The stunning transformation of Blake Lively

Actress. Fashion guru. Juggling mom. There are several words to describe starlet Blake Lively and all of them are pretty fabulous. She has mastered being super successful, while at the same time appearing down to Earth and like someone you could grab coffee with. She's constantly reinventing the wheel and doing things we don't expect. From acting, to fashion to her entrepreneurial projects, she always challenges herself and shows the world what she can accomplish. In just over a decade, Lively has gone from high school student splitting time between AP classes and filming a movie, to the ultimate role model and fashionista. Let's take a look at Lively's transformation throughout the years.

Juggling high school and film

After a small role in the 1998 film Sandman, Lively had her first big break in the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in 2005. It seemed this movie would be big for 17-year-old Lively even before it came out, as it was based off of the best-selling novel by Ann Brashares. The young actress had a feeling as well, telling USA Today, "People are really passionate about the books. When I told my friends the title of the movie I was going to be in, they would say, 'Oh, my God, it's like my favorite book.'"



But don't let that fool you; Lively was not one to let this big break go to her head. She was still consumed with high school at the time of filming, telling MovieWeb, "I've been so busy with high school and I'm in all the clubs there, I'm in all AP classes, I've been in cheer, choir and class president so my past four years at high school have been very busy. I left prom last night to come here."



And Lively wasn't the first to think about her looks either. When asked what it was like to be "the ideal tall, striking long blond hair girl," Lively responded, "I don't think of myself as that. I don't like people to see that. I'm such a dork. I'm such a loser." Even back then, it was easy to see Lively was far from a loser, but a very big winner.

How she held her own

The year 2006 brought a different kind of movie for 18-year-old Lively. She starred in the movie Accepted, along with comedy pros Justin Long and Jonah Hill. And she had no problem holding her own. During an interview with Chuck the Movie Guy, the director of the film, Steve Pink, praised Lively, saying she "classed up the joint." He went on to describe her acting skills, and said, "She just kind of shows her intelligence and also kind of her powers of irony…always fully in effect with Blake." Beauty, brains and a sense of humor? It was a pretty good guess at the time that the actress was just starting a very successful future career.

How she avoided the Hollywood gossip

By 2007, Lively's fame and celebrity status was taking off. She continued to be in films, such as Elvis and Anabelle, but her biggest role came in the fall with the series premiere of Gossip Girl. The TV show's popularity was evident pretty much immediately, as Lively played the main character — the blonde, fashionable Serena van der Woodsen. However, 20-year-old Lively felt she was a bit different from her teen socialite character.

She told Associated Press (via Buddy TV), "Serena was brought up very differently than I was brought up…Serena was given everything her whole life… I grew up in a small little town in California — Burbank. I went to high school [and] what we would do on our nights off [was] go to a school fundraiser, go to a football game, where these people have masquerade balls or go lounge at The Palace Hotel and sip martinis."

In fact, even with fame right in front of her, Lively always kept things in perspective. Speaking with CosmoGIRL! (via People), Lively described the film industry as "crazy" and "completely insane." She told Associated Press (via People), "I think that I strive to do the right thing and not fall into the norm [like] so many young people in Hollywood who … get caught up in some of the nonsense." Serious props to Lively for always keeping things in perspective.

How her job influenced her style choices

Although Lively saw quite a few differences between herself and her Gossip Girl character, there is one clear thing they have in common — the clothes. During an interview with W Magazine in 2008, executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage spoke about what really convinced Lively to take on the role of Serena. Schwartz said, "I think the real carrot for Blake was the opportunity for clothing…I remember talking to her about that. She was like, 'Wait, so you're asking me to move to New York and wear the most incredible clothes, some of which you might actually let me keep?'" That sounds like the best job ever. And Lively definitely agreed.

The 21-year-old told the magazine, "I probably have, like, 60 gorgeous bags…I have a closet with my really sharp, fancy, nice ones—the ones that go with my Valentino pumps, for example. And then I have a closet with the ones that are a little more rugged-feeling, the kind that go with my Belstaff motorcycle boots." And Lively's love of fashion was not just for the handbags, but her character's overall look as well. She was known for ordering from designers she wore on the show. She chatted with the New York Times about this, saying, "I like the urban, chic Kate Moss look and the ladylike Audrey Hepburn look as well." You have always worn it well, Lively!

Hollywood's golden girl

While Lively's fashion was admired right off the bat during the first years of Gossip Girl, there is one thing fans coveted even more — her hair. Compared to the "Farrah" and the "Rachel" hairstyles, Lively's look seemed to be next in line thanks to her luscious, blonde locks. The New York Times spoke with a variety of hair salons in New York City in 2009 and found the request for Lively's hair was consistent across multiple salons. Speaking with John Barrett, whose salon is in Manhattan, he described Lively's look as "aspirational hair." He continued to say that clients "don't just want the hair, they want the life."

The NYT also discovered that at the time of the article in 2009, the Google search of "Blake Lively hair" showed 713,000 results. And how did 22-year-old Lively feel about this trend? As a girl who avoided the crazy Hollywood life, she was not expecting quite the buzz. She told the paper, "I didn't really realize the extent of it…That's always kind of odd, but unbelievably flattering."

Exploring new acting roles

Though she was a clear pro by 2010, 23-year-old Lively still felt she had a lot to learn when it came to acting. She shared her thoughts with USA Today, saying, "I'm not a method actor who's all tortured and traumatized between takes…I thought I was actually wrong for not being that way. I thought if it was true acting, you had to do that." But Lively soon learned from working on more films that it wasn't the case. She said she realized, "Wow, you don't have to be really tortured. You also don't have to be really happy between takes. It's whatever works for you."

Lively described this moment of realization as "really eye-opening." It was in this year that Lively had one of her toughest roles, playing a woman who lived an unbelievably hard life, in the film The Town. Lively put herself totally into the character, but also realized when she needed to separate. She said, "The idea of living that life was so tragic that it was just nice to go home to my own bed and have an appreciation for my life and my world and my upbringing. Because who knows why you're dealt the cards you're dealt, and I felt really lucky to have the life that I have and the opportunity to dream."

Dealing with the dating gossip

In 2011, 24-year-old Lively was in the headlines quite a bit, but probably not for the reasons she would have loved. Her dating life took center stage as the gossip began regarding her break-up with Leonardo DiCaprio and her potential relationship with Green Lantern co-star Ryan Reynolds.

But being the class-act she is, Lively took this in stride and focused her attention on the release of Green Lantern and her excitement for the role. Speaking with Cinema Blend, the starlet described the blockbuster movie and the expectations she knew fans had for the fan-favorite comic series. She said, "You definitely feel the pressure. Before I even took on the role I felt the pressure – the pressure to make the fans proud, to do the character justice. When a story has been developing for so long – this is one of the longest running comic books of all time – there's such history there and such a fan base, there's a responsibility to do it right and to do justice to these characters that people love so much."

Lively went brunette for this role to stay true to the character in the comic books — and looked just as fantastic with brunette hair as she did with her signature blonde look. And Lively didn't take the role to boost up her already fantastic career. "If I connect with a role, with a character, with a story, with the filmmakers that to me is the reward. That to me is the success and if [fans] receive it well then terrific and if they don't then at least I had a good time making it. That's how I feel." The actress was able to set aside her relationship drama and show how important her craft was to her. Could she be any cooler?

Saying 'I do' to marriage and movies

The year 2012 was a big one in the 25-year-old's life, both professionally and personally. One of our favorite couples made it official, as Lively and [Ryan] Reynolds were married in a secret ceremony. That would be big enough for the year, but Lively doesn't ever seem to settle and she added success in her career as well.

In 2012, the actress starred with an impressive cast in the film Savages. Growing close with her fellow co-star Salma Hayek, Lively described their relationship to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "It was amazing to work with her as a villain because we were such good buddies personally…It was always fun to see how talented she is and she's such a tiny lady so to see her just take control and take the power, that was remarkable." Hayek and Lively in the same movie? That's so much girl power in one place, and we fully support that.

Aside from the incredible cast, we have to highlight Lively's fashion yet again. Lively spoke with Collider on the struggles with playing a character who looks like her and has her style. That situation may sound unusual, but Lively's reasoning made total sense. "I loved the clothes. One of my favorite parts is always designing the character. But the hardest part for me is that, when I play a character that is so different from me, I love to hide behind them. It's actually really a good secret, if you don't look like her or talk like her. You can disappear. But, when you look like her and talk like her, and you're from Southern California, and you wear clothes that you went shopping for at Topshop and said, 'Oh, I think this would be a good idea,' and you bought one for yourself, then it gets to gets to be a little messy and like, 'Oh, I don't want people to think this is me.' So, it was a really weird personal challenge, shooting this."

She started a website so she could tell stories off-camera

With fantastic acting and fashion, we shouldn't be shocked that Lively was ready to take on a new project. Once Gossip Girl was over, Lively had some more time. In 2013, the 26-year-old started to share news about a website she was working on.

She shared with Vogue, "It's something that will be launching in a few months and that I'm really, really thrilled about. The main element of it is that it's about storytelling and it's about living a very one-of-a-kind, curated life, and how to achieve that. There's nothing like it out there — it's without a genre…I have so many passions outside of acting and things that I grew up being good at and that I don't utilize when acting. Acting was something that my family did so I just kind of got into it by default, but there was so much that I cultivated, thinking that I wouldn't be an actor."

Finally in 2014, more information was discovered about this mystery site, called Preserve. In an interview with LivelyVogue describes the site as "Part digital monthly magazine, part e-commerce venture, part video blog, the site will seek out and celebrate people all over America who are making things — food, clothes, pillows, dishes, dining-room tables—with their hands." And Lively wanted to make it clear this was not about her. "[This is] not about watching my journey of learning how-to, it's about me sharing that with you so we all sort of learn together."

It was also always about creating an empowering space for women. When speaking with Stylist, Lively said, "If you look at the facts, women spend the most on e-commerce sites, yet less than 30 percent of the companies that venture capitalists fund are female-driven, even though female-run companies are the most successful." Lively had done her research.

And even though there was criticism when Lively first started Preserve, she discussed with TIME how she wouldn't focus on that. "I see what happens in the world of female entrepreneurs and I see what the media does. And that they pit women against each other and there's an or — should women stick to this or this? I knew we'd probably get grilled, or celebrated for being someone they're not already picking on."

The site officially launched in August of 2014… and was shut down by October 2015. There's more to this story below.

She experienced failure, and learned a whole lot from it

Lively's website, Preserve, started out with a simple idea: As Vogue reported: "She is, in essence, using all the modern-day digital tricks of the trade to shine a light on—to preserve—all those finer, simpler things in American life that are in danger of getting touch-screened into extinction, trampled on by the medium itself." Interestingly enough, they wrote: "It will be a neat trick if she can pull it off."

Unfortunately, she didn't.

Toward the end of 2015, the 28-year-old took the biggest risk and closed her site in order to take the time to make it better. She spoke with Vogue about the big move, saying, "It's very exciting and it's also incredibly scary…I never thought I would have the bravery to actually do that, to take the site dark and to say, 'You know what? I haven't created something that is as true and impactful as I know it can and will be. And I'm not going to continue to chase my tail and continue to put a product out there that we, as a team, are not proud of…'"

She continued: "The only time I've ever done something and felt real reward is when I've done something that's incredibly risky, because without great risks it's impossible to have huge success." It's refreshing to see someone like Lively care so much about the purpose and integrity of a business that she will do whatever it takes — even allow herself to fail — to achieve the result she always envisioned.

Acting as her own stylist

Lively is one of a kind when it comes to her fashion. And that's mostly because she's the one who picks out those fashion pieces. Yes, that's right, Lively doesn't have a celebrity stylist. The 27-year-old spoke with People in 2014 about her passion for finding the right look, saying, "That's the reason I don't have a stylist, not because I think I can do it better than any of these people, but because I just love it so much that it would be like handing over something… It would be like making a cake and then handing it off to someone else to ice and decorate. Why would you do that?" Well, when you put it like that…

Lively's style picks have been so on-point that we definitely can't question her on this. But a big part of being on-point is knowing what doesn't work, too. Although it's hard to believe any fashion wouldn't look great on Lively, she definitely has had some thoughts on that topic. "There are things that I see on Kate Moss and think, 'I have to have that,' but when I try it on me I look like a potato… I don't like to wear things that don't look right on my body… that 1920s drop waist, or even '60s mod. If you don't cinch in the waist it looks like I'm just hiding, you know, animals? I just start to look like the cargo part of an airplane." Again, very hard to believe that's the case, but we trust in Lively's word.

How she continues to be a class act

There is one way to sum up what we know about Blake Lively — she is a fabulous human being who can do no wrong. Okay, that may not be exactly true, but it feels pretty close. In 2016, the 29-year-old continued down her successful path and focused on that areas of life that were important to her. She continued to work on her website in the background. She also gave birth to her second child with Ryan Reynolds, and family continues to be the number one priority for the mom. Lively spoke with Marie Claire, saying, "All my eggs are in one basket, and that's my family. That's where my heart is. That's where my everything is."

And don't think her acting career is slowing down either. In June of 2016 she starred in an intense film called The Shallows, which focused on a surfer who was attacked by a great white shark. And Lively was focused on the importance of this film. "The danger with a film like this is that it taps into primal fear, but it can also unfairly villainize this amazing creature intrinsic to our well-being. They're one of the most overfished creatures in the ocean, and it's important we protect them."

From family to business to movies, Lively is constantly keeping busy and challenging herself in new ways. She is one celebrity with whom it's tough to predict what she'll do next. But one thing we do now is that there's a good chance it will be fantastic. Keep it up, Lively. We can't wait to see what's next for you.