Rose McGowan on shaving her head, ‘breaking up with the world’ and why Hollywood is a ‘cult’

Lyndsey ParkerEditor in Chief, Yahoo Music
Yahoo Music

Author, activist, and former actress Rose McGowan is Skyping with Yahoo Entertainment from self-isolation in her secret bunker in Mexico. It seems like an appropriate setting in which to discuss her experimental, meditative debut album, Planet 9, which depicts a utopian society far, far way. Though the record has been five years in the making, McGowan only recently decided to release it — not just because she was previously focused on her battle with “350-pound monster” Harvey Weinstein, whom she has long alleged raped her in 1997 (a period in her life when her “brain broke”), but because she “had no idea when the right time” would be.

“And then 12 days ago, I was sitting here thinking, ‘We can't travel anywhere. We can't go anywhere. Where can go that's inside?’ And, I just thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the perfect time to release this,’” McGowan explains. “People can listen to it and have a release and do some internal traveling. … I knew if I could make music that helped soothe my trauma and made me feel like I was in a better place while being on Earth dealing with all these people, these monsters, then I know it would work on other people.”

One of the album’s tracks that helped McGowan heal from her own trauma, “Lonely House,” specifically references Weinstein in the line “Hurt by beasts of no known nation, hurt by beasts, no provocation.” But McGowan stresses that the song isn’t entirely about Weinstein, because “he's not worth it.” The song is instead a rumination on the extreme sense of isolation she felt during her acting heyday, which eventually prompted her to shave her head and “break up” with the industry. “I'm good at this quarantine thing,” she chuckles ruefully. “I did it for years.”

McGowan elaborates: “With ‘Lonely House,’ I started with, ‘Are you lonely on your planet? Are you lonely on the fringe?’ Because I was. I was a fringe person, and lonely as hell. I was very famous for being on TV; I was famous for not being me. … It's a weird situation. I was at a 7-Eleven one night, I remember, at the height of TV fame, and I had this thought: I had my head down and I was paying and I was like, ‘I'm the loneliest person on the planet.’ And the guy behind the counter just goes, ‘You must have the happiest life!’ I looked at him and I was like, ‘Um, yeah.’ It's just like, ‘Oh, poor me,’ but it is like the golden handcuffs in a way. It's a very strange life.”

Now McGowan is focused on activism, filmmaking, writing, and music, with no desire to ever return to acting. “It was my day job. I acquitted myself very well, but it wasn't the love of my life,” she says. “I refused to give up who I was forever just to stay in a [Hollywood] system that I fundamentally disagree with, that I think is a cult. … and then I get blacklisted after being sexually assaulted, and then what job are you doing to do? Then it was like taking the dregs and scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get what [roles] I could. That's just a crap way to live. And it's not artistically where I live.”

When asked if she ever regrets going in acting, which ultimately put her in harm’s way, McGowan muses, “I do, but at the same time, I think it was always going to be that way. Weirdly enough, my whole life, I was deathly afraid of being sexually assaulted, as I think most women are. It's just a common [fear], the guy coming in at night with a mask on his face. That's terrifying. It's the Boogieman. But our ‘Boogieman’ is usually someone we know, even if it's just at a breakfast meeting, in my case, at 10 in the morning. … They come in all forms, and I wish I had gotten out of Hollywood sooner.”

Rose McGowan in 2016. (Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
Rose McGowan in 2016. (Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

Explaining her decision to finally get out, McGowan continues, “It was like doing undercover work for so long that you just lose your brain, but then I found it again and I wrote my way out of Hollywood. I shaved my head, and the side effect immediately was weird, was that men and women could hear the words coming out of my mouth for the first time. And I wasn't saying anything differently, but just by breaking the stereotype of what a traditional woman looks like, my voice was heard. And I thought, ‘I wonder if I can do this for other women and other humans, without them having to shave their head? What if women could actually be heard?’” 

McGowan reveals that the head-shaving was “a way of making it so I could not go back to Hollywood. I used to get asked all the time when I shaved my head, ‘Oh, did you break up with someone?’ — and from women, of course, saying that all the time. I was like, ‘What a stupid, internalized, misogynistic question. No, of course I didn't break up with someone!’ But then I realized they were actually right, in a weird way: I broke up with the world. I broke up with the societal ideal of what I was supposed to look like as a performer, as an actress, as a Hollywood person, as a woman. I was like, ‘And F off! No, I will not. Why do I have to look like what makes you feel better?’”

The artwork for Rose McGowan's album 'Planet 9.' (Photo: Bandcamp)
The artwork for Rose McGowan's album 'Planet 9.' (Photo: Bandcamp)

It’s understandable that McGowan wanted to extricate herself from Hollywood, considering how she was treated after she became one of the first actresses to openly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, and then refused to stay silent or back down. “Everything I said was discounted. Everything that came out of my mouth was like side order of crazy, because [Weinstein] paid off journalists all over the world, and he gave them a hit list with a line through my name, with a red line, saying, ‘This is the No. 1 person,’” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What did I do to these people? I could never figure it out. And now with Ronan Farrow's reporting, I know why. I was like, ‘Ah, OK, that makes sense.’ 

“Harvey Weinstein and his machine, as they do, they paint you as a ‘crazy, drug-addict whore.’ That's their whole thing that have done to women for centuries: ‘She's crazy. Don't listen to her.’ Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre,” McGowan continues. “How do you really know she's crazy? You just have a man's word for it. Stuff like that. It's a very classical way of just silencing humans, and I think it's a terrible thing that they do to humans.”

Rose McGowan and Ronan Farrow in 2018. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Rose McGowan and Ronan Farrow in 2018. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

McGowan recalls a couple specific instances when she was treated like a pariah at show business events. “I had to live with going to a dinner party in Hollywood with somebody, a leering agent next to me going, ‘Hey, get any good Weinstein scripts lately?’ Stuff like that, relentless, to get a reaction out of me. Brutal stuff, constantly,” she says. “I remember going to some stupid Vogue luncheon — barf! — and the actresses scooting away from me like I had a blacklisting and it was something they could catch. They would just literally turn their backs on me and not talk.

“I went to a gala dinner in Cannes and I didn't really think about it, and they sat me between [Weinstein] and his ex-wife [Marchesa fashion designer Georgina Chapman]. She had turned away from me and wouldn't even look at me, and he's leering at me. Then about 10 years after being raped, I was in Cannes to support a movie of mine, and he sent me Marchesa dresses to wear, these hideous dresses, and I was like, ‘What the f***? I'll take your pink vomit and burn it. Get out of here!’”

While McGowan says Uma Thurman has reached out to her “several times” and has been “really loving and concerned,” none of the above-mentioned, nameless actresses who used to spurn her have apologized to her, publicly or privately. “I get asked a lot, ‘Do you feel vindicated? Are you happy that people believe you now?’ Honestly, I don't give a s***,” she says. “It was more important people than ‘Hollywood people’ who did that for me. It would be people with 43 followers on Instagram. They messaged me, and one guy wrote a really lovely thing: He said, ‘I feel really bad. Some years ago on a post, I said something really nasty to you and derogatory, and I've had time to reflect since. I was being a jerk, and I'm really, really sorry.’ We still have a dialogue, and I talk to him. He's got 43 followers. That is who concerns me a lot more.”

Rose McGowan in 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)
Rose McGowan in 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

That being said, McGowan does believe that Hollywood is safer now, in the post-#MeToo movement age. “I had two young women come up to me on the street the last time I was [in Los Angeles], and they were like, ‘We feel safer on set now. Thank you so much,’” she reveals. And she feels safer herself, now that Weinstein is behind bars. And she knows that her outspokenness helped effect that change. “Righteous anger can change the world. I had to scare them. I wouldn't have been effective playing soft. You can look at what feminism has achieved in the last 30 years and you could say not much — and I don't actually even consider myself in that tribe,” she says.

However, McGowan says she’s misunderstood as being a constantly angry person — a very different vibe from the serenity of her Planet 9 album, which may alter that public perception. “A lot of people, I know, are shocked that I'm coming out with [music] that is hopeful, but I am actually quite soft and quite hopeful,” she insists. “I got a [record] review from Variety, which was surprisingly OK considering I drag them regularly, and they were like, ‘We wanted her to scream or rage or something like that.’ But that's actually not who I am."

Adds McGowan with a grin: “I'm not a ‘loose cannon.’ I'm just a cannon.”

Check out Rose McGowan’s full, fascinating conversation with Yahoo Entertainment below:

 Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

Follow Lyndsey on FacebookTwitterInstagramAmazon, and Spotify.

What to Read Next