Pretty Little Lucy
On TV she plays a girl in over her head, but in real life, Lucy Hale has her feet on the ground, even as her career blows up— and she makes the switch from sweatpants to Chanel.
Lucy Hale is wearing the girliest San Francisco Giants hat ever: white canvas with faded pink and green letters. From underneath its brim comes a smile as bright as a porch light, the flutter of long lashes and saucer-size green eyes. Unquestionably a star’s face. The outfit, however—white T-shirt, baggy sweats, purple and green Nikes—is that of your basic 24-year-old. As we line up for ice blendeds at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, Hale smiles, shrugs and lets it be known that anyone who was expecting a pair of jeans with one cheetah-print leg and one black should know that she and Aria Montgomery, the trendsetting lead character she plays on ABC Family’s teen drama Pretty Little Liars, don’t share a fashion agenda. “Aria is eclectic, quirky and weird,” Hale says. “I walk around in my gym clothes and my baseball cap.”
Hale, who grew up in Memphis, will tell you she’s always hearing she has a “small-town vibe,” and it is in full effect here at the Coffee Bean this afternoon. On PLL she plays the artsy girl in a popular clique looking for the killer of one of its members, but if Hale’s own life were made for TV, her role would be that of the pretty girl who happens to also be the nicest. She nods earnestly as she debates almond vs. soy milk with the cashier, and chats with an elderly man at the cream-and-sugar station. “Creepy fan” seems like a reasonable guess, but Hale’s eyebrows raise innocently against such suspicions. “He’s just being friendly. And he doesn’t know me,” she says. She does not say, “He doesn’t know who I am.” After only 10 minutes in Hale’s company, it is obvious that even if she wins an Oscar (her “ultimate dream”) or if the country album she’s just finished (her major-label debut, on Hollywood Records, comes out this fall) goes quadruple platinum, such arrogant phrasing will never escape her lips.
We settle on the back patio, where Hale admits she has logged some time. Her habits are those of a millennial with a healthy touch of the old-school. She tweets and vines, makes flower garlands to wear to Coachella with her friends, but also carries a paper day planner (“I like to see things written down”). She respects her elders and showers her mother with presents. When, at age 13, she sang Blondie’s “Call Me” (which includes the lyrics “Roll me in designer sheets/I’ll never get enough”) on the short-lived reality-TV singing competition American Juniors, she felt for her grandparents. “They just about died,” she says. “It was so inappropriate.”
As we drink our ice blendeds, she describes a life that, despite her glamorous job, is kind of cozy and regular. Most mornings she walks from her nearby home down this sun-drenched boulevard and gets coffee. She jogs at a little park nearby (treadmills bore her) and eats at local restaurants. “This is my bubble,” she says, clearly happy about it. The bubble, FYI, has no male residents. “I’m single for the first time since I was 16,” Hale says. The guys she thinks are cute are way older and attached. “I love Mark Wahlberg. Robert Downey Jr. is my ultimate. And I think Steve Carell is so sexy.” Someday, she’d like to go back to Tennessee and have a family, but for now, “I like being single.”
Contained within the idyllic, guy-free bubble is the studio where Hale spends 12-hour days shooting. “I love Pretty Little Liars,” she raves. The soapy, campy vibe, snappy dialogue, startling plot twists and bold fashion have made it a ratings and Twitter hit, and not just with tweens (Google “guilty pleasure” and “PLL” to read adult viewers’ tortured confessions). “It’s an hour where everyone can escape into an extreme, dramatic story,” says Hale. Aria’s extreme drama—other than tracking down her friend’s killer—is the fact that her teacher and her boyfriend were, for a time (and possibly will be again?), the same person. Hale didn’t blink when she read the pilot. “I was excited to do something racy and scandalous,” she says. “I was just surprised ABC Family was willing to show it.”
Hale fishes in an enormous Celine Boston bag for her lip gloss and beams a new-mama smile when the bag is complimented. Along with a Chanel bag and black suede Louboutin boots, this is one of her recent “grown-up purchases.” Caught red-handed, Little Miss Baseball Hat admits she does like shopping. Still, she usually hits less spendy places, like Urban Outfitters, Free People and Brandy Melville (at Coachella she was extensively photographed in a cute long, printed skirt from the latter). “And I only dress up when I have to,” she says. “I have a great collection of heels but always wear flats.”
Still, Hale admires glamour. “I’d like to go shopping with Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe,” she says—further outing this sweatpants wearer as someone who likes clothes a lot—and proceeds to list fellow celebrities whose style she admires. “Kate Moss, Rachel Bilson, Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried, Selena Gomez”—she shakes her head in admiration and tells me she is less nervous about the prospect of touring for her upcoming album than she is about going on the red carpet. “I feel like a lot of girls my age really sort of have red carpet nailed down.” She prefers to describe herself as “evolving,” though she did like the beaded Moschino gown she wore to the CMA Awards in 2012, with Veronica Lake waves and retro red lips, and the white, collared Dior she wore to the 2013 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Still, she’s always up for improvement and after coffee is headed to meet with stylists Emily Current and Meritt Elliott of Current/Elliott jeans fame. But she confesses that dressing up for the public involves a fair amount of anxiety. “Obviously you always want to look your best. But at the same time, you don’t want to be that person who’s trying too hard, you know?” She sighs. “It’s hard to be a girl.”
Acting-wise, she admires the careers of Reese Witherspoon and Rachel McAdams, and in the country music department, Miranda Lambert. “It’s tricky for me because I’m 24, but I look very young. I’m very much looking forward to playing more adult parts. And I love music and don’t think I could ever get enough of it. But I think I’ll be doing the show for a little bit longer, and I will always be grateful for it.” And as for that small-town vibe, she has no plans to abandon that either. “I promised myself no matter what happens, I would always try to stay kind.”
Click through the slideshow above for more photos from Lucy Hale's cover shoot and her favorite right-now style icons!