[On nudity] "I never want to do nudity that's gratuitous. Girls look so much better in lingerie or a t-shirt and leave the rest up to the imagination. I make it clear that I have a line. Everyone tries to push you, and it's easy to get talked into doing those things. I'll just walk off-set. But not everyone realizes they can do that."
We like her as a pretty blonde It Girl on Pretty Little Liars, but Ashley Benson in person is true love. She's chill, confident, and clear on what she wants at work (paging Woody Allen) and in love (only low-maintenance guys should apply). Meet your new celebrity spirit animal.
If you didn't know better, you'd think California girl Ashley Benson was a native New Yorker, rolling around NYC's Meatpacking District in leather leggings, hard-knock boots, horn-rimmed glasses, and not a stitch of makeup. With her hair dyed caramel brown forWebcam, a thriller she's shooting in Brooklyn, she could pass for an off-duty Scarlett Johansson.
When I tell her this, her eyes light up. "When I was 15, I was her stand-in for a Dolce & Gabbana campaign," she says. "I love her so much!" That's no lie. She tells me she booked her hotel using a name from one of Johansson's films. "They wouldn't let me check in," she says. "It took forever to convince them it was really me."
You can't fault the staff for being thrown off. Benson's nothing like her character, Hanna Marin, on ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, the leader of a crew of impeccably groomed high schoolers. It's some thing she takes issue with, recently taking to Instagram to protest a publicity shot, writing, "Way too much Photoshop. We all have flaws. No one looks like this." Whether she's tweeting truth-bombs or staging a three-way in last year'sSpring Breakers, Benson is unafraid to rock the boat, as she proved when she sat down with Cosmo.
Cosmo: Love your darker look! Who has more fun, blondes or brunettes?
Benson: Brunettes! Brown hair makes me feel more myself. As a blonde, I get categorized as the bitchy popular girl for roles, and I just want to be the normal girl.
So you're not like Hanna?
The only way I'm similar to her is that she's sarcastic and she's always having fun—that's me too. Once, I stuck gum on Keegan Allen's coat collar, so when he leaned back, it got caught in his hair.
May we say…your show is so confusing!
I know! It's so confusing if you don't see it from the beginning. Sometimes when I get asked in interviews, "So what's happened so far?" I'll look at the publicist, like, "Help me out here!"
Do you ever wish the characters were more down-to-earth?
The thing I always make fun of is the wardrobe. Really, do you think anyone would actually wear full hair and makeup and 6-inch heels to school? I was 13 when I was last in school, and I never wore makeup. I wasn't allowed. Now [girls are] all wearing heels and makeup and getting their hair done, so I'm not sure it's us influencing girls or that's just the way it is now. If I had gone to high school, I would have rolled out of bed and showed up in sweats. I mean, I want to work with Woody Allen; that's one of my goals. And every film he does, the wardrobe is so simple, no makeup or hair, and that's what I love in a movie—a natural human being, not dressed to the nines, false lashes, all done up.
What are your other goals?
I would love to be able to do my show and do movies. Once the show ends, I'm going to be so sad because it's gotten me to where I am, and we have the best fans.
On dealing with nudity on camera:
“I never want to do nudity that’s gratuitous. Girls look so much better in lingerie or a t-shirt and leave the rest up to the imagination. I make it clear that I have a line. Everyone tries to push you, and it’s easy to get talked into doing those things. I’ll just walk off-set. But not everyone realizes they can do that.”
On steering clear of drugs while growing up in Hollywood:
“There are drugs and alcohol in my family on both sides, so I’ve seen lives ruined, going to jail and all that. Once you start with any drug, it can be an addiction – that’s why I never want to start and am not even tempted, because that chain is relentless. And if it runs in your family, you see how unglamorous it is. I would never want to be out of control with my body.”
On her on-and-off-again boyfriend Ryan Good, Justin Beiber’s former stylist:
“Ryan is one of the strongest people I’ve met, so grounded and such a positive influence on people. We took a break because it was so hard. I work 20 hour days, so I’m always gone. So a lot of your relationship is on the phone and iChatting and trying to catch up.”For all of Ashley Benson's exclusive interview and fashion shoot with Cosmopolitan, pick up the the new issue on newsstands February 4th.