Since her big break as Stifler’s mom in American Pie and esthetician Paulette Bonafante in Legally Blonde, Jennifer Coolidge has become one of the most iconic faces in Hollywood. However, Hollywood hasn’t always known what to do with her unique talents because she was boxed into a specific type of character.
After many years of playing similar supporting roles, Coolidge experienced a career renaissance when she landed a starring role in HBO’s The White Lotus. The show is currently filming its second season, and everyone is wondering what is the secret to her ongoing success and how she became Hollywood’s MILF.
An Early Love of Film
Jennifer Coolidge was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston as one of four children. From an early age, she wanted to be an actress and loved movies. Coolidge would beg teachers to let her submit videos instead of papers because she found more creativity in film.
When Coolidge was ten, she made a remake of Jaws. Her dad swam with a fin on his back, and her sister played a shark attack victim. She knew that film was something she wanted to pursue, so after graduating from high school, Coolidge pursued a degree at Emerson College in Boston.
Not What She Wanted to Hear
After Emerson, Coolidge moved to LA to go to acting school. She didn’t have much money, so she lived in a rented room in a nursing home with another aspiring actress. Her roommate was the kind who “won bikini contests and bragged about it.” She wasn’t supportive of Coolidge’s dreams.
Her roommate said, “I have a really good eye for talent. I don’t see you as someone in front of the camera.” Coolidge was offended because it was around the same time that a casting agent told her she wasn’t pretty enough to be cast in soap operas. It was hard to hear.
Moving to the Big Apple
When LA didn’t work out, Coolidge moved to New York to give herself another shot at becoming an actress. She supported herself by working as a waitress in a restaurant alongside future Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock in the ‘80s. The two didn’t realize that they would both be Hollywood stars someday.
Admittedly, Coolidge wasn’t the best waitress. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she said Bullock had her act together, but there was a “50-50 chance whether I made the shift.” Coolidge said she was partying and worked at the restaurant for several years. The staff was mostly people trying to become actresses.
She Went to Rehab
Coolidge partied almost every night during her days as a waitress in New York. She would go out and wake up in the emergency room or in random places. After too many trips to the hospital, her parents sent her to rehab when she was 27. They worried she was going down a dangerous path.
When she got out of treatment, Coolidge found improv at Gotham City. It eventually brought her back to LA to join the Groundlings, a comedy troupe that included Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, and Chris Parnell. It wasn’t until she was 32 that she booked her first big role.
From Drama to Comedy
During college, Coolidge wanted to be a dramatic actress like Meryl Streep, but life took her in a different direction. In the ‘90s, her early roles were guest appearances in comedy movies and TV shows. Coolidge’s first TV appearance was on Seinfeld. It was far from the drama she expected.
Coolidge also appeared in films like A Bucket of Blood, Plump Fiction, and A Night at the Roxbury. They were all comedic roles, so Coolidge stuck with that genre because it worked for her. She also voiced Luanne’s beauty school teacher, Miss Kremzer, in a recurring role on King of the Hill.
A Big Breakthrough
After a decade of small roles, Coolidge got her big break in 1999. She was cast as Jeanine Stifler, or Stifler’s mom, in American Pie, which turned out to be a box office hit. The film grossed over $235 million. Coolidge reprised the role two years later in American Pie 2.
The role brought her more personal satisfaction than she expected. It established her as a MILF, and Coolidge said she slept with 200 people after playing the character. Coolidge revealed, “I got a lot of play from being a MILF, and I got a lot of sexual action from American Pie.”
Bend and Snap!
In the same year as American Pie 2, Coolidge landed another iconic role. She played Paulette Bonafonté in Legally Blonde. It was another box-office hit, and her character had so many memorable scenes, including the “bend and snap” scene in the salon.
Coolidge said the line was misleading, “I’ve never had bending over work for me like it did in that movie.” She admitted that she isn’t convinced that bending over and quickly picking up a pen while pushing up your breasts is a useful pick-up tool.
Queen of the 4th of July
In 2003, Coolidge reprised her Legally Blonde role in Legally Blond: Red, White, & Blonde. Although the movie was as financially successful, Coolidge became the queen of the 4th of July from one simple line: “You look like the Fourth of July. That makes me want a hot dog real bad.”
Coolidge said people flood her DMs with that line on the holiday. She added that if she is out in public on the 4th of July, people go nuts and start screaming the quote at her. At least one good thing came out of that movie.
The Lady From the Movie
Part of Coolidge’s on-screen appeal is her will to go anywhere for a joke. However, she does it in a precise way that makes her so popular. Christopher Guest, a director with whom Coolidge has made four films, said, “Just her looking at the camera becomes the magnet.”
Audiences always know what Coolidge brings to the table, and directors want a certain thing from her: to be “the lady from the movie.” Coolidge typically plays the same character, but it works for her because she does the “older rich woman” so well.
What Could Have Been
In 2004, Coolidge brought her iconic persona to A Cinderella Story, starring Hilary Duff. She played the self-absorbed stepmother, and the film was a box-office hit. After the film, she nearly landed the role of Lynette Scavo in Desperate Housewives.
The role went to Felicity Huffman, and, instead, Coolidge got a role in the NBC series Joey as Joey Tribianni’s sexual agent Roberta “Bobbie” Morganstern. Coolidge became a more prominent character during the show’s second season before it was canceled due to low ratings in May 2006.
Her First Starring Role
It wasn’t until 2007 that Coolidge got her first starring role in a film. She played the White B**ch ( a play on the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia) in Epic Movie, a spoof film. Surprisingly, the film received positive reviews, and Coolidge was praised for her presence.
She followed the role with appearances on TV shows like Thank God You’re Here and The Closer on TNT. Coolidge also appeared as a call girl in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She starred alongside Hilary Duff for the second time in Beauty & the Briefcase.
A Career Lull
For a few years, Coolidge flew under the radar. One of her most memorable roles was in the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls. She played Sophie Kasczynsku, a Polish neighbor of the two main characters. She was promoted to a main cast member in Season 2.
She starred in the show until its cancelation in 2017. It was one of the only highlights of her career during the 2010s. She also reprised her role as Stifler’s mom in the third sequel of American Pie. It was after 2020 that her career started to pick up again.
She Fired Her Agent
In 2011, Coolidge’s agent called her with an offer because London was putting on a production of Legally Blonde the musical. The producers wanted her to audition for the role she played in the film version. Coolidge was confused that they wanted her to audition.
Her agent asked if she would be willing to fly to London because the producers wanted to know if she could sing and dance. Coolidge said, “If I got up on the stage and farted, and that’s all I did, I would still be the lady from the movie.” She eventually fired that agent.
Getting Back in the Game
At the start of the decade, Coolidge landed a role in Paramount’s Like a Boss with Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek. The 2020 comedy was a hit, which led to the biggest role of her career. She was cast as Tanya, a troubled woman on holiday, in HBO’s The White Lotus.
After years as a secret weapon in the industry, Coolidge got a role that earned her an Emmy nomination for her performance in the series’ first season. She was the ingredient that made the already good show great.
Like Nothing She’s Done Before
Coolidge’s performance as Tanya was so incredible that she became the only main cast member to return for Season 2 without an audition. The role was nothing like her previous appearances because she wasn’t someone’s comedic relief; her character had much more depth.
The Creator of White Lotus, Mike White, was impressed with Coolidge on set. She improvises more than any other actor, and White said, “I tend to just shoot what I wrote, but her ideas are genius, bizarro stuff. She’s dialed in.” Her method changed the vibe on set.
She Almost Didn’t Participate
Coolidge nearly talked herself out of The White Lotus even though White wrote the part for her. She was depressed during COVID and didn’t feel ready to get back in front of the cameras. However, a “really smart, savvy, and very blunt friend” persuaded Coolidge to join the cast.
She said, “I didn’t like the way I looked.” Luckily, Coolidge took the role anyway and didn’t change anything for the second season. White wouldn’t have let her pass on the part because she was the reason he wanted to make The White Lotus.
She Doubted Herself
White created the role for Coolidge to showcase things she hadn’t done before. It led to a breakthrough because Coolidge had doubted herself for so long. She felt if she wasn’t getting great roles, it was because she was incapable of doing anything better.
Coolidge said White helped her realize she could do more with her skills. Her “pivotal scene” is when Tanya gets on a boat to scatter her mother’s ashes. The scene was more dramatic than anything Coolidge had ever shown. It was one of the hardest scenes to film.
She Gets Seasick
Coolidge is willing to do almost anything for a scene, but she draws the line at being on a boat. The actress gets extremely seasick and struggled to film the boat scene for White Lotus. She vomited through the scene, but somehow found the strength to perform.
She couldn’t stop getting sick, and besides the discomfort, Coolidge didn’t want to let the show down. Coolidge said, “All I had was a bucket. And everybody had to know me in a different way.” White said Coolidge always pulls it together and “knocks it out of the park.”
According to those who know her, Coolidge is paranoid about people not liking her. White said Coolidge worries that she didn’t do the right thing or that she might have insulted someone. She is sensitive and a little fragile because she cares about what everyone thinks.
Coolidge’s emotions are close to the surface. She carried a lot of hurt from her ex-agent’s mistake, and people noticed her pain in conversations. Coolidge also relates to her character because Tanya lost her mother, and Coolidge’s mother passed away in 1994.
People Thought She Was Dead
In 2016, Buzzfeed released an article updating the world that “the actress who played Stifler’s mom is not dead.” People thought Coolidge had died because she fell off the radar. The funny thing is that she knew people thought she was dead.
To prove she was alive and well, Coolidge did a “bend and snap” on a balcony and posted it on Twitter. Now that she is back in the spotlight, the article showed that she didn’t get the respect she deserved for so long.
She’s Always Been Interesting
Coolidge has always played characters that are a bit quirky, and she is just as strange as her on-screen personas. When she was in second grade, her teacher asked her to write a paragraph about her mom for Mother’s Day. Coolidge wrote her mom’s eyes were “soft brown like a cow.”
She also shared that she won a contest for who could name one of the six guinea pigs in the classroom in second grade. She submitted the name “Bell Bottoms” as a joke, but it won. She was shocked because she thought it was lame.
Other Career Options
As a teenager, Coolidge went to band camp for three summers. She played the clarinet and thought she could become a professional player. It’s funny that she later starred in a movie with the famous line, “One time at band camp…”
Coolidge thought about other career options if she hadn’t become an actress. She once said, “If I weren’t an actor, I would have wanted to be a billionaire that gave away money to people and animals that deserve it.” That’s not exactly a career, but we won’t spoil the dream.
A Hilarious Lie
Coolidge has always been pretty private about her personal life, but she revealed a funny secret. She said she once went on vacation and dated two guys who knew each other. Coolidge didn’t want them to know she was dating both of them, so she lied.
She told the two men she had an identical twin, convincing them they were dating two different women. Maybe they believed it or just didn’t care that they were dating the same woman, but Coolidge pulled it off for the short time she saw them.
She Is Paulette Bonafonté
Coolidge’s role as Paulette was truly iconic, but when you get to know her, she is more like that character than anyone knew. She said whenever she can’t find a hair tie, she uses a pair of underwear instead. We can see Paulette doing that.
Additionally, Coolidge has said things like, “I used to be able to run really fast,” and “I probably have more costumes than regular clothes.” Paulette would definitely say hilarious things like that and be completely serious while saying them. Maybe Coolidge was just playing herself in Legally Blonde.
Coolidge and White have been close friends since before he thought of The White Lotus. If writing a part for her wasn’t enough to solidify their friendship, White also took Coolidge on a trip to Africa for her birthday in 2018.
The two went on a safari in Tanzania, and Coolidge said it was the best gift she ever received. They stayed in tents in the Serengeti, and she would check for snakes repeatedly but never saw one. Coolidge and White’s adventure inspired parts of White Lotus.
She Never Married
The actress has always kept her private life out of the public eye. However, it seems she has never been married. She was previously in a relationship with comedian Chris Kattan, but they kept their romance a secret. Coolidge also reportedly dated Tom Mahoney.
Rumors circulated that they were married, but she never commented on it. Coolidge seems to be single at the moment, as she only shows off her lavish lifestyle on social media. Even if she were dating someone, we wouldn’t know because she doesn’t talk about herself often.
For many years, Coolidge has been an advocate for animals. She rescued her dog Chewy from a meat factory in Korea, and she supports the ASPCA. She has rescued her past three dogs and wants to help every animal find a loving home.
Animal rights are a cause close to Coolidge’s heart. The actress has raised money for various animal rights organizations, including The Animal Rescue Mission, which helped her rescue Chewy. She posts regularly about animal rights to raise awareness. It’s a cause she will always support.
An Emmy Hopeful
Coolidge was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Tanya in The White Lotus. She is up against four other actors from her show and two from Hulu’s Dopesick. Coolidge is considered the favorite to win because Tanya shows a different side of the actress’s skills.
She thinks she got so much attention because people saw her in a role so different from Stifler’s mom and Paulette Bonafonté. The awards aren’t until September, but we think Coolidge deserves the win. She has worked hard to be a great actress.
She Works Hard
Coolidge is quite tough on herself. While filming Season 2 of White Lotus, she would wake up at 3 AM to run lines until she went into hair and makeup at 5 AM. Coolidge dove head first into her work so she could perform to her best ability.
She has played self-delusional characters before, but Tanya’s self-delusion was different. Instead of being the same character she had played a million times before, Coolidge was actually excited to bring Tanya to life and put her all into the job.
People Are Noticing Her
The White Lotus has opened several doors for Coolidge. She said, “People that I could never get in the door – all of a sudden, they’re asking me to be part of their things.” Besides Legally Blonde 3, which she has no information about, Coolidge has many projects in the works.
Coolidge is set to appear in Ryan Murphy’s The Watcher for Netflix alongside Naomi Watts. She spent time observing Watts, saying, “It was so effortless for her to work. I know she’s a big yoga girl – maybe you have more energy when you’re doing yoga.”
Since 2005, Coolidge has spent half the year in her home in New Orleans. The house was built in 1867 in the city’s Lower Garden District, and she worked hard to restore it with period-appropriate décor. It’s the perfect home for Coolidge, whose favorite holiday is Halloween.
With a home that old, there is no doubt that it is haunted. Guests have even said they have felt a presence in Coolidge’s home. Her White Lotus co-star, Connie Britton said the spirits were strong when she visited the house, even though she didn’t see a ghost.
Bringing the Movie Set Home
Coolidge’s home is truly unique because she has restored it to look as it would have in 1867. She decorated it with oil portraits, armoires, and candelabras. It is a one-of-a-kind home, and Sofia Coppola thought it was the perfect location for a movie.
In 2017, Coolidge lent her home to Coppola’s Civil War-themed film, The Beguiled. Most of the interior shots were filmed in Coolidge’s home. Her hard work in restoring the house to its original glory was worth it for more than just filming reasons.
An Annual Bash
As we said, Coolidge’s favorite holiday is Halloween, so she takes it very seriously. She throws a huge party at her New Orleans home for 150 guests each year. Most of them leave the party with a ghost story or two.
Many people claim they have seen ghosts in her home. Ben Feldman and Nico Santos said they couldn’t use the downstairs bathroom because the ghost of a little girl was in there, so they had to use the upstairs bathroom “next to the room for her kimonos.”
A Hemingway Relative?
During her years of partying in NYC, Coolidge pretended to be a distant, unknown fictional relative of Hemingway to get into clubs. She would tell them she was Muffin Hemingway if she couldn’t get into the party. Surprisingly, the lie worked.
Coolidge revealed, “One time I got thrown out of a club because I was behaving badly, and they said, ‘Don’t ever come back here, Muffin!’” All the partying led to too many nights in the ER, so her parents sent Coolidge to rehab at 27.
She’s Very Different in Real Life
While people might assume Coolidge lives in a home filled with pink fur and loud patterns, she is very different. The actress loves all things that are dark and spooky. When she greets people at her home, Coolidge says, “Welcome to the mausoleum.”
Coolidge surrounds herself with antiques and oil paintings. According to a Vulture interview, she is “genuinely weird in a bone-deep way” and “moves against the archetype she has played for almost three decades.” Eugene Levy said Coolidge is “her own comedic universe in and out of character.”
A Gay Icon
It wasn’t intentional, but Coolidge became an icon within the LGBTQ+ community after starring in camp films like Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story, and Best in Show. In an interview with AV Club, Coolidge admitted that the obsession and love have always been a “mutual thing.”
In her latest movie, Netflix’s Single All the Way, Coolidge’s wacky character says, “The gays know how to do stuff. For some reason, they are always obsessed with me.” That line rings true in her off-screen life as Coolidge has a large gay following.
How Much Is Jennifer Coolidge Worth?
Although she has acted in some of the most iconic movies, Coolidge’s net worth is only $6 million as of 2022. However, that amount will probably increase because of her starring role in White Lotus. She is also set to star in Legally Blonde 3 and many other projects.
Now that people have seen that she is more than the “trophy wife” and “divorcee” characters she has played in the past, we hope to see more of Coolidge’s wide range of acting skills. She always wanted to be like Meryl Streep, which could still happen.
Not Her Natural Voice
In most of her roles, Coolidge puts on a voice with nasal breathiness. However, that’s not what she sounds like off camera. Her natural speaking voice is more resonant, but that doesn’t change her humor. Coolidge loves to delay, riff, and sit with silence.
She could talk for hours, and people would be entertained by the conversation. Coolidge has a natural sense of humor that is not forced. Even if she isn’t using the voice people have come to associate with her, she still makes everyone laugh.
She Has Insecurities
Coolidge seems like she is the most confident woman in the world, but she admits she has many insecurities. In an interview with Vulture, Coolidge shared that she wished she had a thicker skin and more courage to do something like writing a movie and star in it.
She almost didn’t take the role in The White Lotus because she was uncomfortable with her body. Like many people, Coolidge said she gained weight during the pandemic and felt self-conscious about appearing on screen. But she overcame those fears because it was a great opportunity.