Madonna Tells ‘Her-Story’ with Help from Three Purchase Students

By Zoë Hines

March 8 was not only a monumental day to celebrate women’s rights, but a day never to be forgotten for three Purchase students. Baylie Olsen, McCall Olsen and Libby Larkin were featured in Madonna’s black and white eight-chapter video, “Her-Story,” that launched world wide on Facebook garnering a variety of reactions across the globe for its empowering vision.

Sophomore dance major Baylie Olsen and freshman dance major McCall Olsen are sisters from Las Vegas who enjoy making films displaying their palatable talents. Madonna was able to see their videos through her daughter Lourdes, who is also a freshman in the dance conservatory. Impressed by their impeccable skill, Madonna followed Baylie and McCall on Instagram. Shortly after that, they both received Instagram messages from a producer representing photography duo Luigi and Iango, who created the video, asking them to partake in an upcoming project.

“When we got the offer for the job, we didn’t know it was with Madonna,” said McCall. “We found out it was for German Vogue and that’s all we really knew.”

“The day before we got Madonna’s confidentiality contract, and that’s when we found out it was with Madonna, and that was a big shock,” Baylie further clarified.

Senior Theatre and Performance major Libby Larkin landed the job by recently chopping off her long brown locks into a short, edgy haircut. Both Baylie and McCall posted numerous pictures on Instagram of Larkin, gaining positive attention for her riveting appearance.

“I was so afraid to cut my hair because I was afraid I wasn’t going to get hired anywhere, especially if I graduate from college,” said Larkin. “Turns out two days later, I got hired on a big job. It was pretty crazy.”

Baylie, McCall and Larkin first appear at the end of chapter one, surrounding a 1978 Lincoln Town Car alongside Madonna, French musician/actress SoKo and model Julia Cumming. In chapter two, Baylie and McCall are seen with slicked back platinum blonde hair accompanied with (almost) primitive sailor suit apparel dancing to “Tannhäuser: Overturn” by Mariss Jansons. Smoke fills the scene transitioning to chapter three on Larkin, emulating more of a masculine aesthetic when it comes to her appearance. Larkin is wearing a black suit holding a briefcase while singing her debut single “Billy Goat.” Larkin is in future chapters competing with SoKo for Madonna’s attention. Baylie and McCall come back for chapter eight, strutting fiercely down an alley. The two sisters begin showing off their fluid movements through silhouette, ending the video with a sign that says, “We Should All be Feminists.”

Even though they were all in the same video together, each student shared a different encounter with Madonna.

“My first interaction with her was kind of funny. We shot in this old car and the photographer asked me to sit in. When she was ready to shoot, I didn’t really know if I should approach her and I got out of the car and started walking away and she was like ‘Hi! Say hi to me,’” said McCall. “So I turned around and introduced myself, and had a short conversation. She was very approachable and very friendly at first, but she’s definitely on top of things on set.”

“Right from the beginning, we couldn’t be a fan. Seeing her was very shocking but we had to be very professional,” said Baylie. “I never really had personal one on one time with her but she was very friendly with everyone.”

“I was one of the first people working face to face to her. Luigi, the photographer, comes up and is very scattered. He grabbed me and said, ‘You are going to go in Madonna’s dressing room and she is going to put an outfit on you, and you’re going to do a boxing scene,’” said Larkin. “I go in there and Madonna has at least five or six people doing her makeup; doing her hair as she is explaining what her image is. She put different outfits on me and we finally got out there. She was directing me, and that itself was terrifying, in a good way. She is just driven and an icon artist.”

Baylie, McCall and Larkin can look back at this not only an amazing chance to showcase their aptitude, but a significant learning experience for the start of their artistic careers. They all described their moment with one word: Surreal. Unforgettable. Eye-opening.