industry is so male-dominated, you often either get overlooked or complimented on the fact that you're a woman in the space. I want to be recognized as being just as capable as the men I'm standing beside. Because I am, and I know that.
What’s your opinion on covering acne? Do you think more YouTubers should show their real skin more often on camera?
At the end of the day, my opinion is always going to be– do what feels good for you. I've always been a big advocate for body positivity and know throughout my own experience that that's looked a lot of different ways. I'm someone who loves makeup, especially experimenting with it creatively. I'm also someone who has struggled with acne and rosacea. It would bother me if people thought that the reason I wore makeup was because I was hiding my skin in some way. That being said, I don't wear makeup every day. I've posted many videos with no makeup and have no problems leaving my house with a bare face. But this is what works for me. This is what makes me feel good. I'm an advocate for whatever "feeling good" means to you. So if you feel comfortable showing your natural skin on camera, go for it because no one looks as airbrushed as they do on instagram and leading by example is really the best way to do it. Think about your younger self. Would you have felt more comfortable in your skin if you saw people that looked similar to you online? People with the same acne issues or rosacea? Probably. If you feel comfortable with that, do it. You'll be helping someone out there.
What’s your morning and night skincare regimen?
It's definitely changed a lot over the last few months as I try different products with my dermatologist to help with my rosacea and some acne scars that I have but I think I've finally nailed down a routine that seems to work for me.
Mornings, I start by cleansing (dermatologist prescribed), moisturizing, using my rosacea cream (dermatologist prescribed), a gel to help with acne scars (dermatologist prescribed), my trusty Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum, and of course, topping it off with my Glossier sunscreen!
Nights, it's mostly the same. Start by taking off my makeup with Glossier's milky oil, cleansing (dermatologist prescribed), Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner, a gel to help with acne scars (dermatologist prescribed), and my moisturizer. I try to mask a few times a week but I usually only end up doing it once on Sunday's if I'm being honest. It's just been a lot of trial and error– plus going to a dermatologist was one of the best things I ever did for my skin.
Youtube is massive now! And there’s a ton of people trying to make it big on Youtube. What advice can you give to a new YouTuber?
Do it because you love it and people will SEE that. Passion means more than numbers. It's easy to fall into the trap of just pushing out content that you know is gonna do well because it's a trending topic at the time. But it's a trap. Because at the end of the day, you're making content that doesn't make you feel alive and generating an audience of people that like you for content that you don't even like making. Figure out what lights your heart on fire and run towards it. People will watch, your passion will attract people. You just have to give it time and keep yourself focused on what matters. Views and subscribers are meaningless numbers at the end of the day. How does your content make YOU feel? How does creating it make you a better artist?