Jennifer Love Hewitt Today: How The Former Teen Idol Feels About Her ‘Sex Symbol’ Status — 44 Years Later

Inspiring Stories

What’s the last you’ve heard about Jennifer Love Hewitt?

The Texas native is best known for her iconic “it girl” roles throughout the early 2000s, so what has she been up to over the past two-plus decades?

When the blockbuster slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer took the 90s teen world by storm, it seemed like Jennifer Love Hewitt came out of nowhere.

But her seemingly overnight success was no fluke. Jennifer Love Hewitt had been working toward her breakout role for years—ever since she was a little girl, tap dancing in Texas…

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Journey from Rising Star to Hollywood Success

Jennifer Love Hewitt didn’t grow up in the entertainment industry—or even near it, for that matter. Hewitt grew up in a small town in Texas with her mother and brother, following her parent’s split when she was just six months old.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

Despite her unconventional family life, Jennifer Love Hewitt had an unbreakable spirit and at the young age of three, showed a talent for singing.

At just three years old, Hewitt was already hitting the high notes, and taking her show on the road. From local livestock shows to community dance halls, little Jennifer Love Hewitt would perform anywhere that would let her.

Soon the toddler added tap dancing and ballet to her show-business repertoire, and by nine years old, Hewitt had already performed in the Soviet Union after joining a touring dance troupe.

But her biggest break was yet to come…

At the tender age of 10 years old, the multi-talented Jennifer Love Hewitt, was crowned “Our Little Miss” Texas.

After winning the beauty pageant, talent scouts suggested Jennifer Love Hewitt’s mother, consider relocating to Los Angeles, so Jennifer could pursue a more serious career in film and television.

For five years, Jennifer tried to find her way to break into the industry, with no luck. But as the age-old adage goes—it’s all about who you know.

Lucky for Jennifer, she happened to go to the right high school at the right time. While attending Lincoln High School, Jennifer Love Hewitt befriended an older classmate whose side hustle changed everything for her.

Party of Five was the 1994 teen drama that earned an overnight following. The hit show followed the lives of the five Salinger siblings who become orphans after their parents are killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver.

When a Party of Five casting call was on the hunt for the girl-next-door love interest to bad-boy heartthrob Bailey Salinger in season two, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s former classmate thought the young Texan would be perfect for the role—and he was right.

As fate would have it, after introducing Jennifer to the Party of Five creators, casting fell in love with her, and at 15 years old Jennifer Love Hewitt landed her first series regular role as the bubbly Sarah Reeves!

But Jennifer Love Hewitt was just getting started.

Her breakout role would come three years later, with the 1997 summer box office smash hit I Know What You Did Last Summer.

From Little Miss Texas to Teen Dream Queen

After I Know What You Did Last Summer, Jennifer Love Hewitt became the unofficial dream girl, of teen boys everywhere.

Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection

Her girl-next-door looks made her a softer counterpart, to her sassier co-stars like Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s kick-ass Sarah Michelle Geller.

Jennifer Love Hewitt stood out from her contemporaries because she had an approachability to her. She came off like the nice popular girl you had a crush on in high school, who might not kiss you but at least wouldn’t kick you in the hallways at school, you know?

And if you don’t believe me, just watch Can’t Hardly Wait (if you haven’t already)!

Can’t Hardly Wait

Columbia Pictures

Can’t Hardly Wait was the 1998 teen rom-com that today, has totally solidified its status as a coming-of-age cult classic.

Can’t Hardly Wait follows the adventures of several graduates on their last crazy night in high school. Everyone’s trying to lose their virginity or get revenge on their high school bully for tormenting them for years!

In the best typecast of all time, Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the beautiful, teen dream girl, Amanda: the object of the artistic Preston’s affection.

But all the attention came with more pressure than Jennifer Love Hewitt was always able to handle.

Looking back on her youth, Jennifer Love Hewitt today opens up about what it was like to be objectified by men in power at such a young age.

“The conversation for a very long time in my career was always about [my body] first — then, “Oh yeah, you were really great in the movie, too,” later. I didn’t get it. That’s just what I looked like, and I was doing my job. I just started to [prepare myself], like, I know I’m doing an interview today, so I’m pretty sure at least 20 of the 40 minutes is going to be about boobs and body stuff, so we’ll just get that out of the way and then maybe they’ll ask me something else. When I watched that Britney Spears documentary, it hurt my heart a little bit, because I remember in hindsight having that feeling. I’m really grateful that we’re in a time where, hopefully, that narrative is going to change for young girls who are coming up now, and they won’t have to have those conversations’.

– Jennifer Love Hewitt, VULTURE

Like so many other skinny female celebrities who are better looking than the rest of us (see: Scarlett Johanssen Shutting Down Sexist Comments For 5 Minutes Straight) Jennifer Love Hewitt has battled her fair share of being objectified by men—and unlike myself and Amy Schumer—wants it to stop.

Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

During an interview with the panting dog of late-night hosts, Conan O’Brien, (an interaction which did not age well), the then 20-year-old Jennifer Love Hewitt hugged Conan O’Brien as she sat down for his show, and for some reason, Conan O’Brien can’t let this hug go.

Conan references “the hug” upwards of 15 times, trying to get the suggestive point of hugging this 20-year-old girl across to his hooting and hollering audience and the mere suggestion of embracing this woman–even throwing a growl in there for good measure.

And while Conan has genuinely never interested me, people love him. In fact, people seem to be fans of hosts like Conan and Howard Stern.

But at such a young age, in the late ’90s, Jennifer Love Hewitt didn’t know any better, but these men did, and that’s exactly the problem.

As her career evolved, Jennifer starred in more provocative films, like Heartbreakers, along with legendary actress Sigourney Weaver. However, these roles didn’t cement Jennifer Love Hewitt’s status as a “serious” actress. They merely opened her up to more hyper-sexualization.

“At the time that I was going through it, and interviewers were asking what now would be incredibly inappropriate, gross things, it didn’t feel that way. I mean, I was in barely any clothing [in Heartbreakers]. For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go, Okay, well, I guess they wouldn’t be asking if it was inappropriate. But now, as a 42-year-old woman with a daughter, I definitely look back on it and go, Ew. And it really started with I Know What You Did Last Summer, because that was the first time that I had worn a low top, and on Party of Five, my body was very covered. At a press junket for I Know or I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, I remember purposely wearing a T-shirt that said “Silicone Free” on it because I was so annoyed, and I knew something about boobs was gonna be the first question out of [reporters’] mouths. I was really tired of that conversation.
With Heartbreakers, that was a big part of it. I was disappointed that it was all about body stuff, because I had really worked hard in that movie to do a good job as an actress. So I remember one specific moment wishing that the acting had overshadowed all that — that for five minutes, they had said I was really great in the movie versus made a body comment. Now that I’m older, I think, Gosh, I wish that I had known how inappropriate that was so I could have defended myself somehow or just not answered those questions. I laughed it off a lot of the time, and I wish maybe I hadn’t.

– Jennifer Love Hewitt

As she matured and became more of a household Hollywood name, Jennifer Love Hewitt steered her career in a less exploitive and more empowered direction.

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Approach to Career and Family

Today, Hewitt is proud of the work-life balance she was able to achieve.

In 2012, she snagged a Golden Globe nomination for her work on Lifetime’s series The Client List—but that’s not all she snagged!

She met and fell for her The Client List co-star Brian Hallisday and the couple tied the knot a year later, in 2013.

Following the ceremony, a few days later, life got even better for the happy couple as the actress and her new beau welcomed their first child, daughter Autumn James.

Casey Rodgers/Invision/AP

The Hewitt-Hallisday family would double with sons Atticus and Aidan James joining them in 2015 and 2021.

After killing it (pun intended) on Season 10 of Criminal Minds, Jennifer Love Hewitt decided it was time to take a step back from acting in order to raise her kids.

In an exclusive interview with ELLE, Jennifer Love Hewitt revealed after a rigorous shooting schedule for her one-season on arc on Criminal Minds (while she was pregnant with her son Atticus) she realized she wanted to be putting her energy into being a full-time mother.

I was looking in the mirror, talking with myself, going, ‘Hey, we started something, remember? We were gonna take a step back. So let’s do that.’

– Jennifer Love Hewitt

The actress took a three-year break from acting but was warmly welcomed back by fans when she announced she would be returning to the screen with her new FOX procedural drama 9-1-1.

Recent Projects and On-Screen Ventures

Jennifer Love Hewitt showed her range taking on the role of the fierce 911 responder Maddie Buckley.

But her performance wasn’t the only thing that left fans stunned.

The brunette bombshell shocked fans when she made some trendy fashion choices and traded her signature locks in for a new look!

What’s Next for Jennifer?

Jennifer Love Hewitt today is continuing to make headlines for empowering women.

Hewitt took to Instagram to give fans a more honest depiction of how aging isn’t always the easiest thing.

In a heartfelt Instagram post on her 44th birthday, Hewitt admitted to her 1.4 million followers, that she “gets insecure about aging.”

Nearly 30 years later, Jennifer Love Hewitt is still as beautiful and iconic as ever…and she’s not done yet!

Fans can expect big things coming from Hewitt next year, as Jennifer Love Hewitt is rumored to be part of the Garfield (2024) reboot alongside A-Lister Chris Pratt, and an I Know What You Did Last Summer sequel is apparently in the works at Sony.

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