With the end of New Girl still heavily weighing on our hearts, most of us can’t help but wonder what’s next for Cece. The character was arguably one of the sitcom’s most dear, and actress Hannah Simone managed to play the model with a nuance that was both realistic and irresistibly charming. From her adorkable relationship with Schmidt to her almost-quarter-life career change, Simone’s character was also perhaps one of the most relatable. It’s not every day a show goes out of its way to break the mold of the vapid model stereotype with someone as down-to-earth and filled with depth.
As it turns out, Simone is just as down-to-earth in real life. She’s no dumb model. The starlet had a unique upbringing that led her to an interest in international affairs and humanitarianism. Her unconventional career path started at the United Nations and shifted towards the small screen. With a passion for politics, it’s unclear where this smart, cat lady is going to land, but you can be certain it will involve breaking down Hollywood’s norms and paving the way for Indian-Americans in the notoriously difficult industry.
This is the untold truth of Cece from New Girl.
She spent her childhood traveling the world
Hannah Simone didn’t have your average upbringing. The star was a world traveler before most of us could even graduate elementary school or locate Europe on a map. According to Business Insider, the star was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Alberta, Canada. When she was around seven years old, her family shipped off from the world capital of maple syrup and moved around the world. They took up shop in Saudi Arabia, India and Cyprus (her mother has Greek-Cypriot roots and her father is from India) before ultimately landing back in Canada, where Simone would launch her TV career.
« So, I grew up internationally … I lived in a war zone myself, and, I mean, I had a pretty bizarre, I guess, nomadic childhood, and so I was really drawn to international relations and political science, » she said in an interview in India West.
She was a teenage covergirl
After the success of New Girl, it’s not unusual to see Hannah Simone in the pages of a high profile magazine. The star modeled sweaters from LOFT, Ann Taylor and the United Colors of Benetton in a 2013 Redbook fashion spread. She also graced the cover of Glow’s 2013 April issue and starred in a series of risque branded Periscopes for the liquor brand St-Germain. If it looked effortless for the then 33-year-old actor, that’s because she already had a two-decades long modeling career under her belt.
Simone got her start modeling when she was barely a teenager and living in Cyprus. According to Business Insider, the young model « was featured on the cover of a leading local fashion publication » when she was just 13 years old. At that age, most of us were desperately trying to hide our braces, cover our acne with way-too-orange concealer, and survive middle school math class. Apparently, puberty never did Simone the same injustices.
Cece’s actually got smarts
Cece wasn’t your average dumb model. New Girl gave the character depth, but had a particular focus on how a lack of higher education caused her stumble when she left the fashion business. In the episode « Table 34, » Cece went to an Indian marriage convention and was relegated to a table of people who lack college degrees and full-time jobs. This was a wake-up call for the character, who realized she acted on impulses rather than careful planning.
In real life, Hannah Simone is anything but uneducated. The star has two degrees that matched two of her future careers. According to The Calgary Herald, Simone « earned a degree in international relations and political science from the University of British Columbia and later a Bachelor of Arts in radio and television from Ryerson in Toronto. » The former led to her brief stint working with the United Nations and foreshadowed her philanthropic endeavors later in life. The latter explains what we already know about Simone — her comedic acting was a saving grace in New Girl, and she’s on her way to becoming a full-fledged film star.
She worked for the UN before hitting Hollywood
According to an interview in India West, Hannah Simone’s unique upbringing (which led her to briefly live in a warzone) gave her a particular interest in political science and international relations. She was already doing charity work while living in New Delhi, India, when she « helped organize a benefit concert for women and children with AIDS » while she attended the American Embassy school. Her passion led her to the UN after earning her first degree.
Simone moved to London and worked as a human rights and refugee officer at the United Nations. She also picked up a gig researching for Lloyd Axworthy, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the star to feel like she wasn’t making as big of a difference as she had hoped.
« I became a little frustrated, » she told The Calgary Herald. « The world around us was changing so much. Young people were receiving information on world issues, (but) they weren’t reading the policy briefings we were writing in our office. They were watching Michael Moore documentaries and Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. »
Instead, she decided to shift her focus into the world of TV and radio, where she’d find most of her success.
Getting her start on HGTV
Hannah Simone didn’t make her acting debut until 2005. Her first role was a cameo in the short-lived legal drama Kevin Hill. If you don’t recall it, it’s because practically no one watched it. According to The Boston Herald, it averaged 1.9 million viewers among UPN’s target demographic and was cancelled after one season despite favorable ratings.
That didn’t keep Simone down for too long. Business Insider reports that the star landed a hosting gig on Space for Living, a home improvement series on HGTV Canada, in 2007. If you’re hoping to watch the show, you’re better off sticking to New Girl reruns. Almost all the information about Space for Living has been scrubbed from the Internet. All we know about the weekly TV series was that it was basically created as branded content for Ikea and was launched through Ikea’s own production company called Space For Living Television (no, the Swedish retailers don’t limit their endeavors to hawking affordable furniture, mini-meatballs and Lingonberry jam).
Move over Carson Daly; Cece’s a VJ, too
Though most of us know Hannah Simone as Cece, Jessica Day’s childhood BFF, music fans in Canada may remember her as a host on MuchMusic, Canada’s answer to MTV. As Business Insider reports, the star became a VJ a year after hosting Space for Living.
According to The Calgary Herald, Simone spent two years with the network. She served as VJ on The NewMusic and Much News, but her talents stretched further than simply chatting up celebs like Robert Pattinson and introducing music videos. She finally got to bridge the gap between her passion for politics and social issues and the world of TV and film.
« MuchTalks » is a staple of MuchMusic, similarly to how MTV News airs segments on various social and political issues. Of course, the series sometimes includes Canada’s most prized teen celebs like the cast of Degrassi (because who doesn’t love teen soaps?), but it also opens up serious conversations about taboo topics like body image, AIDS and climate change.
Her career got a little Syfy before ‘New Girl’
Hannah Simone is a badass gamer girl if you’re into cat-themed mobile games. The star admitted she has a slight affinity for Shuffle Cats, an app by the company behind Candy Crush, and knows her way around Pokemon Go. While we’re not sure if Simone has ever ventured into gaming outside of her cellphone, we do know she signed on to host the Syfy network’s WCG Ultimate Gamer in 2009. She joined Attack of the Show correspondent Joel Gourdin for the co-hosting gig.
According to Variety, the reality series was sponsored by the World Cyber Games and pit gamers against each other while they competed for prizes and cash. Simone’s favorite part appeared to be the drama.
« The house is full of so much drama, » she said in WCG YouTube video. « Romance, scandal, lies — it’s all part of this show. I love it. »
Who knew playing video games could get so dramatic? Apparently, it doesn’t. TechCrunch reamed the series for not having « anything to do with gaming » and claimed it was « the worst television program ever broadcast. » We’ll stick to our Candy Crush, thanks.
She starred in a Gillette campaign with Kate Upton
Off the back of her newfound New Girl fame, Hannah Simone landed a Gillette campaign focused on manscaping. According to The Los Angeles Times, the star appeared alongside blonde bombshell Kate Upton and actress Genesis Rodriguez in a live-streaming webcast about men’s beauty and body hair (really gripping, important topics). There was also a TV commercial that claimed Simone preferred men to have smooth stomachs that showed off their six pack abs.
The « What Women Want » campaign marked the first time in the company’s 112-year history that women primarily promoted one of their mens’ products. In this case, the girls pushed Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide Styler, an all-in-one grooming tool.
The campaign fielded complaints alleging it was filled with misandry; however, Slate found the « reverse sexism » to be pleasurable and even « harmless. » The Washington Post simply claimed the ad was « unusual. » Perhaps the most unusual part was the fact that a woman with two degrees and a resume name-dropping the United Nations was winking on camera about clean-shaven abs.
Simone has a huge philanthropic side
Hannah Simone has had a charitable side since she was a teen living in New Delhi, India. This trend continued into adulthood when the star became a Me to We ambassador. Simone traveled to India and Kenya with the organization where she spent time empowering students in underprivileged communities and helped build a school. Returning to her Indian roots was particularly poignant for the actress.
« The coolest thing was hanging out with the students at the elementary school, » she told Me to We. « Once our translator explained what I did and that I had gone to university and received two degrees, I seemed to have blown these little girls’ minds! They were shocked that an Indian woman could be successful and then return to help. It was an incredible full circle moment. »
The star is also a celebrity ambassador for The Pink Daisy Project, which helps young women with breast cancer pay for everyday essentials, and has been known to support UNICEF, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation, among others.
Zooey Deschanel named a dress after her
Not everyone gets a Tommy Hilfiger dress named after them, but then again, not everyone is Zooey Deschanel’s on-screen BFF. Hannah Simone landed her very own piece in Deschanel’s 2014 Tommy Hilfiger collection.
Let’s be real. In 2009, everyone wanted to dress like Deschanel’s quirky character from 500 Days of Summer. We finally got the chance a few years later when To Tommy, Love Zooey embodied the same blue and white color scheme (with some red for a real pop of Americana).
The piece inspired by Simone, dubbed the « Hannah » dress, was a nautical-themed shift with a blue and white watercolor pattern. Simone ended up wearing the dress to the collection’s launch party. Cece always showed up to support Jessica on New Girl, and it looks like the women share a similar bond in real life. Who better to model your brand new collection than your model co-star?
She’s a genuine collectible
It’s unclear how Funko Pop! collectibles took the world by storm. You either get it or you don’t. The company seems to have a figurine for everyone — including New Girl fans. You just couldn’t be a fan of Cece, because Hannah Simone’s beloved character was snubbed by the toymaker despite the fact that she was one of the original cast members.
In March 2018, Funko debuted their New Girl collection with figurines of Jess, Nick, Schmidt and Winston, who according to Hello Giggles, happened to join the show after Cece. So, why was the star left out? Perhaps it was an oversight since Cece didn’t move into the loft until 2016. Simone took to Twitter to slam the collection as « rude, » which unleashed an onslaught of angry New Girl fans (a wrath unmatched by most).
Apparently, the outrage did its job because a few short days later, Funko announced they had plans add Cece to the lineup. Better late than never. How dare you forget about our girl?
She hopped behind the scenes and became an executive producer
Hannah Simone is an accomplished actress and magazine cover star. She has more degrees than your average college graduate and does charity work in third world nations. She’s also master of her own art. What can’t she do?
The star hopped behind the scenes as the executive producer for 2015’s Miss India America. She also claimed the starring role of Sonia Nielson, who competes against Lily Prasad (Tiya Sircar) in the beauty pageant. The project was female-led in an industry often criticized for its lack of diversity.
« It was written by a woman, we had very strong female producers, all the leads in the film were women, and all were women of color, which is a really cool thing, to have women and diversity, » Simone told HelloGiggles about Hollywood’s notorious lack of women of color. « I do think it’s changing, but I think it’s changing by those who need the help, which is often the way. »
Unfortunately, the project holds just a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though it fairs a little better on IMDb.
She’s trying to break down barriers for women of color
In February 2018, Hannah Simone was cast in ABC’s The Greatest American Hero. The series was meant to be a reboot of the 1981 cult classic by the same name, except it was totally flipped on its head. Instead of starring a white guy (originally William Katt) as the unlikely hero, it centered around Meera, an Indian-American 30-year-old with a penchant for karaoke and a love for tequila.
According to Deadline, the reboot was thought to be the first time a woman of color superhero would lead a live-action TV series. Simone, who wrapped up her role on New Girl in April 2018, was apparently one of the most sought after actors for broadcast pilots in 2018. She received numerous offers before settling on ABC’s live-action superhero series. Unfortunately, it looks like the series was abandoned by the network.
« We just found out that network TV isn’t ready for the first brown female superhero on TV, » Simone wrote in a now-deleted tweet captured by AV Club. « Our hearts are broken. This would have been history making and so empowering for young girls around the world. »
Following Simone’s casting in The Greatest American Hero, Ruby Rose became the first lesbian superhero to lead a TV series with Batwoman (via Time). Perhaps with Roseanne’s abrupt cancellation, ABC will have time to reevaluate their decision.