In the mid-’80s, Andie MacDowell broke into the Hollywood scene in a big way by joining the Brat Pack’s misadventures in St. Elmo’s Fire. Almost immediately, the actress began to show off her versatility with film roles in Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Hudson Hawk before proving she was also a romantic comedy gem in Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Since then, she’s racked up a ton of screen credits and continues to cultivate her household name status thanks to her more than three decades of spokesmodel work for L’Oreal (via Allure). In a tough industry, she’s been relevant for decades, and now her kids are ready to carry the torch.
Rainey and Margaret Qualley, Andie MacDowell’s daughters with ex-husband Paul Qualley, may have been raised far away from the fishbowl of fame, but, now that they’re all grown up, the two are starting to prove that apples really don’t fall far from the tree by forging their own careers in show business.
Raised on the ranch
Rainey, Margaret, and older brother Justin Qualley may have grown up with their mom’s face plastered on cosmetic and hair care ads, but they were still relatively sheltered from the Hollywood circus. As children, they were brought up in Montana — where Justin still runs a ranch — before the family moved to North Carolina (via the Evening Standard). Both locales are a far cry from the bright lights of Los Angeles, as MacDowell presumably made a conscious effort to let her kids blossom without the interference of her fame. They reportedly didn’t even have a television set in their home.
As Rainey recalled in an interview with Town and Country, "For a long time my mother wouldn’t let me watch her movies, the grown-up ones at least." Now that she and her siblings are adults, though, they get the treat of seeing what she was up to all the while. "It’s fun being able to see them now, especially Sex, Lies, since she was pregnant with me at that time," she said. "And Green Card, too — I just like seeing her then, because I never knew her when she was younger."
Being raised far from MacDowell’s fame was a blessing for the Qualley kids. Rainey admitted in a chat with Autre that her "idyllic" lifestyle in Montana included lots of outdoor activities, even if moving to the southeast "kept [her] a little bit sheltered and innocent."
Still, no matter how much distance MacDowell put between her daughters and her line of work, the actress likely recognized some creative genes in her kids, and she clearly encouraged those performative interests early on. In fact, both Rainey and Margaret were introduced to dancing at an early age. "I started dancing when I was 2. And I grew up in a creative household," Rainey told Autre. "So I’ve always been drawn to the arts." Rainey and Margaret also each got a taste of the luxe life when they became debutantes at Paris’ Le Bal des Debutantes in 2013, so, with their penchant for the performance arts and their brush with extravagance in mind, it’s no wonder the two decided to follow in their mom’s footsteps by throwing themselves into the world of entertainment.
Finding themselves in the Big Apple
Even though she was used to a small-town setting, Rainey Qualley still developed an itch to escape the ordinary school routine and see bright lights instead. As she told Autre, "I went to regular college for two years and hated it. And then when I was 19 I moved to New York and crashed on a friend’s couch while I figured out what to do. I didn’t really have a plan I just knew I had to start trying." She went on to study acting techniques in New York and London.
Margaret, meanwhile, also found herself drawn to city life. She began to study dance at a local arts school as a young teenager. However, she didn’t find her particular program to be enjoyable, as her diet and body were closely watched. After joining the American Ballet Theatre in New York, she decided to quit dancing altogether and take up modeling instead so that she could stay in the Big Apple. "I wrote to my mom saying: ‘Look, I don’t think I want to be a dancer any more so I’m going to quit ballet and stay here,’" she told the Evening Standard.
Breaking in and out of the biz
Having a mom in the business meant Rainey Qualley’s first movie experience was a guided one. She co-starred with her mother and then-boyfriend Richard Kohnke in a 2012 dramedy called Mighty Fine. She told Teen Vogue, "At first, I was a little apprehensive. Like all mothers, my mother has a tendency to be a bit overbearing and always give her two cents — but she gave me my space and allowed me to figure things out for myself." Soon after appearing in her first picture, Rainey was chosen to be Miss Golden Globe 2012, and she was off to the races.
She later landed a role that really got people talking. In 2015, she starred in one of Mad Men‘s final episodes as a fur-wearing actress named Cindy who has one very sensuous audition for an advertisement role. "I was only in one scene, so I really didn’t expect people to react they way they did," she told Autre. "But it’s flattering that people liked the scene." Around the same time, though, Rainey started working toward an entirely different career route.
Although Rainey Qualley steadily made strides with her screenwork early on, she also decided to pursue her passion for music. She told Autre, "I am the type of person who always has to be working on something or else I feel like I’m wasting time. So having multiple creative outlets keeps me from going crazy." She adopted the stage name Rainsford and began writing and performing songs, even opening for Willie Nelson at the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, and was eventually signed by a talent agent. She released her debut album, Turn Down the Lights, in 2015.
Although she experienced some early success in the country music genre, her passion for pop came through in her 2018 EP Emotional Support Animal. Rainey told the New York Post that her new music was inspired by her vivid dreams, saying, "Most of my songs are deeply personal, so they’re about relationships or depression or whatever I’m going through at the moment. I’ve been having a lot of f**ked up dreams, so I’ve been writing about that."
An unlikely introduction
Andie MacDowell’s daughter Margaret also experienced some shifted career interests early on. She had no trouble breaking into the modeling business and earned her first turn on the catwalk during New York Fashion Week in 2011 when she was just 16 years old. She went on to work for several houses, including Chanel and Ralph Lauren, but, despite those early successes in the modeling world, Margaret soon found herself drawn to a new profession. Though she didn’t abandon modeling altogether — she modeled for Kate Spade in 2018 — she took an improv class and fell in love with acting, finding an agent in Los Angeles. "I had that moment. I fell in love with it, and I realized it was something I had to do," she told Vs Magazine.
Margaret’s first screen role was a bit part in Gia Coppola’s film Palo Alto, which she scored after visiting her then-boyfriend Nat Wolff on set. "I don’t even say anything. I was just happy to be on set hanging out because I was visiting a friend and Gia needed a girl to essentially cry to James Franco," she told Verge. "And so I did that and that was my first acting experience: James Franco made me cry." Her next role, however, would secure her status as one to watch.
Becoming a leftover
Margaret Qualley’s first big role was as Jill Garvey in HBO’s existential drama series The Leftovers, but the part didn’t exactly come easy. She told Vs Magazine that, after her initial audition, the "feedback was that I was too green and that I hadn’t worked enough." She added, "They invited me to do chemistry reads in New York, but they had girls who were way more experienced than me. So they said I could come if I wanted, but I had to fly myself and put myself up." Margaret was "so connected with the material," though, that she couldn’t pass up the chance. "I didn’t have a choice," she explained.
Fortunately, her instincts were dead on; she earned the role, and it ended up changing her life. Initial production on the series started after she completed high school and didn’t interfere with her plans for a higher education. "I did the pilot in the summer and then was able to go to NYU in the fall," she told Vogue. Once the show was picked up for its first season, though, she decided to put school on hold and found the show to be its own "intense acting school" (via Teen Vogue).
A viral sensation
It wasn’t just her turn on The Leftovers that would make Margaret Qualley a familiar face. She’s also quietly combined her talents for dance, modeling, and acting in fashion ads, starring in the 2015 short film for Tory Burch titled "L’Américaine," for example. In 2016, she appeared in Spike Jonze’s KENZO World fragrance ad — titled, "My Mutant Brain" — and it was an unforgettably strange and fearless performance that racked up millions of views online.
Margaret later described her notes from Jonze in her chat with the Evening Standard, saying, "He’d yell out instructions like, ‘Now you’re a vampire,’ ‘Now you’ve lost control of your arm and it’s out to get you,’ and ‘Now you’re slaying dragons.’ … When I left, drenched in sweat, my agents called me to see how it had gone and I said: ‘He either thinks I’m the craziest, most bananas chick out there or it’s gonna work out.’" If that wasn’t enough to get her name out there, the fact that the internet would later have a field day with frame-by-frame comparisons of "My Mutant Brain" and Taylor Swift’s similar video for "Delicate," which was released in 2018, certainly gave her public profile a boost.
Ready for the big screen
After The Leftovers solidified her status as a proper actress with more than one line on the back of her headshot, Margaret Qualley started trying out for more movie roles and landed her true feature debut in 2016’s The Nice Guys. As with her first audition, though, her experience trying out for the part was nerve-racking, to say the least.
"I flew from Nashville to L.A. and didn’t sleep all night because I was so nervous, and they were like ‘Oh by the way, Ryan Gosling’s going to be in the room for your audition,’ and I was like, ‘Oh great thanks, I’m not nervous at all,’" she told Vs Magazine. "I was just so flustered; I don’t know where I’m going, or what I’m doing. I stalled for about an hour, telling stories about my dad surfing and his caveman tendencies and did everything to avoid having to audition." After she was finally encouraged to do an actual reading for the role, things worked out nicely enough. "Thankfully, they put me out of my misery and told me I got the job on the spot," she said.
While Rainey Qualley’s filmography is growing slowly as she concentrates on music, Margaret Qualley is quickly becoming an established actress in her own right. After starring in films like Novitiate, The Vanishing of Sidney Hall, Death Note, and Donnybrook, she earned a leading role alongside Anthony Mackie in Netflix’s sci-fi drama IO, and she’s only getting busier.
Margaret earned a role in Quentin Tarantino’s mysterious 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and will star in FX’s buzzy music and dance biopic series Fosse/Verdon as the famed Broadway dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking. But Margaret is still modest about her achievements. She told Teen Vogue, "I don’t really know what I’m doing, to be honest," explaining, "I come up with things and maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t, and I try to learn from my castmates and director and from everyone." However, it’s clear that she’s doing something right because her star is still very much on the rise.
Adopting a lowkey lifestyle
Neither of the Andie MacDowell’s daughters have a desire to go after some glamorous lifestyle. As Rainey told Autre, "My dream is to have a little place in LA with my sister where we can have some bunnies and chickens and whatever animals we want in the backyard but still have all the perks of living in the city." Margaret is also happy to be in her sister’s company, telling the Evening Standard, "She’s my idol, my best friend in the whole world. I wanted to be close to her so I live in her guest bedroom." She noted, "We have a puppy together. His name is Books — he is adorable. I think I would find being in Hollywood intense if I had more of a social life but all I do is stay indoors with my sister and play with our puppy, watch movies."
Although they’ve yet to share the screen in anything scripted, the Qualley sisters did appear together in a music video for Soko — though it’s hard to recognize them behind the bunny masks — so we’ll have to wait and see whether these up-and-coming stars will join forces on the big or small screen or continue forging their own individual paths to fame.