Child Star Taylor Momsen Quit Hollywood 10 Years Ago. See Her Now.
The now-27-year-old retired from acting to pursue a whole new career.
Depending on when you first saw her, you either know former child star Taylor Momsen as a Dr. Seuss character with a wacky hairdo or a moody Brooklyn teen who wants to fit in with her wealthy Manhattan classmates. Momsen had a steady career in movies and TV for more than a decade, but she quit acting in 2010 and has found had a whole new successful career since she left Hollywood behind. Read on to find out more about what 27-year-old Momsen is doing today, and to see how her look has evolved over the years.
Taylor Momsen's career began when she was young.
Momsen's big acting break came when she was only seven years old. In 2000, she starred opposite Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas as the iconic Cindy Lou Who. Prior to this, she had small parts in a couple of TV shows and in the movie The Prophet's Game.
In 2020, she told Today of working with Carrey, "I remember him being so kind, so concerned, but so methodical with what he was doing. Even at that young of an age, I remember watching him and going, 'I'm watching an artist right now at work.'"
After How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Momsen had a few other film roles, appearing in Hansel & Gretel, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, and We Were Soldiers. Then, she got her big TV break.
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In 2007, Momsen landed a major new role on the hit show Gossip Girl.
Momsen was cast as Jenny Humphrey on The CW series Gossip Girl in 2007. Her character was a fashion-loving teen, who wanted to fit in with her rich classmates at a fancy private school in New York City's Upper East Side. Momsen left the show after the fourth season, but returned in a guest appearance in the finale two years later. She had a few other parts along the way—appearing in films like Paranoid Park, Underdog, and Spy School—but Gossip Girl was her last major role.
In a 2016 interview with People, Momsen shared that she didn't love being asked about Gossip Girl, though she understood that fans would always know her from it. "It's less frustrating if someone recognizes me for it; it's more frustrating that I still get asked about it," Momsen said. "It feels like someone asking you about junior high. It literally was my junior high, so that's what it feels like to me. It's such a past life that it's a strange question to continue to get asked."
But How the Grinch Stole Christmas still holds a special place in her heart. "People bring up The Grinch to me quite a bit, obviously around Christmas," Momsen told Today in 2020. "It's certainly funny now when people don't realize that I played Cindy Lou Who … You get the giant reaction of 'I can't believe that's the same girl in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.' And I get a huge kick out of that."
Momsen left Gossip Girl to focus on her music.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas also helped Momsen find her true passion: making music. She told Today that her favorite memory from the movie was recording the song "Where Are You, Christmas?" "I'll never forget walking into this beautiful studio, with this immaculate console in front of me, and putting headphones on and singing into a microphone for the first time," Momsen said. "That was such an impactful moment in my life because it made me go, 'I wanna make music for the rest of my life. I love being in a recording studio.'"
In 2010, at 18, Momsen made that dream a reality and retired from acting to focus fully on music. The year prior, she formed her band The Pretty Reckless when she was still filming Gossip Girl and her real-life style changed as a result. So, the Gossip Girl producers ended up adapting the character of Jenny accordingly.
"It was hard at a certain point to write for the old Jenny; we had to write for the new Taylor," Gossip Girl showrunner Joshua Safran told Vulture in 2017. "Taylor wanted her hair a certain way because she was in the band and that was who she was, so we couldn't dye Taylor's hair to be Jenny every day, especially when she had events where she had to be Taylor for the weekend. So Jenny had to change."
She is still making music today.
The Pretty Reckless released their fourth album, Death by Rock and Roll, earlier this year. When asked about the band's influences in the 2016 People interview, Momsen said, "The Beatles are, first and foremost, my favorite band of all time. I'll start with the Beatles, and I'll bookend it with Soundgarden. I love all the '90s kind of grunge, and I love classic rock: That's where the spectrum lies."
In an interview with People from February of this year, Momsen spoke about her career and explained how she feels about music versus acting. "Acting was a job that I enjoyed. But I was never in love with it," she admitted. "With music, I wouldn't know who I am without it. When I got to an age where I could make my own decisions, I quit all my other jobs to just focus on music."