Zooey in Cosmo, the mag with the sex tips and go-big-or-go-home mission statement? Oh, yes. Don’t let her retro-girlie fashion sense or cupcake-centric blog posts fool you – Zooey is a badass.
Her New Girl co-star Jake Johnson (who plays her housemate Nick Miller) explains it this way: “Zooey doesn’t f*ck around,” he tells us by phone. “She’s a great businessperson. For some reason, it’s never talked about. They talk about how she’s quirky and sweet, and that is true. But she has a music business, she’s been nominated for awards, she has a profitable website, and she’s the lead in a show she partially owns. I watch and I learn a lot from her.”
On top of being the Emmy-nominated star and producer of New Girl, half of the band She & Him, and co-founder of Hellogiggles.com, Zooey is also set to portray US country legend Loretta Lynn on Broadway.
This indie icon (before starring in blockbusters Elf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy she won fans with a wacky performance in The Good Girl) is now a mainstream mogul.
Even so, there’s always plenty of comment about Zooey’s quirks – and they are fascinating. Of all the places in New York the actress could have picked to have our interview, she requested a cosy West Village tea parlour (what, no cocktails on the menu?). When the waitress approaches our table holding two pint-size teapots, Zooey politely says, “Oh, those are so tiny! Do you have big teapots? Tiny teapots freak me out.” Later she confesses to having once spent three weeks locked in her room sewing “Sound of Music dresses like the one Liesl wore.”
Besides being part of her charm, this quirkiness is key to her creativity and success. Zooey isn’t shy about who she is, or what she does and doesn’t like, and she wants to encourage other women to be just as authentic.
Enter Hellogiggles.com, the site she founded in 2011 with friends Molly McAleer and Sophia Rossi. “We started up Hello Giggles for fun,” says Zooey, taking a sip of Golden Monkey tea (and, miraculously, not leaving any sign of her raspberry lipstick on the porcelain cup). “But now I feel as though I’m on a mission to make it a thing that helps other women. If there had been a place like that for me when I was 13, I would have felt so much less alone.”
The site covers everything from manicures to gaming to politics, and its main point of difference from similar websites is an unwaveringly warm and fuzzy vibe. “Zooey insists we protect our community and contributors at all costs,” says 32-year-old Sophia.
“Having a Facebook login makes people accountable, and Zooey leads by example. The reason the comments are positive is because our content is.”
To say Zooey’s passionate about the no-negativity rule is understating it. “I was tired of every site having these comment sections that were pure, pure toxic energy,” she says. “I put myself out there; it’s part of my job. And I get it: people will attack me. At first I did get thrown off, but now I have a pretty thick skin about it all. But if someone were to do that to one of our 13-year-old bloggers, I would kill them!”
Part of the reason she’s adamant is that she remembers the hell of trying to fit in at that age.
It’s hard to imagine slim, stylish Zooey – who looks girlie and chic in a white eyelet dress, black tights and gold-buckled black patent-leather flats – as a hot mess of a kid, but she swears she was. “People really teased me. It was bad,” she says, shaking a flashback out of her head. “Nothing could be as hard as middle school.”
Chubby (her word) and a devoted fan of oldies music, Zooey could have used a few other dorks to have her back. “There were insecurities that I think I would’ve worked through a lot faster if I’d had certain tools and could have connected with certain people earlier,” she admits.
In addition to her Hello Giggles co-founders, her She & Him bandmate, Matthew Ward (better known to music fans as M. Ward – a respected singer-songwriter in his own right), is one of those people. “I was writing music for so long by myself and not having any place to put it. And it’s so nice now. I’ll write and send the demo to Matt, and he’ll give me feedback right away.”
In keeping with everything she posts on her website and Twitter feed (unlike many celebs, who hand over the job to their publicists, Zooey runs her own Twitter account), the sparse, sexy, melancholy-tinged songs she writes and records with M. Ward are nothing if not authentic.
“When we are recording, we’ll almost always like the first or second take most,” she says. “I’d rather have something imperfect but emotionally true than try to sing it perfectly.”
When Zooey married Ben Gibbard – frontman of the band Death Cab for Cutie – in September 2009, the pair seemed like a perfect match. Ben has described how they would sit at the dinner table both playing their acoustic guitars, and in April 2010, Zooey was quoted as saying, “I’m married, so of course I believe in true love!”
The news they were divorcing was a sad shock in 2011. When we ask if she still believes in true love, Zooey says, “Absolutely! I truly believe in it.” Then she adds: “I’m not saying it’s not ephemeral…” Wait, what? “I’m saying true love may be out of the box.”
Does she believe true love can last forever? “I do,” she says. “My parents have been married for 40 years and my grandparents were hitched for 70 years. I come from a long line of true loves.”
Zooey does gravitate towards a type. She’s been dating screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall, Dear John) – another super-talented hipster like Gibbard and former boyfriend the actor Jason Schwartzman – for the past nine months, though she’s tight-lipped about their relationship.
“I’d be likely to go for somebody who is like me,” Zooey says. “I do like creative people, so whatever that means. Yeah, authentic and creative.”
One thing’s for sure, it’ll take a lot of man to be with Zooey. “I’ve never seen her compromise on her beliefs or moral systems for anything,” Sophia tells us. But Zooey isn’t worried in the least – she’s a strong woman, she adds with a confident smile. “And men fall in love with strong women.”
To read more about our July cover girl buy the issue, on stands June 3.