It’s no secret that Gossip Girl alum Leighton Meester had a rough childhood, but it’s something she rarely discusses in public.

Speaking with People magazine, Leighton got real about what it was like to worry about food growing up. She said,

“A lot of different periods of time growing up, I experienced food insecurity. That was just how I grew up. There was [sic] good, easy times and then a lot of the time towards the end of the month, it wasn’t as easy.”

Leighton was born while her mother was serving out a prison sentence for drug trafficking. But even once her mother got out, things weren’t exactly smooth-sailing for her. Back in 2012, she told Marie Claire,

“I couldn’t relate to kid stuff. ‘Jimmy doesn’t like me!’ Who cares? I was worried we didn’t have gas money or food. Those were my concerns.”

Money was so tight that Leighton decided to forgo her own prom.

“It was a lot of money for a ticket. And I just didn’t care that much.”

young leighton meester
credit: Leighton Meester / Instagram

Yet despite the hardships she faced, Leighton is convinced that it was these experiences that made her strong than ever.

“When you see how you react when you suffer, that’s when you know what you are made of.”

Even though Leighton seemingly became an overnight sensation when she landed the gig of Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, Leighton worked hard to get there. She started working in the industry at only 13 years old when she landed a one-episode part on Law & Order in 1999. She took small roles wherever she could on Boston PublicCrossing Jordan, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules, Entourage, and Veronica Mars. But it wouldn’t be until 2007 that she would get her big break on Josh Schwartz’s iconic show.

leighton meester gossip girl
source: Gossip Girl / Facebook

Since then, she’s launched a successful career with starring roles in Making History and the underrated show Single Parents. She also has a loving husband in fellow actor Adam Brody, who she married in 2014, and two children, six-year-old daughter Arlo and a 1-year-old son.

Even with all her success, she’s made it her mission to give back to her community and help women who struggle the same way she once did. She’s volunteered at the L.A.’s Downtown Women’s Center for years and, in 2019, created a jumpsuit with designer Christy Dawn, for which 100% of the proceeds went directly to the center.

leighton meester gossip girl
credit: Leighton Meester / Instagram

Most importantly, she wants to inspire other people to get involved and remind them just how prevalent food insecurity is. Speaking with People, she said,

“It’s people that you work with, it’s your friend at school, it’s your neighbor. It’s people that you wouldn’t necessarily think are experiencing food insecurity.”

The COVID pandemic has only worsened things, of course. According to a 2020 USDA report, 38 million Americans faced hunger last year and more than 12 million children lived in food-insecure households. It’s no wonder that 60 million people turned to food banks last year.

To learn more about how you can help food-insecure individuals and families, head to Feed America.

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