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PARIS — Among Blake Lively’s first orders of business upon arrival in Paris is a stop at pastry palace Ladurée for a box of its colorful macaroons.
This should come as no surprise for a young woman who counts “The Wizard of Oz” amongst her favorite movies and who traces her sunny, upbeat nature back to age four, when she was simply “walking down the street” and decided, “it’s the perfect day to be happy, and I never really lost that.”
This story first appeared in the March 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’ve just always believed you should put a lot of positive out there,” she says. “When I have bad days, I just eat lots of chocolate ice cream and dance to the ‘Lion King’ soundtrack. It’s really odd, but it’s true.”
It’s hard to imagine a more wholesome person parachuting into a Paris Fashion Week strewn with scandal and sadness, headlined by the dismissal of John Galliano from Dior.
Bubbly, articulate and self-assured beyond her 23 years, Lively was in town for a dinner Saturday night, hosted by Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel to toast the “Gossip Girl” star’s latest project: fronting an advertising campaign for the French house’s new Mademoiselle handbag. The ads break in a range of weekly and monthly titles this week and next, and are slated to run through early June.
In a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the dinner, Lively revealed a strong appetite for meaty roles — and a picky approach to her choice of film and fashion projects.
Come June, she will be seen opposite Ryan Reynolds in the comic-book action film “Green Lantern,” and says she was psyched to portray a “bad-ass fighter pilot” rather than the typical “damsel in distress” one associates with superhero films.
Among her costumes is a “full military compression suit” and, as the owner of the airline company the fighter planes belong to, an array of sleek business suits.
In a couple of weeks, Lively starts shooting “Hick” in North Carolina opposite Eddie Redmayne and Chloe Moretz. After her critically acclaimed turn as an addict in “The Town,” Lively once again will get into the skin of a woman battling substance abuse.
“I don’t believe that people are just black and white, so I do love when there are women that are gray,” she explains. “It’s such a human story, but it’s told with an almost magical element.”
Lively insists her acting career came about by chance, and that she would be just as content pursuing one in cooking or interior decorating, two of her passions.
“I never plan it out,” she says. “I fell into acting, and the fortunate side of that is that every job I’ve taken has been case by case because I wanted to do it.”
Asked which actresses, past or present, possess a style that makes her swoon, Lively first mentions Katharine Hepburn — “I love when a woman can be empowered and glamorous but also add the strength of masculinity,” she says — adding to the list Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Sienna Miller. “I love what she wears,” she enthuses about the latter.
Indeed, Lively has been fascinated with fashion since her childhood in Burbank, Calif.
Her mother, Elaine, was a fashion model who fronted a Hanes campaign and teamed up with her daughter to make dresses. “We’d always go down to the garment district with my father. We would go to really cool vintage stores or boutiques and we’d get a bunch of clothes and we’d sew a lot,” Lively recalls.
More recently, Lively has been on the cover of numerous fashion magazines, is a closely watched figure on red carpets and is synonymous with her stylish Serena van der Woodsen character on the CW teen drama series. As Lively puts it: “Fashion is the great character on our show.”
Yet the actress says she has no ambitions to jump into the melee with a project of her own.
“I have such a respect for fashion and such an appreciation for it that if there are people like Karl Lagerfeld out there designing, who am I?” she asks. “I want to bow down to them and be a representative for them if they’ll have me.”
Lively says that her admiration for Lagerfeld is such that she’s surprised the photo session for the handbag campaign didn’t yield images of her “with my jaw on the floor.” At the end of the shoot, she pulled out her cell phone to capture an image of Lagerfeld behind the camera pointed at her.
As easily as she navigates the entertainment and fashion worlds, Lively seems as excited about what other ventures acting might bring her.
“I do plan to open a few restaurants one day. I will be the chef, I will create the menus, I will decorate,” she says, rattling off plans to do a brunch place first, then one dishing up Southern cuisine, followed by world food.