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The fact that Leighton isn't concerned with saying or doing anything phony to make sure we like her only makes us like her all the more.

"If you're just yourself, you'll never lose," she says, shrugging and warming her hands around a mug of chamomile tea. That's when you feel the most comfortable, that's when you have the most success, and that's when you're the most happy." THE IN CROWD Leighton's childhood didn't start off comfortable or happy.

Her mother had her while serving a prison sentence in Texas for drug trafficking.

Her grandmother took care of her on Marco Island, Florida, until her mom was able to join them several months later.

"She has a great combination of intelligence, wit, and strength but also this mischievous quality," says Gossip Girl executive producer and writer Stephanie Savage.

Leighton shows up makeup-free in retro Nike sneakers, skinny jeans, a black tank top, and...horn-rimmed glasses (are you picturing this? Clearly, she's not going out of her way to project an intimidating image on us or the customers doing double-takes as they walk by.

But that's not to say she's always a homebody — cast members often go out together, and Leighton's been written up in New York gossip columns for "downing tequila shots" and making out with abandon at nightclubs.

"The evil side of Blair is somewhere in me," she muses, "but acting her out is like therapy.

Ed Westwick, who plays Chuck, really cuts to the chase when discussing his costar.

"Leighton plays such a good bitch because she is one," he says.

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