updated 01/03/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/06/2014 AT 10:00 AM ET
She’s cute and quirky, but there was a time when those qualities didn’t win Zooey Deschanel any friends.
“I wasn’t the world’s most popular child,” Deschanel, 33, reveals in February’s ELLE, which features the New Girl star on the cover of its Women in Television issue, along with Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Allison Williams.
“Definitely none of the kids I grew up with would have ever thought, ‘Zooey will be on television and have her own show,’ ” she admits.
But Deschanel, who grew up in Hollywood with sister Emily, says that dealing with the mean girls at school gave her “built-in tenacity.”
“Nothing has ever come easy for me, and I think that’s a really good thing,” she says. “I learned at an early age that you have to work hard for what you get.”
While the Elf star embraces her girliness, she also makes clear that this doesn’t mean she’s a pushover.
“I have really stood up for myself on multiple platforms,” she says. “It’s sort of the grown-up version of middle-school nastiness, and I’m just like, come on. If there’s one thing I’d like to graduate from, it’s girl-on-girl hate. I don’t believe in it.”
New Girl is back with new episodes on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.