Leighton Meester’s nostalgia involves Kermit the Frog and a forgotten Tamagotchi commercial
INTERVIEW: DANIEL KLIMITZ
“Oh god. I remember that,” says Leighton Meester. She can’t contain her lol. I’ve brought her back to the first time we met, exactly ten years ago, when I interviewed her at the American Eagle store in Times Square during her brief popstar interlude at the height of the Gossip Girl phenomenon. “It was definitely a moment,” she says. For me, it certainly was. I’d just turned 21 and was visiting New York for the second time. I thought I’d made it. She was performing her guest lyrics on Cobra Starship’s song, “Good Girls Go Bad,” for the first time and in 2009, the foray into pop made so much sense. Now, 33, Meester reflects, “I don’t think in the moment I was ever like, ‘This feels right. This feels like me.”
In high school, I was, like many, The O.C.-obsessed. I wore Penguin polos and went to Death Cab for Cutie concerts, all in the pursuit of becoming as much like Seth Cohen, the show’s anti-hero, as possible. I said goodbye to that show while on vacation in Mexico, full on ugly crying at an internet café where I streamed the series finale, unclear how I would survive in an O.C.-less world. But three months later, a sophisticated, sexed-up trailer was released for Gossip Girl, and I was hooked. One episode in, and I was hooked on Meester’s alter ego, Blair Waldorf.
Meester became a star pretty instantly, worshiped for her acerbic delivery, and synonymous with Waldorf’s masterful accessorizing (I’m pretty sure she was responsible for every headband purchase in the year 2008). Today, shows like Euphoria and Riverdale rule when it comes to beautiful teens behaving badly, but for half a decade, Gossip Girl held the title. And Queen B. wore the crown.
Seven years after the show signed off, it has crossed over into nostalgia territory, with a newly announced reboot set to stream on screens on the new HBO Max in 2020. Since, Meester married and had a daughter with Adam Brody (Seth! Cohen!), and she currently stars on the hit comedy, Single Parents. Meester plays Angie, a millennial mom navigating single parent-dom with a group of friends trying to keep each other sane. The struggle is real, but also hilarious, and Angie is a multifaceted blend of endearing, warm, sharp, silly, and very obviously un-Blair.
I learned the same can be said for the actress IRL as we delved deep into her own nostalgia. Inside her time capsule: A Tamagotchi commercial circa the ‘90s, Clarissa Explains It All and Kermit the Frog.
Join us as we take Leighton Meester back in time.
"Anything from Limited Too was very important to me, nail polish that smelled like vanilla, shiny shirts, velvet shirts."
I want to take you back to 1998 because that’s the genesis of Capsule 98. What do you remember about that year?
1998… I had just moved to New York. I was 12. There was Ricky Martin. There was Britney Spears. There was, um, like, was it NSYNC? Yes, NSYNC. I remember going to my friends sleepover, and the truth is that I did not know or like any of that music at the time, but, I felt like I had to, to be cool. What else was going on back then? Um, Spice Girls. I was really into Spice Girls.
Who was your favourite Spice Girl?
I think Baby Spice because I feel like, I was blonde, so everyone was always making me Baby.
So, if you were going to do a time capsule from your childhood or teenage years, what would be in it?
There were four CDs that I listened to non-stop. Celine Dion… I don’t know the name of these things… “Because You Loved Me” was on it. Daydream, the Mariah Carey one. Then there was Jewel Pieces of You and Tragic Kingdom [by] No Doubt.
What about a favourite outfit that sticks out?
Anything from Limited Too was very important to me, like nail polish that smelled like vanilla, like shiny shirts, velvet shirts. I’m not sure that this is a thing now, but I was really into burning candles. I was really into burning shit when I was a kid. I had a candle that I feel like had jewels in the bottom and you burn it until you get to the little jewels.
Wow, I’m bringing you back!
No, I’m always there!
You’re also the poster girl of this website for one very amazing reason… You were in a Tamagotchi commercial!
I was just talking about this (laughs)! You know when they won’t stop bothering you, so you just have to kill them? Did you ever do that?
You take a pin. You put a pin and you reset it. Poor thing.
Tell me about what you remember about filming the Tamagotchi commercial. Have you gone back and watched it recently?
I think I have seen it. Not recently, but like as an adult, I’ve seen it. It was great. This little other girl that I was friends with too, she and I just sat on a cloud all day, and we had to say some stuff. I think that I did get a free Tamagotchi from playing that.
Did you go to prom?
I did not go to prom. I did so many TV proms and that’s enough for me. I mean, maybe I missed out and I just don’t know it. I feel like I didn’t do a lot of things that would be nice to have done. Even if somebody did want to ask me to prom, I just would never have known. I just was very insecure. And then I thought about going to prom with my two girlfriends, but it was too expensive so I couldn’t go. It was like $100 something bucks. I couldn’t do it.
"I would sit there and spin the bottle and then if it would land on me I would be like, No, I don't want to do it. I don't want that to be my first kiss."
"I watched Nick at Nite a lot so The Brady Bunch style I really liked. I have this weird affinity for micro plaid and big ties."
Do you remember your first kiss?
My first kiss was when I was about to turn 16 years old, and it was with a guy that I dated for like a month. And before that, the only opportunities that I had to kiss anyone was when we would play spin the bottle when I was in middle school. And I would sit there and spin the bottle and then if it would land on me I would be like, “No, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want that to be my first kiss.” And I think that me and my best friend (who is still my best friend) had just learned what like degrading meant so we were like, “It’s degrading, we don’t want to do it.”
I read that your mom is your style icon.
My mom? Definitely not (laughs).
Growing up, who was a style icon or somebody you looked up to in that way?
Clarissa of Clarissa Explains It All. That was part of why I wanted to start acting. I watched Nick at Nite a lot so The Brady Bunch style I really liked. I have this weird affinity for micro plaid and big ties and stuff.
What was your favourite TV show growing up?
I really liked Clarissa Explains It All. I watch all that, that was a big one… and Doug.
Yeah, my dad’s name is Doug. So I was really into Doug. Love Doug and Patti Mayonnaise.
Remember when Patti cut her hair?
A pixie cut! You don’t remember? It was a scandal.
Oh, it was? Did he like her still?
Oh, good. I’m glad. That’s really good.
90210 or The O.C.?
Not just because…
I mean, to be honest, I’ve probably only seen an episode of both. I never was a 90210 person, and I just– I think the time was wrong for me with The O.C. for some reason.
You’ve only seen one episode of The O.C.?!
I know. I’m sorry! Does it help I married the guy who was in it? I’ve seen most of his work and I think he’s great. It’s just a lot of episodes to do.
Season one… Just do it.
I want to do it. I will find time someday, but I don’t really have a lot of time. But he [Adam Brody] was the screensaver on my friend’s computer, when I was a kid, when we were young, like 16, 17.
Who was on your wall or your screensaver? Who was that crush for you?
I had a few. They’re weird, and I’ve been made fun of.
I didn’t have a picture of any of these people, but I was really into Billy Corgan. Then I was really into Kermit the Frog [laughs].
What do you mean? In what way? Like his personality?
I think I had a crush on him? I don’t know. I think it was that I was watching some interview with Miss Piggy and him on the red carpet one time, and they were like, “How do you make your relationship with Miss Piggy work?” And he’s like, “Full body massages every day.” So I was like, “That sounds nice.” So anyway, Kermit. And I really also like Geoffrey Rush in Quills.
What was your first concert?
Favourite teen movie of all time?
Clueless is just so timeless. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, really good. Both are Amy Heckerling, right? Wayne’s World isn’t a teen movie, but they are kind of teenagers. I really like that one.
Your husband was recently on your show, Single Parents. Would you ever make it a family affair and have your daughter Arlo on the show?
Arlo will not be on the show [laughs]. I don’t think she would even be able to understand that and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to make her do that. That’s work. She’s a kid—she’s got to kid it up.
What are some of the things from your childhood that you were excited to, or are excited to introduce her to?
We watch a lot of movies that I enjoyed as a kid. She loves Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. I really was into Wizard of Oz when I was a kid. She’s really into that. She watches The Secret Garden. I love that movie, and it really holds up.
Do you ever look back at that time on Gossip Girl and get nostalgic now? Are you at that point?
I’m more nostalgic for moments of my life during that time, but not necessarily being on that set doing the lines and stuff. It wasn’t like I was living anything like that life, but I sometimes get nostalgic for fall in New York, that kind of thing, or moments in time that I had with friends at the time.
Did you keep anything from that time in your life that brings you back there?
Not really. I get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t have any headbands, but, you know, they didn’t give me anything.
How dare they!