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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 the announcement of a "Gossip Girl" reboot in 2019, viewers of the original series were curious about whether or not Momsen might return to play a grown-up Jenny Humphrey. Did Momsen return to acting? And what's the story behind her band's tumultuous last few years? Let's catch up with Momsen and explore why you probably haven't heard from her.

Taylor Momsen didn't choose acting for herself

Taylor 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 told Revolver (via MoCo360). "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, but later managed to place her career in her own hands.

There were difficulties on set during Gossip Girl

When Taylor 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 Taylor 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 knew that she made the right choice.

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

In her early years with The Pretty Reckless, Taylor 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. 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 Taylor 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 she couldn't give the fans what they had come for.

Taylor lost her close friend and producer

Months after Chris Cornell's death, Taylor 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 Khandwala, 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 Khandwala 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, Taylor 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 most recent releases as a representation of "rebirth" for the group.

Momsen stopped writing music while grieving

In the midst of her grief, Taylor 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 to 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, Taylor 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's joked 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

Before HBO Max's "Gossip Girl" reboot launched in 2021, Taylor Momsen made it clear she wasn't returning. "I don't have any plans to be any part of the reboot," Momsen told The Daily Beast, admitting, "I never really watched the [original] show when it was on the air. I don't really ever like watching myself. It makes me uncomfortable." Still, Momsen said she was curious to see how the reboot would handle technology and updating the series to use contemporary social media.

Just because Momsen never watched the original "Gossip Girl" series doesn't mean she didn't check out the reboot. "I love Stephanie [Savage] and Josh [Schwartz], and I'm so happy for them to be able to continue the show they created," Momsen told In Love magazine. "It's fun to see it advance to the times. Things change so quickly these days, so they had a lot of clever things to do to the template of the show."

After the first season exceeded expectations in viewership, HBO approved Season 2 quickly. Still, the series was canceled after just two seasons and didn't live up to the salacious and addictive original show. None of the core cast from the original program did cameos for the new series, even if Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) made a comeback in Season 2. Now that the series has been canceled, we will never see Jenny Humphrey all grown up, and Momsen is just fine with that.

She doesn't care about chasing fame

There was a time when Taylor 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 released Death by Rock and Roll during the pandemic

The Pretty Reckless finally released their fourth album on February 12, 2021. "Death by Rock and Roll" was a tribute to their producer Kato Khandwala, whose sudden death rocked Taylor Momsen's world and almost broke up the band when she retreated into isolation. "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.

The album "let the floodgates open," Momsen told Elle, recalling the series of tragedies that brought her to her knees. The deaths of three important people in Momsen and her band's lives led her into the depths of depression and substance abuse, but making "Death By Rock and Roll" led her back out. "We poured all of our heart and soul into saying goodbye and, at the same time, used it to move on," Momsen told In Love magazine. "It was a major turning point in our lives."

Although Momsen felt that making and promoting their first album without Khandwala was a cathartic and healing experience, not being able to perform it live was frustrating. "I was doing lots of Zoom interviews and everything, which is all good and fine, but doing that side of a record release and not getting to play feels very incomplete," Momsen admitted to Elle.

Taylor Momsen loves touring with The Pretty Reckless

Since The Pretty Reckless couldn't tour when "Death By Rock and Roll" came out, the band spent the pandemic practicing and playing together for fun. This reestablished their bond as a band, and also helped them become more flexible and polished as musicians for when they were able to return to the stage. "Being able to get out on the road again and play all of this material and complete the full circle of what it means to play music and make a new record has been very invigorating," Momsen told Elle effusively. "It's breathing life into the band and myself and I feel like we're in a very positive place, which is nice to be able to say as we started in a very negative one."

Momsen credits their extensive backlist with making their performances fresh and exciting. "We have a repertoire of music that we can pull from, which has been really fun on tour where we're not playing the same set every night," Momsen told Untitled magazine. "There are certain songs that stay in every night because we love them, but we can switch the setlist out at a moment's notice with old material and different things from different records depending on the audience or where we are." Momsen's excitement about touring with The Pretty Reckless makes it clear that creating and performing music is still her passion in life.

Momsen once said she's still open to acting again

Taylor Momsen said in 2022 that she was open to acting again at some point in her life, but it's not something she is actively pursuing, especially since it wasn't a career she initially chose for herself. "It's a wonderful career, a wonderful job. I think when I was younger, a lot of my quotes got misinterpreted — I was very drastic with my language," Momsen admitted to Elle. "It was always fine. It was never something I truly loved."

Although Momsen isn't actively seeking roles, she hasn't taken the possibility of returning to the screen off the table. "That's not to say that I'll never play a character in a movie or something, but it's not something I'm pursuing at all. Acting is something I did and maybe I'll do it again. Who knows?" Momsen told Elle.

Still, don't hold your breath awaiting her return to acting, since Momsen may have changed her mind. When asked during a 2023 interview if she'd return to the screen to play a rock star, Momsen was quick to shut that idea down. "I don't think I'd return to acting, especially to play a musician," Momsen explained to In Love magazine. "I get to do that in real life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

The Pretty Reckless released a compilation album

The Pretty Reckless released a new album, "Other Worlds," on November 4th, 2022. Articulating the musical influences that have shaped The Pretty Reckless sound, the set contained cover tunes and acoustic versions of their original songs. "Fans have been asking for an official format of acoustic material for years," Momsen told Elle, adding, "This is the other side of us. It's a bit more intimate and stripped back, but still very Pretty Reckless."

Recording a cover of Soundgarden's "Halfway There" with drummer Matt Cameron, as a tribute to late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, catalyzed the album's concept for Momsen. "Other Worlds" was birthed out of the boredom of the pandemic. "I started making music at home and recording acoustic versions of our songs, working with some of my friends who are also artists and doing remote collaborations," Momsen told Elle. "By the end of lockdown, I looked at all the stuff I made and went, 'This is all really good. I'm really proud of all of this stuff.'"

"Other Worlds" is also a tribute to Momsen's love of demos and the songwriting process. The Pretty Reckless gives fans a taste of this process on the album. "You can hear the song in its infancy without all the pop production," Momsen told Elle. "That's always been intriguing to me as an artist and a fan, so getting to share that side of ourselves with our fans was an interesting idea for me."

Momsen occasionally appears at fashion shows

Taylor Momsen may have left "Gossip Girl" after Season 3 to focus on her career as a musician and live a more private life, but that doesn't mean she didn't take a little piece of Jenny Humphrey with her. Momsen loves fashion just like her alter ego, who became a designer for Blair Waldorf's family business in the last episode of "Gossip Girl."

"I grew up always needing to express myself. It's a constant need for an outlet for my imagination. Whether writing songs or creating a look, it's all about being creative and using that to express how I feel at any given time," Momsen told In Love magazine. "Fashion is the outside appearance of my inner feeling. Or I can use it to change my mood. It's fun for the imagination."

Momsen occasionally makes appearances at fashion shows to support her favorite designers. During Fall Fashion Week 2023 in New York, Momsen sat by the catwalk to support Frederick Anderson's renaissance-inspired line. Momsen described Anderson's line to Life Minute TV as "very glamorous. Very gothy, which is very my vibe," before calling her look a "blonde Wednesday Addams situation."

The Pretty Reckless are working on their next studio album

Although there is no timeline set to start recording, Taylor Momsen revealed during a radio interview that The Pretty Reckless are laying the groundwork for their next studio album. "We're in a great headspace. We're just having fun with it, and wrapping up the tour cycle of 'Death By Rock And Roll,' with the last few shows," Momsen told Ronni Hunter of Columbus, Ohio's 99.7 The Blitz (via Arrow Lords of Metal). 

After finishing up touring, Momsen admitted that the band's next album would be the top priority. "We've stepped foot into a studio," she said. "So that's saying something for us." Although work has begun on the next album for The Pretty Reckless, Momsen told In Love magazine that they didn't have a concept for the record yet: "It's always interesting to see where the muses will take you. You never know the destination 'til you're there."

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