Hot off the back of hit film Booksmart, actor Beanie Feldstein is a comedic gem and fashion favourite on her way to superstardom – and she’s helping change the narrative of Hollywood on her way there.
If the delightful Beanie Feldstein isn’t on your radar yet, she should be. The 26-year-old is fast making a name for herself, and she was recently announced as a cast member in the upcoming series Impeachment: American Crime Story, playing the one and only Monica Lewinsky.
Born Elizabeth Greer Feldstein, the nickname “Beanie” was bestowed by her nanny. She grew up in the affluent Cheviot Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles (former residents include the iconic comic actress Lucille Ball, of I Love Lucy fame).
Beanie hit the stage young, joining a community theatre and performing in several musicals a year between the ages of five and 22, recently confessing to Rolling Stone: “I grew up deeply, embarrassingly obsessed with musical theatre.”
Her love for performing is no surprise considering her family’s legacy in the entertainment and film industries. Older brother Jonah Hill is an Oscar-nominated actor, known for his appearances in Wolf of Wall Street, Superbad and Maniac, and their eldest brother Jordan was the manager for Maroon 5 before passing away suddenly in 2017 from a pulmonary embolism. Beanie’s mother Sharon is a costume designer, and her father Richard was a tour accountant for Guns N’ Roses and business manager for Madonna.
Although singing and acting were her first loves, she studied sociology at Wesleyan University, a time that has no doubt informed her sensitive film choices and public voice.
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Beanie came to our attention in 2016 with her first film role, an unforgettably hilarious supporting turn in Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, and the following year she appeared alongside Bette Midler in Hello Dolly on Broadway.
The critically acclaimed, award-winning film Lady Bird followed in 2017, directed by Greta Gerwig and co-starring Saoirse Ronan. Beanie credits her role in this film with fostering her fan base, a sentiment she shared with brother Jonah for their feature in Interview magazine, “I had such an immensely lucky break with Lady Bird. I got to play the ultimate best friend, so people feel friendly with me. The fact that people feel a cosiness with me is my dream.”
Beanie’s breakthrough role (and first as a lead) came in this year’s hit Booksmart, the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, with Variety aptly calling it “the best high school buddy comedy since Superbad.” Beanie stars alongside Kaitlyn Dever as a pair of high-achieving best friends who decide to finally let loose after their final exams. A tender, hilarious portrayal of friendship, Beanie told Interview that the film dismantles traditional high school comedy tropes, “What I love so much about Booksmart is that it’s about these two smart girls who love each other so deeply and want to have fun. In another film they could be these two nerdy side characters, but to put them at the centre of a film and learn from them is so in line with who I am.”
The film also notably provides visibility and inclusivity for queer characters in an authentic way, a narrative decision Beanie emphasised during the panel at South By South West (where the film debuted) saying, “The only love scene in the film is a queer love scene, and that’s so radical… by doing that, you’re asking that to be the norm. By showing queer sexuality, and making heterosexual people relate to it is actually really deeply meaningful.” It’s something very personal to her, as she explained further, “It was completely meaningful for me to watch the film. My partner is a woman… all of those moments, they make me tear up because representation is really important.”
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Next up for Beanie is the film adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s side-splitting yet deeply moving book How to Build a Girl, which continues Beanie’s run of working on female-driven productions – Coky Giedroyc is in the director’s chair and Moran penned the screenplay, while Emma Thompson and Jameela Jamil also star.
In particularly exciting news, Beanie was just announced as a star of the latest installation in Ryan Murphy’s anthology series, Impeachment: American Crime Story. She is to play Monica Lewinsky (the woman herself is one of the producers), and is one of two queer actresses – alongside Sarah Paulson – in key roles.
We’re huge fans of Beanie’s film work (Lady Bird moved us to tears, Booksmart had us in endless fits of laughter, and Neighbours 2 is a guilty-pleasure favourite) and her fashion credentials are just as good. A fan of exuberant prints, prairie dresses and knock-out accessories, her refreshing wardrobe choices are some of our favourites in Hollywood.
Unsurprisingly Miu Miu is one of her favourite labels, as she told Vogue, “Miu Miu has always been an absolute obsession of mine. My friends and family always joke that is my dream style. What I absolutely adore about Miu Miu is that they are effortlessly chic but also incredibly playful and whimsical. Also most Miu Miu features bows and collars, and you’ll never meet a girl who loves bows and collars more than I do.”
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As an actor whose body falls outside of the entrenched Hollywood norm, Beanie’s presence in film and success in leading roles provides valuable visibility of diversity both on screen and as part of the dialogue around the way Western beauty standards are portrayed, upheld and shifted by the media. It’s inspiring and powerful to see a smart, talented and stylish woman who just happens to be something other than a size eight grace both screen and stage.
Beanie has become something of a figurehead for body diversity in Hollywood and an advocate for acceptance and normalisation. In 2017, following her appearances in Lady Bird and Hello Dolly, she wrote the deeply personal essay ‘Please Stop Complimenting Me on My Body’ where she reflected on the flux of her figure and the insensitivity of people’s comments, saying, “The act of getting smaller is considered an achievement, and therefore they feel subliminal permission to comment on it.”
She also opened up about the struggles she faced in the past, “Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I really struggled with my weight. My family, doctors, and society at large were constantly telling me that I was too heavy, that I needed to exercise more, that I should be smaller. I was pushed into trying Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig… and I absolutely hated it. It affected me deeply. I despised trying to lose weight and I resented everyone that made me feel like I had to.”
Learning to at last embrace her figure proved liberating for Beanie, and explains why she has pushed back publically about comments praising her weight loss. “As I approached the end of high school, I felt the expectations fall away. I stopped trying to eat and look the way everyone else wanted me to. It took time and it happened gradually, but by the time I started college I felt truly comfortable with my body… I can see that my study of society has helped me frame this shift. I realized that once I stopped trying to get closer to what our society deems ideal, I felt free. I was so far from the norm that I felt no pressure to get anywhere close to it.”
Beanie Feldstein is a role model that we need now; we’re counting down to her performance as Monica Lewinsky (a woman whose history urgently needs reframing in the public sphere and media narratives), and keeping Beanie firmly on our watch list – you should too.