By Laura Brown
When Leighton Meester auditioned for the part of Gossip Girl's spoiled rich girl Blair Waldorf in 2007, she bought herself a pair of red shoes: leather slingback heels from Marc by Marc Jacobs (not "big" Marc; the actress could barely afford the little one). Returning to New York following a childhood in Florida, Manhattan, and Los Angeles, she visualized herself tripping down the street in her Blair shoes, like Dorothy landing in Oz. "In my heart, I could picture myself wearing them living in New York," she says. "So I wore them to the audition and got the part. I can't give them away because every time I wear them, I'm living that dream."
Lest one think this young lady in a slouchy gray Chris & Jaime T-shirt and shorts sitting in a New York bistro is possessed by Tony Robbins, this fable is delivered in a very Leighton way: concise and pragmatic. Her feet, today in flip-flops, are firmly, almost defiantly planted on the ground -- to withstand the celebrity she is still adjusting to, 18-hour workdays, and, of course, becoming a target of gossip herself.
Having recently been bitten hard by a peril of fame, an alleged sex tape, she arrives at the interview coated in metaphorical sheet metal. Let's get it out of the way, then: In June, some provocative pictures of a rumored "18 years old!!" Leighton were splashed around the Web. While a sex tape can now conceivably be used as a marketing tool (hello, Paris Hilton), in Leighton's case, the reaction was "Oh, no, she didn't."
And, according to Leighton, that would be correct. "[The tape] is not real," she says bluntly, "so it makes me sort of sad. It's unfortunate that it got carried as far as it did." She pauses. "I definitely understand the nature of people better now and that the mere allegation of something like that could be headline news. People think it's real because somebody says it is." She takes a sip of her Coke. "By the way, [as for] me being 18 in those pictures, I don't believe I was.
"I don't want most of what comes along with all of this," Leighton continues at a Blairlike clip. She is protective of her friends, family -- much has been written about mother Connie's entering federal prison on drug-smuggling charges while pregnant with Leighton -- and relationship (with actor Sebastian Stan). "I'm doing everything I can to keep things separate. I feel like my friends are in a cult because we're like, No outsiders! I've never been crazy. I'm a very good girl, to be honest. I don't do anything to hurt anybody. Honestly, all I ever do is work."
A charismatron in white tights and a headband, Leighton's Blair Waldorf chomps up the screen as if it were a bowl of breakfast berries from put-upon housekeeper Dorota. And what's not to love about the near-Shakespearean drama of Blair and her pastel-clad Romeo, Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick)? Westwick says, "The first thing I thought when I met Leighton was, Fucking hell, this girl's gorgeous. And she was incredibly sweet." He chortles. "Now we tell each other to fuck off whenever we want to." Both Blair and Chuck are fond of impractical accessories -- especially removing them. "There's always something great to undo or pull on or tug on, so it's always like, what can I do to make this more fun?" Westwick says, laughing. "We've been fake shagging for a year and a half now."
On Gossip Girl, Leighton is a princely 18 years old. In the pictures here, however, she is rather older than that, making Leighton one of the very few actresses ballsy enough to agree to a concept that won't land her on the Maxim Hot 100. (Actually, she is already on, at Number 12.) "Any fear of aging, I think, is simply vanity," she says. "Because what comes with age is so many wonderful things: wisdom, understanding. ... Every year, I'm always happy to be done with the previous age," she says. "Sixty, that doesn't seem old to me. I think it comes from my mom going, That's not old! She's in her 50s, but she looks like she's in her early 40s." Asking Leighton, whose skin looks as if it was born retouched, about Botox is faintly comedic. "If you get a wrinkle, I don't feel that's indicative of your losing ground," she says. "That's ridiculous. But I do support Botox. If people want that, do it."
Has she ever, like Blair, worn white tights out of the house? "Er, no." She did sport a puffy-sleeved red-print Louis Vuitton ensemble with matching leggings to the Costume Institute gala (her only competitor that night in the just-do-it stakes: Madonna in LV's bunny ears). "If I don't take risks with fashion, where the hell am I going to take risks?" she asks. "I love Stella McCartney, Chloé, the Row, Lanvin, and Calvin Klein." She has also been wearing Spanish designer Emilio de la Morena -- to the MTV Movie Awards and out and about in New York City.
Indeed, the superficial benefits of success are many. "I have more shoes, more clothes, and less worries as far as finances go," she says. And Leighton will be hitting more red carpets soon. She has The Roommate ("I play a psycho") and Date Night opposite Steve Carell and Tina Fey out next year. She's even releasing a CD in November, which has necessitated some visits to the gay clubs (the boys love them some Blair) to test some tracks. Leighton was at one last night. "I wore Ungaro, a floral cutout, short, tight. It was fun," she says. "Rile them up!" (I actually have a pic of the dress)
It doesn't hurt that Leighton is blessed with the metabolism of an overworked 23-year-old. One memorable paparazzi picture involves her shooting on a freezing New York street, inhaling a large sandwich. "Ha!" she laughs. "It's normally the only thing I have to eat on set." Westwick says, "She can handle these big, gigantic sandwiches, and she's got the most tiny little gorgeous figure. I don't know, man, it certainly doesn't work for me."
But Leighton, our Upper East Side heroine, can handle rather more than a sandwich. Press her on guilty pleasures and she replies, "You know, I'm trying to think of what I'm ashamed of. But, damn, I don't really have any shame."
"So much of your twenties can be wasted on insecurity and worrying about what others think."
"My favorite part [about growing older] is not knowing what to expect. I never want to lose interest or passion for fashion."
She seriously better be suing. The photoshoot is super cute, but highly disappointing for a September issue. Leighton remains delightful, however :)
And for fucks sake, they aged her on purpose, lol