Leighton Marissa Meester (born April 9, 1986) is an American actress and singer. Meester gained fame for playing the role of Blair Waldorf in the CW young-adult television series Gossip Girl. She most recently appeared in the 2010 country drama film Country Strong and the 2011 thriller The Roommate.Meester was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the daughter of Constance (née Haas) and Douglas Meester.At the time, her mother was serving a federal prison sentence for her involvement in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana from Jamaica to the United States. She was able to give birth to Leighton in a hospital and nurse her for three months in a halfway house, before returning to prison to complete her sentence. At this time Leighton's grandmother cared for her.Meester has 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 has joked, "Look, I could've turned out a lot worse." She has cited her mother as her style icon.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 Wilhelmina, booking a Ralph Lauren campaign shot by Bruce Weber and working with then photographer (now film maker) Sofia Coppola as well as many commercials including Tamagotchi toys and Clearasil. 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.Meester's last name is a Dutch name which means "master" or "teacher."
After her television debut in 1999 playing Alyssa Turner in Law & Order, Meester appeared as a guest in two more series before landing her big role in the movie Hangman's Curse, based on the best-selling book by Frank Peretti. She appeared in Tarzan, which ran for only eight episodes. Meester then started to land guest roles in other series such as Crossing Jordan, 8 Simple Rules, 7th Heaven, Veronica Mars, 24, and Entourage.In 2005, Meester began a regular role in the series Surface as Savannah Bennet. Meester appeared in two more 2006 movies, Flourish and Inside. She also guest appeared in Numb3rs and in three episodes of House M.D. as Ali, a young girl who has a crush on House. She had guest roles on CSI: Miami and Shark, and played the female lead in the horror film Drive-Thru.In 2007, Meester was cast in the CW's teen drama series Gossip Girl as Blair Waldorf.The show is based on the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar about the lives of New York's privileged Upper East Side young adults. Her performance is the most critically acclaimed of the show, with Blair being cited as the series' breakout character, and also garnering much media recognition due to her wardrobe.Meester appeared on the television film The Haunting of Sorority Row, and played a part in the ensemble comedy/drama Remember the Daze. She also appeared in the horror/thriller film Killer Movie in 2008.Meester had small roles in the 2010 comedies Date Night and Going The Distance.She starred in Screen Gems' 2010 country drama Country Strong and the 2011 thriller The Roommate.She is set to star in The Uncatchable Cowgirl Bandits of Nottingham, Texas alongside Amber Heard; in the indie dramatic comedy The Oranges opposite Hugh Laurie; and will star next to Selena Gomez and Katie Cassidy in the young femme comedy Monte Carlo, loosely based on Jules Bass's young-adult book Headhunters. Meester also joined the cast of the comedy I Hate You, Dad, alongside Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Milo Ventimiglia.