Madelaine Petsch is the kind of girl who seems to have it all — amazing looks, serious acting chops, a cute dog, lots of magazine covers, her own fashion line, and, well, need we go on? But there’s a lot more to Petsch than meets the eye, and her road to success and stardom has come with more obstacles than an American Gladiators course.
Judging Petsch just by her breakout role as scheming mean girl Cheryl Blossom on Riverdale, you’d think she backstabbed and plotted her way onto Hollywood’s A-list, but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, she’s a real softie. She earned her fame the old-fashioned way — by leaving her rural hometown and moving to Hollywood after high school, working multiple jobs to support herself between auditions and mastering her craft. And she managed to do all of this while keeping her sense of humor and commitment to environmental causes and staying, as her ex-boyfriend Travis Mills called her even after their breakup, “compassionate, smart, and wonderful.”
Madelaine Petsch grew up in a family of hippies
Madelaine Petsch’s folks aren’t exactly your typical Hollywood stage parents. Petsch and her older brother, along with their six cats and two dogs, grew up on her family’s eight-acre spread in Washington State, where her South African-born “hippie-dippie” parents grew much of the food the family ate, as the actress told Cosmopolitan.
In their household, environmentalism and sustainability were huge. By age 3, Petsch had learned from her dad how to identify different types of plastics so she’d know which types to avoid, according to Elle. She also went to school with her lunch packed in reusable containers rather than baggies, which earned her some grief from her schoolmates.
But, consistent with their freethinking hippie ethos, her parents didn’t force their lifestyle on her. Instead, they gave her the freedom to define her own life, values, and interests, including her religion and diet. Still, their lessons must have stuck, since the apple didn’t fall far from the (organically grown) tree. Petsch continues to be a dedicated environmentalist. “I was lucky to grow up with two incredibly environmentally-aware parents,” she shared in an interview with Elle. “It’s crazy to me that people still use plastic utensils.”
Madelaine Petsch was bullied in grade school
Let’s get real: Little kids can be the worst. Anyone who’s survived grade school knows there’s always a judgmental brat (or two or three) determined to pick on anyone who stands out in any way. And there’s always some poor kid who’s just strange or different enough to catch their attention. And through no fault of her own, Madelaine Petsch was the weird kid at her school. Today, her gorgeous, naturally red hair is the stuff of envy, but back then, it was nothing more than a bully magnet.
“I was bullied a lot for having red hair,” she said in an interview with StyleCaster. “It really affected me in the beginning because I was the only kid … who was really mercilessly bullied, and I never really understood why.”
As if being called “carrot top” wasn’t bad enough, Petsch also got teased for her South African accent, which she inherited from her immigrant parents and from frequently visiting South Africa (she’s also a citizen there). “I was the only person who was from somewhere else, so I think they just didn’t understand it,” she said. “They said I was a weirdo or that I didn’t belong there. Petsch may have largely ditched her accent, but she kept her hair — and she got the last laugh.
From the time she was 3, Madelaine Petsch wanted to act
Madelaine Petsch was one of those lucky people who found her calling early — and pursued it with laser focus. She caught the performing arts bug in her first dance class when she was a toddler at just 3 years old, as she told The Daily Front Row, and she made her acting debut two years later in a community theater production of The Jungle Book, in which she portrayed the evil tiger Shere Khan. Little did she know, she was setting herself up for a productive career portraying bad guys. “I’ve been a villain my whole life, apparently,” she joked to StyleCaster.
Even as a little kid, Petsch took her commitment to acting seriously, and her parents supported her passion, organizing her after-school activities around the performing arts and later enrolling her in a performing arts high school. There, she found support and encouragement among her fellow theater nerds.
“Setting my sights on acting at a young age allowed me to spend my formative years working on my craft (as much as you can as a kid),” Petsch told The Daily Front Row, adding, “I couldn’t have done it without my parents, who supported my deepest passions.”
Madelaine Petsch is a dedicated vegan
Madelaine Petsch’s lifelong love of animals and the environment led her to become a committed vegan. But don’t expect her to go around canceling the leather-wearers and omnivores in her life. When it comes to promoting a vegan lifestyle, the last thing Petsch wants to do is turn people off by being preachy or judgmental — a lesson she learned by being on the receiving end of several failed attempts at religious conversions. “Now when I want to spread a message about the environment or about veganism, I try to do it with positivity and by giving people the information to make a decision for themselves,” she informed Elle.
Part of her mission is showing her fans that veganism can be, in fact, fun. “I want to teach people how positive and easy it is to be vegan — I don’t want to make it seem like it’s this big feat.”
You’d think her fellow vegans would appreciate her efforts — but instead, she’s gotten flack for attending fashion shows where animal products were featured. “It’s things like that that make people afraid of being vegan,” Petsch said.
Madelaine Petsch has a huge soft spot for animals
Growing up surrounded by animals, Madelaine Petsch inherited her family’s love for nature and developed a huge soft spot for animals. For one, she won’t eat them. She told Elle that she maintains a purely plant-based diet, both for sustainability and ethical reasons. She also takes care to live her life sustainably to protect natural habitats and the animals that live in them, and she worries about the impacts of climate change and pollution on vulnerable animal species. “I get scared about what my children and grandchildren are going to see,” she said.
She has a furry friend at home too. Fans of her YouTube channel know her adorable puppy, Olive, a mix she adopted from a dog rescue foundation. Olive has proven to be a great travel companion for her busy human mom; in the first few months of her life, she’d already been on three plane flights, and she regularly accompanies Petsch on her daily errands, from trips to Petco to, presumably, work on the Riverdale set.
Madelaine Petsch freaked out when she met this celebrity
Celebrity sightings are common in Los Angeles, but one unexpected encounter, long before Madelaine Petsch’s big break with Riverdale, shook her up so much that it effectively reduced her to a state of paralysis. At the time, Petsch was just another aspiring actor, supporting herself with a night shift at a North Hollywood pie shop.
“It was like 15 minutes before we closed, and we had to wear vests, and I had taken my vest off and I was like, ‘I’m gonna clean, no one’s coming in,'” she told host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. And then actor Nicolas Cage came into the shop. “It was like smoke should have billowed in through the door when he came through. It felt like a scene in a movie.”
Petsch, utterly awestruck, simply lost it. “I just froze,” she explained. “Stopped touching the screen, stopped putting pie orders in, and just a tear rolled down my face. And I just stopped moving. He was like, ‘What’s going on? Are you okay? Why are you crying?’ He was so kind and so nice, but also like, ‘What is wrong with this girl?'”
Madelaine Petsch is a serious workaholic
Madelaine Petsch has attained stratospheric success at a youthful age, but it’s not all because of her good looks and luck. She’s been working on her acting craft since childhood, and she has a super intense work ethic. Whether she’s getting into character for a shoot or helping out her friends, she always gives “170 percent” of herself, as she told Cosmopolitan in an interview.
It’s great to be passionate about your work and commitments, but too much work and not enough time to recharge can be unhealthy, and Petsch knows it. So she’s been working with a therapist to learn how to keep her workaholic impulses under control. “I don’t allow myself to relax,” she explained. “My therapist was explaining this to me. I have this — it’s not a childhood trauma — but it’s a kind of trauma that basically makes you think you always have to be doing something. So I feel like that’s something I have to work on: allowing myself downtime.”
As part of her efforts to learn to unwind, her therapist has assigned her a challenge: to spend 30 minutes a day doing absolutely nothing. For someone as driven as Petsch, doing nothing is really hard work!
Madelaine Petsch's go-to breakfast recipe is healthy and super easy
Here’s another entry for our “celebrities are just like us” file! Like many of us, Madelaine Petsch is a busy girl with an unpredictable schedule and no time to cook in the morning. But unlike some of us, she’s also a health-conscious lifelong vegan. “I eat clean and non-processed food, which helps me avoid feeling fatigued on long workdays,” she told People.
So that rules out Pop-Tarts and Egg McMuffins in her morning rotation. But while Petsch likes to mix up her daily culinary routine, she keeps her breakfast routine simple and consistent — because nobody wants to think too hard right after waking up. Her healthy, vegan-friendly, and tasty go-to solution is one your super-organized, health-conscious friends probably told you about: overnight oats. Not only are they loaded with healthy fiber and carbs, but they’re easy to make. Just mix oats with your choice of milk and toppings and then stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, your breakfast is ready!
Here’s Madelaine Petsch’s favorite formula: 1 cup organic oats, ½ cup almond milk, 2 tbsp. chia seeds, unsweetened cacao nibs, and a handful of raspberries. Mix, chill in the fridge overnight, and enjoy!
Here's why Madelaine Petsch started her YouTube channel
Fans of Madelaine Petsch’s super popular YouTube channel know her as a relatable, unpretentious goofball. She’s not afraid of showing herself doing regular things like making breakfast, kissing her dog, or going about her day without makeup. In short, she’s a totally different person in real life than the conniving character she plays on Riverdale.
Petsch’s decision to open up about this part of her life to fans was intentional. She started her channel because Cheryl Blossom was making her life a living hell and she needed to show Riverdale fans the real her. Apparently, viewers thought Petsch was Cheryl in real life and bombarded her with hateful, abusive messages. It was not fun. “I was massively bullied online. People called me a b***h all the time,” she revealed to Cosmopolitan in a 2021 interview. “I was crying in bed every night.”
Her Riverdale co-star, the late Luke Perry, supported her through this difficult time. “You’re not a character we’re supposed to like, and that means you’re selling it so well that people think that must be who you are,” he told her.
Petsch realized the only way to stop the abuse was to show the world the real person behind Cheryl Blossom, so she launched her YouTube channel to introduce the real Madelaine Petsch.
Don't expect to hear much more about Madelaine Petsch's love life
Madelaine Petsch is happy to share much of her personal life through her YouTube channel and social media accounts. Fans know the details of everything from her diet and workout routine to her walks with her dog, Olive, and, for a while, they also saw all the lovey-dovey details of her relationship with singer Travis Mills, who regularly appeared in videos and photos with her.
But don’t expect to see much more of her love life on her social media. In 2019, Petsch made a conscious decision to start keeping her love life offline. “I used to share a lot about it online, and now that I don’t, people just assume we’re no longer together,” she told Nylon. “But in reality, I realize that it’s so much more special and safe if I don’t share a lot of it.”
When she and Mills did break up, it was Mills who broke the news with a long, heartfelt Instagram post. Petsch, however, stayed silent. “I chose not to because that was what felt most authentic to me,” she shared with Cosmopolitan. “Moving forward, I will keep personal relationships like that off my YouTube.”
Madelaine Petsch battles anxiety
Madelaine Petsch has a life most people would envy, as she has success, beauty, lots of friends, and a fun and quirky personality. But she’s also open about the struggles she faces with anxiety and panic attacks.
“I didn’t even know what it was, but I used to get really bad panic attacks right before I booked Riverdale,” she told Nylon in 2019. “Then, I started getting really bad social anxiety…” Petsch knows her drive and perfectionism are part of the problem. On top of this, there’s the existential angst of being a serious actor. “When you’re always bringing other people to life, who does that leave you with?” she asked when speaking to Cosmopolitan. “I feel like I have to be everything to everybody. And I don’t know what that makes me at the end of the day.”
Because of her experience, Petsch has become a huge advocate for mental health and the benefits of therapy. “I understand that maybe people think that there is some kind of stigma around therapy,” she said, “but, like, you talk to your mom, you talk to your friends — it’s the same thing.”
She does killer workouts almost every day
Think you’re too busy to exercise regularly? You might want to steal Madelaine Petsch’s strategy: Despite her busy schedule of Riverdale shoots, interviews, and her own video projects, she fits in an intense 90-minute workout six days a week. Her secret? Scheduling her workouts first thing in the morning to ensure they get done. “You never know when you’re going to wrap on our show, and I almost want to get the workout done before I go to work, so that when I get back, I can just relax,” she said in a YouTube video. “So I am insane and choose to work out at 5 or 6 a.m. most mornings before work.”
She doesn’t just show up at her workouts; she pushes herself hard. “I exercise for an hour and a half,” she told People. “A 2 to 3 mile run, then muscle training.”
A typical training session for her starts with basic stretching and warm-up exercises, followed by upper and lower body exercises incorporating resistance bands, a weighted ball, and kettlebells. It’s definitely not for the weak of heart (or the weak of quads, abs, or biceps…), but it gives Petsch the power to get through her busy life while looking great.
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