Leighton Marissa Meester (born April 9, 1986) is an American actress, singer-songwriter, and fashion model best known for her role as Blair Waldorf in the TV show Gossip Girl.
Meester was born while her mother was serving a federal prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas. Although her mother, Constance, was serving time in prison for her involvement in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana from Jamaica to the United States, she was able to give birth to Meester in a hospital and nurse her for three months in a halfway house before returning to prison to complete her sentence.
Meester maintained that her parents gave her a normal upbringing and, despite their criminal past, are good people with experience that has only made Meester more open-minded and non-judgmental, "It made me realize that you can't judge anyone—especially your parents—for what they've done in their past, because people change." Meester jokes, "Look, I could've turned out a lot worse."
Meester grew up in Marco Island, Florida, where she participated in productions at a local playhouse. When she was 11 years old, Meester and her mother moved to New York. Meester attended the Professional Children's School and also began working as a model with Wilhemina, booking a Ralph Lauren campaign shot by Bruce Weber and working with then photographer (now film maker) Sofia Coppola. Meester made her television acting debut as a murder victim's friend on an episode of Law & Order. At 14, Meester moved to Los Angeles, California, wanting more stable work and attended Hollywood High School and Beverly Hills High School. She then transferred to a small private school and graduated a year early. Her surname Meester, means "master" or "teacher" in Dutch.