It’s a full-on Jenaissance! Late in life, Jennifer Coolidge is a bona-fide superstar. She’s taken on a lot of identities through 30 years in the industry — including gay icon and the original MILF — but only now, at age 68, has she attained A-list status. Starring on HBO’s The White Lotus, Coolidge is earning the widest audience of her career. But you might have forgotten that back in 1993, she played one of Jerry Seinfeld’s many girlfriends.
In “The Masseuse,” Coolidge was just that: the titular masseuse who takes up with Seinfeld — but won’t massage him. It was a memorable episode, but Coolidge herself was nearly unrecognizable in the role, sporting brown hair and going without her trademark, breathy voice.
Jennifer Coolidge on ‘Seinfeld’
In the fifth season of Seinfeld, Jennifer Coolidge appears as Jodi, a withholding masseuse who dates Jerry Seinfeld and hates George Costanza. In the modest role, she appears with dark auburn hair — a far cry from the sexified blonde image Coolidge would go on to cultivate.
In “The Masseuse,” Jodi’s obvious disdain for George drives him crazy, meanwhile, Jerry tries tricking her into giving him a massage. “You’re a massage teaser!” Jerry yells at her before trying to forcibly eke a rubdown out of his — soon to be ex-girlfriend. George then runs out of the apartment, mad with love.
“A woman that hates me this much is once in a lifetime,” he tells Jerry before leaving. We never see Jodi again on Seinfeld. But it was just the start of a long, varied career for Jennifer Coolidge.
Jennifer Coolidge’s Hot Career
When Jennifer Coolidge won for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series at the 2023 Golden Globes, her thankful speech charted the unique and difficult path of Hollywood outsider:
“Thank you, thank you so much, wow, and thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. It really means a lot. Thank you. Wow. I can put this down, right? I don’t work out, you know what I mean — I can’t hold it that long. But, you know, this is such a great night. I’m so glad to be here and be in the company of all of you. Hollywood Foreign Press, thank you. I just want to say, some of the people in this room, there were like five people that kept me going for, you know, 20 years with these little jobs. And Ryan Murphy, you were one of them. It’s these little jobs that kept me going, it was like five — it was like you, Ryan, and, let’s see, we got — who else was there. It was … just you, Ryan.
“No, but, I mean — I didn’t know anybody, and it just was sort of this thing that wasn’t going anywhere. Then there were these people who would give me these cute little jobs and it would just be enough to get to the next one. Michael Patrick King, you kept me going for a long time, and Reese [Witherspoon], you got me in Legally Blonde. And then the Weiss brothers would keep me going because some of these would go like five different episodes, and five different sequels of American Pie. I’ve milked that to death. I’m still going for six or seven, whatever they want.
“But I just want to say, I hope my agent at UTA and Tiffany [Kuzon], you all forgive me because the hook came out at the last thing I got an award at, this giant hook, and I thought it left when vaudeville ended, and this hook came and took me off the stage at the Emmys. And I didn’t get to say what I really wanted to say at the Emmys, which is Mike White… I just — truly, I just want you all to know that I had such big dreams and expectations as a younger person, but what happened is they get sort of fizzled by life and whatever. I thought I was going to be Queen of Monaco even though someone else did it. [Laughter] But I had these giant ideas. And then you get older and, oh, shit’s going to happen. And, Mike White, you have given me hope. You’ve given me a new beginning. Even if this is the end, because you did kill me off, but even if this is the end, you changed my life in a million different ways. My neighbors are speaking to me and things like that. I was never invited to one party on my hill, and now everyone’s inviting me! I just — you know, it’s to you, Mike White.
This is something all of you, if you don’t know Mike White, this is what you should know: He is worried about the world, he’s worried about people, he’s worried about friends of his that aren’t doing well, he’s always worried about people, you’re worried about animals, and he really is one of the greatest people I’ve ever … He gives me so much excitement to be — you make people want to live longer, and I didn’t.
So anyway, I just want to say, Mike White, I love you to death. I just want to say, this is a real fun night, thank you. Thank you!”
— Jennifer Coolidge at the 2023 Golden Globes, transcript via Vulture
Everyone loves Jennifer Coolidge. Now. But as the actress said at the Golden Globes, for decades, she was not invited to the parties in the hills. No, Coolidge was never mainstream. She was a character actress, a cult favorite, who always wondered where her next part might come from. But between all those, often-bit, performances, she cobbled together one of the most unique careers in Hollywood.
Some stand-outs: her collaborations with mockumentaries Christopher Guest, like Best in Show, her iconic run as Stiffler’s mom in the American Pie series, the beloved BFF in Legally Blonde — “I’m taking the dog, dumbass!” — the botoxed stepmother in A Cinderella Story, and, more recently, her turn on Ryan Murphy’s The Watcher.
But of course, it’s Coolidge’s turn on The White Lotus which has everybody talking. The show’s second season premiered this fall to rave reviews and massive viewership and cementing Coolidge’s role of Tanya McQuoid with full-on legendary status. No spoilers here, but McQuoid goes out with a bang-bang-bang. Only fitting for a real-life icon.