Long live the queen
- Gabbie Tatad () - June 2, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Any self-respecting Veronica Mars stan knows her as Carrie Bishop, the original gossip girl of Neptune High, California. For most people, however, she is their beloved Blair Waldorf, style queen supreme of New York’s Upper East Side.

Usually, I hate it when celebrity profiles use this phrase to describe their subjects, but Leighton Meester is clearly (and almost alarmingly) down-to-earth. For instance, when asked about whether she enjoys shopping, she says, “What I think I love the most is going shopping and just having lunch. And you don’t even have to shop.” She catches herself and bursts out laughing. “I think I just like going to lunch.”

Or how about the fact that she walks into the interview, clad in an airy pale blue and cream lace tank top with blush pink shorts. She is nearly bare of all makeup, her hair loose around her china doll face. “I’m originally from Florida, so I love the warm weather,” she says. “If I can be in shorts and a t-shirt or a bathing suit all the time, I would, which is why I like it here. The weather’s perfect for that.”

The actress was in Manila very briefly to announce her joining the growing international celebrity roster of Penshoppe, which up until now has been mainly comprised of men. (Admittedly, no complaints here.) “It is my personal style,” Meester says of Penshoppe. “I love to be casual and comfortable. And I think it really is that but [it’s] also totally fashionable, and you can feel like you’re put together.”

She elaborates more on her offhand approach to style, with a philosophy that is truly quite refreshing. “If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to look comfortable. It’s about your state of mind and if you’re confident,” says Meester. “Fashion should be fun. That’s all it is. It’s not life or death; you can’t be a slave to your clothes.” Words I never thought I’d hear from Queen B herself, who’s infamous for cruising Manhattan streets in sky-high Roger Vivier heels.

Which leads me to wonder: Is her interest in fashion something she shares with her stylista alter-ego or is it simply a tool for her to bring her character to life? “A little bit of both. I can get there and do rehearsals, do blocking, say my lines, get into hair and make-up. But when the clothes go on, it’s the cherry on top that makes the character come to life.” She pauses and smiles. “I’ve gotten pretty lucky in the last few years to play characters that actually have great fashion sense,” she says with a laugh.

Meester delves briefly into the importance of the characters to her, which would explain the variety of genres she’s dipped her toe into via past movie roles. “I feel like each thing I’ve done has been a dream. I’ve gotten to do so many types of characters and have experiences in different places with different people. I’ve been lucky so far, just having different challenges for myself. So I think as long as I can continue to do that, it’s just a dream for me in general. I’m doing what I love. I hope the next movie that I do is a character that I’ve never done that I really have to fight for.”

And boy, does the girl love a challenge. She’s appearing in the comedy That’s My Boy with Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, a project juggled with the shooting of her hit series Gossip Girl. It’s slated for release next month, which to shoot she says was “as much fun as you can imagine and more.” She also tells us that she’s going on a five-day tour with the band Check In The Dark that starts in two days (which, calculating travel time, means as soon as she hits US soil).

Leighton’s previous hits made waves locally, songs such as Somebody To Love which featured Robin Thicke and Cobra Starship’s Good Girls Go Bad. A quick listen via the Check In The Dark website reveals her switch to a much more soulful, folksy sound — a total departure from her previous work and far more concrete proof that Meester comes with a serious set of pipes. “My words, my melodies, my lyrics, everything is very personal to me. Everything that’s coming out is straight from me.”

 “It’s such a different experience than I’ve ever had, working with a band and performing. There’s no safety net,“ she says, and explains that this genre seems to be a better fit for her. This hardly comes as a shock, considering her musical heroes are the likes of Tom Petty, Harry Nilson, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Carole King. 

Then she says, “I love The Shins’ new album, Port of Morrow.” For a minute, I lose all journalistic integrity and blurt out, “YES. It is so good.” She nods seriously and continues, “They never cease to amaze me. Their melodies are just ridiculously good.”

She talks about pursuing music much more aggressively, and possibly outside the confines of a label, and her desire to do things her way. Meester is certainly not what one would expect, but in her bag of surprises, this one takes the cake: She reveals that the next season of Gossip Girl will be the show’s last.

“It’s the end of something that’s had a huge impact on me, but I think I’ve grown a lot. I will always be grateful… but in the meantime, I think you want to experience different things and occupy your time with different things,” she says. “It’s bittersweet.”

Bittersweet is the mother of all understatements. It’s the end of an era, especially for one of the most complex, neurotic, and straight up fabulous characters to ever grace the TV screen. But with the billboards, adverts, singles, and feature films waiting in the wings, we can’t help but feel that for Meester, this is just the beginning.

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