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Why You Rarely Hear From Taylor Momsen Anymore

Perhaps you were originally introduced to her as Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl – but since landing her breakout role on the addictive series, Taylor Momsen has set out to define her career on her own terms. As a child actress, she appeared in movies like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, and she rose to prominence with her supporting role on Gossip Girl. She eventually left Gossip Girl behind, became the frontwoman of the rock band The Pretty Reckless, and began building a career as a musician rather than an actress. 

After a string of successful albums, The Pretty Reckless went silent for several years, leaving fans wondering what had happened to the band until they released a new record in early 2021. Plus, with a Gossip Girl reboot on the horizon, viewers of the original series are curious about whether or not Momsen might return to play a grown-up Jenny Humphrey. Will Momsen return to acting? And what's the story behind her band's latest release? Let's catch up with Momsen and explore why you probably haven't heard from her lately.

Taylor didn't choose acting for herself

Momsen entered the entertainment industry at a very young age — well before she was old enough to make a decision about it for herself. Throughout her career, Momsen has revealed that she had mixed feelings about her upbringing. When asked about her childhood, Momsen would sometimes state that becoming an actress was her choice, and that her parents simply helped her find opportunities — but later comments revealed a very different picture. 

"My parents signed me up with Ford [Modeling] at the age of two," Momsen said in an interview with Revolver. "No two-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice. My whole life, I was in and out of school. I didn't have friends. I was working constantly and I didn't have a real life." After moving to New York to film Gossip Girl and finishing high school early, Momsen stated that while she loved her parents, she was now legally responsible for herself and could enjoy more freedom and independence. It seems like Momsen was pushed into the spotlight before she was ready, and now, her career is in her own hands.

Difficulties on set during Gossip Girl

When Momsen landed the role of Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl, it was her big break — but some of the actors who worked with her on the show weren't impressed behind the scenes. In later seasons, Momsen was appearing on screen less and less, and Tim Gunn hinted as to why after guest starring on the show. 

In an interview with E! News, Gunn, who had played a mentor to Jenny on the series, had some unkind words to share about Momsen. "What a diva," said Gunn. "She was pathetic, she couldn't remember her lines, and she didn't even have that many. I thought to myself, 'Why are we being held hostage by this brat?'" While the team behind Gossip Girl stated that the airtime for Momsen's character was being cut "for strictly creative reasons," it seemed likely that after working on the series for a few years, Momsen was already getting frustrated with acting. Perhaps Gunn's characterization of her behavior on set was unfair, but Momsen was definitely ready to move on.

She chose to follow her passion for music

Although Momsen was a successful actress, she had always secretly dreamed of making music, and after working on Gossip Girl, she realized that she didn't enjoy being in front of the camera. She had been writing her own songs since she was a child, and she wished she could start her own band. One day, she had a light bulb moment: she didn't have to act anymore if she didn't want to.

"When I realized I could actually make my decisions, it was a very strange feeling," Momsen told Cosmopolitan. "It was like, if I don't have to do this thing that I don't enjoy doing anymore, or I don't know if I ever really did, then I'm not gonna do it anymore! Because this is my life, and I want to live it and enjoy it if I can." She decided to focus on following her passion for music. Momsen has stated that dealing with the "business side" of retiring from acting was complicated — especially because she made the decision while she was still appearing on Gossip Girl. But in the end, she knows that she made the right choice.

It was tough for Taylor to break into the "boys club"

In her early years with The Pretty Reckless, Momsen faced some obstacles. Being a young woman in a male-dominated genre, she wasn't always taken seriously — but for a while, she tried to ignore the phenomenon of sexism in the music industry. She was branded as a "wild child" for her onstage antics, and there were doubts about her authenticity as an artist. Later, she realized that some of this criticism was aimed at her simply for being a teenage girl.

"I was so in denial for so long about sexism, but as I've gotten older I've realized it exists," Momsen said in an interview with Louder Sound. She continued, "I've recognized it more as I've gotten older that there is a boys' club when it comes to rock 'n' roll and it is a struggle to break into that and be accepted and treated with the same respect as if you were a man." Today, she's more comfortable and confident in her own skin, and she credits other female artists like Amy Lee of Evanescence for helping her navigate the industry.

She was deeply affected by Chris Cornell's death

Opening for Soundgarden in 2017 was one of the highlights of Momsen's career — she never would have imagined that she would appear at the same concert as Chris Cornell, Soundgarden's lead vocalist and one of her musical heroes. But tragedy struck when Momsen received the news that Cornell had died by suicide.

"I was there that last night in Detroit," she told SPIN. "I talked to him at night, I gave him a hug and said goodbye. When I wake up to that news the next morning...It just went from the most elating experience to the one of the most devastating."

After a few more performances, Momsen decided to put her own band's tour on hold. She explained, "I couldn't grieve and continue to get on stage every night and pretend, put on this big rock show like everything was okay." She cancelled all of The Pretty Reckless's upcoming shows because she knew couldn't give the fans what they had come for.

Taylor lost her close friend and producer

Months after Chris Cornell's death, Momsen and her bandmates were finally ready to start recording music again. But shortly after they decided to begin working on a new album, Momsen got a heartbreaking phone call and learned that their producer and her close friend, Kato Khandalwala, had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Momsen was devastated by the news.

"It was the nail in the coffin for me, for lack of a better term," Momsen told Metro. "He was so much more than a producer. He was a fifth member of the band and my best friend in the world. I can't explain our relationship but it was so immensely close." Momsen had barely begun to recover from her grief over Cornell's death when she found herself spiraling downwards all over again. With Khandalwala gone, she had no idea how to move forward, and she felt like there was no point in trying anymore.

She struggled with substance abuse

After losing two people who meant so much to her, Momsen tried to find a way to numb her pain. "I wouldn't say rock bottom, but I was getting close to that," Momsen told The Daily Beast. "I was in this hole of depression, substance abuse, and was not well mentally."

Momsen says that during this period of her life, she did not want to engage with the outside world at all — she spent most of her time at home. Rather than turning to others for help, she tried to isolate herself, and although her bandmates lived nearby, she only wanted to be alone. For a long time, she felt completely content with her loss of motivation, but eventually turning to music helped her rise above it.

Thankfully, Momsen says that she and the rest of her band are in a much better place now. In fact, she views their latest release as a representation of "rebirth" for the group.

Momsen stopped writing music while grieving

In the midst of her grief, Momsen found that even listening to music only made her feel worse.

"I got to a point where I couldn't listen to music, and that was really sad for me," Momsen explained in an interview with Illinois Entertainer. "If I put on any music — which has always brought me such solace and hope and light — it would bring back some sort of memory which was too much for me to handle, or too painful, so I didn't have my outlet which had always been there for me."

At the time, Momsen couldn't even bear the thought of listening to her favorite artists, let alone writing new songs. Eventually, she began to pull herself out of her depression by returning to her favorite band, The Beatles. Then she revisited albums from her other inspirations, including bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Who. When she was able to listen to Soundgarden again, she knew it was finally time to pick up her own guitar.

She enjoys solitude and privacy

Unlike many other musicians, Momsen does not live in New York or Los Angeles. After her time on Gossip Girl was over, she eventually left New York. She prefers peace and quiet, and years ago, she purchased a home in a remote location where she could focus on her art without distraction.

"It takes isolation and solitude for us to write," Momsen said while discussing her songwriting process with The Pretty Reckless guitar player Ben Phillips in an interview with Cosmopolitan. Momsen has the perfect place to retreat to when she's working on new music: her home in Maine. She jokes that she lives in "Horrorville, Stephen King-style," and says that her house is "as far away from people as possible." The rest of her bandmates also live in New England, so whenever they need to get together, they can come to Momsen's house to rehearse. She doesn't live near the center of the action, and she's happier that way.

No Gossip Girl reboot for her

Gossip Girl fans are getting excited about an upcoming reboot of the series. Naturally, the audience who tuned in for the show's original run are wondering which cast members might make an appearance. Fans of Momsen who were introduced to her through Gossip Girl are wondering if she'll be coming back for a guest appearance — but Momsen still has no intentions to return to acting.

"I don't have any plans to be any part of the reboot," Momsen told The Daily Beast. She continued, "I never really watched the show when it was on the air. I don't really ever like watching myself. It makes me uncomfortable." However, Momsen is curious about how the reboot will handle technology — she remembered that the characters always had to have the latest phones, and today, there are so many new platforms that they can use to spread gossip. She's considering watching the reboot just to see how the writers tackle this topic.

She doesn't care about chasing fame

There was a time when Momsen would reliably pop up in the tabloids and gossip magazines — but today, she has no real interest in chasing fame for fame's sake. While she loves her career as a musician, she doesn't care to put her personal life in the spotlight.

"Once there was paparazzi outside my door, I learned very quickly to ignore all of it," Momsen told People. "Fame is a fleeting thing, just something that you have to deal with. It's not real." She may not get as much media attention now that her days on Gossip Girl are well behind her, but today, Momsen is happier with her career, so the trade-off seems to have been well worth it.

While Momsen does use social media, she tries not to spend too much time online in general. She feels that the Internet can be too "toxic," so even when she has down time, she tends to avoid it.

The Pretty Reckless finally released a new album

After going silent for a few years, The Pretty Reckless finally released their long-awaited fourth album on February 12, 2021. Titled Death by Rock and Roll, Momsen says that although it might sound morbid on its face, the album sums up their philosophy on life, one that Khandwala always celebrated: that you should live on your own terms. The album topped the charts during the week of its release.

With the loss of Khandwala, it took longer than usual for the band to pull the album together — they had to figure out how they were going to produce the album without him and who they should work with now. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the band to shift the release date. "We finished the album right before COVID, and due to the insane world circumstances, we pushed it a little bit," Momsen told The Daily Beast. As soon as it's safe to do so, The Pretty Reckless is ready to get back on the road, where you might be seeing a lot more of Momsen in the coming years.