Child star Taylor Momsen was thrust into the limelight early after her parents signed her up to the storied Ford Modelling Agency when she was just two. Then, at seven, she landed the lead role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, playing Cindy Lou Who.
At just 14, Taylor found even more fame on the small screen, starring in the late 2000s teen sensation Gossip Girl — but she was a reluctant star.
"My parents signed me up with Ford at the age of two. No two-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice," she told Revolver magazine in 2010. "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."
Although she later apologised to her parents, she also said her love for them couldn't change her upbringing.
But despite having appeared in a number of films, it wasn't until Taylor took on the role of Jenny Humphrey in Gossip Girl that she became popular with the tabloids.
And, it seems as Jenny grew into a rebel on the show, so did Taylor. In 2010 her role in the hit show was scaled back and rumours started to circulate that she was difficult to work with.
"What a diva!" guest star on Gossip Girl Tim Gunn complained to E! News about Taylor, refusing to let the child star's young age get in the way of his tarnish. "She was pathetic, she couldn't remember her lines, and she didn't even have that many. I thought to myself 'Why are we all being held hostage by this brat?'"
Harsh critiques of minors aside, the following year Hollywood Life revealed Taylor was being scrapped from the show for being unreliable. "
Taylor wasn't on set filming much this season, but when she did show up she wasn't very level-headed," their insider revealed. "The show’s executives didn’t trust that she was really giving it her all, so they dismissed her as a regular."
But Taylor, acting since she was a toddler and only just 18, was working out what she wanted — and acting wasn't it. She formed her band The Pretty Reckless in 2009 and she quickly realised how much she loved performing live.
"Personally, I don't really consider myself an actress," Taylor told Elle last year. "I wouldn't call it a passion. It was just something I always did. I kind of didn't know anything different and music was something I was always doing. Just behind the scenes."
But when tragedy struck, Taylor was sent spinning into a deep depression. She'd always admired and been influenced by Chris Cornell so when the Soundgarden frontman asked her to open for his band, she was thrilled. But then just hours after their gig in Detroit, she was woken with the news that Chris had taken his own life.
"Opening for them was the highest of highs for me, but it all ended so tragically," she recalled to Alternative Press. "It was such a shock, and nobody was prepared for it. The passing of Chris Cornell was a very traumatic experience for myself and the world. I wasn't in a good place."
Then, less than a year later, her close friend and music producer, Kato Khandwala, died in a tragic motorcycle accident.
"That was the nail in the coffin for me," Taylor admitted. "I went down into this spiral of extreme depression and substance abuse. I was in a very unhealthy, dark space. I was in a hole that I didn't know how to get out of, and the scary part was that I had no intention of getting out of it. I didn't care. I'd given up on everything because if everything I love is dead, what's the point?"
Thankfully, it was music that helped Taylor find her purpose in life again, and then in 2021, she and her band released their fourth album, Death by Rock and Roll.
It's hard to believe, that even with all she's done and experienced, Taylor is still only 30, and still has so much time to work out what she wants from life.
"Acting is something I did and maybe I'll do it again. Who knows?" Taylor says, not ruling anything out. "But music will forever be a constant. It's not going anywhere."
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