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The Untold Truth Of Beanie Feldstein

If you have been sleeping on Beanie Feldstein over the last handful of years, you ought to stop. For one thing, the actress has given wonderful performances on stage in "Hello, Dolly!" and in films like "Lady Bird," "How to Build a Girl," and "Booksmart," the latter of which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. For another, her star is only rising — and no, not because she is Jonah Hill's little sister, but because she is a versatile actress with depth and charm to spare.

Feldstein will next appear as Monica Lewinsky in the much anticipated "American Crime Story: Impeachment" alongside heavy hitters like Sarah Paulson, Clive Owen, and Edie Falco. She also has a feature film coming up called "The Humans," and is slated to appear as the lead in the upcoming Broadway revival of "Funny Girl" in 2022. With big profile projects in the pipeline, you are going to be hearing a lot about Feldstein in the upcoming future, so you should get yourself ready for her takeover. To help, here are some untold truths about Beanie Feldstein.

Her real name is Elizabeth, but Beanie has a story

The world knows her as "Beanie," but Feldstein's birth name is actually Elizabeth Greer Feldstein. She has discussed her name in numerous interviews, most notably with her university's newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus back in 2015. "I had a British nanny for the first five years of my life. Elizabeth was the name of the girl she used to nanny in England," she explained. "She was from England — the queen, you know, there are a lot of Elizabeths in England — and Elizabeanie was what their family called the girl she used to nanny."

From there, the nickname was shortened to "Beanie" thanks to Feldstein's two older brothers. "And like, if you call a dog Spot but its name is Spike, it's just gonna respond to Spot, so I just always responded to Beanie," she told the newspaper. "Since I was like, 2 years old, it was just exclusively Beanie." In November 2016, Feldstein tweeted about her unusual nickname, showing that she has a sense of humor about it. "Sometimes I introduce myself to people and their reaction reminds me of the fact that it's insane that my name is Beanie," she wrote. 

She struggled with vocal nodules as a child

Feldstein identifies as an extrovert, and she loves to sing, so imagine her shock when she awoke one day at nine years old, only to realize she could not talk. Feldstein had developed vocal nodules, and she had to undergo both speech therapy and singing lessons in order to recover post-surgery, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a separate interview conducted by her brother (Jonah Hill) for his zine, Inner Child, Feldstein said the therapy occurred five times a week and that she had to "re-learn" how to speak and sing.

Being told that she may never sing again only confirmed how much Feldstein wanted to do it — and it made her work extra hard. "Even at nine, I was like, 'Oh, I'm going to be a singer. I want to sing for the rest of my life. You can't take this away from me. I will work day in and day out to make sure that I have this in my life forever,'" she told Hill. "I was jolted into an intense dedication to something, I worked so hard at it, and I obviously loved it so much. Through those things, I became very good at it. And the fact that I was being validated definitely gave me confidence."

She was a sociology major at Wesleyan University

Feldstein often discusses her alma mater, Wesleyan University, a private university located in Middletown, Connecticut. She has immense pride for the school, and even served as a tour guide when she was a student. "My friends would call me TGB — Tour Guide Beanie," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. "I'd be like, 'Did you know that this building used to be the campus center?' And they'd be like, 'Beanie, we don't care. We don't want to hang out with TGB right now.'"

While you might expect that Feldstein majored in drama, she actually took a different route and studied sociology. "I'd talked about Patti Lupone more than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. I had dissected every Sondheim musical. I needed to think about other things and was craving to continue my academic journey, because I felt like I had cheated myself of some of it," she said. It was through her sociology classes that Feldstein was able to better understand the world around her — an especially useful tool for an actress. 

In 2019, she described the "aha" moment she had upon taking her first sociology class at Wesleyan as like "taking a pin and popping the bubble I'd grown up in."

She moved back in with her parents during the pandemic

Feldstein was on her way to Los Angeles to start a new project when the coronavirus pandemic came to a head — and so, when that project went on hold, she decided her childhood bedroom may be the best place to hide out. Feldstein remains close with her parents, but quarantining in close quarters has proven to have some issues. "We have dinner and play cards and watch TV with the dog and we have a lovely evening routine, but during the day I'm like, "I can't hear, you're too loud!," she said in a 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Daily workouts, walks, and watching TV with her mom helped her keep her mental health in check, she said.

As a natural extrovert, Feldstein struggled with being stuck at home — so she and her friends developed a routine of playing themed Zoom trivia. Twelve to fourteen people would gather together online, wearing costumes based on the theme, and then play trivia before donating to a charity of the winner's choice. "Me and my best friend Melanie, who is also my roommate in New York, we created the Harry Potter trivia, and our questions were good!," she told Who What Wear in 2020. "I went to deep corners of the internet to find some very unknown facts."

She loves to show physical affection

Feldstein found the coronavirus downtime particularly difficult because she was not able to show physical affection — something she absolutely loves to do. "I just love people, I love being surrounded by my friends and I love my family, who I haven't been able to actually be with even though we're all in the same city, which is unusual for us," she said in a May 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "But yeah, (I want to) just hug and smooch and cuddle everyone up, because that is so a part of me as a person and how I express my love and feel love and I just can't wait."

To get her cuddle fix, Feldstein even has been known to carry around a cushy toy that she loves to hug. "I have a stuffed dog called Buddy that I carry everywhere," she told Stylist in 2019. "He recently got taken out at security at the airport and the woman looked at me like I had five heads. But I'm just a 25-year-old woman who loves her stuffed animal." 

She further explained her love for stuffed toys by connecting it to her love for hugs and other forms of physical vulnerability. "I'm a hugger, I like people to feel included," she said. "But also, a teddy bear is something you can be vulnerable with. They're always there for you and I like to be a touchstone for someone to return to."

She has high self-confidence and a motto to reflect it

"Anyone who's known us forever (knows), in real life, Beanie's the star," her brother Jonah told Rolling Stone when asked about his sister. "She's very strong and she won't waver from that. Her infrastructure is like, she's known who she was since she was 13, 14 years old." Indeed, confidence is not something Feldstein is lacking, which she has reflected upon quite a bit. In a separate interview with Stylist, she admits that she and Jonah discuss her confidence and where it came from often. "My brother and I talk about it a lot because he didn't have that confidence, so he's always trying to pick my brain as to where it came from," she said.

According to Feldstein, she learned at an early age that she can't be anyone else but herself, and she refuses to change for anyone, "whether it's a friend, a family member, a casting director, whoever it is," she told Bust magazine. She has even developed a motto to help her remember who "The Bean" (as she calls herself) is and to keep things in perspective. 

"I started saying, 'They either want The Bean or they don't want The Bean,' and that's been my life motto," she told Stylist. "You can only be yourself and what a gift that you're incredibly unique. Maybe you'll be right for something or someone or you're not. The motto has taken on a life of its own."

Her third birthday party was Funny Girl themed (and now she's in the revival!)

Feldstein was recently cast as Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of "Funny Girl," which will mark the first time the show runs on Broadway in nearly six decades (via the New York Times). It is a part she knows well. "I grew up watching Barbra Streisand in 'Funny Girl,'" she once told Allure magazine. "She was my life's goal." 

Beanie wasn't kidding — it is a role for which Feldstein has been pining since she was a very, very young child. Even as a toddler, Feldstein had a "Funny Girl" obsession, so much so that the movie served as the theme for her third birthday. She told The Face in 2020 that the invitations said, "Our Funny Girl's turning three" and that she dressed up like Streisand's character in the film. "She's couched in an undulating leopard print fur coat and matching hat, pearls bubbling out like Gatsby foam," The Face described a photo of her in the costume. A couple of years after that, Feldstein took up community theatre.

She was deeply impacted by the loss of her older brother

In addition to Jonah, Feldstein grew up with another older brother — Jordan Feldstein, who had a different last name because he used his middle name as a stage name. Jordan was the longtime manager of pop-rock band Maroon 5, until he suddenly passed away in 2017 of a pulmonary embolism. "Jordi was one of the most incredible people I've ever known in my life," she told The Cut. "He was so incredible at what he did, so I feel like me continuing to work is honoring his work ethic that I always so admired in him." 

Shortly after Jordan's death, Feldstein appeared in Maroon 5's music video for "Girls Like You," perhaps in honor of her brother (or perhaps because she herself has known Adam Levine since she was a child). In 2019, Feldstein published a gorgeous essay about grief in the pages of In Style magazine. 

"In this past year, I have learned an immeasurable amount about the bandwidth of my own heart," she wrote. "The pain is so unbearable at times, so unremitting. Yet, in addition to the deluge of feelings leaking out of me at all times, I have found the process of grief (because it is and will always be a process, never finished, never concluded) to be just as resonant in my mind as it is in my heart."

Ben Platt is her best friend

Feldstein's best friend is none other than fellow up-and-coming star Ben Platt, of "Dear Evan Hansen" and "The Politician." The two met at Harvard Westlake Academy, where they starred together in multiple drama productions and bonded over their shared love of musical theatre (and even went to prom together). "On his 16th birthday, I gave him monogrammed cuff links. I actually cut out construction paper and, with a Magic Marker, wrote, 'For when you win your first Tony,'" Feldstein explained in a 2017 Vogue interview. "I think back to us riding to school together singing Gypsy in the car, or Next to Normal ... being able to watch him, and for him to watch me, it's been really emotional. It's truly out of our wildest dreams."

Amazingly, both Platt and Feldstein ended up on Broadway at the same time (he in "Dear Evan Hansen" and she in "Hello, Dolly!" opposite Bette Midler), and they walked the red carpet together for the 2017 Tony Awards, where Platt won Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. "When Ben won at the Tonys, I didn't cry. I thought I would be hysterically crying. I think Ben is the best at what he does because he's my best friend and I see him through these rose-colored glasses," Feldstein told the Los Angeles Times. "But at the Tonys, there was this moment where everyone in this room of the best of the best was seeing him the way that I saw him. It was really emotional, everyone seeing the genius I've always seen."

Clearly, the friends love performing together — as evidenced by their "It Takes Two" YouTube duet that they crafted for Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday celebration — and they have been given a unique opportunity to do so for the foreseeable future. The two actors have been cast in Richard Linklater's "Merrily We Roll Along," a coming-of-age Sondheim musical that will be filmed over the course of twenty years — much like Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making film "Boyhood," which earned a 2014 Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

She likes playing the sidekick role

A lot of performers dream of the day they get to play the lead, perhaps even resenting instances where they are slotted into the sidekick role. Feldstein has never felt this way, and she has no problem being a supporting character. 

"I remember people saying to me growing up, 'Don't you want to be smaller? Don't you want to be less characterful, because don't you want to play the lead?'," she said in a 2018 interview for Inner Children, brother Jonah's zine. "I was like, 'No. The lead's boring. I want to be the side banana. The side banana has so much more fun and gets so many more laughs and enjoys herself so much more.' I think at a young age I knew that if I had to fall into one category, the category that I wanted to fall into wasn't the damsel-in-distress heroine."

"I love to be the best friend," Feldstein said in a 2017 interview for IndieWire promoting "Lady Bird," a film in which she played the main character's best friend Julie. "It's like my dream in life, to be everybody's best friend." 

Which isn't to say Feldstein isn't open to leading roles — such as when she starred as an aspiring music journalist in the 2019 film "How to Build a Girl," or took on the upcoming role of Monica Lewinsky in "American Crime Story: Impeachment." At the end of the day, it's the part she seems to be drawn to, even if it comes with limited screen time. "There's nothing that makes me sad about being a supporter," she told a reporter for The Cut.

She is obsessed with headbands and other hair accessories

There is something almost childlike about Feldstein's earnestness and her ability to find joy in the smallest of things. Take hair accessories, for example. Feldstein is as elated to talk about her love for headbands as most people are to gush over their kids or pets. 

"I have been a headband girl for literally my entire life," she told Who What Wear. "I'm looking at an entire row of headbands from middle school and high school years in my childhood bedroom right now, but I have a whole other row back in my apartment in New York." She is also a big fan of barrettes, bobby pins, and clips.

Feldstein loves headbands so much that she has been known to wear them on the red carpet, and her sartorial hair choices have even garnered the attention of fashionistas. When she wore a braided blue headband to the 2020 Golden Globes, stories ran on Yahoo!, Total Beauty, More, and other outlets, directing people on where to find the look. "I loved it because it was sophisticated," she told Who What Wear of the $42 headband, which she paired with an Oscar de la Renta dress. "I felt very, I don't know, very regal and adult but still with my signature headband."

She loves Bridesmaids and idolizes Melissa McCarthy

Feldstein is always ready to gush over her pop culture loves and inspirations, but perhaps none more so than the movie "Bridesmaids" and its star Melissa McCarthy, who she idolizes. "'Bridesmaids' came out my last week of high school," she told Bustle in June 2021. "I went to see it with my whole group of friends at the midnight screening on the day it came out. We literally fell off our chairs. I think that movie declared for me that there is a place for funny women to be celebrated and cherished onscreen. It showed me that there was room for me in this industry. Oh, and it makes me laugh harder than anything else ever to exist."

While filming "Lady Bird," Feldstein bonded with leading lady Saoirse Ronan over their shared obsession with "Bridesmaids." According to The Cut, the two actresses quizzed an actor in the film who had starred in "Bridesmaids" (as the husband of Rose Byrne's character Helen) and even fantasized about starring in a follow-up in which they would play the characters in their earlier years. 

All told, Feldstein is a serious fangirl — she once Tweeted "don't mind me just starting my morning by watching Melissa McCarthy acceptance speeches and sobbing!!!!!!" — and has joked that she was more excited about McCarthy's 2012 "Bridesmaids" Oscar nomination than she was for her brother's nomination (for "Moneyball") on the same day.

She is an advocate for body positivity

In 2020, Feldstein championed body positivity when she partnered with inclusive lingerie brand Aerie and became an #AerieREAL Role Model. 

"That feels like such a great fit between what I am and what I love to do and what I want to put out into the world, and a brand that has already been doing that for a long time," she told Harper's Bazaar. Feldstein feels content with her body, but she also refuses to take roles that highlight it as a defining feature of a character. "The only thing I ever heard when I was younger, because I was chubby and I love to sing, was 'Have you ever played Tracy Turnblad?'," she said in a Variety interview, explaining that the suggestion actually became a sore spot over time. "What about all these other roles I would love to play, and why am I excluded from them because of my dress size or whatever it might be?"

Just because she likes her body does not mean that Feldstein likes when others notice it, even when they feel like they are offering praise. In November 2017, she wrote a poignant essay for Refinery29 in which she detailed some of her struggles with diet and body image, as well as how she found peace with the way she looks. 

"I stopped trying to eat and look the way everyone else wanted me to. It took time and it happened gradually, but by the time I started college I felt truly comfortable with my body," she said. The essay also focused on the compliments that Feldstein got when she unintentionally lost weight after starring in "Hello, Dolly!" — comments that eroded the comfort she had found in her body image. "After years of pain, I had finally found such a beautiful peace, one that most people, no matter what size they are, don't have," she wrote. "All of those 'compliments' took that away from me. After years of finally not feeling judged by myself or others, all of a sudden I felt so seen."