Girlboss, gratify, believe: Keeley of "Ted Lasso" takes control

In the new third season of the beloved Apple TV+ series, Keeley does it her way, whether you like it or not

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published March 18, 2023 11:00AM (EDT)

Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham in "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham in "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)

This article contains mild spoilers for “Ted Lasso,” Season 3, Episode 1 titled “Smells like Mean Spirit”

For the long-awaited return of "Ted Lasso," the trope of the girlboss comes to the pitch. Recently in past seasons of the Apple + show, the likable Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) has blazed a path from influencer/ model/footballer girlfriend to Head of Marketing at AFC Richmond. 

Now in Season 3, she's striking out on her own, after her success promoting the dating app Bantr, launching her own PR firm. In typical Keeley fashion, she does so with humor, style and her trademark warmth. Keeley isn't like other bosses. She's a cool boss. But she's punished for it too.

At the end of the sophomore season of "Ted Lasso," many of the stories were in flux. AFC Richmond was promoted to the Premier League. Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) the owner of the club, learned her smug and philandering ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head) had bought rival West Ham United — and West Ham's new Head Coach was none other than Nate (Nick Mohammed), the sweetheart kit man turned dark side, power-hungry prodigy. And the mysterious venture capitalist behind Bantr, the no-pictures dating app made popular largely due to Keeley's efforts (and soon to become a reality via Bumble), wanted to fund Keeley's own company. 

Even when she was "only" an influencer, Keeley always had a lot going on, balancing multiple projects and always thinking about the next step. It's one of the reasons why Rebecca hired her in marketing in the first place. But starting her own business becomes a whole other level of to-do lists — even having to schedule time to cry — and the end of Season 2 also found fan-favorite couple Keeley and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) in a strange position. Roy admitted feelings for another woman, and Keeley copped to a kiss, which she definitely didn't instigate or encourage, from Nate. Roy sprung a surprise trip on Keeley to try to rekindle their love, but Keeley was too busy to go and turned it down, encouraging him, in her Keeley way, to go alone. 

She doesn't have a work self and a home self. She just has a Keeley self.

Keeley has always been a leader — the boys of AFC Richmond would likely follow her anywhere — but as a big boss, she faces an uncertain start. Season 3 finds her a bit unsure of herself, which is a new place for confident Keeley. She has a fleet of employees who are quiet, obedient and fearful. That's not her. 

Keeley is instead a "no walls" kind of person. She's open, loud and loving. She doesn't edit herself. She doesn't have a work self and a home self. She just has a Keeley self, which seems at odds with traditional office culture at times. She has her own big and imposing office with a door, which she doesn't appear to like, being separated from her employees who are stationed at cubicles. When Rebecca, her former boss, and forever mentor and friend, comes over, she eats lunch sitting on the floor.

That's the key to Keeley. She's not pretentious. She's not pretend. 

Keeley is younger, which is a surprising source of her strength. So is her casualness and openness. She's a fun dresser with enviable and occasionally outlandish outfits including Easter egg-colored fake fur coats, animal print nightgown-style silk dresses, huge hoops and high hair. Rebecca, older than Keeley and certainly wealthier, dresses for respect, with silk shirts and impeccably tailored skirt suits. Keeley dresses for . . . whatever. The day, her mood, herself. And that's the key to Keeley. She's not pretentious. She's not pretend. 

In an interview with Refinery29, Temple said about her character being in charge in Season 3, Keeley "has some really, really great moments being a boss — some that are more positive, some that have maybe more complicated elements, but I love the way she handles everything. I think she stays true to Keeley the entire time and handles things exactly how she should."

Her employees seem not to know what to make of her— and one co-worker, stern CFO Barbara (Katy Wix) critically judges her — but like the Outkast song, Keeley is for real: her talent, her energy and her genuine care for those around her. She wants fresh flowers so the office "is cheerful and smells nice," and tries to get everyone to call her by her first name.

Jeremy Swift and Hannah Waddingham in "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)As a boss, Rebecca put up brick walls initially, keeping Ted especially at a distance until she learned to trust him (and his delicious biscuits . . . I'm still waiting for a gluten-free version, Ted). But Keeley is an open book. She's open to you, whoever you are, and she believes in you. In this way, she's likely to inspire her staff if they just let her in. As Temple told Refinery29, "[Keeley] knows firsthand that when somebody believes in you to do something, sometimes when you start believing too, you can make things happen."  

Not everyone is happy about Keeley as the busy boss in the upcoming season, which warms up that old chestnut: that women can't have both a successful career and a fulfilling personal life.

And in this way, she's different than the girlboss type, which had a rise, crashing fall and subsequent backlash, after the term was first coined by Sophia Amoruso, the former CEO of clothing company Nasty Gal. Vox wrote about the downfall of the girlboss, citing women-created companies that were still "plagued with stories of bullying, cruelty, and overworked and underappreciated staff  . . .  As more and more of these stories surfaced, 'girlboss' shifted culturally from a noun to a verb, one that described the sinister process of capitalist success and hollow female empowerment."

But there's nothing hollow about Keeley. Her character is this nice and this sincere, in wanting the best for you and desiring to help. She calls her dour employees "poets and geniuses." Her offer of the solo vacation to Roy wasn't an empty gesture, but coming from a person who understands the importance of self-care — just witness her legendary bubble baths and sacred alone time — a way she thought he might look after himself. It's what she would do.

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Not everyone gets or appreciates leadership the Keeley way. And not everyone is going to be happy about Keeley as the busy boss in the upcoming season, which warms up that old chestnut: that women can't have both a successful career and a fulfilling personal life. 

If anyone supports and understands her and her ambition, it's Rebecca, who helps the younger woman gain respect while not stepping on her open-toed platform shoes. Rebecca illustrates what a good boss and mentor she is too, not by modeling "this is the way" (sorry, Mando) but that "this is way — and I support your own path and you finding it."


By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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Apple Tv Plus Boss Commentary Girlboss Hannah Waddingham Juno Temple Ted Lasso Tv Women