Interview: Taylor Momsen- Who’s that Girl?
by Daniel Haim
It’s fair to say that Taylor Momsen is perhaps one of the most controversial teens in the world. She’s revealed she carries a knife with her everywhere she goes, admitted she’s a “promoter of masturbation”, starred in a hit US drama and fronted a rock band … all at the tender age of just 17.
Born in the city of St. Louis, Taylor was catapulted into the limelight at a young age and began modeling when she was just two years old. With her adorable blond locks, the young star became a firm favorite among the world of child actors, starring in kids’ movies ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
But, despite her seemingly idyllic upbringing, Taylor recently claimed that while she loves her parents and the lifestyle they gave her, she felt they ruined her childhood by forcing her to work constantly since she begun her modeling career aged two.
While Taylor went on to star in a whole host of films, commercials and TV shows, her big break came at the age of in 2007 – at the age of 14 – when she won the role of fashionista schoolgirl Jenny Humphrey in CW television show ‘Gossip Girl’.
With the series becoming an instant hit with worldwide audiences, Taylor quickly saw herself become a household name and shot even further into the public eye.
Despite fans of the show being endeared to her ‘Gossip Girl’ alter-ego’s insecurity and girlie style, the real Taylor couldn’t be more different from her character. Confident, self-assured and a through-and-through rocker, the 17-year-old star has been given her fair share of criticism throughout her career for her choice of provocative outfits and outrageous behavior.
However, while Taylor is the first to admit she’s not close friends with her ‘Gossip Girl’ co-stars, it was starring in the hit show that allowed her to pursue her true passion – music. After securing worldwide recognition through her role as Jenny Humphrey, Taylor put together alternative rock band The Pretty Reckless in 2009.
But the formation of the band was not without it’s problems and feisty Taylor fired all three of her fellow members in June 2009 because she felt they didn’t fit in with her music style. Recruiting three new bandmates, The Pretty Reckless eventually released their debut album ‘Light Me Up’ in the UK in August 2010, and are now preparing to launch an onslaught on the US charts after releasing the record Stateside on February 2.
While most 17-year-olds are just starting to figure out where they want their life to head, Taylor has already got a successful acting and music career under her belt. But if that wasn’t already enough, she has also carved out a name for herself in the fashion world.
At the age of 14, Taylor signed to IMG Models, and in the past year alone was named as the face of British fashion chain New Look, the model for John Galliano’s new women’s fragrance and perhaps her biggest scoop to date, the face of Madonna and her daughter Lourdes’ 2010 Material Girl fashion line.
Despite her fashion career having recently turned sour after she was dropped by her modeling agency when bosses tired of her rebellious antics, as well as being replaced by Kelly Osbourne as the face of Material Girl, Taylor admits one of her life’s goals is to develop her own unique fashion line.
A self-confessed loner who can only count six true friends in her life, Taylor maintains she isn’t bothered by what her critics think. So now this fiercely independent 17-year-old has been put on an “extended hiatus” by ‘Gossip Girl’ producers, she has been handed the perfect opportunity to put her heart and soul into her true passion … her music.
Daniel: Hi Taylor, how are you liking being in New York at the moment?
Taylor: Hey, urgh – it’s freezing and absolutely disgusting.
Daniel: So tell us about your album ‘Light Me Up’ – who influenced you on this record?
Taylor: Musically, I grew up among a lot of gothic rock but I don’t like to take on the style of other artists too much, that’s not the point of it. You know, the record is very much written about my life and what I know, what I feel, what I’ve experienced and all that stuff. It’s a very honest record, I guess.
The record has come out in the UK already. We’re just so excited it’s coming out in the US, it’s been a long time coming, to be honest, but the UK has been amazing and we’re really keen to come back. It’s just exciting to have it out in the US too so that people over here can finally see what we’re all about.
Daniel: You appeared at V Festival in the UK last year, are you going to be returning for any more festival appearances in 2011?
Taylor: Hopefully. There’s nothing that I can confirm yet – we’ll definitely be coming over again in the summer and we had so much fun at V fest last year. The one we really want to play is Reading and Leeds. It looks like such a fun festival to be involved with. We just want to play any festival and get back over there. The festivals in the UK are just so massive, I just want to do them all.
Daniel: You’re embarking on a huge US tour on February 11, what can we expect?
Taylor: A jack of all shows really. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of fun, it’s all about us and the fans having a good time. We’re going to rock it out! We’re going to have a couple of upcoming and local bands supporting us, which is really important to us. In terms of The Pretty Reckless though fans should prepare themselves for it to be super loud!
Daniel: Kelly Osbourne recently replaced you as the face of Madonna’s clothing line Material Girl, how did that feel?
Taylor: Oh it’s fantastic, congratulations to her. She’ll have so much fun working with Madonna, but just like any other contract it naturally came to a close. My deal ended and passing the torch has gone on to another great young woman, I’m excited to see the new photos. It was a great experience working with Madonna, I had so much fun doing it.
Daniel: Did you get to work closely with Madonna and her daughter Lourdes?
Taylor: We definitely worked very closely on the shoot, I didn’t see her too much apart from that except at the launch. They’re such great people and such a great family and Lourdes really is incredibly talented, to come up with a fashion line like that is just amazing. It was a great experience.
Daniel: Do your fashion influences come from anyone?
Taylor: I try to be original and have my own style, there’s a certain way I love to dress. I’ve always dressed differently to all the other kids but that’s the great thing about fashion, it doesn’t have to be for everyone. It’s personal and however you look is a reflection of you. I draw inspiration from different eras – I love the 60s and I love Edie Sedgwick but I wouldn’t say I dress exactly like that. I just try to make everything my own.
Daniel: Is there anyone in the UK you’re particularly inspired by fashion-wise?
Not particularly, but then again I don’t follow one person’s particular style. There are many, many well-dressed women and girls in Britain. I like to have fun with style and make it my own, it’s something that’s fun to play with.
Daniel: Did working on Material Girl inspire you to think about creating your own fashion line in the future?
Taylor: I’ve always wanted to have a line at some point but when I do do that I really want to have the time to be able to commit to it properly. Right now, I’m so busy but sometime in the future I would love to have a line, absolutely. I’ll be very involved in the design and all of it, I want to spend all my time making it the best it can possibly be. I don’t want to just put my name on it and have other people do all the work.
Daniel: You shot to fame after starring as Jenny Humphrey in ‘Gossip Girl’, did you enjoy your time on the show?
Taylor: It wasn’t planned to work out this way by any means. Music has always been my passion and I got a great fan base from the show, which I’m grateful for. It’s just hard to get people in the industry to see me and not my character. I’m not Jenny Humphrey, I’m very different from her. When you see someone in a TV show you do think they’re that person, I understand that. And when you see them out of that role and they’re dramatically different to the person that they play it can be a bit of a shock. I just hope people over here will give the record a chance like they did in the UK. I hope they at least give it a listen before writing it off as being just ‘Gossip Girl’. Music has always been my passion, it’s what I live for. I consider myself to be a musician that acts, I’ve always been writing songs and I’ve been singing forever. It’s always been my passion and my goal. As a musician though you do have to have other things to work on.
Daniel: You’re so busy with your acting, music and fashion commitments, do you still find time to socialize?
Taylor: My best friends come on tour with me, I’m so close with my band so that’s fantastic. It’s the best job, you get to be with who you love and be with your friends all the time. There are no complaints. I’m working 24 hours a day and that’s probably the one thing people don’t know about me, that I’m a workaholic and I can’t stop. But I love what I do so it’s always fun.
Daniel: How about dating – do you have time to meet guys?
Taylor: Well at the moment not particularly, I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment.
Daniel: Do you want one or are you happy being single?
Taylor: I love what I’m doing and I’m really proud of the record and excited about the tour, which is all positive. But, you know, I’m a girl. It’s not a priority for me but I’m a chick and every girl wants a guy. Although there’s no-one off the top of my head who takes my fancy. The thing people don’t understand is that touring or travelling or whatever you do in my position means you go to all these cool places all over the world but you see everything from a car window. You don’t get to see much of the city or meet people at all. It’s different to how I would have thought it would be. It’s not just about the parties.
Daniel: Do you consider yourself to be a role model for other teenagers?
I don’t want to consider myself to be a role model, that’s too much pressure for anyone to take on. I didn’t get into this industry to become a role model. I got into it very young and because I love music, I still have that drive. I’m not happy if I’m not making music, it’s a simple as that. It’s a need. So if I inspire people who need to do what I do and want to have the same drive to work really hard then that’s great but don’t try to be me, be yourself. That’s the only foundation in this industry because it’s so critical and difficult. It’s one of the hardest industries in the world and the only foundation I have is to really not pay attention to anything apart from to focus on my art and stay true to myself and my friends and myself and my circle. Anything outside of that is just way too much to deal with.
Daniel: How do you cope with the pressures of fame at such a young age?
Taylor: I try not to pay attention to it. Things are so fluid and my goal was never to be famous, it was just to be successful. I just need to keep remembering that it’s not real and try not to pay too much attention to it. I just go along for the ride but try to stay focus on what I do and what I love doing. When we go on tour, the whole focus of every day is that show and making that show the best it can be.