When I was a teenager, I wanted to look like Zooey Deschanel more than anything. She wore vintage clothing like nobody else and was instantly recognisable due to her iconic fringe. Her clothes always flattered her body, which was slim but wasn’t skeletal and had curves like my own. She didn’t wear layers and layers of makeup or fake tan like most other celebrities. She didn’t pout in photos or take herself seriously, but laughed and smiled and seemed to just enjoy life. She felt like a friend, like someone I could be like if I tried hard enough. Men liked her unusual taste in music, her goofball comments and dry wit, whereas I felt invisible to the boys I went to school with.
I wanted to, I felt I needed to, change who I was. Zooey Deschanel was everything I wished I could be – quirky but not awkwardly weird, confident but not arrogant, sweet and kind but never taken advantage of.
I must have got a fringe cut at least three times during my teenage years. It never, ever suited me, but no matter how many times my family jokingly called me Matilda or how many times the natural curl of my hair caused it to frizz and kink in a way that Zooey’s never did, I still got the fringe cut because I wanted to be just like her. I tried to find vintage inspired clothes, going shopping and thinking ‘what would Zooey wear?’ – not an easy task when you live in Bradford and only really have a few high street chains available to shop in. I was an anti fake-tanner, keeping myself ‘pale and interesting’ in the hope that someone, someday would find me as interesting as Zooey was. I watched ‘500 Days of Summer’ so many times that I could quote it backwards.
A few times people told me I looked like her. They said ‘you have a fringe like her’ or ‘your eyes are big and blue like hers’. This compliment meant so much to me because it meant I was stepping away from being Jess and becoming Zooey.
But of course I wasn’t Zooey. I never was, badly cut in fringe included. I was Jess and I had been all along.
I can’t pinpoint the time where that being Jess started to be enough, but it did. I realised that the fringe didn’t suit me at all, that as beautiful as vintage clothes were I was never going to be able to maintain a 1950s pinup look full time because I wasn’t skilled enough at the makeup and hairstyles, plus I liked different clothing styles too. I became happy in the knowledge that one day someone would like my quirks and my personality, not the one I invented based on Zooey Deschanel’s film characters.
So I grew my hair out (again), I started buying different clothes. I stopped editing what I was saying and started saying my own opinions. I talked about bands I liked, admitted to liking chick flicks with Jennifer Lopez or Jennifer Aniston in. I developed my own sense of style, my own identity.
Some of my ‘Zooey’ traits are still there – I don’t wear fake tan and I still like to make my eyes stand out when I do my makeup. I still love the look of vintage clothes but I don’t own any – but I am me now. Pale and interesting, yes, but dorky, a pyjama lover, someone who loves aggressive looking boots and jackets as well as floral summer dresses.
I still admire Zooey Deschanel – I mean, come on, she is brilliant – but I don’t want to be her anymore. I admire her style in the same way I admire Blake Lively’s or Victoria Beckham’s because they are people who always dress amazingly well. Zooey Deschanel is an inspiration, not the end goal. I’m the end goal. I was all along – it just took me a little time to realise that.
Who was/is your celebrity style icon?