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As on-screen drama queen Blair Waldorf, Leighton Meester may be the most iconic brunette to hit the Upper East Side since Holly Golightly

One doesn’t expect an up-and-coming starlet to be an open book; especially when she’s known for playing a character who might generously be described as difficult. As it turns out, Leighton Meester is actually very little like her character Blair Waldorf despite a real-life turn as a “Gossip Girl” herself. Just a few months back, the tabloids claimed to spill Leighton’s “untold story”. But the revelation that her parents were once convicted participants in an international marijuana ring has left low-key Leighton remarkably unperturbed. “I wouldn’t have volunteered that information,” she admits, “but I’ve never kept it a secret either. It’s just not my past; it’s not my story to tell.”

After what Leighton describes as an ordinary childhood, her life took a turn for the unconventional around the time she was 10. “One day”, she recalls, “I was watching TV, and it just clicked that what I was seeing wasn’t real – it was a bunch of people making something.” Shortly thereafter, she told her mother that she wanted to be an actress, and pretty soon the family picked up and moved to New York City from Florida. “I knew I was never going back home. I wasn’t meant to be there anymore.”

After a few years, they relocated to Los Angeles, where Leighton attended Beverly Hills High School and worked steadily, but it wasn’t until her Gossip Girl audition that she got her big break. “I loved the character and the script,” says Leighton, “I just understood Blair – she’s seemingly flawless but has the same problems and the same issues as anybody else has at that age. I feel like that’s why people find her so intriguing.” Since the show’s premiere, the cast has become incredibly close-knit. “Everybody lives within a five-block radius” of one another. “Work is how I meet people,” she explains. “When you’re friends with somebody who does what you do, it’s easier. It’s the same thing when you’re dating somebody” – the only reference that she makes regarding her actor boyfriend, Sebastian Stan.

The one respect in which Leighton doesn’t much differ from Blair, though, is her style. Leighton is happy to take the occasional clothing cue from her character. “I’m not going to walk around in a costume, but playing her has made me realize that I can have fun with my clothes,” she says. “I really am much more aware now about designers and trends but it hasn’t really changed me so much day to day. I love dressing down. I want to look good but still be comfortable.” Although Leighton counts Marc Jacobs, Milly and Catherine Malandrino as some of her favorites, she says “I don’t go designer crazy because I don’t have the energy.”

Despite her active social life on-and-off screen, Leighton’s also been logging time in a recording studio, working on a debut album she hopes to release this spring. Catch Leighton as Blair Waldorf in new episodes of The WB’s Gossip Girl on January 5th, 2009. Get exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and the inside scoop on Leighton’s cover shoot with TEEN VOGUE at: http://www.teenvogue.com/go/leightonmeester The February 2009 issue of TEEN VOGUE is on sale nationwide December 30, 2008.














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