The Tragic Truth About Taylor Momsen

The following article includes mentions of suicide, mental health, and substance issues.

Taylor Momsen may seem to have an enchanted life — after all, she starred in one of the biggest television shows, "Gossip Girl," and has toured all over the country with her rock band, The Pretty Reckless. Momsen started her acting career when she was just three years old and went on to play Cindy Lou Who in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at the age of seven. Other roles included "Hansel and Gretel" and "Spy Kids 2," until she landed the part of Jenny Humphrey, making her one of the biggest teen stars at the time.

After "Gossip Girl," Momsen retreated from the acting world amid claims she was difficult to work with on set. "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn, who had a guest role on "GG," slammed the "My Medicine" singer's work ethic and called her a "diva," per E! News. "I'd say, 'You know young lady, there are hundreds of thousands of girls who are just as attractive and even smarter than you. Why are you acting like this show is a huge burden on you?' She was on her phone during every break," he shared. It turns out, there was a reason for her unenthusiastic attitude, and the truth is so tragic that even Gunn would have given her a pass had he known.

Taylor Momsen was forced into acting as a toddler

Taylor Momsen was a child star but it wasn't her decision. In an interview with Revolver (via TV Guide), she addressed the diva rumors. "Everyone's like, 'Wow, why is she upset, and why is she so miserable about things?' My parents signed me up with Ford [Modeling] at the age of 2. No 2-year-old wants to be working, but I had no choice," she stated. Momsen went on to say she was "in and out of school" while growing up so she was unable to form friendships. "I was working constantly and I didn't have a real life," the singer added.

As reported by Us Weekly, after publicly slamming her parents' decision to cast her in the spotlight, Momsen later defended her mom and dad to Kerrang magazine and alluded that her words were taken out of context. She asserted that she loves her parents and backtracked on her previous words. "I think my parents have learned by this point that none of [what they read] is probably true, and words can be put in your mouth," Momsen expressed. As for all the negative talk surrounding her on-set behavior, she has learned to simply ignore it.

Taylor Momsen was bullied after starring as Cindy Lou Who

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was Taylor Momsen's first huge acting role but it came with some consequences. During an episode of "Podcrushed," Momsen revealed how the movie "changed" her life. "One of them being, I was made fun of relentlessly," she shared. The "Heaven Knows" singer recalled having to move around a lot and whenever she entered a new school, the kids would refer to her as "Grinch Girl." Momsen added, "Not even the character name. Just, 'Grinch Girl.' That was just ... I got used to it, but it was alienating."

Despite the negative aftermath of filming "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Momsen recalled to Today how much fun it was playing Cindy Lou Who and how recording music for the first time impacted her singing career. "I'll never forget walking into this beautiful studio, with this immaculate console in front of me, and putting headphones on and singing into a microphone for the first time, singing 'Where Are You Christmas,'" she reflected. Although Momsen would go on acting for over 10 more years, her heart was never in it and she made the decision to do what she truly loved, which was to make music.

Taylor Momsen wanted out of Gossip Girl

"Gossip Girl" wouldn't have been complete without Jenny Humphrey's storyline, and Taylor Momsen crushed it as the sweet freshman-turned-social climber at Constance Billard. Momsen starred in "Gossip Girl" for four years until she realized she didn't have to be an actor anymore. "When I got to a place where I realized I was in control of my own life, and had found the right band, and everything was coming to fruition, it wasn't even a question: I was going to quit my day job," she told The Daily Beast. Momsen went to the producers and they were gracious enough to write her character off the show, Since then, she has never looked back, save for appearing in the series finale of "Gossip Girl."

"I wouldn't take another acting role," Momsen declared to Cosmopolitan. "Asking about acting to me is like asking about junior high. (A) I literally was in junior high the last time I acted, and (B) it's such a lifetime ago," she stated. Now at 30 years old, acting is like a "foreign concept" for her and she has experienced some highs and lows in her music career since forming The Pretty Reckless in 2009.

Taylor Momsen was crushed when Chris Cornell died

The following slide includes mentions of suicide.

Although Taylor Momsen has had many musical influences in her life, one of her favorite '90s bands was Soundgarden. She shared with People that a major highlight of her career was opening for the band's 2017 tour. Momsen joked that she kept the band members at arm's length during the tour to preserve her lofty view of them. "I mean, I said hello and stuff, but I want to keep them in the light I want to see them in," she revealed.

Tragically, Soundgarden's frontman Chris Cornell died by suicide on the last night of The Pretty Reckless' show of the tour. Momsen described to Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS (via Loudwire) that she had waited for him after the performance and the two chatted for a bit. They said their goodbyes after a hug and she told him, "Let's do it again sometime." Momsen recalled waking up the next morning and learning that Cornell had died. "I was in disbelief ... That was kind of the start of a bit of a downward spiral for me where I was not emotionally prepared to kind of handle that kind of trauma and that kind of shock,"' she shared. The trauma from Cornell's death took a toll on Momsen and after playing a few more shows, she took a break from music.

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Taylor Momsen lost one of her best friends, producer Kato Khandwala in a fatal accident

The following slide includes mentions of mental health and substance issues.

Less than a year after Chris Cornell's death, Taylor Momsen's closest friend and producer for The Pretty Reckless, Kato Khandwala, died in a motorcycle accident. Momsen shared with V Magazine, "I got the phone call that my producer and best friend in the entire world, Kato, had died ... It was the final nail in the coffin for me." During that dark period, Momsen revealed that she was unable to even listen to music and fell into a deep depression.

"I went downhill, into this dark hole of depression and substance abuse and everything that comes along with grief and loss and trauma," Momsen shared with Metal Injection. The "You" singer holed herself up from the world but eventually began to heal through music with bands that she grew up listening to. When she was able to listen to Soundgarden, Momsen knew that it was the "turning point." She channeled her grief into creating new music and that's when The Pretty Reckless' new album was born.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Taylor Momsen used music to pull herself out of depression

Taylor Momsen had just about "given up on life" when she was "saved" by music, per People. Although the deaths of Chris Cornell and Kato Khandwala left a devastating impact on Momsen, she credited her best friends for driving her to create again. "Music has always been the constant," she declared. Her band's newest album to date, "Death by Rock and Roll" was a tribute to Khandwala, who often used the phrase. "It was like a code that we lived our life by, and that I still live my life by," she stated, adding, "It's very much a battle cry for life: live life your own way." One of the album's songs, "Harley Darling" is dedicated to the late producer, while "Only Love Can Save Me Now" was written for the former Soundgarden singer, which Momsen called a "very full-circle moment."

In 2021, Momsen made an appearance on Chris Cornell's daughter, Lily Cornell Silver's podcast, "Mind Wide Open" to talk about her mental health journey. The Pretty Reckless founder shared how "Death by Rock and Roll" was created out of her tragedies that at the time, she was "not equipped to handle." With the help of music and therapy, she learned how to take "baby steps" to the path of healing. "And that's living. That's what life is. It's living and it's taking all of these curveballs that are awful that life throws at you and figuring out how to move forward with them," Momsen reflected.