Inside Leighton Meester and Adam Brody's Super-Private Love Story

It was O.C. boy meets GG girl when Adam Brody and Leighton Meester finally got together—xoxo!—and quickly decided the on-display life wasn't for them.

By Natalie Finn Feb 14, 2024 7:00 PMTags
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Beach community boy-next-door with the soul of an artist meets impeccably dressed New York City socialite, and they fall madly in love? As they say, opposites attract!

Of course, we may be confusing the characters Adam Brody and Leighton Meester played on their respective star-making teen dramas, but the end result was the same.

Now parents of two, the actors married in 2014 after multiple meet-cutes, all that had come before paving the way for their future as a meant-to-be couple.

But while their pairing obviously attracted all the OMFG attention you'd imagine, Brody and Meester decided that they were—ongoing work in movies and TV aside—going to live their best lives off-camera.

"She's more inherently private than I am," Brody admitted to GQ in 2019. "I don't seek publicity but if I'm sitting next to you on the subway, I'll tell you everything about me. We're homebodies. We don't go to a lot of things that perhaps we could, and don't seek out promotion in that way. I'm not sh-tting on anyone who monetizes that aspect of their life because I get it. But we've found this great balance so far that really works for us. We're also not very active on social media."

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At his wife's suggestion, he limited his scrolling time to 30 minutes a day after the 2020 election, and he's since quit the site formerly known as Twitter completely.

"I can still do as much NPR as I want and my blood pressure's stable," he said on a March 2021 episode of the podcast Anna Faris Is UnqualifiedInstagram "intrigues me, but I know these are Pandora's box and once I go I won't come back."

Meester has 6.8 million followers on Instagram, but aside from the occasional post that acknowledges the man in her life—such as a red carpet shot of her and Brody ("Me and my hero") at the premiere of his 2019 thriller Ready or Not—it's a zone largely reserved for promoting work, good causes, food, memes and pretty pics of the actress and her friends.

Needless to say, her account has remained a kid-free zone as well, Meester opting not to post photos of daughter Arlo, 8, her 3-year-old brother whose name the couple have never shared.

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"In this world, everyone wants to know everything about you, and I think that's funny," Meester, now 37, told Cosmopolitan in 2009, musing about the object of fascination she'd become since taking on the role of Blair Waldrof on the CW's soapy, sexy Gossip Girl. "I can't be annoyed. People speculate a lot about me, saying there's something else that's really the truth..."

"Maybe I'm just too boring," she suggested.

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More like she dropped too few bread crumbs for people to really get a read on what she was up to behind the scenes. At the time she was dating Sebastian Stan, who had joined Gossip Girl for an arc as Upper East Side troublemaker Carter Baizen.

The native Texan, whose own biopic-ready story started when she was born while her mom was serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking ("I could've turned out a lot worse," Meester quipped), wouldn't talk about her boyfriend specifically. But she did note that she didn't care for bad boys in real life.


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"I think the term is stupid," she explained. "A guy who cheats on you or is not nice to you? What is that?"

"Nowadays," Meester added, "I'm much more mature in relationships. I've let go of the bullshit. I think more about the deal makers than the deal breakers. I want a guy I can look up to."

And no, she wouldn't reveal if she was in love right that minute, but thanks for checking. 

"I haven't been in a lot of relationships, but I've been in love," she shared. "There's an inexplicable chemistry. You just really, really want to, like, stare at the person. I've never fallen in love right off the bat. I get scared to say 'I love you' too soon because it means so much. It means you're not seeing an end to things."

Frankly, she had never not seen an end.

She told British Glamour later that year, "My problem is, I lose interest. Every time I've fallen in love, it's just momentary." Putting it even more bluntly, she added, "Honestly, I've hated every boyfriend I've had." Moreover, she didn't want to have any boyfriend, she said, if she didn't see a possibility of forever and, so far, forever hadn't been in the cards.

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Her relationship with Stan only lasted for so long—but at least it sounds as if the future Winter Soldier warmed her heart while it lasted. Meester told Seventeen toward the end of 2010, "I've never really liked anybody before. Even when I would date guys, it would sort of be on the surface and it was always a relief when we broke up."

Without naming names, she added, "I've only had one experience where it was really hard and I was really sad when it ended, but that's what taught me a lot about myself and love and life—and that's good."

And she was certainly open to trying again, saying, "If I shut love down or didn't let it in, I would just be this really cold, sad person."


Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, Brody was picking up roles in films such as In the Land of WomenJennifer's Body and The Romantics since concluding his four-season run as nice guy Seth Cohen on The O.C.

The San Diego, Calif., native also found love on set, dating co-star Rachel Bilson off and on for several years. But by the time Seth and Summer Cooper tied the knot in the series' 2007 finale, Bilson and Brody had reverted to just friends off-screen. 

Waxing philosophic about his own views on love, he told Anna Faris on her podcast that surely he thought he was in love with his fifth-grade girlfriend who broke up with him after a week, resulting in utter heartbreak, so he didn't put too much pressure on the word itself.

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"As you get older and obviously you know someone more, you know more of the facets of them," Brody explained. "And more than that, you share a history. That's also what I think differentiates you with someone. 'Cause there's lots of people who you might be compatible with on this earth, but it's also like the history and the life you share together that adds up to your love, not just them, specifically and only them. It's what you've done together, be it kids, be it family, be it inside jokes. I mean, you can take the love out of it and say best friends, too, but it's how well you know each other and all the things you share, not just everything that makes this person DNA. It's the act of sharing a life with someone."

He and Meester managed to check all those boxes for each other, Brody being the one with whom the possibilities were endless.

And though it would be several years before they paired off for good, 2007—the year The O.C. ended and Gossip Girl's six-season run began—was when they first met. And at least one of them remembers.

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"Josh Schwartz produced both shows and literally the first time we met, that whole cast was eating at Canter's and I lived at Canter's for like my entire 20s," he told Faris, name-checking a famed Los Angeles deli. "And I was leaving, and he introduced all of us."

Their young-Hollywood paths crossed here and there, Brody recalled, but he never spent much time with her until they were both cast in the romantic-dramedy ensemble of The Oranges, which started filming in New Jersey in March 2010.

"I was very attracted to her from jump," the American Fiction actor said with a laugh. "She's a heavenly creature...But I had no idea whether she was a good person or not. And in fact, kind of assumed she probably wasn't for, like, the first handful of years that I didn't know her, just 'cause, I don't know, Gossip Girl?"

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Not that he didn't already know from experience that actresses could be perfectly nice people ("I never believe that stigma") and that the whole point of acting is usually that you're not the person you play onscreen, but as he said, he didn't know her.

"I thought she was gorgeous," Brody added, "and even when we did the movie there was chemistry there, but I was seeing someone. And I was like, 'Oh, she's cool,' but I still didn't know."

They finally started seeing each other about a year later, once he was single again.

"But I still didn't know [what Meester was really like], and that continued even to when we first started dating," he explained.

Ironically, while Meester had said that she was looking for a good guy she could "look up to," Brody ended up finding someone that he could look up to, as well.

Because when he did finally get to know his future wife, he said, he realized "she's literally like Joan of Arc. She is the strongest, best person I know. She is my moral compass and North Star, and I just can't say enough good things about her character. It's crazy. She's the kind of person who, even as a 4 year old, she would've been perfect. And nobody has a bad thing to say about her."

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"She's never been rude to like a single person in her life, except—and I give her credit for this—paparazzi, where I'm too self-conscious," he continued. "I wouldn't say rude, but, like, people will try to get her to sign some sexy old photo or something that aren't fans but they pretend to be fans... I, just out of self-consciousness, I'm like, 'Oh, I need them to like me so I'll just do it,' but she has no problem being like, 'You can hate me. I don't care.' But if you're a person who's genuine, no genuine person has a single bad thing to say about her."

They've avoided too many of those awkward scenarios by being extraordinarily private with their time, not splashily making the scene during their courtship or publicly discussing wedding plans.

Instead, they quietly got engaged in November 2013, just nine months after they were first not-quite-photographed-together, and then tied the knot in an oceanside ceremony in Northern California on Feb. 15, 2014.

"It was a very small and intimate wedding with close family and friends," a source told E! News at the time. "It was beautiful."

They were just as discreet about family planning, welcoming Arlo Day Brody on Aug. 4, 2014—with no one being the wiser for almost two months—and then just as quietly became parents of a son in 2020. They never commented on either pregnancy, their second impending arrival only reported when a photographer snapped a photo of a visibly expectant Meester out with her husband.

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"I have a new kid," Brody revealed while participating in Hold the Phone TV's The Fun Time Boys Game Night Spectacular in September 2020. "Since last I played I have a new kid. I have a boy. He's a dream, he's a dream boy."

Last year proved "an OK time to do it," he told Faris of being home with a new baby, noting that Arlo was now 5 and her brother 7 months old. "We've been in our house all year, like to have a newborn, it's what you want to do anyway. I don't want to make light of the horror show that we're living through [out in the world, with the pandemic], but some of the timing has been OK for us. To find the light!"

And spending all that time together in close quarters at home in L.A. was no problem for the proud, tired parents.

Brody got to play the ex-boyfriend of Meester's character—and the unreliable father of her kid—in her ABC sitcom Single Parents, their first time acting together since the 2014 indie comedy Life Partners, a treat whenever they can swing it.

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"He's my best friend," she gushed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. "I wanna work with him on everything, and I think he's the best in everything. He's really good. I was not at all, like, worried if he would completely do amazing at that part. It's a wonderful, great, lovely thing."

Working with Brody, "sometimes I'll be like, 'Oh yeah, I forgot I'm married to you,'" Meester told Entertainment Tonight. "But it's been really nice having him here. He's very much a part of the family."

"On the show, he's such a little dummy and it's very cute and he's very handsome," she said. "And in real life that's 98 percent not true. He's mostly, totally, like a grown-up."

Arlo, for the record, did not care for the arrangement. "Our daughter was like, 'You've been at work for so long,'" Meester said. "It's like, I've been here for one day. She's like, 'Both of you guys can't work at the same time.'"

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Brody can vouch for that, having said on Unqualified, "Marriage and being an adult and having a family, it was a new frontier for me, where, before that, I've kind of felt like 'I don't have to change. Like me or, if you don't like me, then you don't like me. This is who I am, and it's unreasonable to ask anyone to change anything.' But, if you're in a long commitment and you've got responsibilities, I do understand now—it's still a struggle—but that it's healthy to kind of adjust a few things."

"There are compromises that need to be made if you're going to share a life with someone and it doesn't all have to be negative," he concluded. "And in fact, some of it, [or] all of it, can be positive."

Among the things they enjoy together is music, Brody having been a drummer in the indie rock quartet Big Japan and Meester laying down the occasional track before putting out her debut album, Heartstrings, in 2014. Having grown up surfing (and skipping quite a bit of school to hit the beach), Brody also taught his wife how, and she told Shape in 2019 that catching waves had become her favorite form of exercise.

"Surfing is an amazing workout that you don't even realize you're getting," she said. "It's such a spiritual experience that you forget about the physical." 

Amy Sussman/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

Calling fatherhood "the best in every way," Brody told GQ in 2019, "I mean this cliché, 'pride and joy.' It's very apt. She's the thing I'm most proud of and gives me the most joy. She's just so dang awesome. It just gives you a new perspective in the best way—something to focus on that's greater and more important than yourself. Also that's 100 percent true and even in another way. She has even become my security blanket for the outside world in terms of 'I don't need your approval I have my daughter, f--k you.'"

That doesn't include his wife, of course, whose approval he still desires, and now he's got a son who'll need impressing.

In the meantime, Meester may be her husband's North Star, but she also got exactly what she wanted in a partner after years of meeting guys and wondering, What's the point?

"We're super, super lucky, and I think we recognize how lucky we are with one another," she told E! News' Courtney Lopez in November. "We give each other a lot of respect and time and attention and focus. Like, really put our time and energy into a relationship."

As for Brody, he "very happy" with how his life turned out.

"I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful partner and such f--king amazing [kids]," he told Faris. "Subjectively, of course, but also objectively—my daughter's so charming and so fun, such good company. Anything with them. We'll go to the beach, my wife surfs too now and we'll kinda trade off, doing that. Hanging at home is just lovely with everyone, and then I also go with my daughter a lot of places.

"We're going to pick her up today from school and then we're going to go grocery shopping together, and I'm looking forward to it."

Happily Meester and Brody aren't so private that there aren't any pictures of them looking adorable together. Retrace their romance right here, xoxo:

Out and About

Leighton Meester and Adam Brody flaunted some sweet PDA while heading to a Mexican restaurant in 2013.

Mums the Word

As romance rumors continued to swirl, the pair declined to publicly comment on the status of their relationship. But you know what they say, a picture's worth a thousand words.

NYC Love

After keeping under the radar for months, the twosome resurfaced in New York City together.

He Put a Ring on It

They may have never confirmed their relationship, but Brody put a diamond on his lady's finger. Nearly a month after the engagement news broke, the pair were photographed stealing a smooch in South Africa.

Wedding Bells

The notoriously private couple got married in a super-secretive ceremony in 2014.

Red Carpet Ready

Meester supported her handsome beau at the premiere of his movie Shazam in 2019. No doubt their daughter, Arlo, loves that her dad is a superhero!

Picture Perfect

Brody previously shared that becoming a father with Meester is "the best in every way."

Do Gooders

In their spare time, this couple enjoys giving back to their community, although they aren't ones to actively publicize their good deeds.


After working on 2011's The Oranges, the two once again reunited on the set of Meester's show Single Parents in 2019. In his guest role, Brody played Meester's ex. 

Proud Parents

While the couple never announced they were expecting baby No. 2, Brody confirmed in September 2020 that his wife gave birth to their second child. 

(Originally published April 9, 2021, at 6 a.m. PT)

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