During her childhood, Leighton Meester moved a lot between Florida, New York and California. She spent time going back and forth between parents and was able to absorb different landscapes, environments, and cultures, giving her a broad perspective and a very humble beginning. She was drawn to acting at a very young age, and began participating in local theater and school productions. As a teenager, Leighton started writing poetry, which ultimately lead to songwriting. Now a wife and mother, she continues to act and will be releasing a new album soon.
When did you know you wanted to become an actress? Did you inherently have a inner belief in yourself that you could achieve this goal?
I was 11 years old, doing plays at school and I loved the confidence and sense of belonging it gave me. However, I didn’t really work consistently as an actor until late in my teens. I still don’t think I have that inner belief! I face a lot of self-doubt regarding my work because of its ups and downs, but I’ve managed to surround myself with friends and a partner who give me support and self-confidence, and I’m able to find meaning and stability in those relationships.
Did becoming a full-time actress help instill more confidence to become a singer-songwriter or was that always a part of who you were?
As a kid, I fantasized about creating music and performing but treated it as a solitary passion until I was in my twenties. I was allowed more opportunity for my music to have a broader reach when I started to have success in acting, though it was a long path to finding my own voice.
Heart Strings is a beautiful album! You’re creating a new one now - how is your approach to singing and songwriting different now, almost 5 years after the release of Heart Strings?
I’ve grown personally and my tastes have changed. However, I still try to trust the same instinct I had while writing my first album, which helps me to detach myself from self-criticism and allow space for my process to run its course without over-analyzing.
You have a 3 year old daughter. How has that experience been?
As with the most challenging parts of life, it’s the most rewarding.
What are some of your personal self care rituals?
It’s not enjoyable in the way a massage might be, but I benefit from therapy.
“I adopted a more minimal approach to my home, giving much more thought to each item I own”
What are some of the pivotal lessons your daughter has taught you?
Lots of things are out of my control. She was born who she is, has her own likes, sense of humor, and feelings. She goes at her own pace and I can only encourage her and make her feel safe. It’s a comforting lesson about many aspects of life.
Do you feel like you’ve been able to learn and evolve from your own upbringing? Most people repeat parental patterns, but now more and more people are feeling empowered to do things differently and raise their children with a higher level of consciousness.
Yes, I’m fortunate... I’m able to live mindfully, considering my child’s feelings and remembering to give validation to my own. It’s taken a lot of work to break patterns and heal wounds, but I think this is my only life, and I’d like to be awake for it, making an effort to improve.
How do you balance family and career?
In my line of work, it’s difficult to follow a schedule or to know what to expect. I find myself working long days for months on end, and then have a four month break. It’s always tempting to look for more work during those down times, but I’m more content now to spend a hiatus with my family, catching up with friends and remind myself to keep my schedule light.
Your husband is an avid surfer. He taught you how to surf and now this has become a favorite passion. What does surfing do for you?
It started off as an unstructured workout I could do on the weekends when I didn’t want to go to the gym - and it’s become an obsession. The benefits are much more than getting exercise. I feel connected to myself, since I’m able to sit in the ocean with no phone or distraction, and I’m working toward the goal of improving a skill, something that I haven’t given much thought to since I was a kid. As an adult, and especially as a mother, I’d lost touch with the joy I felt from learning. It’s an intensely difficult sport to become competent in, so I guess I picked something I’ll be working on for a long time.
At what point did you begin to eat and live more organically and learn about sustainability?
In my mid-twenties, one of my best friends, a nutritionist, gave me a complete coaching on my diet. She looked through my cabinets and helped me shop and taught me how to put together some basic recipes so I could start eating better. I’d never given thought to what I ate and until that point, hadn’t made the connection with what I ate to how I felt. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I became more enthusiastic about changing how much I bought, used, and threw away, as well as where my money was going when I purchased something. I adopted a more minimal approach to my home, giving much more thought to each item I own and it gave me appreciation for what I already owned, as well as restraint when considering a purchase.
When did you begin volunteering with Feeding America and donating your time and energy to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles?
I started working with Feeding America a few years ago and joined their entertainment council, helping to raise awareness for their wonderful cause. I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with Feeding America at the Downtown Women’s Center, an incredibly special place that focuses on helping women struggling with homelessness. Their mission is to advocate for women, helping to find permanent housing, healthcare, and employment. When I started working with Christy, I felt the DWC was the perfect organization for the proceeds of our collaboration.
What was your inspiration for this piece you designed? Form, function, fabric ... or all of the above?
My original inspiration was from the character “Miss Honey” in the film Matilda, a favorite from my own childhood that I’m rediscovering as a mother. I thought she had flattering, sweet style. Right away, I was intent on helping to design a jumper, because while I’m a huge fan of Christy’s dresses, I tend to reach for jumpers more often now as a mom. They’re comfortable for every day-to-day errand and event I have, and makes dressing require less thought. The fabrics are soft, and the colors are, to me, the perfect array to choose from for different occasions.
How do you “honor mother earth”?
My family and I try to reduce the amount of waste we put out. We prefer reusable items, compost our scraps, drive electric and hybrid cars, and spend our money on transparent, eco-friendly and ethical brands. On another note, I have a deep appreciation for flowers, and tend to point out and revel in their beauty often.
Follow Leighton Meester @itsmeleighton