The Untold Truth Of Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester found international fame for her role as Blair Waldorf in "Gossip Girl," which ran from 2007 to 2012. Since then, Meester has continued to develop her acting career, starring in comedies like "Life Partners," "Making History," and "Single Parents," and in movies like Netflix's "The Weekend Away." She's also started a family, branched out into other creative outlets like music, and thrown herself into charitable work.

Obviously, "Gossip Girl" was a huge milestone in Meester's life and career, and the show has continued to find new fans years later. "I meet young women now who are watching it for the first time, and I'm like, 'Whoa,'" she told Glamour. "It still speaks to a lot of people, so I'm proud of it. It was, in many ways, my college and a first job. It was my twenties, from 20 to 26. It was so much of my growth."

From her early days as a burgeoning television star to the difficulties she's faced throughout her life, join us as we explore the untold truth of Leighton Meester.

Her mom gave birth to her in prison

Leighton Meester's childhood wasn't as easy as one might expect. In fact, the actor's mother, Constance Meester, was serving time in federal prison on a drug trafficking charge while pregnant with Leighton. Per Marie Claire, the future "Gossip Girl" star was born in a nearby hospital and spent three months in a halfway house before moving to live with her grandmother on Marco Island, Florida. Leighton's dad, Doug, also spent time in prison because of drugs. "My family has a crazy history," she told the outlet. "Probably the craziest I've heard of." 

Luckily, it seems as though the actor is able to look back at her younger years with some fondness now. "It wasn't uncomplicated," she said. "But I played outside. I went to the beach. There were happy, fun times." Reflecting on her unusual childhood, Leighton also opened up to Cosmopolitan, saying, "My mom lived through a lot before I was born, and I can't judge her on that." She continued, "She and my dad are good people. ... Look, I could've turned out a lot worse." In spite of facing some challenges early in her life, Leighton has built an impressive career in the public eye. Her honesty about her past is just one of the many reasons that fans continue to connect with her.

She grew up on food stamps

In 2023, Leighton Meester showed her support for the non-profit Feeding America, which provides food to those in need, during an interview with Brit + Co. "Growing up, we relied on food stamps and welfare," she explained. "A lot of the time, we would maybe towards the beginning of the month have enough [food] and then not necessarily at the end of the month or put things back on the shelf at the grocery store. It was limited." Meester's candor about an obviously challenging time in her life speaks volumes, showing that she's passionate about helping others who might be in the same position she once was.

During an interview with People, Meester revealed that having her own children made her reflect on her own experiences growing up. As a result, she decided to partner with charities targeting food poverty. "It's one of the reasons why I'm so grateful to be partnering with Feeding America and Go Go Squeez because growing up, we dealt with food insecurity," Meester told People. "We relied on food stamps and welfare, and it definitely wasn't always easy come dinner time or at the grocery checkout line." The actor's dedication to helping others is inspiring and shows that she hasn't lost touch with her roots. 

She was a fan of music from a young age

Leighton Meester's creativity started showing at a very young age. "My family was always playing and listening to music," she told Vice, revealing that she learned to play the piano as a child. As well as developing her own musical skills, Meester developed a taste for acclaimed music early on, thanks to her brother. "I had an older brother, and he would make me tapes with Green Day, Soul Asylum, Pearl Jam, the Offspring," she explained. As a result, she eschewed much of the pop music that was in the charts in favor of grunge and rock. 

"I don't know if it was just because I had a brother who was in middle school when I was a kid, but I felt like I had the introduction to more mature music, and I was able to outgrow and shun the popular music," she told the outlet. Meester found herself avoiding boy bands like N*Sync, despite their popularity with her peers, because she'd already been introduced to a plethora of music genres she enjoyed more. This early introduction to a diverse selection of bands likely inspired Meester's own journey as a musician when she got older.

Leighton Meester was discovered at age 10

Leighton Meester became synonymous with her "Gossip Girl" character Blair Waldorf, but her career actually started much earlier than her role on the hit teen TV series. Meester was just 10 years old when she was discovered by an agent in Atlanta while attending a model convention and was signed on the spot. She subsequently headed to New York with her mom to pursue a career. Speaking to Marie Claire, Meester explained, "I ended up staying. I never went back to Florida ... That was that."

Meester quickly started booking commercials for the likes of Bloomingdale's and Limited Too, and for her, working as a child became normal. "I worked a lot, even though I was just a kid," she said. "It seemed normal to me." Building on her success, Meester moved to Los Angeles when she was 14 years old to start auditioning during pilot season, and the rest is history.

Acting at a young age was 'emotionally taxing'

After moving to Los Angeles at age 14, Leighton Meester started booking parts on popular TV shows such as House, 24, Law & Order, and Entourage. However, building a career as a young actor wasn't always easy. Reflecting on some of the challenges she faced as a child star, Meester told Net-a-Porter, "It is such an emotionally taxing job because people who are hiring you or not hiring you are judging you based on things that are, in most cases, out of your control." She continued, "And hearing as an 11, 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old that a great attribute is that you are 'really professional' is not a really kid-like compliment. It messes with your mind if you don't take it the right way."

Having faced judgments throughout her professional life, Meester has developed a healthy approach to dealing with the struggles that come with an acting career. "It's been important for me as an adult to pursue other things that I feel build up my identity in a separate way, and maybe more so than other people who started [working] later," she explained. Having worked on TV and movie sets from such a young age, Meester has a unique perspective and has managed to build an incredible career in spite of any hardships. Luckily, she seems to be able to separate herself from the more difficult aspects of being a child actor she once experienced.

Gossip Girl wasn't the 'healthiest environment'

"Gossip Girl" was somewhat of a sensation when it launched in 2007, and it remained popular even after it wrapped in 2012. While the show launched Leighton Meester to superstardom, it apparently wasn't always the easiest project to work on. Speaking to Net-a-Porter in 2018, Meester explained, "I was young when I started 'Gossip Girl.' A lot more people were suddenly around, and I was being looked at." The sudden attention was very challenging, and it seems as though Meester was careful regarding who she trusted at the time. "If you don't have the right perspective, you could definitely be confused by people being that nice to you or judging you for behavior that's typical of a 20, 21-year-old ... making mistakes but having to make them very publicly." 

Ultimately, Meester has been able to reflect on her six years filming "Gossip Girl," and she's extremely discerning about what she experienced as a young star. "I'm not haunted by that time, but it's been interesting and helpful for me to look at it and examine it as an adult and go, 'I don't know if it was the healthiest environment,'" she said. While it's always difficult to learn that young stars didn't necessarily enjoy filming our favorite TV shows, it's important that Meester is able to reflect on "Gossip Girl" and move forward from it.

She abandoned pop music for a different sound

At the height of "Gossip Girl," Leighton Meester launched her music career. Her first single, "Somebody to Love," which came out in October 2009, was a dance-pop track she released in collaboration with Robin Thicke. However, years later, Meester decided to move away from her pop star roots in favor of a more authentic sound. Speaking to Elle in 2022, Meester revealed, "I didn't really have an affinity for pop music as far as writing or performing [goes], but it felt like that was what I was gonna do, so I just went with it." She continued, "Then I was like, 'Nope, this isn't right.'" 

After realizing that she wasn't making the sort of music she wanted to be releasing, Meester made a big decision. "So I ended up cutting ties with my label amicably, and I released an album in 2014 and toured with a much different sound," she told Elle. That album was "Heartstrings," a folk-infused indie pop record that showcased Meester's incredible vocals and newly learned guitar playing. During her interview, Meester made it clear that her music career is far from over and that she is continuing what she started on "Heartstrings." "So, [the new music is] sort of an evolved version of that sound," she told the publication. Ultimately, the "River Wild" star is still committed to furthering her music career. "I will continue to make music and write and sing," she said.

She's always been interested in fashion

As Blair Waldorf in "Gossip Girl," Leighton Meester became an instant fashion icon thanks to her character's distinctive style. And offscreen, Meester has always showcased her own enviable style, so it should come as no surprise that the actor has been tempted to make moves in the fashion industry for a long time. Speaking to Vogue in 2010, Meester opened up about the possibility of designing her own fashion line, telling the publication, "The more I think about it, the more it sounds like something I would want to do." She continued, "I don't know if it'd be any time soon, but I'd really like to work on a collaboration with somebody — I always have ideas for stuff like that." 

In 2019, Meester made her fashion dreams a reality when she collaborated with sustainable brand Christy Dawn on a line of jumpsuits. Discussing her inspiration for the collection, the actor told People, "In the last five years or so, I really started becoming more conscious and aware of what I'm consuming whether it be what I am watching, eating, wearing or what I'm shopping for." Together, Meester and Christy Dawn created "The Leighton Jumper," a sleeveless jumpsuit with a scoop back that was both wearable and stylish. Hopefully, this was just the first of many fashion collaborations in Meester's career.

She's private when it comes to her children

In 2014, Leighton Meester married fellow actor Adam Brody in a secret wedding. Having met on the set of the 2011 movie "The Oranges," Brody and Meester managed to keep their relationship quiet, and their desire for privacy has continued in the ensuing years. A year after getting hitched, Meester and Brody welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Arlo, in August 2015. The couple welcomed their second child, a baby boy, in 2020.

During an interview with Refinery29 in 2017, Meester said of her daughter, "I don't talk about Arlo very much," She continued, "I am very proud of that area of my life." Despite remaining private about her home life, it's clear that Meester is very content with her growing family. Speaking to Glamour in 2018, Meester got candid about parenting, saying, "Nobody can tell you what parenthood is going to be like." She continued, "You think you know, and then it's just so hard. I feel so, so lucky that I have help and a husband. I feel stable, but there are so many people who don't have that." Despite any difficulties that may arise, it seems that the "Gossip Girl" star is relishing the challenge of being a mother of two young kids.

She doesn't want her daughter to be a child actor

Having grown up in the entertainment industry, Leighton Meester knows only too well what it means to be a child star, for better or worse. As a result, she seemingly doesn't want her children to follow the path she did. Speaking to Ladygunn in 2017, Meester explained, "I was eleven when I started to act, and I can't speak for anybody but myself, but ultimately, I'm happy where I am in my life and in my work, and I think I learned a lot, and at the same time, I don't think working is the right environment for childhood." 

While Meester and Adam Brody are both veterans of the entertainment industry, they seem to be keeping their children out of the spotlight for the time being. Speaking with Glamour, Meester reflected on her own experience as a child actor, which included working on "Law & Order." "The truth is, if I'm being totally honest, a set by and large — at least for dramatic situations — isn't really built for kids," she explained. Having been forced to navigate the industry at an extremely young age, Meester seems to be hoping for a different life for her own children.

She hasn't ruled out a Gossip Girl return

Having starred on "Gossip Girl" for six seasons, Leighton Meester became instantly recognizable as her onscreen counterpart, Blair Waldorf. While the series wrapped in 2012, the original "Gossip Girl" has remained popular with fans, while its stars have continued their careers outside the show. While Meester didn't return for HBO Max's "Gossip Girl" revival, which was canceled after just two seasons, she hasn't ruled out returning to the series sometime in the future. 

"I feel really good sort of sitting back and leaving it to the kids, to the young, new generation, they're doing so awesome," she told Fox 5 New York in 2022 of the now-canceled "Gossip Girl" reboot. However, she also added, "You never say never," regarding whether she'd ever return to play Blair Waldorf again. As for if she ever watches the original series, Meester told Glamour, "To be honest, I didn't watch it to begin with because I was making it. I just didn't have the time. Now I'm just like, 'I don't have time to watch an hour show.'" Fans will just have to keep their fingers crossed that Meester and the rest of the cast want to revisit the classic series one day.

Husband Adam Brody taught her to surf

When she's not looking after her two kids or working on a new acting project, Leighton Meester likes to surf. During a 2019 interview with Shape, the actor opened up about her fitness routine, revealing that her husband, "The O.C." star Adam Brody, introduced her to surfing. "My husband also taught me how to surf, and in the last year, I got really into it," she told the publication. She continued, "For the last six months, surfing has pretty much been my main form of exercise." 

The main reason Meester enjoys surfing so much is because it's an all-consuming outdoor activity rather than a specific exercise routine. "I have found that when I don't have a physical result in mind when I'm exercising — it's not just about getting sore or getting abs or burning fat — I feel much more confident," she told Shape. "I'm working on a skill, and that is so fulfilling to me. Plus, being in the ocean is such a spiritual experience that you forget you're getting a real workout." It would seem that the husband and wife team love to surf together, which is beyond adorable. Ultimately, the "Gossip Girl" star has found an ideal outdoor activity that she really enjoys and doesn't make her feel like she's tied to the gym.