MARIE CLAIRE – With four upcoming movies, including this month’s The Spectacular Now, actress Shailene Woodley is poised for superstardom — whether she wants it or not.
Shailene Woodley doesn’t like the C word. “Celebrity,” that is. “I don’t use it to describe myself,” says the 21-year-old actress. “In high school, a lot of my friends didn’t know I was an actor because I didn’t talk about it. They would come to school and be like, ‘Wait, were you on My Name Is Earl last night?’ It was something I kept under wraps because I did it for myself and not for anybody else.”
Those stealth days are long over, ever since her five-year run on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager and her big-screen debut as George Clooney’s brooding daughter in 2011’s The Descendants, for which she won the Film Independent Spirit Award. And she still displays a spirit more hippie than Hollywood—she wore Vibram FiveFingers with a Stella McCartney dress to a Golden Globes after-party, studies herbalism and survival skills in her free time, and tweets things not about her industry, but “I choose to see love in all #SpiritJunkie” or “The Universe is an awesome party where we must dance together to truly enjoy it #SpiritJunkie.”
You would never know it by her social-media feed, but the L.A.-based Woodley is landing—and nailing—plum roles left and right. This month’s coming-of-age crowd-pleaser The Spectacular Now earned her and costar Miles Teller the Special Jury Award for Acting at Sundance. She has just wrapped The Amazing Spider-Man 2(out next May), for which she learned to ride a motorcycle for her role as Peter Parker’s love interest Mary Jane Watson. Of her costars, Woodley says, “Andrew [Garfield, who plays Peter Parker] brings the human factor to his characters,” and “Emma [Stone, who plays Gwen Stacy] is a very strong woman—I feel empowered by her. We connected on a personal level, and helped each other on some personal things.” Soon Woodley begins shooting The Fault in Our Stars, adapted from John Green’s novel, in which she plays a terminally ill cancer patient.
But it’s her role as Beatrice “Tris” Prior in next March’s Divergent, starring Kate Winslet and based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling young-adult trilogy about a future dystopian Chicago, that could propel her to supernova status. Critics say the part, which required nearly six weeks of training in knife throwing, has the potential to do for Woodley what The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen did for Jennifer Lawrence. “We are similar in many ways,” says Woodley of Tris. “She constantly struggles between two worlds, the old and the new. I struggle in real life trying to balance my natural connection to the earth and the somewhat materialistic side of the industry I am in.” So while she may show up in Valentino Haute Couture at the Oscars, the rest of the time she pretty much lives in T-shirts and Melodia leggings. (“Anything over a certain amount of money freaks me out.”)
TEEN VOGUE – “Fashion is instant language”—so states its reigning royal highness, Miuccia Prada. If this is true, starlet Shailene Woodley proved her style fluency during her recent meteoric rise from star of ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager to bona fide film actress in The Descendants, hitting the red carpet in coveted labels like Valentino, Proenza Schouler, and Marchesa.
So it’s surprising to find that Shailene, whom I styled in 2009 for the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood party (in a green See by Chloë number), feels at home in more relaxed fare. “I wish the boundaries between being an actor and being a fashionista were more distinct. I started acting because I love the art of it, not because I wanted to dress in fancy clothes,” explains the California native. “I have fun playing dress-up every now and then, but when it comes down to it, put me in a long skirt and a loose cotton shirt and I’m the happiest camper alive.”
But her fondness for relaxed duds doesn’t lessen her sartorial point of view. “My fashion vocabulary has expanded over the past few months, and I don’t allow anyone to pressure me into wearing something that doesn’t properly represent who I am as a person,” she says.
So when trailblazing designer Christopher Kane offered to make Shailene a custom gown—of metal, wires, and leather—for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s gala opening of “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” it seemed like a match made in heaven. “Shailene really loved the chain-mail pieces in my recent fall collection and wanted a version for herself,” says Kane. “She is talented and beautiful and has a strong personality. The strength and power of the chain-mail and leather details matched her confidence.”
After Shailene wore the designer to this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, she was an instant fan. “Christopher has mastered eccentric simplicity. His designs are straightforward, but the fabrics and embellishments are uniquely his own. They are masculine in structure and feminine in aesthetic,” says the 20-year-old.
On the steps of the Met, I rendezvous with Shailene, who is clad in what she deems “wearable art”—perfect for a night at a museum, not to mention the fashion world’s most high-profile evening. “On an average Monday night, I’d be sipping tea and reading a book,” she tells me. “This is by far the most glamorous and beautiful event I’ve been to.” That’s saying a lot for a girl who attended the Oscars just a few months prior.
“How do you stay so normal and grounded?” I ask her. “I don’t know how not to stay normal,” she nonchalantly says, chuckling, and explains: “I take time for myself. Outside noise is fantastic, but it is key to be able to hear your own inner voice.”
As we scan the scene’s dazzling statement dresses, I’m curious if this laid-back lady has any red carpet regrets from over the years. “I love looking back at the things I’ve worn, even if they make me cringe now,” she states. “It brings back a flood of memories; like popping in an old mix tape, it takes me back to who I was at that moment in time.” Looks like she’ll be adding another very special tune to her mix after this soiree.