How Rachel Zegler really became the most hated woman in Hollywood.

Rachel Zegler is a 22-year-old movie star. But if you happen across any comments about her on social media, you could be forgiven for mistaking her as a person caught kicking a puppy. 

Maybe even a serial puppy kicker. The response to her very existence has been that overwhelmingly negative.

The reason why is not as complicated as you might expect.

At this point, I'm willing to declare myself the leader of the Leave Rachel Zegler Alone movement. From where I'm standing, her greatest sin, and the reason she has been seen as the 'most hated woman in Hollywood' is simply having theatre-kid energy.

How very dare she.

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Video via Lionsgate Movies.

In the past couple of years, she has found herself carrying Hollywood's unenviable 'annoying woman' torch. Previous torchbearers include Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence, so... at least she's in good company?

What seems to set Zegler apart from these other famous names, however, is that she hasn't had a fall from grace, or had the public switch-up on her after a period of being the Golden Girl. The worst part about the Zegler example is that this – the weirdly overbearing public hate – has always been her story.


At 16, Zegler was quite literally plucked out of high school by Steven Spielberg to play Maria in his remake of West Side Story after she responded to an open casting call on Twitter in 2018 with a video of herself singing. The film was released in December 2021. It wasn't very successful at the box office, but critics loved it and Zegler even won a Golden Globe. Unfortunately for her, the promotion and release of the film was overshadowed by negativity that for some unfortunate reason (like perhaps, the fact that she was a young woman), fell almost squarely on her shoulders.

In June 2020, when West Side Story was in post-production, a Twitter user accused the film's lead actor Ansel Elgort of sexually assaulting her in 2014, when she was 17 and he was 20. Conveniently, Elgort did minimal press when the film was released that following year, leading to Zegler and her fellow female cast mates being constantly expected to answer for his allegations.

What she did say ("You just hope that the people involved are OK, that they are asked in a respectful manner and that they are given the opportunity to answer for themselves," she told the Hollywood Reporter) was considered by those following the story as a weak response.


In mid-2022, she told Elle the questions drastically impacted her mental health.

"I was sitting there having just turned 19, on the precipice of what was promised to be the biggest moment in my life, and was being held accountable [by the public] for accusations that not only had nothing to do with me but were made about a situation that was said to have occurred [five] years prior to when I had met and worked with this person," she said, reflecting on the press tour.

"With no thought to the fact that I was also 17 when I met this person, 17 when I worked with them, 17 and 18 when I had to do love scenes."

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After its release, West Side Story was nominated for the most prestigious award in film: a Best Picture Oscar. 

She was one of the film's leads, so many assumed she would be in attendance at the ceremony. That was until Zegler responded to a fan question about what she was wearing to say actually, no, she wasn't invited.

At the time, she was filming for Disney's Snow White in the UK. After her tweet blew up and she admitted to being disappointed at not be able to support West Side Story in person, she was offered a presenting role at the ceremony.

She attended, aided by a shift in Snow White's production schedule.


The outrage to this was *wild*.

How dare she pause a (Disney) production to celebrate the success of another (Disney) production? How much money is she costing DISNEY? Who does she think she is? Such a diva!

Let's speed run through the other Zegler moments that the internet had an overwhelming problem with.

"What made you wanna step into this world of DC heroes?" she was asked at the premiere of her second-ever film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

"I needed a job," she replied. "I'm being so serious." Wow she is so disrespectful.

She later told Variety her Snow White remake would differ from the original storyline, because the original storyline was quite literally from 1937 and we've progressed, only somewhat, since then. How dare she come for an 80-year-old character we don't even really care about.

She joined a picket line during the SAG-AFTRA strike and said she deserved to be paid when people streamed her movies. The AUDACITY.

Snow White'release date was pushed from March 2024 to March 2025. It's her fault. Those in charge were obviously concerned about what she could say during a press tour. The impact of multiple strikes? CGI concerns? General post-production setbacks? No no no, couldn't be.

You get the idea. 

Zegler has not been able to say, or do, anything right — and it has been that way since the very moment she became a public figure. Based on the evidence, it boils down to the fact that she doesn't speak in the PR platitudes we expect of celebrities, gives off enthusiastic theatre kid energy, and is a headstrong, passionate, successful young woman.


In the past couple of years, I cannot count how many famous women we as a culture have 'reassessed'. From Britney Spears to Jennifer Lawrence to, yes, the ultimate formerly hated theatre kid: Hathaway.

It is worthwhile and important to look back at how women like them were treated unfairly. But then someone like Zegler comes along, says something as innocuous (and true) as a Disney princess from the 1930s is an outdated character, and then faces the same sexist wrath that impacted dozens before her.

Ironically, Zegler's public profile is finally being saved by the same dystopic world that built Lawrence up (before tearing her down). 

Zegler has been praised in recent weeks for her role as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, a prequel story set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games.

Now, 23 months after the release of her first film thrust her into a labyrinth of negativity, she is finally facing a reprieve. 

The reassessments have begun. Perhaps the greatest sign of all is that for the first time in months, Zegler has turned back on her Instagram comments (and they are NICE).


All it took was two years of hate and an already beloved franchise to slow the Rachel Zegler hate train. 

Is it too naïve to hope this same wave of hatred won't follow the next young female star who comes along? 

Feature image: Getty.

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