Jenny Slate has brilliantly entertained us, usually by making us laugh, on Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, web series Marcel the Shell, The Secret Life of Pets (and its sequel), Zootopia and abortion dramedy Obvious Child, among other highlights. But the actress and comedian is also a deeply contemplative seeker, a woman unafraid to share her frailties, breakdowns and breakthroughs — at least not with Refinery29’s Christene Barberich in this week’s UnStyled podcast.
“The past five years of my life, from age 32 to 37, have been the best years of my life...the hardest years I've had so far,” Jenny tells Christene. “I had a lot of disruption in my personal life.” Some of that disruption included her divorce from editor-director Dean Fleischer-Camp, which was followed by a high-profile relationship and breakup with Avengers’ Chris Evans.
In the aftermath, Jenny realized, “I really needed to figure out what I thought about myself when a man was not defining that for me.” It didn’t matter, she says, that she had a fulfilling creative career, or felt engaged and focused in her work for reproductive and social justice. “My personal relationships, could be very unhealthy,” she says.
Much of the post-breakups work, she says, had to do with radical self-acceptance — about her own emotional makeup and how that plays out in relationships. “I’d look back at the end of my marriage. Like, Ooh, I don’t like that I was like that, I'll never be that way again. But the next couple of years [were] the most totally bonkers I probably have ever been. I had many regrets, about much of my internal world at that point.”
But that kind of regret, she learned, does worse than nothing. “The one thing that I learned was that shame is really useless — but just because it's useless doesn’t mean that it's not also incredibly destructive. I feel shame deeply, and so I need to be with somebody who will let me make mistakes, and not shame me,” she tells Christene. “That's a hard person to find and it's hard to find in myself, and I'm not there yet...but I'm really getting there.”
As painful as it all was, and sometimes still is, Jenny is grateful, and closer to, well, peace, than she’s ever been. “I just felt that my life fell apart, I felt like everything was in pieces, and I felt despair,” she says. “And I felt a feeling that my life will always try to save itself. And that's something that I'm lucky that I have inside of me: the will to thrive and not just thrive, but totally bloom.”
To hear the rest of Jenny and Christene’s intense, soul-bearing chat — her new partner, her SNL firing and Lorne Michaels, her new book, her parents and more — listen to this week’s UnStyled and subscribe via Apple Podcasts.