Tragic Details About Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel is famous for her roles as the quirky girl next door, often playing the affectionately dorky protagonist who catches the eye of her male counterparts. While she has built a successful career doing so, the "New Girl" star has often been criticized for her lack of depth. While A-listers are no stranger to being scrutinized, Deschanel has had to defend herself and her acting chops over seemingly unjust victimization on more than one occasion. She has been dubbed the quintessential "manic pixie dream girl" and called out for taking on shallow characters whose sole purpose is attracting men. While the actor has hit back at the haters several times, being labeled and picked apart couldn't have been easy for her to overcome.

On top of unfair labels and judgment, Deschanel has had several other challenges to surmount. From public fallouts to health problems, the "(500) Days of Summer" star has dealt with no shortage of difficult moments in the spotlight. Don't let her "nice girl" act fool you, as she's not one to buckle under pressure. The Los Angeles native's outspoken and resilient nature has helped her survive the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood. We're breaking down all the tragic details about Zooey Deschanel.

Zooey Deschanel hit rock bottom in middle school

While Zooey Deschanel may have stolen plenty of hearts as a Hollywood star, her childhood was a far different story. Before she made a name for herself as an actor, Deschanel admitted that being popular was not one of her strong suits. 

"People really teased me. It was really bad," she told Cosmopolitan magazine (via the Daily Mail) of her middle school days. The "Happening" star revealed that those difficult teenage years were some of the hardest she ever faced. "There were insecurities that I think I would have worked through a lot faster if I'd had certain tools and could have connected with certain people earlier," she explained.

Decades later, Deschanel hoped to help other women struggling with their self-esteem. The actor started her website HelloGiggles in 2011 alongside Sophia Rivka Rossi, and Molly McAleer, dubbing it a "happy space for millennial women." The website is a safe space free from negativity and judgmental comments, both of which Deschanel has learned to shake off throughout life. "If there had been a place like that for me when I was 13, I would have felt so much less alone," she admitted. The site proved to be a hit, garnering more than 17 million monthly unique visitors on average. In 2015, Time Inc. acquired HelloGiggles reportedly for a staggering $30 million.

She lives with Celiac disease

Zooey Deschanel suffered in silence for years before learning she had Celiac disease. The "New Girl" star, as explained by HuffPost, hadn't been feeling her best for most of her life, going 13 years before receiving the diagnosis from a doctor.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, people with Celiac disease must avoid gluten, as when consumed, "their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine." Symptoms for the autoimmune disease can easily be confused with irritable bowel syndrome or stress, however, which is part of the reason why it took years for Deschanel to be officially diagnosed.

Since finding out, Deschanel has led a gluten-free life and encourages others to do the same. In a video for the Cooking Channel, the actor listed off many of the benefits of why people decide to lead a gluten-free life, like preventing symptoms from gluten sensitivity and avoiding interactions with glyphosate, a chemical most often associated with weed-killer that, though present in most foods, can interact poorly with gluten.

She had a contentious legal fallout with her ex-manager

Zooey Deschanel is no stranger to public fallouts, as the actor was involved in a bitter legal feud with her former manager. She was sued by Seven Summits Pictures and Management in 2015, with the company claiming they had not received commissions on several ad campaigns and on-screen jobs Deschanel participated in before she ended their business relationship in 2013.

Deschanel countersued for breach of fiduciary duty, claiming that her former Seven Summits manager, Sarah Jackson, had wanted her to switch agencies in an act of revenge. According to the actor's claims, Jackson wanted her to leave the Creative Artists Agency for United Talent Agency due to Jackson's alleged personal vendetta against CAA. She stated that due to her move to UTA, she was unable to find acting jobs for a prolonged period.

The legal fight was ultimately settled in 2018, with both Deschanel and Seven Summits filing to drop their respective lawsuits. The terms of the settlement remain confidential, with Deschanel's' lawyer telling The Hollywood Reporter that the case had "been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of the Parties."

Her typecast as the 'manic pixie dream girl' drew criticism

Zooey Deschanel has had a fair share of haters in the industry. Many critics have slammed her as a "manic pixie dream girl," a misogynistic term defined by The Women's Network as a character "used to further men at the expense of women, their choices, and their needs" or a woman who "takes on the role of making a man better."

When asked by The Guardian about the "manic pixie dream girl" label, Deschanel wasn't thrilled. "I don't feel it's accurate. I'm not a girl. I'm a woman. It doesn't hurt my feelings, but it's a way of making a woman one-dimensional and I'm not one-dimensional," she responded.

One review by The New Republic titled, "Enough Quirkiness! Why I Can't Stand Zooey Deschanel," did a number on her, dubbing her "New Girl" role, Jess, as a "hollow character." The trouble for some critics is Deschanel's lack of seriousness, and her previous tweets like, "I wish everyone looked like a kitten," don't exactly sway naysayers in her favor. Other reviewers championed Deschanel, however, with one Hollywood Reporter critic praising her for her quirky "New Girl" acting, writing, "Given a role tailored to launch her from respected indie actor to certified TV star, Deschanel soars, combining well-honed skills with a natural charm."

A journalist called her a 'snobby cow'

Zooey Deschanel is used to criticism, but being called a "snobby cow" by a Los Angeles Times writer may have put her over the edge. The actor was the target of a scathing opinion piece by the publication, and Deschanel wasn't about to let it go quietly.

The drama ensued in 2011 after columnist Patt Morrison published her piece, "Opinion: Downtown L.A.: Good enough for the royals, but not for Zooey Deschanel?" The article claimed that Deschanel made negative comments about Prince William and Kate Middleton visiting some of LA's rougher areas during their working visit that year. She was attending the black-tie Hollywood BAFTA gala at the Belasco Theatre in Downtown LA — where the royals had attended an event — where she allegedly remarked, "I just don't want [the Royals] to see the worst of LA."

Deschanel debunked Morrison's claims in an open letter on her HelloGiggles site (via Today), writing, "Let me be clear: the quote from USA Today that you used as the foundation of your piece was taken completely out of context. I NEVER said that Downtown LA was 'the worst of LA.'" She continued: "I did make a reference to a parking lot adjacent to the theater that had a lot of trash in it in an attempt to be humorous. I simply said, 'It's funny they brought royalty here, there is a parking lot with trash around the corner." Deschanel declared that she takes pride in being an LA native, despite the LA Times' opinion.

Deschanel struggled with negative comments about her post-baby body

Zoey Deschanel welcomed her first child in 2015, a daughter named Elsie Otter, with her ex-husband Jacob Pechenik. Navigating motherhood came with its own set of challenges, including clapping back at those who expect her to return to her usual figure shortly after giving birth.

"To expect someone to look like her pre-baby self immediately is odd," she expressed to Redbook magazine. "Because you just grew a human and then birthed that human — there's a lot that needs to go back to where it was. All your organs move around, for chrissakes!"

Even before giving birth to Elsie, Deschanel made it clear that body-shaming isn't something she puts up with. She let Cosmopolitan know she had no plans to pose for any juicy cover story that highlighted her post-baby body. "I will not be that person," she revealed. "I've always gone my own course and never been someone who had the need to be super skinny. I like a healthy look." Deschanel gave birth to her second child with Pechenik in 2017, a son named Charlie Wolf. The parents ultimately split up in 2019 and finalized their divorce in 2020.

She mourned the loss of her former co-stars

Zooey Deschanel is no stranger to tragedy, as she mourned the loss of two of her former co-stars in recent years. In 2021, the world received the tragic news that Emmy Award-winning actor Ed Asner had died, who played the endearing Santa Claus in the 2003 film, "Elf." Deschanel honored her former co-star, who was 91 at the time of his death, on Instagram, sharing a photo of him with the caption "Rest In Peace my favorite Santa Claus. You will be so missed."

Deschanel got more heartbreaking news in 2022 when her former "New Girl" co-star Ralph Ahn died at 95 years old. Ahn played the beloved character, Tran, on the show, who was famous for not having many lines but stealing fans' hearts all the same. Their fellow sitcom co-star, Jake Johnson, reacted to the news on Instagram, posting a photo of Ann with the caption "RIP. So much fun to work with. He gave so much with literally no lines." Deschanel commented on the tribute, writing, "Noooooo," alongside a crying-face emoji.

Deschanel struggled with being 'likable'

Zooey Deschanel may be an "it girl" in many fans' eyes, but she has admitted that trying to be a likable character takes its toll. "Likability sometimes becomes this heavy weight. I think that if you sacrifice what's interesting about a character at the altar of likability, then it misses the point," she told Rolling Stone.

While Deschanel may come from a famous family — including her sister, "Bones" actor Emily, father, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb, and mother, actor Mary Jo — being a celebrity didn't come naturally for the star. "I was sort of uncomfortable with [fame] at first," she told the publication. "There are times when it feels like you can't go anywhere without people knowing you ... I love disappearing and watching people interact and how people behave. And when all eyes are on you, you can't do that."

However, Deschanel has become desensitized by the comments from the peanut gallery over the years. "I put myself out there; it's part of my job, and I get it: people will attack me. At first, I was thrown off, but now I have a pretty thick skin about it," she explained to Cosmopolitan (via the Daily Mail). The mother of two also finds solace in her children and her longtime boyfriend, "Property Brothers" star Jonathan Scott. "[Jonathan] is always a cheerleader and a positive voice in my world," she shared.