Pursed lips, eye-squints and a nasally groan. Jennifer Coolidge, best known for playing Stifler’s mom in American Pie, is a recognizable face on the silver screen, but until recently she'd found herself relegated to the background.

Over the last few years, however, we have seen a Jenaissance. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s what people are calling Jennifer Coolidge’s epic return after not one but two recent breakout roles that have even seen her win an Emmy.

Known for such roles as the evil stepmom in A Cinderella Story and a beautician in Legally Blonde, Coolidge has...

Pursed lips, eye-squints and a nasally groan. Jennifer Coolidge, best known for playing Stifler’s mom in American Pie, is a recognizable face on the silver screen, but until recently she’d found herself relegated to the background.

Over the last few years, however, we have seen a Jenaissance. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s what people are calling Jennifer Coolidge’s epic return after not one but two recent breakout roles that have even seen her win an Emmy.

Known for such roles as the evil stepmom in A Cinderella Story and a beautician in Legally Blonde, Coolidge has spoken about her frustration with being “locked in” to a certain gold-digger typecast that didn’t really stop until she secured a part in The White Lotus, where her dizzy heiress character was different than anyone she had played before.

The hit series is an “eat the rich” whodunnit set in fictional hotel chains where wealthy guests fight to the death. It was written and directed by Mike White, the man behind the impeccable School of Rock. The second season was written with Coolidge in mind as the lead role (spoilers are ahead).

Tanya McQuoid is an overdramatic heiress with a directionless life spent fussing over nothings. Coolidge’s character is complex, with McQuoid in one scene rightly describing herself as an onion, admitting that “every step along the way, I have to worry about, you know, ‘Is he going to like the next layer?’” At the core of the onion, McQuoid says, “is just a straight-up, alcoholic lunatic!”

Her character’s life may have ended in the finale episode of season two, but her time as Tanya McQuoid produced some of the best acting of her career. Coolidge was able to show depth and perception as a woman consumed by so much grief that she is incapable of giving a thought about anybody else.

The White Lotus is also, shockingly, the first time Coolidge has been fully recognized as an iconic sex symbol. Her time as Stifler’s mom saw her ogled for a brief moment but it was more superficial. Yet as she’s gotten older, she’s grown messier, more honest and camp. And let’s not forget shamelessly horny. Earlier this year, the star admitted that her role in American Pie got her a lot of sex, saying that without it, “there would be like 200 people that I would never have slept with!”

Jennifer’s greatest characteristic is her relatability. During the pandemic, she admitted to scoffing five or more vegan pizzas a day, which saw her gain between thirty and forty pounds. This weight gain initially led her to say no to the role in The White Lotus because she thought she was “too heavy.” She often turns tedious interviews into comedic gold — without the forced Hollywood hipness of Jennifer Lawrence screaming about starving on the red carpet. It was recently rumored that Coolidge once pretended to be a fake Hemingway daughter to get into clubs (she went by “Muffin”). How deliciously on-brand.

It’s a shame that until Ariana Grande impersonated Coolidge on The Tonight Show in 2018, most people under the age of twenty-five hadn’t heard of her. Coolidge has since admitted that Grande’s impression of her pulled her out of a career “dead zone,” and by starring in Grande’s “Thank U, Next” video, it filled a generational void.

The last few years of Coolidge’s career, including her role as the cunning real estate agent Karen in The Watcher, have been her most productive and dynamic. “Whatever Mike White did for me, I would wish that for every actor,” Coolidge said. “Even if they fail. We all want a challenge — something really scary that we might not be able to succeed at. I think we all want that opportunity.”