Leighton Marissa Meester (born April 9, 1986) is an American actress and singer. Meester first garnered attention and critical acclaim for playing Blair Waldorf in the CW's teen drama television series Gossip Girl. She has also appeared in the 2010 country drama film Country Strong, the 2011 thriller The Roommate, the 2011 romantic-comedy Monte Carlo, and the 2012 comedies That's My Boy and The Oranges. Meester was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Constance (née Haas) and Douglas Meester, and lived most of her life in New York City and Los Angeles. Meester's last name is the Dutch word for "master" or "teacher". At the time of her birth, her mother was serving time in a federal prison for her involvement in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana from Jamaica to the USA. She was able to give birth to Leighton in a hospital and nurse her for three months in a halfway house, before returning to prison to complete her sentence, after which Leighton's grandmother cared for her. She has a brother, Alexander, who is 8 years younger. Meester has maintained that her parents gave her a normal upbringing and, despite their criminal past, are good people with experience that has only made Meester more open-minded and non-judgmental, "It made me realize that you can't judge anyone — especially your parents — for what they've done in their past, because people change." Meester has joked, "Look, I could've turned out a lot worse." She has cited her mother as her style icon.
Meester grew up in Marco Island, Florida, where she participated in productions at a local playhouse. When she was 11 years old, Meester and her mother moved to New York City. Meester attended the Professional Children's School and also began working as a model with Wilhelmina, booking a Ralph Lauren campaign shot by Bruce Weber and working with then photographer (now film maker) Sofia Coppola as well as many commercials including Tamagotchi toys and Clearasil. She has also posed for Limited Too campaigns alongside fellow future actress, Amanda Seyfried, in which Seyfried recalls, "Leighton was very confident." Meester made her television acting debut as a murder victim's friend on an episode of Law & Order. At 14, Meester moved to Los Angeles, California, wanting more stable work, and attended Hollywood High School and Beverly Hills High School. She then transferred to a small private school and graduated a year early. After her television debut in 1999 playing Alyssa Turner in Law & Order, Meester appeared as a guest in two more series before landing her big role in the movie Hangman's Curse, based on the best-selling book by Frank Peretti. She appeared in Tarzan, which ran for only eight episodes. Meester then started to land guest roles in other series such as Crossing Jordan, 8 Simple Rules, 7th Heaven, Veronica Mars, 24, and Entourage.
In 2005, Meester began a regular role in the series Surface as Savannah Bennet. Meester appeared in two more 2006 movies, Flourish and Inside. She also guest appeared in Numb3rs and in two episodes of House M.D. as Ali, a young girl who has a crush on House. She had guest roles on CSI: Miami and Shark, and played the female lead in the horror film Drive-Thru.
In 2007, Meester was cast in the CW's teen drama series Gossip Girl as Blair Waldorf. The show is based on the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar about the lives of New York's privileged Upper East Side young adults. Her performance is the most critically acclaimed of the show, with Blair being cited as the series' breakout character, and also garnering much media recognition due to her wardrobe. She dated Gossip Girl co-star Sebastian Stan.
Meester appeared on the television film The Haunting of Sorority Row, and played a part in the ensemble comedy/drama Remember the Daze. She also appeared in the horror/thriller film Killer Movie in 2008.
Meester starred in three films in 2010 with small roles in the comedies Date Night and Going The Distance and a bigger role in Screen Gems' country drama Country Strong starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Garrett Hedlund. The Boston Globe found the best thing in the film was Meester because "she’s just doing Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter Cash in Walk the Line with dabs of Miley Cyrus and Kellie Pickler. But it’s not an impersonation; it’s a performance with its own comedy and sweetness." USA Today was also positive towards her performance writing "Meester shows she can do more than play one of Gossip Girl’s privileged Manhattan socialite."
In 2011, she played the role of Rebecca, an obsessive bipolar girl in the thriller The Roommate. Though the film mainly received negative reviews, Meester's portrayal was praised by critics. Entertainment Weekly found she was the only one to bring "the slightest trace of something fascinating to her role" while Los Angeles Times wrote "her performance often has the feeling of a sports car in neutral. When she punches it for quick changes of tone from manic to wounded or around the bend, she shows how much more she is capable of." Meester's second film of the year was the young femme comedy Monte Carlo, loosely based on Jules Bass's young-adult book Headhunters, in which she plays Selena Gomez's sister and Katie Cassidy's friend. Movieline noted that "As in Country Strong, Meester's crack timing and irresistible poignancy illuminate a part that would leave other actresses simpering themselves off the screen." Her last film of 2011 was the indie dramatic comedy The Oranges opposite Hugh Laurie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Meester starred in the comedy That's My Boy, alongside Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Milo Ventimiglia, which was released in June 2012. In August 2012, Meester appeared alongside Wilmer Valderrama and Vanessa Curry in the house music group Nomads' music video "Addicted to Love". She recently finished filming the movie God Only Knows alongside Ben Barnes and is now working on Any Tom, Dick, or Harry. In April 2009, Meester signed a recording contract with Universal Republic. Meester's first official single, "Somebody to Love", featuring R&B singer Robin Thicke, was released for airplay on October 13, 2009, and became available for digital download on October 14, 2009. In November 2009, Meester revealed that Lil Wayne had worked with her on one of her songs titled "Make It Rain", which hasn't been released. Her second single, "Your Love's a Drug", was digitally released on March 30, 2010.
Meester is featured on Cobra Starship's song "Good Girls Go Bad", which reached the Top 10 on Billboard Hot 100 peaking at #7, and on Stephen Jerzak's song "She Said". She recorded a cover of the song "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for the compilation album A Very Special Christmas 7. For her 2010 country drama film Country Strong, she recorded a cover of the song "Words I Couldn't Say" by Rascal Flatts as well as "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans featured on the film's soundtrack; a promotional single titled "Summer Girl"; and a duet with Garrett Hedlund titled "Give In To Me".
In October 2010, Meester said she had been working with a band called Check in the Dark and had been writing for the last six months after being inspired by Country Strong. "I've just been having fun and writing from my heart". She revealed her influences, "I love Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, that style of music, and as far as songwriting I think that's where my heart is." On April 22, 2012, Meester announced via Twitter a five-city tour with Check in the Dark, which started on May 29 and ended on June 4. Meester has fronted many charity as well as advertising campaigns. In 2008, she was a spokesperson for Sunsilk's "Life Can't Wait" campaign to motivate women to pursue their dreams and collaborated with Safe Horizon to raise awareness about and prevent domestic violence. Early in 2009, Meester partnered with Reebok to model their new Top Down sneakers. Outside of Gossip Girl, Meester has worked with co-star Ed Westwick in a Nikon Coolpix series camera advertisement and both were faces for a Korean clothing line called ASK Enquired. In 2010, Meester signed on to be the spokesperson for Herbal Essences hair products. In the same year, Meester took part in Bulgari's humanitarian efforts for the Save the Children organization with Isabella Rossellini and Maribel Verdútaken. Vera Wang has also chosen Meester to be the face of her newest scent Lovestruck, breaking in summer of 2011, stating that the actress's "beauty, talent and spirit will inspire all the young women that I hope will enjoy this passionate, new young fragrance." In 2011, Italian fashion house Missoni revealed they have tapped Meester to be part of their Spring/Summer 2011 campaign. She fronts another South Korean brand, this time a beauty campaign, called eSpoir. In May 2012, she became an endorser for Philippine clothing brand Penshoppe's campaign "All Stars". Meester was named one of People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People along with the cast of Gossip Girl in 2008 and 25 Beauties (and Hotties) at 25 in 2011. She was also listed several times in Maxim's Hot 100 list, starting #48 in 2008, #12 in 2009, #17 in 2010 and #16 in 2011. BuddyTV ranked her #32 on its TV's 100 Sexiest Women of 2010 list. She was ranked #75 by AskMen.com readers in the list "Top 99 Women of 2010" and #53 in 2011. Men's Health ranked her #30 in its "Hottest Women in 2011" list. Glamour ranked her #5 among the Most Glamorous Celebrities of 2011. From 2008 to 2010, Meester dated actor Sebastian Stan.
In July 2011, she and her mother filed lawsuits against each other regarding Meester's financial support of her younger brother, who has multiple health problems. Meester's suit claims the money she sent was used by her mother for "cosmetic procedures"; her mother's suit makes a cross-claim alleging breach of contract and physical abuse. In November 2011, Constance Meester dropped the $3 million claim for damages against her daughter. As a result, Leighton obtained a default judgment on December 7, 2011. She may also seek custody. In June 2012, Meester subsequently won the lawsuit, with the judge rejecting her mother's claims from her previous counter-suit.