Zooey Deschanel is a woman of many trades. Over the course of her storied career, the celebrity managed to dabble in everything from acting and producing to writing and performing music. And she has even founded a super popular women’s website. By most standards, she’s been wildly successful at nearly everything she’s tried in the entertainment realm. With over 5.4 million Instagram followers, Deschanel gracefully manages fame with her signature quirky style and sense of humor. She was even once listed as AskMen‘s "Most Desirable Woman" (via Cosmopolitan).
With so many areas of expertise and years leading an insanely public life, Zooey Deschanel has many layers to her, as she’s juggled being an actress, singer, and entrepreneur while maintaining some privacy surrounding her personal life. From her multiple marriages to her foray into motherhood and all the career benchmarks along the way, this is the stunning transformation of Hollywood star Zooey Deschanel.
Zooey Deschanel had a flair for entertainment at an early age
Born into a household of entertainment professionals with an actress mom and a cinematographer father, Zooey Deschanel and her sister, Emily, both grew up to grace the big and small screens. Her father, Caleb, told The Hollywood Reporter that "from a very early age, our daughter Zooey wanted to crawl into The Wizard of Oz and be in that movie," adding, "She’s always been that way." He went on to say that she and her sister were pretty fearless and started out acting in their school’s cabaret fundraiser. "And both kids, since they were 12 or 13, would get up in front of 2,000 people and not feel nervous," he shared.
It is no wonder then that Zooey Deschanel went on to pursue entertainment. According to Deschanel’s Hollywood Foreign Press Association biography, she began starring in movies with 1999’s Mumford and dropped out of college to pursue her acting career. It wouldn’t be long until she entered the world of full-blown stardom.
Zooey Deschanel became famous in Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe’s fan favorite film Almost Famous gave Zooey Deschanel’s burgeoning career a jolt into hyperdrive. Forever immortalized as the main character’s flight attendant older sister, she memorably tells him in the movie, "One day, you’ll be cool." While Deschanel began acting a few years before Almost Famous‘ release, the critically acclaimed movie was truly a breakout role for the star. Released in 2000, when Deschanel was 20 years old, the film was somewhat of a disappointment at the box office, though it did go on to become a critic and fan favorite.
Though fame came quickly to the star, Deschanel told InStyle, "I was just really lucky that I have really good parents. And because they were in the business, I kind of went into it with a very down-to-earth sensibility. … So I don’t look back on my younger years and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I was so crazy.’"
Zooey Deschanel tried her hand at nearly every genre
While she may be mostly known for her quirky humor, Zooey Deschanel is also known for taking on characters across multiple film genres. From horror to drama, it hasn’t been all giggles with the multi-faceted actress. When discussing her acting in the starring role of the 2003 drama All the Real Girls with Venice magazine, she said, "Generally, most of the characters I do are somehow me, just maybe me at a different moment. Sometimes it’s the me who’s alone, you know? Because nobody ever sees that person who’s alone. It’s like the me driving in my car alone, nobody ever sees who that person is." Delving into the horror realm, she later starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 horror film The Happening.
One can discern just how diverse Deschanel’s acting chops are from a quick look at her list of credits, which include Bridge to Terabithia, Failure to Launch, Surf’s Up, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And who could forget 500 Days of Summer? It’s clear Deschanel has some wide-ranging acting chops.
Zooey Deschanel starred in Elf and it changed her life
While Almost Famous may have boosted Zooey Deschanel’s fame, her role in the 2003 family holiday favorite Elf probably solidified her place as a household name. Starring alongside Will Ferrell in the Jon Favreau-directed comedy, Deschanel got to show off her comedic timing as well as her singing chops in the film.
Forbes named Elf as the fifth highest-grossing Christmas film of all time. With the movie having earned a whopping $220.4 million dollars worldwide, it’s no wonder Elf sent Deschanel’s star into orbit. Deschanel told InStyle, "I was 21 when I made that movie, so I didn’t really have a lot of perspective on anything. All I know is when I read that script, I was laughing out loud the entire time and I felt like it was something that was special." She noted that she didn’t know how iconic the film was until she realized, "Oh, when you have something good that’s a holiday thing, it comes back every year!"
Zooey Deschanel entered the music scene with musician M. Ward
Zooey Deschanel’s love of music started early. She told Pitchfork, "I always have loved music, ever since I was really little. I just loved to sing." While she possessed a flair for music from a young age, it wasn’t until she formed the group She and Him with fellow musician M. Ward that her singing career really took off.
Deschanel had certainly taken to singing in movies like Elf and had participated in film soundtracks like the one for The Go-Getter. While working on the latter, she told NPR, "It wasn’t until I met Matt (M. Ward) that I really felt like I had found just the right person to work with on this stuff." With multiple records and Christmas records under their belt, the indie darlings She and Him have received love from critics and fans. However, Deschanel said she has a love of music, not a desire for fame. She told Pitchfork, "I don’t really have so much interest in being a ‘star’ in this format. I just really enjoy playing music."
Zooey Deschanel got married… a couple of times
Known for possessing a bit of a rocky public love life, Zooey Deschanel has been married twice. Her first marriage was to Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service frontman Ben Gibbard. The pair were introduced by their mutual music manager, and Gibbard shared with New York magazine, "I was just awestruck that she was even talking to me." They were engaged in 2008 and married in 2009, but their union was short-lived as the couple announced in 2011 that they planned to divorce. The pair cited "irreconcilable differences" as their reason for splitting (via People).
Fast forward a few short years, and Deschanel was introduced to future beau Jacob Pechenik on the set of the Bill Murray comedy Rock the Kasbah. They were engaged in 2015 and married shortly after. The couple went on to have two children together, but, in September 2019, the two announced their split. A rep for the pair gave a statement to People, stating, "After much discussion and a long period of contemplation we have decided we are better off as friends, business partners and co-parents rather than life partners."
Zooey Deschanel founded the site HelloGiggles
Aside from acting, singing, and writing, Zooey Deschanel also found success as an entrepreneur with her women’s general interest website HelloGiggles. The site was launched in 2011 with her friends and colleagues Sophia Rossi and Molly McAleer. Covering everything from beauty, entertainment, news, and relationships, the site bills itself as "a positive community for women." The founders wanted to create an environment free of negativity. Discussing the site, Deschanel told The Queen Latifah Show, "I just didn’t want anyone posting mean comments and so we created a system so that anything mean said gets immediately taken off or voted down."
Apparently the positive vibes the site encouraged stood out to Time, Inc. Business Insider reported that HelloGiggles was receiving about 16 million unique visitors a month when the media behemoth purchased HelloGiggles in 2015. Rumor has it that the acquisition price was somewhere around a whopping $30 million. According to Variety, Deschanel stated, "With Time Inc. as our partner, we’ll be able to expand the HelloGiggles mission and inspire and support even more young women with a safe and positive media platform."
Zooey Deschanel made bangs her signature style
Bangs are possibly one of the most divisive hairstyles of all time. One need merely google the word to find an onslaught of differing opinions. One thing is for sure though: Zooey Deschanel’s name is synonymous with the style.
Known early on in her career for changing her look with the characters she played, Deschanel told journalist Terry Keefe of The Hollywood Interview for Venice Magazine, "The chameleon thing, somehow I have something about me, I never even realized it, that looks incredibly different if I change my hair color or my hair-cut or my make-up or my clothes, I look like a totally different person."
Deschanel wrote about her bangs for Glamour, explaining why she committed to her brunette locks and bangs a long time ago. "When I first got into acting, I was a bit of a chameleon and just wasn’t recognizable. So I used my look to help create an identity. Now people know me as the girl with bangs," she elaborated. Finding inspiration in fringed celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Linda Rondstadt, she wrote, "They’re not for everyone…but they work for me."
Zooey Deschanel became a star on the small screen
In 2011, Zooey Deschanel’s sitcom New Girl hit the small screen. Written by Liz Meriwether about her time "Craigslist surfing from sublet to sublet," the half-hour comedy follows the path of 20-something, loft-dwelling buddies. On the subject of Deschanel in the lead role as character Jess, Meriwether told New York magazine, "I didn’t think I could find someone as weird as I am." Millions of viewers are grateful she found that quirky somebody in Deschanel.
A fearless career chameleon, Deschanel accepted the challenge of moving to the small screen in the face of critics. According to an interview with Newsweek, Deschanel said, "When I decided to do New Girl, these people were like, ‘Oh, you’re doing television?’ It was kind of looked down upon to do television if you were a movie actor. My thought was it’s an opportunity to make funny content, and it’s not really about the length." Not only did Deschanel star in the long-running sitcom, but she also wrote and performed the theme song to the show. New Girl aired on Fox for seven seasons, wrapping up in 2018.
Zooey Deschanel scored a Grammy nomination for her work in a children’s film
In the music realm, Zooey Deschanel is not just known for her crooning skills. She actually writes music and plays multiple instruments. When asked by Esquire what instruments she plays, she said, "Piano and guitar. I can kind of play a little bit of ukulele and pedal steel guitar." Though she wrote songs in secret for years before going public with her talents, she told NPR that she kept it private because she was "really, really shy" in regards to letting anyone know about her songwriting. She explained to Pitchfork, "I love telling stories. I think of myself as a storyteller, and I don’t feel bound by being just a singer or an actress."
She wound up scoring a nomination for music’s highest honor at the 54th annual Grammy Awards in 2011 for her songwriting on the Winnie the Pooh soundtrack. While she didn’t nab the grand prize that year (the award ultimately went to Tangled), she did have cause to celebrate in 2016. Deschanel provided vocals for Justin Timberlake’s catchy song "Can’t Stop the Feeling" from the animated Trolls which scored the award for best song written for visual media.
Zooey Deschanel became a mother to two kids
During Zooey Deschanel’s relationship with second husband Jacob Pechenik, she became a mother to two kiddos. Her daughter, Elsie Otter, was born in 2015, just months after she and Pechenik tied the knot. Son Charlie Wolf followed shortly after in 2017.
On the subject of becoming a mother, Deschanel told Redbook, "I’ve never really felt like an adult. But I think it’s a huge accomplishment to have a child, so maybe I feel like an adult for that reason." Giving birth to two kids has resulted in Deschanel taking a very hands-on approach to motherhood. She told InStyle, "I mean, I’m driving my kids to every class, every day. I’m there with them all the time. It’s actually rare that I’m not with them. I try to be there as much as humanly possible." Having children is her top priority in life, as she told People, "My kids are absolute No. 1. I know that’s the truth for most people."
Zooey Deschanel became the face of Crocs
Zooey Deschanel’s success in music, film, and television has landed her quite a few advertising partnerships over the years. In 2009, Deschanel launched an ad with the trade organization Cotton Incorporated, re-upping the decades-old jingle, "The Fabric of Our Lives." She also appeared in advertisements for Rimmel London. In 2018, she launched a partnership with Capital One’s the Purpose Project that involved "a conversation to showcase how people are rethinking the power of travel to change us."
Additionally, in 2018, Deschanel kicked off a deal with the shoe brand Crocs. Known for her quirky yet comfortable style, Zooey Deschanel became a brand ambassador in the "Come As You Are" campaign that launched in 2019. In a statement on the partnership, Deschanel said, "I love that we are all unique… I was excited to have the opportunity to join a fun and colorful brand, but more importantly, have the opportunity to inspire others to embrace their individuality."
Zooey Deschanel has pursued philanthropy throughout her life
Though it’s clear that Zooey Deschanel stays very busy with her acting and music careers, she also makes giving back a top priority. It was revealed in Zooey Deschanel’s divorce filing from singer Ben Gibbard that she donated $1,500 to charities every single month. Since having her own children, Deschanel has focused on giving back to other kids. Working with the charity Baby2Baby and Huggies, they have donated millions of diapers to folks in need. She told HuffPost, "It’s an absolute bottomline basic need, and you shouldn’t have to choose between diapers and food or diapers and clothes. It should be something that’s a given." She has also been affiliated with Stand Up to Cancer, the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
She wants to carry the philanthropy on to the next generation so instilling a volunteer spirit in her children is also a priority for the singer. She told HuffPost, "It’s really important to teach your kids at a young age to volunteer and how to help raise money and raise awareness."
Zooey Deschanel didn’t let the end of a marriage keep her from looking for love
Having lived in the public eye for decades, Zooey Deschanel is no stranger to the tabloids following along with her love life. After she announced her split with husband Jacob Pechenik in September 2019, rumors swirled about a possible burgeoning relationship with Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott. Though the romantic relationship had not been confirmed as of October 2019, an anonymous source told USA Today that the pair met while filming an episode of Carpool Karaoke the previous summer. Jonathan and his brother Drew joined Zooey and her sister, Emily, for a sibling sing-along. Jonathan posted pictures of the famous foursome on Twitter, boasting, "Met some new humans today. We had fun. I think I’ll keep them." Scott and Deschanel were also photographed holding hands on what appeared to be a date. Looks like the stars had a great time together!
What’s next for Zooey Deschanel?
Zooey Deschanel’s seven-season foray into television with New Girl and journey into motherhood with two young children may have put her film career on a bit of a hiatus, but it doesn’t look like the star plans on slowing down anytime soon in her acting career. When asked by Deadline what’s next for the future — film or TV — she explained, "Both, everything."
In regards to returning to acting, she does have some parameters. She told InStyle, "I’m just looking for something that would be exciting and fulfilling for me." She further elaborated on the subject, mentioning her children. She said, "I’m really focused on them, so I want to make sure that whatever I do next is really good. It has to be really good for me to leave them [and go to work]."