it girl

You Can’t Millennial-Shame Bethany Cosentino

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Shervin Lainez

In April 2023, New York Magazine celebrated “It” girls: who anointed them, what it was like to be them, and where they are now. Follow along as we continue that celebration by interviewing musicians across genres who we think have “It.”

Bethany Cosentino greets me with an apology. “Sorry I’m late! I literally just ran in from the gym,” she explains, materializing on my screen in a sweat-drenched “Friend of the Pod” T-shirt and clutching a venti cold brew. It’s the afternoon before the release of Natural Disaster, her first solo record under her own name after 14 years of performing as Best Coast, the surf-pop duo she formed in 2009 with bandmate Bobb Bruno.

If you were shopping at Urban Outfitters circa 2010, you knew Cosentino as a paragon of messy millennial cool: She wore vintage sundresses and Wayfarers, sang about smoking doobies, tweeted often, and had a famous cat named Snacks. Indie rock was run by 20-somethings fluent in irony who had entered adulthood just as the 2008 recession hit, and Cosentino was queen of the scene — which had its perks (magazine covers, tours with the Pixies, bag-securing placements in Microsoft ads) and its drawbacks (a level of misogynist scrutiny that feels painfully retrograde today). The vibes were chill, but the big draw was always Cosentino’s voice, which was clear and rich even through the fuzz-pedal smog.

Earlier this year, the 36-year-old announced she would be pausing the Best Coast project indefinitely and starting over — as herself. For Natural Disaster, the Los Angeles lifer hauled out to Nashville, where the record’s producer, the Americana musician Butch Walker, runs a studio down a dirt road populated mainly by cows. A ’90s strain of country music runs through the record, with its loping guitar grooves and sunny melodies, and Sheryl Crow’s impact looms large. (A giant poster of the singer circa Tuesday Night Music Club hangs in the corner of Cosentino’s bedroom.) The album is also clearly written by someone who has “done the work,” in the language of therapy. Where a Best Coast record might have shrugged and dissociated, now Cosentino gracefully grapples with self-acceptance and fights the urge to doomscroll. It’s a convincing testament to the notion that life gets much better in your 30s.

You’re a Scorpio. Do you feel like the sign describes you well?

I think my intensity and drive comes from my Scorpio side. But I’m a Cancer rising, and the place I’m in now, I feel more connected to my Cancer rising than I do my Scorpio sun. Your rising sign is kind of how you carry yourself, and I think I always tried to repress that. Now I feel like I’m ready to be soft and vulnerable. I’m 36 years old — what am I gonna do, be an angsty teenager for the rest of my life?

I do get that from the album. You reach a point where you’re no longer served by ironic detachment or cool nihilism. Mid-30s vibes.

The state of the world is such a shitshow, and in my 20s, I think I would’ve really stared down the tunnel of darkness. Now, I feel like I have to gravitate toward hope and faith that a better world is possible because otherwise there’s no reason for me to get out of bed in the morning. Yesterday I was reading about aliens until I was like, You know what? I’m going to put away my phone and take a walk outside with my dog and look at butterflies and hummingbirds landing on plants, and I’m gonna remember that even though everything around me feels like it’s collapsing, there’s still a lot of magic to be experienced in the world. That’s really what I think the message of my album is. But when I was 25, I would have never been caught dead saying those things. It wasn’t cool to be a spiritual or positive person. But it doesn’t do me any good to be nihilistic 24 hours a day.

So what makes someone an “It” girl?

I mean, if you really want my answer, an “It” girl is someone who runs into her “It” girl interview from the gym with her Starbucks and her T-shirt covered in sweat — I don’t care! When I was 22 and Best Coast was first starting, I was very much called the “indie-rock ‘It’ girl,” and I did not feel deserving of that title, nor did I really understand what it meant. I thought to be the “It” girl, you always had to be together, dressed in designer clothes, VIP everywhere you went. I didn’t understand that it truly just meant not being afraid to just be yourself. I think I was so concerned with fitting a mold of what I thought a cool person was supposed to be. Now I don’t feel the need to try and be anybody other than myself. Maybe I should’ve changed my T-shirt, but I don’t care.

The mold you would have been trying to fit into in the early Best Coast days wasn’t only a cool girl but a late-aughts cool girl. People in their 20s now seem so much more put together, but back then, the vibe was like messy hipster.

I see all these young girls on TikTok doing their “get ready with me” routines, and they look like they’re going to the Met Gala. I don’t understand. I run errands in linen pants and Birkenstocks, and I wear running shoes because they’re comfortable. When you’re in your 20s, you want to walk into a room and have people pay attention. Now, I get invited to parties and I’m like, “Is there parking and a place to sit?” Otherwise, I’m not coming.

What are your dinner spots in L.A.?

I’m half Italian and was raised predominantly around the Italian side of my family, so I love Italian food. There’s a spot called Speranza, an Italian place I love, but I often just order takeout from there since it’s near my house. I also like Little Dom’s, another Italian place in Los Feliz. There’s a really incredible omakase-style Japanese place called Sasabune in Glendale, where I live — that’s where I go if I’m trying to ball out. But I’m not a person that goes to the cool, hip L.A. restaurants. The sushi place I’m talking about is literally in the same strip mall as my gym, and there’s a California Pizza Kitchen across from it.

Somehow, despite not living there, I’m bombarded with L.A. restaurant gossip. Like why should I know about Horses?

When all of that came out, I tweeted something like, “I’m happy to say I never ate at Horses because I was too busy eating at the Cheesecake Factory.” If it’s a place where someone is getting paparazzied, you’re not gonna catch me there. Also, I’m pretty frugal and I’d rather save my money for other things.

What’s your favorite way to spend $100?

This is going to really showcase how uncool I am, but I love places like Nordstrom Rack and HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx — in particular because I love buying candles. Every so often, I’ll buy an expensive one. I don’t even know if this is considered an expensive candle, but the Boy Smells candles, that’s about the cap of what I’ll spend. I see a $200 candle and I’m like, I could get 50 candles from T.J. Maxx. So the best way to spend $100 is browsing the aisles of your local HomeGoods, then filling your cart with candles, some new tongs for your kitchen, and a salad spinner.

What’s your favorite candle fragrance profile?

I like earthy ones with a hint of citrus or floral. My favorite candle is Boy Smells’ Italian Kush. Someone got it for me as a gift. Then I ordered ten so I have them ready to go when one runs out.

What’s your relationship with your phone these days?

It’s a little intense right now because I’m promoting a record. Social media is very much a part of my job, so I am on it a lot. I have periods where I’m a full-blown addict with it, truly crazy stuff, but I’m good at catching myself and being like, We’ve reached rock bottom here. I went out and got an old-school alarm clock so I don’t start my days scrolling. Now I wake up to the alarm clock and try to have coffee and go outside before I look at my phone.

Who are some artists that spoke to you when you were younger?

My No. 1 is Linda Ronstadt. I remember discovering her as a kid and really gravitating toward her voice. I was a huge Rilo Kiley fan in high school, and Jenny Lewis was just the epitome of cool to me — still is. Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Gwen Stefani. No Doubt made a huge impact on me. I had never seen anybody like Gwen as a kid. Now her vibe is so weird, but I’m happy for her — Gavin Rossdale did her so wrong, and I’m happy she found a man that makes her feel good.

On the subject of domesticity, what’s your home décor aesthetic?

I like ’70s-style stuff, and I also like a classic California-rustic vibe. The house I live in was built in the ’30s and has all natural light hardwood floors. I’ve lived in houses before where everything was flipped and bought from Ikea, and that’s just not my vibe. I like a lot of natural woods, and I have a gallery wall in my living room that’s all different paint-by-numbers I’ve collected over the years in wood frames. I also have a lot of cool old vintage framed music posters, like this Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club one behind me.

Say you’re having a dinner party: What are you making? Or are you ordering in?

No, I love to cook, and everything I cook is always vaguely Italian. There’s this dish I really like that my dad always used to make, a tuna pasta dish: good-quality canned tuna in olive oil, some garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives. You add a little pasta water and thicken it up, add some Parmesan cheese, cook the pasta, put it in, and then sometimes — I don’t eat dairy because I’m allergic to it, so these are all vegan cheeses but I’ve found some very good ones — you add a little feta and toss it all. It’s good to eat fresh or as a pasta salad the next day with a lot of citrus and red pepper.

You’re recently engaged, and I’ve seen you use the hashtag #GenXFiance. What are your favorite traits of the Gen-X community?

Oh! I do really like that he’s not big into social media. He has social media, but he’s not really into his phone. I’m super-millennial so I text a lot and send voice notes, and he’s just very, like, “thumbs up.” Very dry. I really like that. I appreciate that he’s a phone-call kind of guy. There are also certain pop-culture things he knows nothing about, which I really respect, and then I get to teach him something. Also, he’s a real gentleman, a real “open the door for you, chivalry is not dead” kind of vibe. And I will tell you that many of the millennial men I have dated have very “chivalry is dead” vibes. It’s nice to have someone who’s thoughtful enough to be like, She’s got a lot going on, let me just put these things in her car for her.

Have you met many of your idols?

Honestly, most of them. I have yet to meet Sheryl Crow, but I know it’ll happen. I’ve never met Stevie Nicks, which feels like it could happen. And I’ve never met Joni Mitchell, which would be incredible. But I’ve been fortunate enough to not only meet a lot of my idols but work with them and be in close proximity to them in a creative way. When Drew Barrymore directed the video for “Our Deal” off the first Best Coast album, that was the epitome of the craziest thing that had ever happened to me. I grew up thinking Drew Barrymore was the fucking coolest person, and she truly is — and the nicest, most down-to-earth. The way she presents herself on television is exactly how she is in real life.

For this album, did you have to consciously shut down “Best Coast mode” to move on as a solo act? Or was it an easy transition?

Best Coast was so tethered to certain elements of my personality, but because it was a very conscious break, it felt very easy for me to tap into all of these other influences. I just really started to feel like I outgrew the persona of Best Coast, and no matter how hard I tried to publicly be like, This isn’t me anymore, it kept reverting back to that. My body and my soul were like, It’s time for us to move on. I found it a very cathartic process.

I don’t know if you do this, but when I get really into a particular album, I sort of curate the rest of my life around it. Are there any movies or other works of art you think would pair well with Natural Disaster?

Aesthetically, Thelma & Louise was a huge one. That was all over the mood board for the music videos, promo photos, album cover. Defending Your Life, by Albert Brooks, is another one I kept watching while I was making the record. It’s such a good movie about having one life and living it as freely and as detached from expectation and anxiety as you possibly can. And that’s what the message of this record is — live in the moment because it’s all we have, which can be very challenging when everything feels like pure chaos. So the philosophy behind that movie coupled with Thelma & Louise aesthetically feels very much like Natural Disaster.

That checks out. What are some “It” girl essentials of yours?

Actually, I have one right here, I’ll show you — this Dr. Dennis Gross mask. I love this thing. It’s like an LED red-light mask, and it has blue light as well. I still get hormonal acne as a mid-30s woman, but this really helps calm my skin and reduce fine lines. Plus, it’s a really fun thing to just vibe out on the couch for six minutes a day with this weird Power Ranger mask on. I would also say my specific brand of “It” girl–ism involves a lot of journaling to get the chatter out of my head. Working toward radical self-acceptance is very cool and helps you get to what my definition of an “It” girl is, which is someone comfortable being who they are.

You have a music video that features cast members of my favorite show, Vanderpump Rules. I have many questions about that, but I’ll simply ask, Fuck, marry, kill: Jax, DJ James Kennedy, Schwartz?

Kill Jax, 100 percent. Honestly, fuck James Kennedy and marry Schwartz, which feels weird. But James Kennedy is hot. He’s an asshole, but he’s a star — he’s made for reality television. Jax is a vile, disgusting human being. I’ve hung out with Schwartz; he means well, but he’s a little derpy. I’m happy for Katie. She deserves a lot better, and she knows it. And thank you for not including Sandoval at all. I always thought Ariana deserved way better, so I’m happy it all worked out.

You Can’t Millennial-Shame Bethany Cosentino