50 Cultural Icons on What They Were Like as Teenagers


It’s hard out there for a teenager. It’s even kind of hard out there for those of us who used to be teenagers — especially in these back-to-school months, when the nostalgia comes creeping up like those floods we used to wear and never, ever should again. But you know who was probably even stranger than you in high school? Your favorite cultural icon. Or maybe not — as is only to be expected, some had joyful (and/or prank-filled) teenage years, some suffered tragedies, some were completely weird, some were popular, and some deserve our respect for even getting through. After the jump, 50 cultural icons expound on their teenage selves — read on, you’ll fit right in.


“My greatest aspiration [as a young person] was to make it through the coming week. As a teenager I found life to be inevitably disgusting, and I could see no humanity in the human race. When my time in music began, I found all my goals were reachable. For the first time ever in my life, I spoke and people listened. I had never known such a thing previously. My life as a teenager was so relentlessly foul that I still can’t believe I actually survived it. Perhaps I didn’t…” [As told to Amy Rose at Rookie ]

Tine Fey

“Well, when I was in high school I was pretty much an [honors] student and just kind of a dork and I was in choir and, you know, on the school paper. And I never drank and I never smoked and I was like, ‘Uh, people who drink are stupid.’ I was just really goody-two-shoes. But I was also kind of a jealous girl, kind of mean ’cause if I liked a guy and he liked some other girl, I would be unbelievably mean to that girl and I would just talk to my friends about her for hours and hours and hours and say bad stuff about her and, you know, really wasted a lot of my time doing that and… wait, what was the first part of the question? I forget.” [via MTV]

Also this:

TF: Somewhere around the fifth or seventh grade I figured out that I could ingratiate myself to people by making them laugh. Essentially, I was just trying to make them like me. But after a while it became part of my identity. I remember at the end of the year in my eighth grade algebra class, I wrote a note to my teacher that basically said, “I know that I’m kinda a cutup and I like to crack the jokes now and again, but it’s only because I struggle with math.” I was already trying to define myself as “the jokester.” There was another time when I was talking to one of my classmates and I said, “Well, when you’re a funny person like I am, it can be…” and he just cut me off. “You think you’re funny? Where are you getting that from?” BLVR: In your high school yearbook, you predicted that in ten years you would be “very, very fat.” Was that the budding irony of a young comic, or a cynical teenage girl expecting only the worst from her life? TF: I was just trying to cover my bases. If I did turn out to be a pudgy loser, I’d be able to say, “See, I told you.” Nobody likes to be caught by surprise.

[via The Believer ]

John Darnielle

So — but when I was a kid, I went to Catholic school before the divorce. And I was just really attracted to this religious thing. But there’s always that — it’s so pretentious to quote Baudelaire — but the shimmer of evil, right? You hear about the evil things. They don’t want to instruct you in them because there no (laughter), you know, no benefit in that. But at the same time — so there are these forbidden things that sort of call to you from the distance. And those are the ones, you know, you want to have a harder look at. And that was something that as a child I was really curious about to an almost morbid point. You know, like the idea that you could – that there was a world behind the world. That like – that this was only the part you could see. And the idea that the other one might be harmful was terrifying to me and at the same time, irresistibly attractive. And so when I was 13, I became one of the most tiresome atheists on the planet. And I was carrying Nietzsche around my junior high. … OK. At the risk of sounding stupid here, how does a 17-year-old like you, who is, you know, deeply into literature and music and really smart, though really unhappy at home — how does someone like you and up doing heroin? I mean, because you’re smart enough to know how dangerous it is. Oh, but no. I mean, your intelligence doesn’t override your desire to destroy yourself. It’s, like, a really, really – I did not want to be in my own skin. I really wanted to get high and stay high. You know? And I also had this fear of going too far every time. It’s, like, I know people who got way, way closer to the edge than I did. But yeah – any opportunity to check out of daily consciousness was welcome for me then.

[via NPR]

Nicki Minaj

“Every time my parents fought, my mother would have us move and I would have to go to a new school, which meant I’d have to face the task of making new friends. I dreaded it. I had butterflies in my stomach each time: Are people going to like or hate me? Will they talk about me? I encountered jealous girls a lot — it wasn’t like I had nice clothes, so they couldn’t be envious of that, but they were like, ‘You shouldn’t be that confident.’ Sometimes, if I felt like there was a physical threat, I would call my older brother and say, ‘Can you meet me after school because I don’t know what might happen?’ Sometimes there’d be a fight, sometimes not. I let people know I wasn’t going to be pushed around. What it came down to is that the bullies wanted me to bow down to them. And I just wouldn’t. … [As I got older] I was a jokester. I let everything roll off my back. I always felt like I had other things going in my life outside of school, like church and extracurriculars — I was even on the softball team. [Freshman year at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School] was the first time I felt like I really fit in. Everyone there was creative. For once, I didn’t feel like there was something weird about me.” [via Teen Vogue ]


Describing her teen years to Vanity Fair: “I see a very lonely girl who was searching for something. Looking for a mother figure. I wasn’t rebellious in a conventional way; I cared about being good at something. I didn’t shave under my arms and I didn’t wear makeup. But I studied hard and got good grades. Rarely smoked pot, though I’m sure I did from time to time. I was a paradox, an outsider and rebel who wanted to please my father and get straight As. I wanted to be somebody.” [via Madonna: An Intimate Biography , J. Randy Taraborrelli]

James Baldwin

“I read everything. I read my way out of the two libraries in Harlem by the time I was thirteen… Until my father died I thought I could do something else [than write]. I had wanted to be a musician, thought of being a painter, thought of being an actor. This was all before I was nineteen. Given the conditions in this country to be a black writer was impossible. When I was young, people thought you were not so much wicked as sick, they gave up on you. My father didn’t think it was possible — he thought I’d get killed, get murdered. He said I was contesting the white man’s definitions, which was quite right. But I had also learned from my father what he thought of the white man’s definitions. He was a pious, very religious and in some ways a very beautiful man, and in some ways a terrible man. He died when his last child was born and I realized I had to make a jump — a leap. I’d been a preacher for three years, from age fourteen to seventeen. Those were three years which probably turned me to writing… [But] I’m not sure I decided. It was that or nothing, since in my own mind I was the father of my family. That’s not quite the way they saw it, but still I was the oldest brother, and I took it very seriously, I had to set an example. I couldn’t allow anything to happen to me because what then would happen to them? I could have become a junkie. On the roads I traveled and the streets I ran, anything could have happened to a boy like me — in New York. Sleeping on rooftops and in the subways. Until this day I’m terrified of the public toilet. In any case… my father died, and I sat down and figured out what I had to do.” [As told to The Paris Review ]

David Lynch

“As a teenager, I was really trying to have fun twenty-four hours a day… I didn’t start thinking until I was twenty or twenty-one. I was doing regular goofball stuff.”

Also this, in an interview with David Breskin:

What was sex like as a teenager? Scary? Umm, what kind of interview are we doing, David? [Laughs.] I tell you what: sex was like a dream. It was like a world that was so mysterious to me that I really couldn’t believe that there was this fantastic texture to life that I was getting to do. It was so fantastic, and I could see a world opening — this sexual dream. It was another great indication that life was really great and worth living. And it kept on going, because I see that the vast realm of sex has all these different levels, from lust and fearful, violent sex to the real spiritual thing at the other end. It’s the key to some fantastic mystery of life.

[via David Lynch: Interviews , ed Richard A. Barney]

Kurt Cobain

Did you have problems in high school? Yeah. You know I felt so different and so crazy that people just left me alone. I always felt that they would vote me “Most likely to kill everyone at a high school dance.” You know? … Because I couldn’t find any friends, male friends that I felt compatible with, I ended up hanging out with the girls a lot. And I just always felt that they weren’t treated with respect. Especially because women are just totally oppressed. I mean the words bitch and cunt were totally common. Although I listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and I really did enjoy some of the melodies they’d written, it took me so many years to realize that a lot of it had to do with sexism. The way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. I was just starting to understand what really was pissing me off so much, those last couple of years of high school. And then punk rock was exposed and then it all came together. It just fit together like a puzzle. It expressed the way I felt socially and politically. Just everything. You know. It was the anger that I felt. The alienation. Did you have problems with people thinking that you were gay? Yeah. I even thought that I was gay. I thought that might be the solution to my problem. Although I never experimented with it, I had a gay friend and then my mother wouldn’t allow me to be friends with him anymore because, well, she’s homophobic. It was real devastating because finally I’d found a male friend who I actually hugged and was affectionate to and we talked about a lot of things.

[Via Blank on Blank]

Amy Poehler

I was the daughter of teachers, so school was always very important. I liked it. [After school] I worked at an ice cream parlor called Chadwicks. We wore old-timey outfits and had to bang a drum, play a kazoo, and sing “Happy Birthday” to people while giving them free birthday sundaes. Lots of ice cream scooping and $1 tips. Fun fact: Rachel Dratch worked there a few years ahead of me but we never met! Did you have a quote in your high school yearbook? If so, what was it? No quote, but we did get to list our “secret desire” and mine was “to play the drums.

[via Seventeen ]

Kim Gordon

“[As a teenager] I was very shy and quiet. I felt pressured to be happy and free even though I was too young to be a hippie.” [via Paper Magazine ]

Joss Whedon

“Um, I was annoying [as a teenager]. But I was funny. As much as I annoyed almost everyone, I could make them laugh. I was a terrible procrastinator and, unless it was English class, kind of a terrible student, and I just… I hate that every day of my life. I regret that. … Math, I was good at, but I never really engaged. Literature was always the thing that had my heart. And I loved history, but I still could be lazy. I took a lot of languages — I can speak none of them now. I just really never got off my duff unless it was creating something. I always wanted to cut right to the part where you’re making something. I didn’t actually want to learn how. Which doesn’t work, by the way.” [via Rookie ]

Ray Bradbury

“The Depression brought me [to Hollywood] from Waukegan, Illinois. The majority of people in the country were unemployed. My dad had been jobless in Waukegan for at least two years when in 1934 he announced to my mom, my brother and me that it was time to head West. I had just turned 14 when we got to California with only 40 dollars, which paid for our rent and bought our food until he finally found a job making wire at a cable company for $14 a week. That meant I could stay in Los Angeles, which was great. I was thrilled… I was madly in love with Hollywood. We lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater, which was the flagship theater for MGM and Fox. I learned how to sneak in. There were previews almost every week. I’d roller-skate over there — I skated all over town, hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious. I saw big MGM stars such as Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, Ronald Coleman. Or I’d spend all day in front of Paramount or Columbia, then zoom over to the Brown Derby to watch the stars coming or going. I’d see Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen — whoever was on the Coast. Mae West made her appearance — bodyguard in tow — every Friday night…. George [Burns] was kind. He would read the scripts I’d write every week. They were dreadful, and I was so blindly and madly in love with the film and radio business in Hollywood that I didn’t realize what a pest I was. George no doubt thought he could get me off his back by using my words for one of the eight-line vignettes he had Gracie close their broadcasts with. I wanted to live that special life forever. When that summer was over, I stopped my inner time clock at the age of 14.” [via Playboy ]

Tim Gunn

I was a diligent student, and I wasn’t a troublemaker. I was constantly running away [from boarding schools]. I hated interacting with people. Also I should add, and actually some of it you can hear now, I had a very debilitating stutter, and that was very limiting for me socially, and it of course was rife for teasing, and people would imitate me, or they’d want to engage with me, would want me to speak because they wanted to hear the stutter and laugh. So that exacerbated everything that I experienced, and it added a painful dimension to every kind of interaction, whether it was with peers or whether it was with doctors. … You know, I won’t say that I knew I was gay. I knew what I wasn’t, and I certainly wasn’t attractive to girls, but I didn’t know what I was. I called myself nonsexual. At that young an age I did. I mean it was like I don’t have a sexual bone in my body. There was zero attraction in any direction, or either direction, I should say. Well, no, I’ll say any. It doesn’t just have to be men or women, it could be anything… At the time I was on a sort of moral high horse, and I in some ways associated myself with the clergy, even though I wasn’t a religious person. And I thought this is all perfectly acceptable. I didn’t think of it as being something wrong. It may have been unusual, but then I was an odd kid. I mean, I wasn’t a sports person, though I finally – I mean I shouldn’t say finally, I was a very good competitive swimmer, in fact I held a couple of New England records for a while. And I loved swimming because, as I still say about it, it’s clean and you don’t sweat.

[via NPR]

Christina Hendricks

“My school days were pretty unhappy. I had the worst high school experience ever. I went to a very mean school and was bullied like crazy. I was a bit of a goth with purple hair and I was also part of the drama group, so my friends and I were all weird theatre people and everyone just hated us. There was a long corridor with lockers on either side and kids would sit on top of them and spit on you. It was like something out of Lord of the Flies… I was a goth kid. I dyed my hair about 42 different colours, shaved it at the back and wore black make-up. Kids can be pretty judgmental about people who are different. But instead of breaking down and conforming, I stood firm. That is also probably why I was unhappy. My mother was mortified and kept telling me how horrible and ugly I looked. Strangers would walk by with a look of shock on their face, so I never felt pretty. I just always felt awkward. If I could go back and tell my 14-year-old self anything it would be, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to be doing exactly what you want to be doing and those people who are assholes now are still going to be assholes in 20 years. So let it go!’” [via Mirror ]

John Waters

“When I was a teenager I was always being arrested for drinking in drive-ins, I was a real sleazo.” [from John Waters: Interviews ]

Beth Ditto

“When I met [Gossip member Nathan Howdeshell] I was 14 and he was 16. I was a nerd, but I was also obsessed with bouffants, I was obsessed with Gloria Steinem. You know, we didn’t have Sassy magazine, we didn’t have that kind of shit [in Arkansas] All we had were zines. That was it. And we were lucky that ‘zines made it there. Nathan was the reason why that happened and he really did hold court. I just thought he was the coolest thing ever. Jerry and Kathy too. Especially as a 14-year-old – Kathy was 17 and Nathan was 16 – they could drive, they would bring zines over, we could go record shopping, we could go to thrift stores. And all that was great, but Nathan was pretty protective of this little bubble that he had made. He was really defensive and would just make fun of you to your face. He was a mean boy, he was too cool. So I guess I would tell [the young me], ‘Beth you are just as cool as Nathan.'” [via Wondering Sound]

David Byrne

“I was a peculiar young man. Borderline Asperger’s, I would guess.” [from his journals, via The New York Times ]

Patti Smith

“When I was in high school, to me being a model was the heaviest. It was the logical extension of being an artist’s mistress. Like in Modigliani’s time, it was always the mistress that held the great artists together. Fuck art — it was obvious the chicks were where it was at. Besides wanting to be an artist’s mistress, I wanted to be a movie star, like Jeanne Moreau, or Anouk Aimée in La Dolce Vita — I couldn’t believe her in those dark glasses and that black dress and that sports car. I thought that was the heaviest thing I ever saw: Anouk Aimée with that black eye. It made me want to have a black eye forever. It made me want to get a guy to knock me around. I’d always look great… As a teenager, I also imagined myself as a jazz poet… I’d just listen to Coltrane and then write poetry. I realized I was a lousy writer, so I started to paint. I was a lower-class person with upper-class aesthetics. I was like a girl with no money living in a farm area reading Vogue magazine.” [from Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography , Victor Bockris]

Louis C.K.

“I was depressed a lot in high school. I did all this stuff outside of school: I did my internship, I loved my teachers a lot, I loved school and learning, but it wasn’t consistent enough. I’d always end up getting behind, getting in trouble, and I’d stop going, I’d feel bad, and everything would… I struggled, I did a lot of drugs when I was in junior high school, so I was already like a recovered addict. By the time I got to high school, I had been in and out of a massive drug problem… Oh god, I dropped more acid than I remember in eighth grade. Eighth, ninth grade were two solid years of dropping acid, snorting coke when somebody had it, Quaaludes, smoking an alarming amount of pot, mescaline, drinking, stealing shit, crime, dumb, always in trouble, terrible time.” [via Medium]

Toni Morrison

On not smoking pot as a teenager: “I did not want to feel anything that did not originate with me. Because the big deal, as they described it, was that it made you feel so good. I did not want to feel something that was dependent on it. I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means. Because you’re all you’ve got.” [via The Guardian ]

Lena Dunham

“It’s so trite, but I think so much of my worldview was formed by feeling isolated. If you go to school in New York, if you go to Saint Ann’s or Dalton, because there aren’t kids being shoved into lockers in the same way, you’re expected not to have that isolating adolescence. But from kindergarten onward, I was like, I don’t know what to do with people. First I was a tiny little kid and I didn’t have friends, and then I was a chubby teenager and I didn’t have friends. It was just this sensation that I didn’t know how to connect.” [via V Magazine ]

Lucille Ball

“I cured myself of shyness when it finally occurred to me that people didn’t think about me half as much as I gave them credit for. The truth was, nobody gave a damn. Like most teenagers, I was far too self-centered. When I stopped being prisoner to what I worried was others’ opinions of me, I became more confident and free.”

Johnny Depp

“As a teenager I was so insecure. I was the type of guy that never fitted in because he never dared to choose. I was convinced I had absolutely no talent at all. For nothing. And that thought took away all my ambition too.” [via Goodreads]

Andy Warhol

Were you arty in high school? I was always sick, so I was going to summer school and trying to catch up. I had one art class. What did you do for fun when you were a teenager? I didn’t do anything for fun. I think maybe once I went down to see a Frank Sinatra personal appearance with Tommy Dorsey.

[via Interview ]

Jennifer Lawrence

“I was a weirdo. I wasn’t picked on or anything. And I wasn’t smarter than the other kids; that’s not why I didn’t fit in. I’ve always had this weird anxiety. I hated recess. I didn’t like field trips. Parties really stressed me out. And I had a very different sense of humor.”

After moving to Santa Monica at 15 with her mother to pursue acting in earnest: “I know it sounds so stupid, but it was kind of like I finally found something people were telling me I was good at, which I had never heard, ever. And that was a big reason why my parents let me do this. One time, my mom was on the phone with my dad, saying, ‘We’re paying for therapy and all this medication, and we don’t need it when she’s here. She’s happy.'” [via Vogue ]

Stephen Colbert

“When I was 13, one of my friends pressed into my hands The Lord of the Rings and said, ‘You’ve got to read this.’ And I loved it. … In some ways it was about escape. I think there’s absolute truth in escaping the reality of your present predicament. And that can just be about being young. It doesn’t have to be tragedy. There’s a tragedy to being 13. Things are changing. Friends are changing. Your body is changing. You need to escape that. My additional emotional crises don’t necessarily explain my interest in it. … [But] Aragorn is the model of manhood. He’s the Apollonian ideal. He’s a warrior, a scholar, a poet, a healer. He’s all things you can aspire to be. As a kid I thought I wanted to be like that.” [via Playboy ]

Dave Eggers

“I saw a picture the other day of me when I was sixteen and I had a zit on my nose so big the photo looked embossed. It caught the light like a small moon. I used to have to go to a dermatologist who would inject these zits with an enormous needle — it was the only way to kill them. That gives you an idea of the kind of teenager I was. I had a couple rough years.” [via Paper Magazine ]

Lady Gaga

“That was the time in my life when I was the new artist. I wasn’t a fully formed artist, I was 19, I was young. I was on my way. I was willing to do anything for art. It got me into so much trouble because when you’re willing to do anything for art but you don’t even know what your art is yet or what your music is or what you’re making, you’re willing to do anything to understand it or to experience something that will charge it or inspire it. And because of that I was really troubled. I was really sick all the time in my head, in my heart. I felt trapped, but I was free. And then it was like a slow death. A slow death of my innocence and my youth. And I had to climb through a lot of swine, and that’s where that song came from. This idea of something so dark and something so awful and perverted that at a young age you don’t really understand. And you don’t want to know and understand it. And then, as I’m older, I understand the intenseness of the experiences that I went through.” [as told to Marina Abramovic for V magazine]

Oprah Winfrey

When you were fourteen, you lost a baby. You talked about that openly before. Does any part of you ever wonder what would have happened if you’d had that child? No. I knew that me getting pregnant was the result of bad choices and not having boundaries and the abuse — sexual abuse from the time I was nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. And becoming a promiscuous teenager and running the streets and be put in the detention home and all of that. So I knew that when I lost that baby, for whom I had no connection to whatsoever, I would have to say — I was fourteen years old and felt nothing but just OK, relief, because I thought before the baby was born I’m going to have to kill myself. … And my father, as a part of his decree about what’s going to go on in this house and won’t go on in this house, said to me, as I’m standing in the kitchen listening to him tell me these are the rules of the house; you’re going to obey the rules; you have a 10:00 curfew. And I would rather see a daughter of mine floating down the Cumberland River, he said, than to bring shame on this family and the indecency of an illegitimate child. … I did stupid things like, you know, drinking detergent and all that kind of crazy stuff that you do when you’re trying to get attention, when you’re really just trying to cry for help. But this is my 14-year-old self. Like, I don’t even know what I thought the plan was going to be. That’s why I relate so much to young girls in that situation. There isn’t the great stigma that it was when I was in school, of course. And I just — you know, when I was 14, your life is over. You’re having a baby out of wedlock? Your life is over. So when the baby died — the baby was never brought home from the hospital and the baby died, I knew that it was my second chance. So I went back to school and nobody knew, because had anybody had known at that time, I wouldn’t have been able to be head of the student council. I wouldn’t have been able to be speaking champion in forensics. I wouldn’t have been able to be Miss Fire Prevention. I wouldn’t have been chosen as one of the two teenagers in the state of Tennessee to go to the White House Conference on Youth. None of those things would have happened, and the entire trajectory of my life would have been different.

[as told to Piers Morgan in a CNN interview]

Kim Kardashian

“When I was 17 I saw the movie Clueless, and that fashion was my life. The outfits from Judy’s were the outfits I’d wear. I literally had at least 10 of the outfits Cher had. Also it was pretty cool to have different colored beepers. I’d change my color every weekend… I was okay with school. My sister Kourtney was extremely smart. I always read a little slower. She was really mean to me. She would make me organize the bookshelf in our room. She would boss me around. I was like a B student. I didn’t love school…. I worked at a clothing store once called Body. It was the coolest clothing store in the Valley. My dad made us sign a contract when we were 16 that if we crashed our car or did anything to our car, we were responsible for it. I got a job at the clothing store to pay to get my car fixed after a wreck. After that, I worked for my dad at his music company.” [via Seventeen ]

Jason Schwartzman

“I started playing drums when I was ten. I was into sports too, I feel like that sort of gave me a focus. I was angry but in a more internal way. I had a rebellious feeling in me but I was afraid to get in trouble. I don’t think I was into hardcore music, I was never that kind of angry… I had lots of friends, my school was very small, but I was always feeling a little … girls didn’t talk to me, you know? I mean, I wasn’t on a rock by myself — there were those people at my high school, you know, sitting alone. Within that I had a hard time with girls. Specifically, I think of romance. I related to things like ‘In My Room,’ by The Beach Boys, that type of music, and to people who liked being alone. I feel like I did not have an abnormal teenage experience… I wasn’t necessarily angry, but moody, extremely moody. Quintessentially moody. Like. ‘What do you know?’ and, like, ‘Mom get off my back!’ And it’s funny because, when you read the book and you watch the movie, it was interesting because at the time I remember my mom saying something like, ‘Oh you teenagers, trust me, you think what’s happening is new, but this is not new and you’ll get over this’ and I remember thinking that’s the last thing you want to hear, that what you’re feeling isn’t unique.” [via Paper Magazine ]

S.E. Hinton

What were you like as a teenager? Were you a Greaser; a Soc? I was a tomboy — I played football, my close friends were guys. Fortunately, I was born without the need-to-belong gene, the gene that says you have to be in a little group to feel secure. I never wanted to be classified as anything, nor did I ever join anything for fear of losing my individuality. I didn’t even realize that these guys, who were my good friends, were greasers until one day we were walking down the street and some guys came and yelled, “Greaser!” It’s funny to look back at people you’ve know your whole life, to suddenly see them as everyone else sees them, with their slicked-back hair and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and their black leather jackets, and respond, “My God, they’re hoods.” You knew them and they’re not hoods, but they just look like hoods. I had friends on the rich side of town, too, and saw that they had their share of problems, also.

[via The Outsiders Fan Club]

Molly Ringwald

When you started acting, were you put in situations where you were the only kid around? Yeah, I was always the youngest person around. For years. … I loved it. It was hard for me at the time to relate to people my own age. That was sort of ironic: I became sort of like the “every teen,” representative of all teen America, but I felt like the most ill-equipped teenager out there. There were a couple of years when I was terrified to be around kids. Kids are mean! … I think like 13, 14 for girls is the worst. I was terrified of them. And I don’t know if it’s the same now, but when I was acting during that time, it inspired so much envy and jealousy and teasing, you know? I had a tough time in school. But then later I just got so confident from what I was doing outside of school that I didn’t really care what they thought.

[via Rookie ]

Donna Tartt

“During those [high school] years (when I was either trapped in my cinder-block bunker of a school down in Mississippi or — more entertainingly — roaming drunk around airports as the all-expenses-paid guest of political organizations whose values I didn’t share), Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was my constant companion. I kept his books in my locker at school, and I smiled for group pictures on the Capitol steps with his gloomy voice (psychoticdelusionalhow long can we maintain?) echoing in my ears. In my own view, I was a double agent: an outwardly cheerful and apparently harmless American child who had by some insane whim of the governing class been welcomed deep into the heart of Republican darkness. I believed that I was a member of Uncle Duke’s secret army, entrenched behind enemy lines; and furthermore, I believed that I was not alone. I believed that scores of other kids like me were keeping their eyes and ears open in hick towns all across America: a nest of hissing vipers, nursed deep in the bosom of Jesse Helms and the Moral Majority. And I believed that someday, when we grew up, we would take over the country.I was wrong.” [from an interview in Vogue via Maud Newton]

James Franco

“In high school, I was in the ‘James Loner Crowd.’ I didn’t hang out with people that much. I had a girlfriend and just painted a lot of the time. My dad was big on studying so I got good grades. … I went to a private painting school more than I went to high school. It provided me with a safe place to go.” [via Lindzi]

Judy Blume

“Oh, I’m not that crazy about the teenager I was. I much prefer the interesting person I was (to me, anyway) before I was a teen. As a teen, well, it was in the fifties, a very boring era. But as a ten year old I had a depth and curiosity that still interests me. Maybe that happens to all of us. We’re too into being like everyone else. Too concerned about how we look to our peers when we’re teens.” [via Scholastic]

Sofia Coppola

What would the 16 years old Sofia say about the woman sitting here today? I don’t know that’s a funny question, I think I always wanted to do things and be independent. I think I’d be happy! It’s funny I always wanted to be magazine editor.

[via Interview Russia ]

Diana Vreeland

“I suffered, as only the very young can suffer, the torture of being conspicuous.” [from DV via The Frisky]

Chris Ware

What were you like as a teenager? That’s a complicated question, since I think I mutated every three months or so, but a general string of adjectives might be: insufferable, desperate, scrawny, bad-skinned, triangulating, self-doubting, self-conscious, crude, and unappealing. I spent a lot of time watching television and following a program of musical taste that one of my friends unintentionally curated for me (i.e., I copied everything he liked), and I tried to make my naturally buoyant hair look longer by straightening it with a hairdryer. I attended private school until 10th grade in Omaha, Nebraska, where I wore a “formal uniform” which I modified to express my true self via footwear or digital watches that weren’t officially sanctioned by the Episcopalians. I was terminally unathletic and terrified at the thought that I might one day have to remove my shirt in public. To make up for this perceived deficiency, I stupidly got into various experimental substances, a period which ended in a moment of self-realization after buying said substances while driving my grandmother’s Oldsmobile Toronado — probably the dumbest, most shameful moment of my life — when I found myself thinking, What if I’d gotten arrested? What would that have said about me, about her, and about my mother, who tried to raise me right? Fortunately, I abandoned that particular path of inquiry.

[via Rookie ]

Alison Brie

“I was fairly nerdy in high school — not that bad. I had drama friends! I was a drama nerd. Someone recently said to me, “You must have been exactly like your character in high school—really type-A,” and I wasn’t. I was somewhere in between. I was kind of nerdy and by senior year was President of the Drama Club, and because I was in drama, I had to have good grades so I could do the plays. And because of drama, I really liked high school! I had fun.” [via The Daily Beast]

Darren Aronofsky

“Since I was very young, I’ve had a taste for the alternative. I remember as a teenager always looking for different ways of looking at things. I wasn’t in the Bavarian mountains, but in South Brooklyn [and we] didn’t get art film. I grew up on the mainstream films of the ’70s and early ’80s. It wasn’t until I started university that I realized films were made in Europe as well and latched onto [art films] because finally aesthetically something clicked… [But] I didn’t really know what a filmmaker was. When I got to university, I started reading a lot of dead white men and my roommate would get high every day and work on Anatomy of Film and get an A, and I was like, “Hmm, something’s wrong here.” So I switched over and I had a drawing class with this incredible teacher who just taught you how to look at the three-dimensional world and represent it in two dimensions on paper, and it radicalized the way I looked at the world.” [via THR]

Elizabeth Taylor

“When I was 15 and Louis B. Mayer started screaming at my mother and using swear words that I’d never heard before (‘I took you and your fucking daughter out of the gutter’), I uttered my first swear word and told him that he didn’t dare speak to my mother that way, and he and the studio could both go to hell, and that I was never going to go back to his office. And I left my mother there with her eyes shut, and I think she was sort of praying. … I walked out of there in such a fury and in tears, and went to see my old friend and vice-president Benny and he said, ‘You have to go back.’ And another vice president came and found me. Now those guys were my buddies, and they said, ‘Sweetheart you have got to go back and apologize.’ And I said, ‘What for? He should apologize to my mother I’m not going back in his office. I meant what I said and I don’t care if you fire me now.’ I don’t know where I found the independence. I totally winged it on my own and just took my career, with total knowledge and decision, and threw it out the window. Now I had not a clue how L. B. Mayer — one of the great icons of Hollywood history, and slightly mad, and who was frothing at the mouth in a temper — would take this from a pipsqueak. But I didn’t care. I knew that he had done something very wrong. As it turns out they must have wanted or needed me. Otherwise they wouldn’t have kept me. But that only has occurred to me in hindsight.” [via Rolling Stone ]

Miles Davis

“I didn’t grow up with any [‘white boys’], not as friends, to speak of. But I went to school with some. In high school, I was the best in the music class on the trumpet. I knew it and all the rest knew it — but all the contest first prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. It made me so mad I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn. If I hadn’t met that prejudice, I probably wouldn’t have had as much drive in my work. I have thought about that a lot. I have thought that prejudice and curiosity have been responsible for what I have done in music.” [via Playboy ]

John Hughes

“I was grimly serious in my teen and college years. I was in art school in a place where they have a great mining school.” [via The New York Times ]

Sarah Silverman

“I didn’t realize how neurotic I was as a teenager. Every entry [in my diary] was like: ‘Today was okay. I was depressed between 4:30 and 7:20. But I felt okay after that. I had a discussion with Mom and that went well.’ … You’re not going to believe this, but [my shrink] eventually had me taking four Xanax four times a day — 16 Xanax a day, for a 14-year-old girl. She upped the dose every time. She should be in prison.” [via Playboy ]

Francisco Costa

What were you like in high school? Anal. I was so anal! Even before high school, I had a very unorthodox kind of education growing up in this very small town. There were only two schools—the uptown one and the downtown one. I went to the downtown one and it was kind of a state school but with nuns and priests running it. There were a lot of rules. Every morning you had to go and sing the national anthem and raise the flag. I always wanted to be the first in line. We wore uniforms — navy shorts and cropped white shirts — and every week the kid who kept his uniform the cleanest got a red cross on his shirt, which you’d carry with pride the whole week. You were looked at as special. So there was a lot of pressure in that environment. In high school I focused on technical courses. Accounting. Accounting? It had nothing to do with me. I don’t even know what one plus one is. I don’t know how I ended up there.

[via Interview Magazine ]

Angelina Jolie

On attending Moreno High School in Beverly Hills: “It’s where the bad kids go. I chose it. I was the punk outsider who nobody messed with. I was fearless. At 16, I graduated and moved out.” [via Parade ]

Aubrey Plaza

“I was not a straight-A student, but I got pretty good grades and… awkward? Everyone in high school is awkward, I think…. [But] I wasn’t a freak in high school. Like I am now. I went to a really small all-girls private Catholic school, so my high school experience was probably different from other people’s experiences, but in my school it was cool to get good grades. … I did pull a lot of pranks. It’s a long story but a short version of it is that, at my school — it was called Urselon Academy — there was a handbook of rules. I was very obsessed with this handbook. The principal at the time was also very obsessed with this handbook, and I wanted to do something that was legal – that wasn’t in the handbook — and that would still make her really angry. So I convinced everyone in my class to wear facial hair to school. … And I remember there was a moment in my Spanish class where my teacher, we just had a standoff and she said, ‘You have to take that off right now.’ And I was like, ‘I will not take it off… Because it’s not in the handbook.’ And then I got a detention, and they wrote on the detention: ‘disorderly conduct.’ And I said, ‘I will not take that home unless it says exactly why I am in trouble.’ So then they wrote ‘failure to remove mustache when asked.’ And I took it home and I gave it to my parents, and we had a laugh.” [via Dinner Party Download]

Billy Crystal

“I was exactly like [Monsters Inc.‘s] Mike [in high school]. I was a loudmouth and I was always on stage; always looking for attention. I was the youngest of three brothers, and when you are the youngest and the shortest, you become the loudest…. Back then; I always wanted to perform. We had a great musical household. Dad was in the music business, so there were jazz people around all the time. There were a lot of great people to learn from. There were also a lot of people to make us laugh and imitate.” [via Edge Magazine]

Debbie Harry

What were you like as a teenager? I was probably oversexed.

[via Paper Magazine ]