Booksmart's Beanie Feldstein on Body Confidence and Dressing "Nerd-Chic"

Chilling barefoot alongside Beanie Feldstein on a chaise in her bedroom at the Viceroy L'Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills, I can clearly see why the actress has become cinema's go-to best friend. If gazing at the 25-year-old's infectious smile inspires a cozy familiarity, it's probably in part because you're hungover from her quippy, comic turn as Saoirse Ronan's lovable BFF in 2017's coming-of-age indie hit Lady Bird. Carving a space for herself in the delicious world of female-led comedies, Feldstein is set to star in two more this year: How to Build a Girl, an adaption of the best-selling British novel about a feisty, sexually liberated young music journalist; and Booksmart (in theaters tomorrow), Olivia Wilde's directorial debut which chronicles a pair of nerdy teen pals embarking on a debauched night of partying to make up for their studious high school careers.

The press has been calling Booksmart "the female Superbad" (and not only because Feldstein is Jonah Hill's little sister). "It's a celebration of friendship," Feldstein tells me in her high-pitched rasp, an earnest smile overtaking her face. "We all think it's an honor that they're calling it that."

If the careers of Superbad's stars stand as a precedent, we can look forward to seeing much more of Feldstein (or The Bean, as her brother fondly calls her). It was a treat to catch her in a moment when the deluge of mainstream fame has not quite hit her yet—so we could relax in her suite, shoes off, like a fancy slumber party, while we chatted about body confidence, her favorite affordable clothing stores, her obsession with headbands, and her vision for a more inclusive fashion industry.


Emily Malan

You’ve said before how you grew up with a lot of natural confidence, which is something I really envy. I’m wondering how your personal style has played a role in your confidence.

My mom was trained in fashion. She was a costume designer for sitcoms, and then she was a stylist. She’s like a walking trend expert. She dressed me impeccably when I was a kid and has definitely influenced my style. But I keep it pretty simple. I’m not too risky—classic, comfortable, but with a little bit of fun. I’m definitely more on the feminine side. I love a lot of dresses and skirts. In high school, I was a theater kid, and the theater community definitely helped with my confidence. I really wanted to be Blair Waldorf, so I wore a lot of headbands.

Oh, headbands are back!

Don’t I know it! At our very first fitting, Erin Walsh, my incredible stylist, was like, “I’m thinking a lot of headbands and barrettes for you.” And I was like, “You’re speaking my language!” Today is the one day I’m not wearing one. She’s been giving me these Prada headbands and Chanel headbands. Amazing.

Weirdly enough, hair accessories also feel like part of a character, in real life and also when I’m building a character for a movie. Aubrey Marie, who was our head of hair on Booksmart, and April Napier, our costume designer, also did Lady Bird with me. It was heaven, like this girl gang making these incredible female friendship movies. Anyway, Aubrey was really the one who said Molly in Booksmart really needs to go on a bit of a hair journey. So when I started the film, I had pin-straight hair—not a hair out of place—which tells a lot about a person. And then it gets a little loosey-goosey as we go along. But Molly’s style is like a heightened version of what I wore in high school. Skirts and sweaters—that was definitely my vibe. I think you’re always a reaction to your parents, and because my mom is such a force of style and creativity, I was like, “I’m never gonna compete with that. I gotta just keep it simple.” You can’t go wrong with simple. But I do really like clothes. I love to shop.


Emily Malan

Where are some of your favorite places to find clothes?

Love Target. I’m all about mixing high and low. My go-to is MadewellEverlane has been amazing. And ASOS. I love ASOS. I also love handbags and sunglasses by Clare V. They do such amazing stuff.

I love the idea of using accessories to create a character. Did you always see clothes that way? Like even in high school? Clothes were such a source of stress for me back then.

Clothes stressed me out more in middle school. I wore a pink camouflage skirt my first day of seventh grade. You know what I’m talking about. I probably bought it at Limited Too. My best friend, Melanie—we’ve been living together for four years now, been inseparable since we were 12—she wore Crocs all through seventh grade, and I will never let her live that down.

Have you seen Pen15 yet?

Obsessed. Olivia [Wilde] and I talk about it all the time. My dream would be to guest-star on Pen15, but I’m always like, “My boobs are too big.” You can’t make all this look 13. Or it would have to be the joke. But Anna and Maya [the Pen15 creators], so great. And their friendship is so good. You know, Booksmart is all about friendship, and we always say that there are so many great TV examples of female friendship, but movies sort of haven’t caught up yet. Like Pen15, Broad City, you think of all these TV shows but not many films. I’m so proud of Lady Bird and Booksmart. What a gift that I get to add to the film repertoire in such a meaningful way.

Everyone’s calling it the female Superbad. How do you feel about that?

I feel honored that they're calling us the female Superbad. Because it's is a forever film. Superbad is a movie that like changed cinema. I think that what we really owe to Superbad is a celebration of friendship within a comedy. That’s the genius of Superbad. It’s not the jokes. It’s all about the love between those boys, and it’s so sweet. It’s all about the boop moment! I always say Booksmart is equal parts comedy and a relationship movie. It’s kind of a breakup movie, actually. It’s about these girls’ last days of high school, when you know you have to say goodbye, but you don’t want to, and how they deal with that. Bridesmaids does this too. It’s an exploration of friendship within a broad, fun adventure. That’s what we owe to Superbad. But we also owe so much to movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, and The Breakfast Club.

What was the style inspiration for your Booksmart character?

The fashion of my character, Molly, is definitely an older Matilda meets Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls. I love expanding our image of the nerdy, book-smart girl. That was the genius of April Napier. Also that Molly and Amy have completely different senses of style. They’re obsessed with each other and have such a similar morality and ethos, but they do not look alike. They have different vibes. I love that they don’t have to look the same just because they’re both smart, nerdy, bookish types. I wear a yellow turtleneck at the beginning of the film even though it’s June, the last day of school. Molly’s like, “I will not surrender to the heat. I will be in a turtleneck and a blazer and tights.” And we’re shooting in Burbank—so hot. It’s a little bit of a nod to Clueless with Cher’s iconic mustard look and also a nod to Olivia [Wilde]. Olivia grew up on the East Coast, and when she moved to L.A. in her late teens, she went to a pool party wearing a mustard turtleneck. She’ll never forget it, so we ended up putting it in the film.


Emily Malan

I love this idea of redefining the on-screen female nerd.

Yeah, just expanding it! Everyone has a different sense of style. And I love that these girls are both incredibly smart, incredibly dedicated, on top of their class. They’re everything you know that character to be but so much more, and we wanted to express that visually as well.

You’re such a sparkling icon of body confidence and so stylish, and it’s just so beautiful to see, and I’m wondering, if you could give a piece of advice to the fashion industry at large in terms of body inclusivity, what would it be?

I do think it’s getting better but not quick enough. I’m lucky enough to work with Erin Walsh, who I worship; I call her my superhero. She makes everything look beautiful on me, makes everything fit me. But when I’m shopping day to day, and certainly when other people are shopping day to day who are my size or bigger, they don’t have the luxury of clothes being custom-shaped to their body. I think the average size in America is my size—a 12. And if I can’t find clothes as someone with a ridiculous amount of privilege, then what about people who don’t have all that and want to look stylish and cool? What about people who want more than three options, you know? That’s why I love Target. And I’m obsessed with Old Navy because they carry everyone’s size.

I was just watching an Old Navy haul on YouTube. They seriously have some cute shit.

I just bought a coat from there. It’s coral, it’s fab, it was like 40 bucks, and it would be hundreds of dollars at any other store. And like, I love Madewell’s new expanded line, but why wasn’t this happening years ago? I’m literally Madewell’s number one fan, but I went in there two years ago, and I was like, “Can I get this in an XL?” And they were like, “We only have it online.” Now they have it in-store. So I voiced my opinion. And things have changed. But not everywhere. I spent all summer in London, and in Europe, everything is tiny. I was at this beautiful store called Claudie Pierlot. Do you know that brand? It’s French, and it’s my style to a T. It’s fun yet crisp and classic. But they have like three sizes. The woman working in the store was my size. And I was like, “None of this fits me.” And she said, “None of this fits me either.”

They’re missing out on some amazing customers right now!

I would drop some serious money on those clothes, but none of it fits! It’s just so crazy. Primark in England—have you ever been? Everything is £5. You could bring in a £20 note and get like six things. Everyone stops me and my mom on the street, and we’re like, “Primark, baby!” I filmed a movie in London last summer, so I was there for four months, and my girlfriend lives there. I just love London, and I feel like they have cooler, cheaper stuff, like at Primark and Monki. That’s why ASOS is so great, too, because they sell all of the British brands and ship it to you in like two days.

But my words of wisdom to the fashion industry are just that women and men of all sizes want options. It’s like, if you can make these clothes smaller, you can make them bigger. If people come in sizes 00 to 36, then can’t all brands carry them? It just doesn’t make sense.


Emily Malan

It really doesn’t. It’s like foundation only coming in four colors.

It’s wrong! It’s blatantly wrong. Bodies are so beautiful. I love my body. And you should be able to dress your body however you want. Like women who like more masculine looks but have boobs should have the option of button-ups that close. My girlfriend never wears button-ups because she’s like, “They don’t fit.” Also, options are just a beautiful thing because then you can express yourself and your identity, and it can change by the day, which I love. Fashion! It’s so interesting that “lower-brow” brands are so much more on the pulse of what people need, and then as you go up and up and up, the sizes just get smaller and smaller and smaller.

It’s like sizeism and classism all intertwined.

So true. I studied sociology in college, so I’m like, “Okay, cool. Let me think about that all day.” But yeah. I do love clothes. With my mom, I could shop for three hours. Then I need a snack.

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