What does it take to get to the top -- without losing your center? Our “Making It Work” series profiles successful, dynamic women who are standouts in their fields, peeling back the "hows" of their work and their life, taking away lessons we can all apply to our own.
Jenny Mollen has been alternately referred to as a "Twitter phenomenon," "Jason Biggs' wife," an "over-sharer," a "beautiful actress," a "new mom" and "guest." But as anyone who has met her even briefly can attest, she's much more than the sum of such labels.
After years as a self-described "almost-hired" actress, Mollen found a loyal following on Twitter, broadcasting missives such as "Dear Guy getting a one hour massage in Whole Foods, what's your game plan, like in life?," and through her columns on Playboy's blog The Smoking Jacket. Today, the 35-year-old actress and writer adds published author to her already-impressive resume, as her first book, I Like You Just The Way I Am goes on sale.
I Like You Just The Way I Am is a lay-your-sh*t-bare (in a comedic way) sort of memoir, a collection of essays that touch on everything from Mollen's up-and-down relationships with her parents and crossing boundaries with her therapist, to lightly stalking Biggs' ex-girlfriend and using "50 Shades of Grey" to spice up her sex life. Readers be warned, this book is not for the faint -- or PC -- of heart.
When discussing the more revealing stories in the book, some of which, in Mollen's own words, make her come off like an "a**hole," she revealed that her motivations were often quite the opposite: "I just want everyone to like me. That’s my main flaw," she said.
And judging from the following she's amassed on her social media accounts, she's proven herself to be quite likable.
Currently, Mollen lives in LA with Biggs and their son Sid, who was born in February, though the couple has been somewhat bi-coastal in recent years, with Mollen landing an arc on season 3 of "Girls" and Biggs shooting the Netflix hit "Orange Is The New Black" in New York.
Mollen spoke with HuffPost Women about her book, why women should admit they're crazy, working with Lena Duham and the true meaning of success: more Twitter followers.
I Like You Just The Way I Am is a really funny, honest book. You say in the intro that all women are “batshit crazy.” The term "crazy" is so loaded, especially for women -- what's the value of us embracing it?
I just think, let’s own it! Why should we be ashamed of that? I don’t think that crazy should have a negative connotation -- it just means that you’re fun. I think that crazy is just a term that boring people use to describe fun people.
You touch on your relationship with your husband, Jason Biggs, as well as your own frustrations being an “almost hired” actress in the book. Was it ever difficult to have a partner with so much face and name recognition while you were still trying to establish your own success?
Oh my god, yes! I still get jealous! People will say, “Oh, we want you to do this, but only if Jason comes with you.” So, then you don’t really want me.
And I’m incredibly competitive, so it’s maddening. But I’m also a masochist. So I think in a weird way, I subconsciously chose somebody who was going to keep me striving for more. I’ve always gravitated toward men who sort of kind of eclipsed me in some way. And I think that it’s because I have this need to be better. Jason sets the bar so high, so I just keep trying to top him. I really define success by having more Twitter followers than Jason. So when that day comes, I’ve f**king made it.
I Like You Just The Way I Am is supposed to be a book about “not doing the right thing” -- and you tell a lot of really personal stories in it. What do you think the value is in women being confessional?
If somebody else is owning it, it empowers you to say “I do that, too.” When you see a person put themselves out there, then you’re more inclined to do the same.
You write a lot about your relationships, both good and bad -- with your parents, your close friends, your husband, your husband’s ex. Did you have conversations with any of the people in the book beforehand or during the writing process?
[Laughs] I should have, probably. Instead I just hired a bunch of lawyers to protect me. I said to my sister, “I sort of portray you as a bitch in this.” And she was like, “Why did you do that?” And I said, “Because you are sort of a bitch!” So I think my sister might be a little alarmed when she sees how crazy [the chapter that describes her] bachelorette party is.
With my dad, I ended up giving the book to him two days before I had my baby as a way to say: “Here’s this, but look over here! Here’s this beautiful, shiny other object I’m also presenting you with.” So I think that lessened the blow for him.
To me it seemed like you didn’t spare yourself from the sort of commentary you give to everyone else in the book.
Don’t worry, I come off as the biggest a**hole out of everyone. If you have a problem with how you’re depicted, read what I have to say about myself.
Mollen and Biggs in 2013.
You’re very active on social media, especially Twitter and Instagram. What do you enjoy about connecting with people on these platforms?
Instagram is like having your own little channel. As someone who spent the majority of their working years trying to get somebody to hire me to create their vision, it’s so great to have complete control, and to have the ability to say whatever I want and to have a little audience of people who actually give a f**k. But [Twitter has] changed everything in my life. Work wise, it’s changed how I’m looked at across the board. But I don’t even have time to tweet now that I have a baby. It’s so annoying.
You don’t talk about your pregnancy in I Like You Just The Way I Am. Was the book finished before you got pregnant?
I found out that I was pregnant last May, and I was probably halfway done writing the book at that point, but I knew what the rest of the stories were going to be. And I definitely think the pregnancy changed the way I wrote. I think I got nicer to the people I wrote about towards the end of the process -- I was easier on them because I was sensitive and pregnant.
You wrote a beautiful essay about your previous miscarriage and your pregnancy with Sid for Cosmopolitan.com in January. In it you said that you didn’t feel any more prepared or less afraid the second pregnancy around. Now that you’ve had Sid, do you feel prepared?
No. My housekeeper Cynthia came to New York with me to help with [Sid during] the book tour, because Jason is doing all of his “Orange Is The New Black” press right now. And last night I was up with Sid and she was in the room with me as I was trying to rock him back to sleep, and I was thinking to myself: “Oh my god, I can’t believe one day i’m not going to be supervised doing this. I’m going to have to do this by myself!” So, no, he’s 3 and a half months old and I still don’t feel like I really know what I’m doing. As far as he’s concerned, I’m like “No worries, I’ve got this.” But in reality, I’m sort of holding my breath trying to get it right.
You put so much of yourself out there. When Sid is old enough to Google you, are you going to have a conversation with him?
I think he’ll already know what’s probably out there. He’ll already be like, “Oh my god, my mom is so annoying. She’s so involved in my life.” I always think about what he’ll tell his therapist about me and Jason as parents when he’s older. And I already know he’s going to say, “Oh my god, she tells everyone my business, she doesn’t keep her mouth shut.” The over-sharing is gonna make him nuts.
There's been a lot made in the media recently about celebrities identifying or not identifying as feminists. Do you shy away from the term feminist?
I don’t mind the term feminist. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about “Game Of Thrones” and how there’s so much violence against women in it. I’ll still watch those shows -- if it’s a great story, I’m in. But I think as a woman and as somebody in the entertainment industry, we have to be careful what we’re putting out there and what we’re trying to say. And that’s why I’m so happy that there’s been this sort of movement with female comedy. I think that that is paving the way for new ways of looking at things.
Absolutely. And you did an arc on “Girls” last season as a cast member of Hannah’s boyfriend Adam’s Broadway show. How was it working on a show like “Girls” and specifically with Lena Dunham?
It was kind of fantasyland. I said to her, “I’m not the girl who gets the arc on HBO. I’m the girl who almost got it and then somebody famous came in and they never called me back.” So this was such a dream come true for me, to work with her and on HBO.
It’s also so humbling watching [Dunham], this 28-year-old girl. She’s directing, she’s writing, she’s throwing out new lines for you and you’re sitting there just like, “Oh my god. I’m watching probably one of the greatest voices of her generation and I’m just up close and personal.” She’s so much a part of the zeitgeist of the moment and I’m watching her work. It was such a treat. But I feel like Sid got the job, because I was pregnant with him.
It was his first uncredited appearance.
I’m like, “You’re such a dick.” My first job was some TNN drama about a truck driver and his first gig is working with Lena Dunham on HBO.
How do you really define success?
I want to be doing something that I love and actually being able to feed myself by doing it. Just to be able to make money doing what you love -- you can’t ask for anything more.
This interview has been edited and condensed.