Paging Lexi Grey: Grey's Anatomy's Chyler Leigh
Here's the thing about Chyler Leigh: She may look wholesome and damn-near perfect, like the former prom queen turned Harvard med student she plays onGrey's Anatomy. But in real life she's been infinitely less predictable and a lot more, shall we say, nuanced. The 26-year-old actress is not only a regular on the hit show but also the happily married mother of a son, Noah, 5, and a daughter, Taelyn, 2. But at 19, it was a different story.
"I went through a very experimental drug phase, just being a silly teenager," she says. "I was doing drugs, drinking, barely eating. I'm five six and a half, and I got down to 103. It was really scary."
Leigh started modeling--and, not coincidentally, smoking--at 12 and tried her luck with acting soon after. She had enough near misses with fame, including a lead role inNot Another Teen Movieand a few star turns on failed TV shows, to make her a jaded pro at an age when most women still haven't decided on a major. And considering her lifestyle, things weren't exactly looking up. After turning 20, she kicked her collection of bad habits, married her longtime beau, actor/musician Nathan West, had her son, and underwent the kind of internal makeover that keeps an actor off ofE! True Hollywood Story. "The more I worked on the stuff inside, the more changes happened for me," Leigh says. "Nathan and I thought, 'We could keep going down this road--but it's not going to lead us anywhere good.'"
Somewhere good--in fact, damn-near perfect--is exactly where Leigh is right now. Here, the lessons she learned along the way.
Yes, you can be too skinny.Being naturally thin can come with a price, Leigh says. "I've always had problems with digestion, but when I was 19, doing drugs and drinking, I ended up getting really sick," she says. "I couldn't hold food in my body. You could see my bones everywhere. I had to go to a doctor to try to regulate my system." After a diet overhaul--increasing the amount of vegetables she ate and switching to lean protein, like fish and chicken--she got herself under control. "Now we eat very well in our house, with as much organic food as possible, as well as lots of vegetables and fruits."
Calories are not the enemy."I've been doing research, trying to figure out what diet works best for all of us, what helps us operate at our peak," Leigh says. "Lately, we've been following the Blood Type Diet, and it's been incredible energywise." Leigh and her son, both type A's, try to stick with a largely vegetarian diet but sometimes eat fish and poultry for protein. West and their daughter are type O's and eat more red meat. "According to this diet, type A's have low stomach acid, so they should avoid meat," she says. "It's too bad, because I love a steak."
Take a run, Expand your mind.Leigh is the kind of naturally lithe person who frustrates the hell out of those of us who have to work hard at it. But try not to judge. "I have exercise-induced asthma," she says. "So I keep my energy level up chasing two children around. I stay as active as possible without going to the gym." Despite her limitations, Leigh is giving running a go and joins her husband on an occasional jog around the neighborhood: "He has these running epiphanies. He'll go out for a run and come back and say, 'Look, I said this and I'm sorry,' or 'I totally figured this out.' And I'm like, 'Go again!' I'd love to run more just to get that good, clear thinking time."
Be nice to your skin and it'll be nice to…well, you know."When it comes to skin care, I like to keep things simple. I'm not the type of person who runs out to have facials," says Leigh, who cites Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser and Dermalogica Active Moist, an oil-free lotion, as two go-to products. "And since I burn easily (I'm part Irish), I make sure that everything I use has SPF 15. Plus, when I'm at the beach, I always bring a small tent to sit under. Though it's not like I'm Bubble Girl or anything."
Great hair color doesn't necessarily grow from your head.
The hair that Leigh was born with "is the crappiest color in the world," she says. "I have dark blonde hair--and it needs help. I went darker when I was 18, in one of those 'I'm 18 and I can do what I want' moments. It's been that way ever since." Lately, she and her colorist, Jay Diola, have been going for a chestnut shade mixed with auburn. "Red's my favorite color," she says. Other than that, Leigh's hair off-screen is as low-key as Dr. Grey's. "I'm not a big wake-up-and-stand-in-front-of-the-mirror person. I don't like to do much with my hair--which is good, because I don't know how! I just always make sure I have a great haircut. I've been growing it out, and [theGrey'sproducers] haven't said anything, so I've taken that as a cue to keep going. You need to clear that kind of change with them. Katie Heigl wanted to cut her hair, and she had to ask first."
Always keep people guessing.Leigh is not the most recognizable face in Hollywood, and she prefers it that way. "I've been likened to a chameleon through my entire career," she says. A quick scan through the actress's portfolio proves that she can be transformed with as little as a flick of a mascara wand and a bit of eyeliner. "I can change my appearance by doing simple things. People ask, 'What's your ethnicity? Are you part Asian? I can't figure you out.' That gives me range with the roles I play." As Lexie Grey, she's as fresh-scrubbed as it gets. But when she's off the set, Leigh likes to break out the makeup. A fan of the Bare Escentuals BareMinerals line, Leigh accents her hazel eyes with their Black Ruby eyeliner and shadows in purple and green ("When you have dark hair, you can play with color"). She usually leaves her mouth bare. "I'm not a lip person. I'm always worried that lipstick is on my teeth or caked in the corners of my mouth. But individual false lashes are my best friend. Getting them right takes practice, so it's always a bummer when I have to wash my face."
"I've been a chameleon my entire career," Leigh says. "I can change my appearance by doing little things.
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