Leighton Meester has mixed feelings about her time on Gossip Girl.
For six seasons, from 2007 to 2012, the 32-year-old actress played Upper East Side socialite Blair Waldorf on the popular CW series (adapted from Cecily von Ziegesar's novels). Meester had been working for years, after leaving her native Florida behind for New York and California.
As Meester says in the new issue of PorterEdit, in Manhattan, "I went to school with people who at a really young age felt like they knew what they wanted to do and they were pursuing it." At 14, she relocated to L.A. and picked up small jobs—"a pilot most years, some modeling, commercials, stuff like that"—and then got her diploma early at age 16. "And then I started working more, because if you're a kid and you can work as an adult, it's good for your résumé."
Meester found success, booking small roles in episodes of 24, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules, Crossing Jordan, Entourage, North Shore, Veronica Mars and other hit programs. But auditioning took its toll on the actress, who had few major connections in the early days of her career. "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, kind of out of your control. 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," she says. "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 that started [working] later."