Courteney Cox: the Scream queen comes clean
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Actor and director Courteney Cox celebrated the first-year anniversary of her household products brand Homecourt with an Instagram reel. In it, she sits crossed-legged on a lawn with a circle of friends, among them the British singer Ed Sheeran, who sways to the rhythm of Bob Marley’s “One Love” singing: “Courteney Cox got the product to make you clean all night”.
She laughs out loud at the memory. She is sitting in the kitchen of her ocean-side LA home. Light spills into the room, backlighting the floaty-white-shirt-and-trouser ensemble she’s wearing, which matches the serene mood. “Obviously it was supposed to be cheesy,” she says, throwing her hands up in the air. “Ed’s the most talented and caring human being. He said, ‘Let’s do something’ and came up with the song in two seconds – everyone loved it.”
Sheeran is a close friend. It was he who introduced Cox to her long-term partner Johnny McDaid, the Snow Patrol band member who co-wrote the song “Shape of You” with Sheeran. McDaid, 46, is not at home on this sunlit morning, nor is Cox’s 18-year-old daughter Coco [her daughter with her former husband David Arquette], but one of her Cavalier King Charles spaniels makes an unexpected appearance. Cox spots the dog in the garden. “Oh God, I might have to go and rescue him,” she says, craning her neck to see what he’s up to through the window. Her concern soon subsides. She laughs: “No, no, it’s fine, he’s OK.”
Cox has been a central figure in popular culture since she was a teen. The 58-year-old actor first captured the spotlight with a cameo appearance in Bruce Springsteen’s ’80s video for “Dancing in the Dark”, but it was her character Monica Geller in NBC’s Friends that brought her international recognition. During the sitcom’s 10-year run from 1994 to 2004 she received seven Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, of which she won one. She won a further legion of fans as the pushy but irrepressible reporter Gale Weathers in the horror franchise Scream and has appeared in every one of the consequential films, the sixth part of which came out this month. In between, she led the cast of Cougar Town for six seasons as the divorcee Jules Cobb. She is currently starring in Starz’s Shining Vale, a comedy horror, which returns for a second series this summer.
In her role as entrepreneur, she has infused the mundane business of domestic cleaning with aspiration through her Homecourt product line. The range so far includes a $30 hand wash, dish soap ($25), surface cleaner ($20), hand cream ($45), candle ($60), a tote bag ($50) and a newly released room spray ($45) – in a market sector seldom thought of as cool. Cox plans to change perceptions around detergent, however, with chic products and a clever marketing strategy that brings with it a witty stream of social media posts. The company has not disclosed revenues but it has an international customer base – its first batch of products sold out in just eight hours on its online launch in January 2022 – and it has now begun shipping directly to the UK, EU and Australia.
It helps that Cox’s friends have rallied round to support the brand. The actor Robert Downey Jr created his own Instagram reel when she sent him samples to try. “He was so sweet. I’m friends with Robert and his wife Susan, but I didn’t ask him to do that,” she says. “And other friends have done stuff too. Obviously Jennifer [Aniston, her co-star in Friends]. I post for Jennifer, and she posts for me. But I’ve never asked anybody to do it. I’m not great at being vulnerable like that.”
Homecourt is a serious business for Cox, who oversees details from development to promotion. Her “beauty products for the home” are formulated using plant-derived skincare-grade ingredients in four scents (Cece, Steeped Rose, Neroli Leaf and Cipres Mint) developed by perfumers at Givaudan and Robertet. And the team includes CEO and co-founder Sarah Jahnke, formerly of L’Oréal. Their entry to the market was exceptionally well timed. Spurred by consumer concerns over the use of harsh chemicals, the global natural household cleaners market, valued at $5.05bn in 2021, is anticipated to reach $13.21bn by 2030.
Jahnke was inspired to join Homecourt having noticed an increased appreciation for premium products while working at L’Oréal. “Category premiumisation was driving growth in both the fragrance and home markets,” she explains. “So at Homecourt, we’ve worked with perfumers – including the nose of Byredo – using concentrations typically reserved for eau de parfums.”
But the brand’s “clean beauty” mantra began with Cox, who says that the maelstrom of lockdown galvanised her idea into a business plan. “All we had were products like Clorox. There was nothing that was good for the skin, that I wanted to use around children and animals, or that I would have put out on the counter,” she says, pointing to the dark apothecary-style bottles printed with a fine font. She acknowledges that the price point is costly for cleaning supplies. “Obviously, it’s more than Mrs Meyer’s but it’s not crazy expensive,” she says. “There’s a balance. They’re made with the best ingredients and they’re something I would use on my body.”
Cece [a mix of cedarwood smoke, sweet cardamom and white leather] is her own signature fragrance, which she created several years ago by mixing oils with scent. “I still wear it, even though there’s now a counter spray, dish soap and a hand cream that smells like me,” she shrugs. Steeped Rose, meanwhile, was inspired by the rose balm her stylist used to protect Cox’s forehead when colouring her hair. “She mixed beeswax with rose oil. I love roses but not the powdery scents you’d associate with your grandmother. This one smells of the entire rose: the petals, leaf and stem.”
It’s difficult to imagine how a Hollywood actor could be so preoccupied with suds and sprays, but then Cox has always been very tidy. And while she bristles at being called a neat freak, she says: “Call me neat extraordinaire.” But she does acknowledge that she feels compelled to “straighten up”. Obvious parallels can be drawn to Cox’s famous Friends character. “Monica’s really competitive and she’s really clean. I’m very clean, but I don’t go around scrubbing things like she did. I want my home to feel put together but in a relaxed way.”
Cox’s home is beautifully ordered but, as she stresses, it’s also laid-back. She shows me her kitchen, confessing that she’s changed the look of the cabinetry – currently natural oak with black limestone counters – several times. “It started out as Italian white lacquer and then I changed it to oak, but that was too orange so I toned that down. It’s contemporary, but I have a lot of old pieces that I mix in. My style is eclectic, but it’s modern and really comfortable,” she says, citing LA store Galerie Half as one of her favourite hunting grounds.
“Johnny can’t believe how often I change things around,” she says of her partner. “I like to bring in new pieces like coffee tables and side chairs to change up the style. And I also like to get rid of things – sometimes too much. There are times when I think, ‘Oh my God, why would I do that?’”
The actor has past form for Marie Kondo-esque de-cluttering. “As a kid, I shared a room with my sister, which I would decorate all the time by moving the room around. She’d come back and say, ‘What’s going on?’” But her passion for design runs in the family. “My dad [the late Richard Lewis Cox] was a really good artist. He actually built swimming pools, that was his business, but he did all the architectural drafting for the landscaping,” Cox says of growing up in Alabama. “And one of my sisters [she is the youngest of four siblings] is now an interior designer.”
Cox wanted to be an architect and took a drafting course in school before the lure of New York put her on another path. “I’d booked some modelling jobs before college. It was fun being in the city so I went back to study acting. I did commercials and I got a job that moved me to California and I’ve stayed here,” she says.
These days, she prefers being at home with family and friends than at big celebrity events. Homecourt is, after all, an amalgamation of “home” and “Court” and her house is a sanctuary. “Day-to-day we’re pretty much in the kitchen – it’s got a living area with couches and is sociable. But on Sunday nights, when we have a music night, we go to the living room where there’s a piano, a pool table and a bar. I would fill the house with people all the time but Johnny also likes to retreat to his room upstairs,” she says.
Music is a huge feature of both of their lives. “I feel so lucky because my partner is in a band that I love. I love every single song they play. And the artists he writes with at the house – they all play my kind of music,” she fangirls. Cox also has musical talents, as showcased on her Instagram account. She learnt to play the piano after her grandmother saved up enough S&H Green Stamps to buy her an instrument in the S&H store.
“I have tons of hobbies,” Cox continues. “I’m comfortable trying anything within reason, as long as it’s not jumping out of a plane – I’m chicken with heights.” She describes herself as someone with “an extreme amount of energy – even when I’m tired, I’m wired,” she laughs. “I don’t get depressed but I can be anxious – and I can get sad. But there’s nothing that keeps me from moving. I just have a million thoughts all the time. I have pretty bad ADHD!”
Cox stays grounded by “pottering” (“If you gave me an hour, I would get lost in a project”) and friends play a huge role in her life. “They are everything to me. I have such supportive friends who don’t mind being silly with me on Instagram. Laura Dern is one of my closest pals, and if she came over right now and I said, ‘Laura, will you do something stupid with me?’ She would say, ‘Absolutely.’”
Cox’s daughter, Coco, however, is not so keen to get in on the act. “She calls it… what’s that word? ‘Cheugy’. I don’t know what that means, but I’m pretty sure it means, ‘Don’t post that!’ But she’s very proud of me when I’m in a movie like Scream, and she and her friends love Homecourt. They’re always asking for products.”
Cox’s restless energy means she has big plans for the brand. “I’d like to do laundry detergent, pods and liquid – the opportunities are limitless,” she says. “And one day we’ll do things for the home, like blankets,” she adds. “But we want to ensure people really understand the brand before we launch into something new.”
Cox is used to juggling many projects, and she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. In February, she was awarded a Hollywood Boulevard star in recognition of her many accomplishments. “I wish my parents were alive to see it,” she reflects. “It’s a big deal for parents. For me, it just means I’ve accomplished enough work to forever be on the sidewalk. It will be a tombstone for my grandchildren to visit… Just kidding.”