January Jones: Facts About The Star's Life And Career

January Jones may keep a lower profile than many other celebrities of her level, but that by no means indicates a boring life. There are many interesting facts about the actor's story, from her small-town upbringing to her days as a model to her breakthrough fame by way of "Mad Men." With a personal life that is equal parts juicy and mysterious, Jones has proven to be a fascinating subject if only because of the choices of what she chooses to share with the public. She dates many famous men but doesn't really talk about them in interviews, for instance. And while she won't tell people who fathered her baby, she will talk about eating her placenta and who was in the delivery room with her.

Jones began her career as a model, after which she quickly segued into acting, despite having no formal training. Her first role was in the pilot episode of "Get Real" in 1999, but she is best known for her seven seasons on "Mad Men" and her work on the television shows "Last Man On Earth" and "Spinning Out." Jones has also appeared in a number of films, most notably when she played Emma Frost in "X-Men: First Class." Her other credits include "Anger Management," "Unknown," and "American Wedding," which was the third movie in the original "American Pie" franchise. Here are some of the most interesting facts about actor and model January Jones.

She had a modest upbringing

January Jones was born and raised in South Dakota, a state with not even one million people, per the 2021 census. She was born in Sioux Falls, by far the state's biggest city, but spent many of her formative years in Hecla, a small town of only a few hundred, per GQ UK. Her parents — a sports store manager and a physical education teacher — moved the family back to Sioux Falls in 1986, and it is there that Jones attended middle and high school, per Aberdeen News. The future A-lister has said that she didn't even see the ocean until she was 15, but as she told Vanity Fair, that did not stop her from dreaming of becoming a marine biologist.

Jones was not into acting in high school, preferring sports like tennis and track, and later, simply hanging out with friends, per Vanity Fair. Despite her All-American looks, Jones maintains that she was not super popular, and that much of her time was spent with the "stoner crowd." "I hung out with dudes in high school," she once told GQ. "We were the hippies—into the Dead, Zeppelin, Phish. I was a lifeguard at the water park, and I remember the day Jerry died. Over the loudspeaker, it said: 'Jerry Garcia has died. Everybody meet in the parking lot.' I probably shouldn't say that—we were saving lives! But that was definitely a sit-in-the-chair-with-sunglasses afternoon."

She was scouted to model as a teenager

Don't tell all of those people waiting to be discovered in New York or Los Angeles, but January Jones is proof that if you shine bright enough, you can get discovered anywhere. As she noted in Interview, Jones was scouted by a New York-based modeling school whilst she was out shopping in Omaha. "So I hurried up and finished high school almost a year early," she recalled. "Three days after I turned 18, I went to New York. Didn't know anybody. Didn't have any money. I had $200."

Once she arrived in New York, Jones lived in a model apartment, which is the equivalent of a dorm for those on the lower rungs of the fashion industry, per CNN Money. According to an interview published in GQ, Jones eventually jetted off to Paris, where she realized she was unhappy. "You're like an object. They move you around. And I felt like, God, I'm miserable. I hate modeling," she told the magazine. "When I moved back to New York, the agency said I owed them $20,000. So I left the agency and then—very quickly—decided to go to L.A. and try acting." This decision ended up working out well for her.

She got into acting right after moving to LA

Though she had no acting training when she decided to move to Los Angeles, January Jones found that she enjoyed filming commercials as a model, prompting her to try acting as a profession. "I wasn't really inspired by the modeling world but the commercials became really fun and several people told me, you're not really model-y but you've got a great personality. You could be, you know, an actress," she recalled in Vanity Fair. Whether because of her looks or her connections or just plain fate, Jones quickly found representation upon her arrival on the West Coast.

In a conversation with Jack Nicholson for Interview, Jones said that her first meeting came just as quickly as finding management. "It was with the casting director Mali Finn, who has since passed away. It was for 'Wonder Boys' [2000] with Michael Douglas," she said. "I had just come to L.A., and I met my manager within a week through a commercial agent. I was very lucky because I was naïve, and I could have met someone terrible who would have put me in the wrong rooms." Though she did not book "Wonder Boys" — presumably she was up for the role of Hannah Green, which went to Katie Holmes — Jones swiftly began to book small parts, and within a handful of years had landed sizable roles in films such as "Anger Management" and "American Wedding." She worked steadily for eight years before her breakthrough role on "Mad Men" in 2007.

January Jones is her real name

There is a long history of actors changing their names, either because a manager believes their birth name is not "marketable" enough, or because another actor has the same name and is registered with the Screen Actors Guild. Everyone from Natalie Portman (neé Hershlag) to Winona Ryder (née Horowitz) to Tom Cruise (née Mapother) has done it but, despite what many people think, January Jones did not choose her own moniker — even if it is perfect for a Hollywood stage name. As per GQ UK, Jones was actually named after the main character in a salacious Jacquelyn Susann book her mom read called "Once Is Not Enough." 

While we are not quite sure what made her parents want to name her after such a tawdry novel — something she herself has questioned, per GQ — "January" is a pretty cool name that fits with her family's tradition of giving their kids "J" names (her sisters are Jina and Jacey). It is also a conversation starter, for sure. "People think that I changed my name. I could've been an actress, a superhero, or a stripper," Jones joked in Interview magazine. In the aforementioned GQ story, her father shared that her "Bandits" co-star Bruce Willis was eager to meet her simply based upon the head-turning name.

She originally auditioned for Peggy on Mad Men

January Jones was the perfect casting choice to play Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) perfectly coiffed but deeply imperfect wife Betty on "Mad Men." Betty was always somewhat cold and wooden, but underneath her icy demeanor were shades of a wounded woman — something Jones expertly captured, especially in the scenes between Betty and her daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka). She was so good in the part that she earned many accolades, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination (in 2010) and two Golden Globe Award nominations (in 2009 and 2010).

While it is hard to imagine, Jones actually first auditioned for another role on "Mad Men," that of secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olsen. According to an interview she did with Vanity Fair, Jones made it to the final round of auditions for Peggy, where it was down to just her and Elisabeth Moss, who got the part. It was after that that showrunner Matthew Weiner approached her about Betty. "In the pilot she had like two lines, so he wrote a couple scenes and at this point I just wanted to be part of the show — I mean you never read a pilot that good, much less a movie script these days. And pretty much overnight he wrote two scenes for me to come in and read as Betty," Jones explained. "I kind of took the job with the promise that Betty would be a part of the show. When you sign a seven-year contract, you want to make sure you're in the show."

Mad Men success allowed her to get pickier with her roles

Few people knew January Jones' name before "Mad Men," but once the show became a cultural phenomenon, it was hard not to hear it. Her face was on the cover of everything from GQ to W to Rolling Stone, and her rising star helped her land roles in films such as "X-Men: First Class" and "Good Kill." But that does not mean that Jones took on everything that came her way. "My manager keeps pestering me — they're probably getting frustrated," she told GQ UK in 2014, a year before the end of "Mad Men." "I keep saying, 'No, no, no' to all these offers. But I like reading and I have a particular eye; I won't take anything for a quick buck."

Jones may not always be up for a challenge — she once said in W that she turned down a play partially because she found theatre intimidating — but she is certainly judicious with her choices. Her IMDb lists 34 credits, when she could easily have taken on double that number by now. Earlier in her career, she said yes to more, but she isn't necessarily proud of all of her early projects. "When ['Taboo'] premiered at Sundance, Nick (Stahl) and I walked out of our own premiere. I was like, This is embarrassing, and I'm going home to get drunk, right now," she told GQ.

She did not originally want to do TV after Mad Men

"Mad Men" lasted from 2007 to 2015, producing 92 episodes across seven amazing seasons. But coming off a long-term project like "Mad Men," it is understandable that some of its stars wanted a break from TV; not everyone can work 24/7 and produce as much output as Elisabeth Moss, after all. January Jones wanted to work primarily in film, but she ended up back on the small screen incredibly quickly — even if she thought it'd be difficult for any TV show to follow the lightning in a bottle moment that was "Mad Men." "I was like, no, no, no. There's not going to be another show that will compare to this. There's nowhere to go but down. Even if I did something, it would be five, 10 years down the road," she recalled in a Glamour interview.

Despite her hesitations, Jones signed on for a role in the sitcom "Last Man on Earth," which began airing in 2015. She remained on the show until it was cancelled in 2018, and her "Mad Men" hubby Jon Hamm even once made a guest appearance. In an interview with Deadline, Jones said that she was swayed by the strong script and the creative team behind the comedy series, which included Will Forte and some writers from "Saturday Night Live," all of whom she knew. The silly half-hour comedy was also about as far as one can get from "Mad Men."

She loves organization and cleanliness

Betty Draper never did a lot of housework — she left that to her housekeeper, Carla (Deborah Lacey) — but January Jones herself is a big fan of organization, cleanliness, and overall domesticity. Though it runs counter to what we might imagine from a glamorous Hollywood actor who can afford all the help in the world, Jones once told Shape that she loves doing household tasks like laundry and cleaning the floor with her Swiffer. "You will never find a piece of clothing on my floor," she told The New York Times. "I can't relax if I'm sitting in a mess."

For Jones, ritual and order are a central part of maintaining balance and a sense of agency over a life that can sometimes be chaotic. "I'm a very organized person. I feel sane and calm when I know everything is in its place," she said in Shape. "I always have a list for the day. When I get to check something off, it's the best thing ever." She also said that organizing is a way to unwind, as it is for many people (hence the popularity of shows like "The Home Edit" and "Tidying Up With Marie Condo.")

She will not say who fathered her son

For over a decade, nearly every piece of press on January Jones has noted that she has a son whose paternity has been kept a secret. It is the kind of thing that inquiring minds want to know, and the speculation was especially intense for the first few years of the child's life. Jones gave birth to her son Xander in 2011, while still at the height of her "Mad Men" fame (the show had Betty Draper gain weight to hide the pregnancy), and on the heels of rumors that she had engaged in an affair with her married "X Men: First Class" director Matthew Vaughn. Per the Daily Mail, Vaughn has denied being the father, and Jones hasn't addressed the speculation. 

The media attention got so extreme that Jones reportedly moved to a quieter locale — Topanga Canyon, up in the Santa Monica Mountains and near Malibu — to escape the lens of the paparazzi in Los Angeles, per Red. Even still, journalists and the public continue to be fascinated with Xander's father, who The New York Times once suggested could be Michael Fassbender, who was also in "X-Men: First Class." But Jones has remained steadfast, and we have to applaud the way she has protected the information. "That's my son's business," she told The New York Times. "It's not the public's business."

She has many famous exes

While we may not know who fathered her son, we do know quite a bit about January Jones' dating history, which includes a fair amount of notable names. According to GQ, upon her arrival in New York City at age 18, Jones dated Julian Steinberg, the son of billionaire businessman Saul Steinberg. Many of her subsequent boyfriends have been involved in the entertainment industry in some capacity, either in front of or behind the camera. One of those early boyfriends was Ashton Kutcher, who she said tried to discourage her from acting. The pair were together for three years and, according to People, lived together at one point.

Beyond Kutcher, Jones has spent time with many other famous men. Singer Josh Groban told Details (via the Daily Mail) that he and the actor were an item for two and a half years in the '00s. She dated actor Jason Sudeikis from July 2010 to January 2011, but according to People, they fizzled out due to the long-distance nature of their relationship. She has been linked to actors Seann William Scott, Jim Carrey, and Jeremy Piven, and has also had significant relationships with club promoter Tommy Alastra, her "Last Man On Earth" co-star Will Forte, and screenwriter Noah Miller. She also confirmed on an episode of "Armchair Expert" that she dated "Bachelor Nation" star Nick Viall for a short while. 

She works with multiple nonprofits

Like many Hollywood celebrities, January Jones has made it a point to involve herself with causes that are close to her heart. For Jones, that has meant focusing on environmental issues and human rights issues. In particular, Jones has been a vocal and active supporter of Oceana, an organization that aims to restore the world's oceans. Per the organization's website, Jones began working with them in 2009, with a focus on shark finning. "I've always been fascinated by sharks," she said in a 2020 Shape interview. "When I was in my 20s, I saw a documentary about the shark-fin trade, and I was appalled by how it was depleting the shark population. I made a promise to myself then and there that if I ever got to a place in my career where my voice would matter, that would be the thing I stood up for."

Jones also has concerns about the treatment of living beings back on land, specifically children and women. In that same Shape interview, she advocated for DeliverFund, which focuses on human trafficking. "Trafficking is a huge problem in this country, and I really want to help bring awareness to the issue," she said. Beyond that, she has been spotted at many charity events, including ones for The Surfrider Foundation, City of Hope, and The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project.

She has many celebrity friends

You don't work in Hollywood for decades without picking up some friends, and January Jones has a lengthy roster of famous faces in her corner. In one GQ interview, she spoke of hanging out at Jason Segel's house, and she has been seen spending time with actors Busy Phillips and Diane Kruger. As noted in Red, she is also known to be close with both Amy Adams and Rose Byrne, and her friendship with Byrne is so notable that Vanity Fair even wrote a story about it. "Rose is a good listener, as I hope I am. And we were both so excited when we discovered we were going to be in X-Men together," Jones told Glamour UK in 2013.

While she clearly has many famous people who are fans of hers, Jones is not universally liked. For starters, Zach Galifianakis once told Shortlist that he had a negative encounter with the star. "I was at a party — I'd never met her — and she was like, 'Come sit down.' So I sit at her table and talk for 10 minutes, and she goes, 'I think it's time for you to leave now," he recalled. "So I say, 'January, you are an actress in a show and everybody's going to forget about you in a few years, so f**king be nice,' and I got up and left." One of the child actors from "Mad Men" also spoke out against Jones, but co-star John Slattery quickly defended her to E! News.

She uses Instagram to show off her personality

For years, January Jones was plagued by perceptions of her as cold, no doubt perpetuated by the iciness of her "Mad Men" character Betty Draper as well as her desire for distance from the public eye. But things have certainly turned around for the star, who has been able to show more facets of her personality thanks to social media. Her Instagram account, in particular, has created waves and earned much praise. When she signed up in 2014, Vanity Fair wrote, "January Jones has joined Instagram, and it's surprisingly great," and in 2015, Elle declared her a "very witty social media ladyboss." Jones now has over a million followers on the popular app.

Jones' online persona garnered increased attention during the COVID-19 quarantine, not just amongst individuals but also the press. Her Instagram activities were documented everywhere from The New Yorker to Vulture to (once again) Vanity Fair, which called her "2020's True MVP." Her account is overwhelmingly made up of lighthearted stuff, with repurposed "Mad Men" memes and odd videos of her doing things like playing with a doll of her own likeness, showing off her garden, tap dancing, and telling stories about bludgeoning snakes. 

The actor has a knack for creating good content, and she knows it. When Jimmy Fallon gave Jones' IG a shoutout on a 2015 episode of "The Tonight Show," she deadpanned, "I finally found my calling."