Lucy Hale was just 15 years old when she moved to LA to pursue her dream of acting. By 16 years old she was working, by 17, she was supporting herself, she lived alone by the age of 18 and by 20 years old was propelled to international fame when she starred in Pretty Little Liars for nearly the entire length of her twenties.
WATCH: Lucy Hale on dealing with her mental wellbeing & learning to stand up for herself.
Now at 31 – and about to star in Katy Keene, a new TV show about a fashion obsessive trying to make it in NYC, which has just landed on BBC iPlayer – Lucy Hale has had to get used to living her life in the spotlight. But, as she reveals in the latest episode of GLAMOUR UNFILTERED – our bi-weekly celebrity chat show hosted by Josh Smith, the greatest challenge of all hasn’t just been doing, ‘necessary self work’ during lockdown but learning to speak her mind without apologising for it…
How are you doing, babe?
Every day I’m like, ‘is this real? Is this all really happening?’ You know what, that being said, I’m hanging in there trying to stay busy. Trying to stay creative. You know, we’re all going a little stir crazy and California’s back on lockdown.
It’s almost like the mental hangover from what has happened over the last four months has been so extreme. How have you managed your own mind?
It’s a lot because I’m a person who overthinks everything and I’m always planning 10 steps ahead my biggest challenge was not having a panic attack every 30 minutes. It was good because I rarely allow myself to slow down enough to sit with myself. I got some alone time and did some necessary self-work. But I hear you – I feel like we’re all kind of traumatised by this yea – but I’m coming out of it okay.
What kind of self-work have you been doing?
I think for me, I realised I put so much of my identity in what I do and how productive I am. So, when that’s stripped away, I was like, ‘Oh my God, who am I?’ I realised yes, I love my job and I love being creative and I love getting to do all these opportunities, but that doesn’t make up who I am. Lucy stands alone without X, Y, and Z. So, I think just really doing things that I’ve always wanted to do that don’t get any feedback. Just like I wanted to learn to paint or to cross stitch – so I started all these little hobbies that became passion hobbies. They actually brought me so much joy and it’s so nice to do something where I don’t need validation, or I don’t have to get feedback from anything. I started meditating, which was new. It’s hard! I truly started off with two minutes and now I can kind of get to 30 minutes. But it’s nice. It’s kind of nice to kick start your day that way. I don’t every day, I didn’t today. I didn’t yesterday. But I try. I’m trying.
It’s so bad how we’ve been almost conditioned into thinking that our personalities and almost our entire self-worth is so built into our jobs. Right?
Right! I read something the other day. It said, ‘your day shouldn’t be measured by your productivity. Your day should be measured by how present you are.’ That is so true. We should live every day like that, but we aren’t conditioned that we have to hustle, hustle, hustle, work, work, work. And if we take a day off, we’re lazy, which is just ridiculous. I think that, if anything, this time has allowed most of us to relax and allow yourself to relax. It’s so important to recharge because I think we all realise we’re all just exhausted, irritable and anxious because we’re tired. That being said, I’m really ready to get back to work. I’m over sitting around. But it hasn’t been a good lesson. I think for all of us.
Luckily for all of us in UK, Katy Keene is coming to BBC iPlayer! What I love about it is about this very determined young woman who is out there following her dreams. For you what sacrifices have you had to make in the pursuit of your dreams?
There are so many parallels between Katy’s story and my real-life story because I moved to LA when I was 15. So, I was homeschooled all through high school. I never went to or never stepped foot in a real high school. I sacrificed a lot of like what you call, ‘normal growing up,’ whatever that is because I did grow up very fast, I started working at 16, supporting myself at 17, lived on my own at 18. Everything was just kind of quick. So, I didn’t realise how much I had sacrificed being a kid until I’m now 31. I was like, Oh, I kind of missed out on some things, but no regrets. I love where I’m at. It’s worth it. I’ve worked hard and thank God it paid off because I didn’t have that backup plan. I really didn’t.
So many people always see this surface level of success, and they don’t see the ‘no’s’ along the way. What has been a no you have received that has been a positive thing for you in retrospect?
Years ago, before Pretty Little Liars, I did a show called Privileged. It was on CW. It got canceled. It was a no, but those producers were like, ‘we like Lucy, we like her. Let’s do something with her.’ They ended up casting me in Pretty Little Liars. So, it’s like situations that don’t always go your way lead you to where you’re supposed to be. I’m such a firm believer that if you trust the universe, it’s going to take you where you’re supposed to be. You just have to Listen to your gut, listen to your intuition and never, ever, ever, ever give up. Never. Just don’t take no for an answer.
A lot of people aren’t out for this industry because it is 99% rejection, truly. It’s all the time. I still get horrible feedback all the time, but it’s just a matter of just shifting that mindset a little bit and making it a positive for you because you dictate your future. You are writing your own story and you just have to remember that the steering wheel is in your hands. You control, you can control your future. So yeah, it’s a mindset thing.
Katy Keene picks up on the labelling of women. What kind of labels have you had to kind of rip off and get rid of? And what kind of everyday sexism have you had to come up against?
I’ve always been very polite. A lot of people take that as weakness or as naive, and that’s not it at all. So, I’ve had to really learn to be polite, but also stand my ground. Being a nice person who doesn’t take sh*t and so still sometimes I’m very worried that if I speak my mind that I’ll be labeled a bitch or too much. But that’s so silly because why? We should be able to speak our minds, but do it in a way that, that is gracious. That’s sort of been my whole thing, learning to say no and set boundaries for myself, because I, by nature, I’m just a people pleaser. I want to make everyone happy, but that’s not sustainable. I’ve really learned to only do the things that I really want to do. It feels so nice to be at a point in my life and in my career where I can be like, I don’t want to do that role. I don’t want to do that interview. I do want to do that interview, hence why I’m speaking to you. I wanted to do this. I wanted to do Katy Keene, because then you just feel better about yourself. If you’re always doing things for people that you don’t want to do, you just feel like crap. It really drains you.
Realising the power of saying no, is the greatest gift of all – I just feel like the shackles are gone…
Now I’m learning to say no, but not apologising for it, because then I would say no, but I would be like, ‘but I’m so sorry I can’t do this.’ Now, I’m just like, ‘no, that doesn’t work for me!’
Katy Keene is going on this journey of self-discovery in so many different ways in terms of relationships, friendships and her identity. Sitting here today, what do you think has been the greatest turning point in the discovery of yourself and understanding yourself?
Wow. I still have moments every day where I’m having turning points. I told you I’m 31, but I don’t think I grew up until last year. I went through some things that were like, okay, you’re getting your sh*t together and we’re going to be an adult now. So I actually just now feel like, the last year, I feel settled in my skin and comfortable with who I am and happy with the person I am and the decisions I’m making.
If you could sit the you, who is about to go into your career on a zoom call, right here, right now she was sat here, what would you want to say to her?
Oh wow. There’s a lot of things I would say avoid this, avoid that person don’t do this. But ultimately, I spent so much of my younger years just worrying about things that didn’t matter whether it be my body or the way I looked, or the way people perceived me. I think because of that, I lost out on some really great moments because I wasn’t present. I used to, I still struggle with being very present, because, like I said, I’m always 10 steps ahead, which can be good. But I would just tell myself to really soak it in and love it and just be grateful for every single second because you don’t get that back. I think that it really is important. It’s important to be present. Not that I wasn’t, but I could’ve done a little better, but that’s okay. Live and learn.
Katy Keene is available on BBC iPlayer now