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Dakota Fanning

WENN.com

Dakota Fanning is all grown up.

The former child star, now 21, stepped out in New York City Thursday wearing loose-fitting denim shorts and a slinky white top. She didn't wear a bra, but she did accessorize her look with chic round sunglasses and plenty of jewelry.

Hey, it's legal to go topless in Manhattan, so it's perfectly kosher if an adult chooses to walk around nips out! In any case, Dakota's transition to adulthood has been quite tame compared to many of her contemporaries.

And she lives up to that good girl label, right? Pretty much! "It's not a negative thing to say, but it's also not 100 percent accurate," she told Nylon's May issue. "I might not be running around being insane, but I'm also a 21-year-old who likes to be silly...Just because I don't flaunt those parts of my life doesn't mean I don't do some of that privately."

Dakota understands, too, that there's a certain stigma that comes from being a child star. "I've made my peace with the fact that there will be some people who, for the rest of my life, will believe I'm, like, 9 years old," she joked. "I have this joke that I'm literally going to be 35, married, and pregnant and people are still going to say, 'Oh my god, you grew up so fast! I can't believe it!' And yeah, sometimes when you're 21 years old and people are still saying that, you just want to rip your hair out. But I'm OK with it...I know who I am."

She's eager to learn, too! Dakota is currently taking courses at NYU. As she told the Daily Beast earlier this year, she's majoring in women's studies with a focus on "the portrayal of women in film and culture."

"It's something I've studied and thought about a lot," she said. "It's rare to see women in a film who are not somehow validated by a male, or discussing a male, or heartbroken by a male, or end up being happy because of a male. It's interesting to think about, and it's very true...There's a history where when women get to a certain age in this industry, the roles become strictly the mother, the wife, or the older single woman. There should be more of a variety because there are so many different paths that humans take and they should be given a platform to be seen."