Elizabeth Olsen on the power of ‘no’: ‘You can just say no whenever the hell you want!’

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Elizabeth Olsen covered a recent issue of Glamour UK, which is entirely digital now. This was released a full month after WandaVision completed its run, so it’s not technically WandaVision promotion or anything, but I really don’t know what it’s for. Elizabeth chats with the magazine about feminism, the power of “no,” panic attacks and more. She’s in England right now because she’s working on Doctor Strange 2, which is apparently VERY witchy and, according to her, going for that “horror show vibe.” Some highlights:

She used to have panic attacks: “I had major panic attacks for a long time. It was totally debilitating. I was living in New York on my own and I was 22….I didn’t realise it was something that you could not control. And the issue is the control part. Then I just learnt a bunch of brain tricks from friends who actually went to a neuropsychiatrist – and instead of medicating, I decided to do it that way. With panic attacks, you have to put your attention off ‘whatever’s making you spin’ onto something else. It was [about] being present in the moment and identifying all the things around you in order to not spin.”

Growing up, she didn’t think she would be an actor: “I thought I was going to be on Wall Street. I don’t know what I wanted, I was just good at math. And I’m good at sciences so [I thought] maybe I should do something like that. But at the end of the day, I really love acting.”

On nepotism: “I was 10 and I was curious about auditioning… and I realised very quickly it wasn’t for me because I was missing my sports teams, my dance class and all the extracurricular activities at school. But during that time, I thought ‘I don’t want to be associated with [Mary-Kate and Ashley]’, for some reason. I guess I understood what nepotism was like inherently as a 10-year-old. I don’t know if I knew the word, but there is some sort of association of not earning something that I think bothered me at a very young age. It had to do with my own insecurities, but I was 10. So I don’t know how much I processed, but I did think, ‘I’m going to be Elizabeth Chase [her middle name] when I become an actress.’”

Her sisters taught her “No is a full sentence”. “The word ‘No’ specifically was something that I remember my sisters isolating and it becoming really empowering. And for women, it’s a really empowering word. People say ‘Just say no to drugs’, but truly, you can just say no whenever the hell you want! It’s really a powerful thing. I always felt like I could say ‘No’ in any work situation – if someone was making me feel uncomfortable – and I just feel like that’s what we need. We don’t have to follow suit if it doesn’t feel right. We need to be listening to our gut. There was a time where women were competing with one another and now we’re at a time where women are holding each other up.”

She deleted her Instagram last year & she’s never going back: “I’m never going back to social media. And it’s not even like I was bullied. [I thought] Wait, why am I even trying to create a character version of myself and put it out in the world? And the whole thing just made me uncomfortable and it’s not even like I was really paying attention to comments or anything. I just felt weird how it organised my brain… I’m not someone who’s obsessed with using a platform in any way. I work for nonprofits that I’m really proud of and I do love talking about them, but I don’t feel the need to champion or denounce every single thing that happens in the world. It feels like a lot of strange noise that doesn’t feel substantial. And so during the pandemic I was like, Oh this is just not for me. And I just got rid of it.”

So much of social-media activism is narcissism: “It’s dangerous to think, Oh something just happened in the world, I am an entitled person whose voice must be heard on this issue. It’s such a narcissistic viewpoint. It’s important for people who want to be voices and have platforms and who care deeply about issues. But I am terrified of that pressure.”

[From Glamour UK]

I really love what she says about Instagram? Especially the part about the performative “activism” which is basically like “look at me, I care about this issue too!” Still, it’s weird to think of how many celebrities have just opted out of social media completely. I have to think that many studio executives and studio publicists would prefer if all of their stars are on social. As for her understanding nepotism at a young age… it’s funny because even though she uses “Olsen” professionally and she looks so much like her sisters, people still don’t realize that Elizabeth is related to Mary-Kate and Ashley.

Cover and IG courtesy of Glamour UK.

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37 Responses to “Elizabeth Olsen on the power of ‘no’: ‘You can just say no whenever the hell you want!’”

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  1. Gia says:

    You can’t say no whenever you want. You can only say no when you have power; that is when you can walk away from the situation either with no repercussions or with repercussions which you don’t care about

    • Eleonor says:

      True, for us common people : but still we have to learn to say no and find the right balance, at least professionnally, in private life we have the right to set boundaries.

    • North of Boston says:

      I saw what she said about “no” as aspirational. You’re right that if you’re not in a position of power, sometimes you’re not in a position to say no, or to say no without unacceptable consequences. And it didn’t get past me that the people modeling the power of saying no to EO were her sisters who are multi-billionaires with their own media empire at a young age. Of course they can say no to anything they darn please.

      But for all of us, we can take take back some control over what we will and won’t do, what we will and won’t put our time, effort, energy towards, what we will and won’t accept. It might be turning down volunteer or social obligations, declining to cook or do laundry for others, dialing back on social media, etc. Sure sometimes ‘no’ isn’t an option if you want a roof over your head, food on your table, essentials for yourself and loved ones. But even then there’s probably something you can control.
      And sometimes part of you might like to ‘nope’ out but you don’t because you’re working towards something bigger (for me that might mean I’d rather not stay up all night caring for a sick relative, but if I don’t, they won’t get the care they need so I’m not going to say no to that)

  2. Becks1 says:

    I like her comment about how No can be a whole sentence. Often I say “no” and then go into all my reasons for why not. But I can just say “no.”

    I also agree with her comments about social media – there is definitely a performative aspect to it that bothers me when it comes to activism. That’s not true across the board but definitely with some people.

    • Merricat says:

      Exactly. It’s like apologizing before giving your opinion–“I’m sorry, but…”–it’s completely unnecessary (unless you really are sorry). There are some people you want to give context to when you qualify your “no,” but when I really understood that I am not required to explain all of my choices, it was very freeing.
      I quit social media about six months ago. Celebitchy is my morning treat.

      • Wiglet Watcher says:

        I forgot where I heard it.. when people say something and follow it with “but…” it almost negates what they just said. “I’m sorry, but you did this.” Sort of thing.

        I keep only Instagram for work purposes and love the uncomplicated life that comes from trimming down social media.

      • Merricat says:

        Wiglet, I mean using “I’m sorry” as a way to take the sting out of a disagreement, like everyone is talking about chocolate ice cream, and you pipe up to say “I’m sorry, but I think chocolate ice cream is not as good as strawberry.” It’s another thing women are taught to do, I think, to apologize for their opinions. But I do know people who cancel their apologies by adding their justification at the end of it.

  3. Lemons says:

    I do like her comments on social media. I have stepped away from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…all of it.

    That being said, there is some value in the way these platforms have democratized entertainment and celebrity in a way that allows others to get their 15 minutes and not just the baby sisters of mega-celebrities. (I know that these channels are not perfect and often rich kids are the ones with the time and resources to produce content).

    But I do agree with Gia above…not everyone can just say no. But hopefully, this can be normalized where it’s okay to say no to shitty behavior or unfair situations.

    • GrnieWnie says:

      I mean, is social media over? I was just wondering that to myself the other day as I explained my Instagram to someone as a sort of art project that I lost interest in a couple years ago, and my Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with extended family. I keep in touch with friends via text, not social media.

      I hope we get over this phase of looking at ordinary people for their thoughts on X. Actors are not qualified to hold public office. Ordinary people are not experts on everything. I think when it comes to something like, say, BLM—okay, people who live in societies with a history of slavery have some moral obligation and it’s part of supporting a movement that ordinary people can participate in. But every last global tragedy, every last conflict…I don’t think people have an OBLIGATION to take a position on. If you care about something, if you’re already involved in it, if it’s personal to you—sure. But if it’s not, things have just gotten so weird. Remember when QAnoners huffing Wayfair child trafficking glue tried to shame anyone on Instagram with a following above 10k to post about that fantasyland instead of BLM? Like it’s all gotten so chaotic and bizarre.

      • Lemons says:

        Yeah, I feel like…there are just soo many issues going on and we, as individuals, cannot conceivably care about all of them. Social media has made us more aware of the EVERYTHING that is happening in the world, but there is a performative activism that follows which brands and governments are beginning to adapt to with their own performative actions.

        There’s too much money to be made for social media to be completely over, but I think we’ll see a gradual change in how people interact with many platforms. I don’t have the patience to scroll away anymore.

  4. Oliphant says:

    I know I’m in the minority here but I find her completely insipid, I really hope dr strange 2 does not focus on Wanda, there’s more than enough mediocre talent in the MCU as it is- though with the eternals they seem to be branching out of the mainly boring white bread category at least.

  5. BB8 Squirrel says:

    I had heard that she deleted her Instagram after Chadwick Boseman passed away and many felt she didn’t post a timely enough statement about him on her social media and was bombarded by fans.

    Anyways- she’s right about Instagram. Hers was one of the few celebrities I followed though because she was always posting about her garden and vegetables during the pandemic and I was doing the same thing!!

  6. Darla says:

    I like Lizzie, but she’s a bit off base here. Her comment about being able to do that when you’re a lead, but not if you’re an extra on Game of Thrones, immediately brought to mind Emilia Clarke being refused clothing in between shoots of her nude scenes. Being on set NAKED and exposed until Momoa asked wtf was going on, and got her some clothes.

    She was no extra. It happens to women at all levels of fame, and it’s why I really don’t want to see nude scenes. I was shocked by Emilia’s story, really shocked and it made me so sick, and also as if I am a part of this exploitation so no thanks, keep your nude scenes and graphic sex scenes Hollywood.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      I had never heard what specifically had happened to Emilia, just that she didn’t want to do nude scenes anymore. That’s genuinely awful and I’m glad Jason was there to stick up for her. There are many men who wouldn’t have bothered. Which is a huge part of the issue. Men are more likely to listen to other men instead of getting defensive.

    • Linabear says:

      I hadn’t heard that story! Crazy! But I’m glad Jason Momoa spoke up for her.

    • Dee Kay says:

      Jason Momoa schooling the GoT production team on exactly what Emilia Clarke was *entitled* to as an actress doing nude scenes and sex scenes was really what made me a fan of him. Many, many male co-workers in that kind of situation would not be as clear, vocal, authoritative, and immediate in getting their female co-worker what she needed. Momoa set a real example there, I hope other men in the media industry and ALL industries do more of that in the future.

      • Darla says:

        Dee, some of them would have enjoyed the situation and even humiliated her over it.

  7. Snuffles says:

    I agree with her on social media and feeling the need to perform. I’m on Instagram but I rarely post. I’m mainly on it to get inspired: fashion, recipes, home decor etc.

    I’m on Twitter too and I occasionally pipe up with a comment but it’s mainly just to amuse myself and to keep up with breaking news. People post some hilarious shit. But I’m often equally frustrated, stressed and annoyed with it. Sometimes I wonder why I stay on it.

  8. Susan says:

    In your comments, Kaiser, you said you figured studio executives want their stars to all have social media. I wonder if this is sometimes a double edged sword? Yes, it’s helpful in promotion but then you also get the Chrissy Teigens, the Armie Hammers and others whose internet presence creates PR problems. It’s an interesting dilemma.

    I, too, hope social media has peaked and is on its way down. I’ve always said kids are the big losers in the social media game…my sister used to track my niece through her friends’ social media accounts. While I used to lie to my dad and take his Oldsmobile to secret underage parties, there was no photo evidence, and I never got caught! These young people posting every time they breathe have no chance of keeping secrets.

  9. BethAnne says:

    With her hair like that and the facial expression I actually thought it was Mary-Kate Olsen at first.

    • LillyfromLillooet says:

      That lens they used for this shot distorts her features. It has an attention grabbing effect, which I sort of like, but it doesn’t look like she.

  10. SusanRagain says:

    I agree that we can all say no. Without further explanation.
    The problem is that many times No is not respected.

    I was raised in a family that was very “seen but not heard” children who followed directions and did as they were told was what our parents valued.
    Now, the truly difficult part of that is that the outside world will eat you alive.
    I spent decades breaking that thought pattern, and now at close to 60 y/o, at last I am in control of my life and many times I choose to not engage, my time is now my own.

    Well, in my private life anyhow. I am still employed so I can’t spend all day telling people to piss off. lol

    • Jaded says:

      Oh my god that’s exactly what my childhood was like. I’m 68 and honestly it wasn’t until I was in my late thirties/early forties that I finally broke out of the “I must please everyone” mindset. And I did get eaten alive by the world when I first was out on my own, it was a terrible time for me. Glad you’re finally able to tell people to piss off!

      • embo says:

        I am in my mid 30s and I am just breaking out of this. I always feel the need to make everyone happy and not mad or upset, or just taking responsibility for others feelings around me. Its very freeing to realize I can do what I want and think/say what I want, and I don’t need to be liked/pleasing at all times. 🙂 Just in time for me to teach this to my two babies too 🙂

  11. Twin falls says:

    If you’re raised to set boundaries and have them respected in your private life, you have tools in place to use in your public (not celebrity just regular in public) and professional life.

    You can’t say no in every situation, but there have been many situations where I could and should have but didn’t having been raised to be (and praised for being) nice and quiet. Standing up for myself or disagreeing with authority figures wasn’t something I was allowed to do.

    It’s a lot to unlearn as an adult.

    • cassandra says:

      Spot on!

      I have to remind myself regularly that I can say no to people in my personal life.

    • Lola says:

      Yes! I was raised by a narcissist to be their ultimate narcissistic supply, which meant that trying to have boundaries was considered a vicious attack that had to be punished. That I was expected to be quiet, happy and grateful for whatever I was “lucky to get,” don’t be ungrateful, and don’t complain. Asking for more would mean a punishment. Asking for something else was considered a horrible insult and a personal attack.

      I was raised that the more shit I could tolerate and put up with, the more of a “trooper” I was, which was to be praised. I was raised that advocating for my own WANTS or preferences was selfish and would make me a horrible brat, and that I was expected to put myself last, which was very praiseworthy.

      It took me decades to unlearn all of that and I am so free, free, free!!!!! In a very bizarre way, I was actually very inspired by Donald Trump. I am not a privileged rich white man like Donald Trump. Yet, Donald Trump did absolutely nothing but demand what was best for himself in EVERY situation, no matter what shit would ensue or who would get fucked. And millions of people loved him for it. He got repetitive free passes for that behavior. And, he got what he wanted and demanded so much of the time!

      And I said to myself. I am a good person who cares about others. If I want something that doesn’t hurt anyone else, I am going to advocate for myself and what I want, JUST because I want it. I don’t need any other reason. Trump wouldn’t even think twice. Why should a bad person like him always get everything he wants, and a good person like me never even asks?


  12. Eva says:

    It’s for Emmy campaign, Kaiser. She is campaigning for an Emmy for Wandavision.

  13. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Social media had to go through everything it’s gone through. Giving a voice to everyone about everything and having the means to showcase your life however you please couldn’t have gone any other way. And while I do think many have realized through trial and error, and watched others’ successes and failures, stability might see a light at the end of the tunnel, we still have a long way to go. Collectively. It has focused light on bad and repulsive behaviors I’ve personally enjoyed the hell out of, but those same behaviors are a rally cry for the like-minded. For every pro there’s a con. And that’s our road. I quit social media about a decade ago, because it wasn’t who I am. And there have been times I wondered if something was wrong with me lol. Any account somewhere I DO have? Is set to private. I’m weird. I know. I’ll own it. But I’ve never been one to be put on display.

  14. Sigmund says:

    I think her comments about saying “no” are really interesting…I’ve been reading a lot about setting boundaries, and am working on it myself, so I do think it’s important to reflect on how many times saying no is actually an option, but women are conditioned to be easygoing, non confrontational, etc. and don’t see refusal as a choice. On the other hand, the Olsen girls have more money and privilege than most, so they will not experience much push back if they say no to things professionally.

  15. Dee Kay says:

    I like this idea of being able to say no to anything and how “no” is a whole sentence. It’s inspirational and aspirational. I’m not going to take it literally to apply to everyone and every situation. It’s more like, “Whenever we can, however we can, let’s say No to what we don’t want.” That IS a good goal.

    I also like what Olsen said about social media here. Every once in a while I take a break from social and get my political/civic news from the LA Times and Washington Post, and my entertainment news from Celebitchy. That’s enough information, really.

  16. Normades says:

    Sorry, I feel like everything she’s saying is very entitled. You can say no when you have the power to say no. Also she’s a complete product of nepotism who fortunately got to enjoy a youth her sisters didn’t. Good for her if she doesn’t need Instagram because the A-list doesn’t have to hustle. Finally I dislike what she says about social media activism. Again here’s a very rich entitled white woman who doesn’t *have* to say anything. Sure it might be shallow coming from some people, but more people need to speak out, period.

    • Lola says:

      Elizabeth Olsen is absolutely in a MUCH more privileged position than 99.99 of other women when it comes to the ability to say “no” without being socially or professionally punished for it.

      But, what I think privileged women can help to do is change the general societal view of women saying no and standing up for their own boundaries, wants, and needs. If the general societal view of that shifts even a little, that’s good for all women.

  17. Lola says:

    Is it just me or is she somehow starting to really look like Joni Mitchell??