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Career

How She Got There: Kaylee DeFer, “Gossip Girl” Actress

Name: Kaylee DeFer
Age: 25
Job Title and Description: Actress, most recently seen on the CW’s “Gossip Girl” as Charlie Rhodes
Twitter Handle: @Kayleeannedefer
 
Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Kaylee DeFer: Some days it’s awful – 5:00 AM – but I mean, c’mon! I get to roll out of my bed, be taken to the set, they pick me up, I sleep in the car, and then go to the set. Other than waking up before the sun on certain days, it’s pretty much the most amazing job in the world. Every day is different! Plus, there’s a 12-hour turnaround, so if they don’t finish until midnight, you don’t go to work until noon the next day. It’s a very sporadic lifestyle, but it’s great.
 
HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
KD: I did a lot of musical theater and dance when I was a kid. I knew that it was something I wanted to be involved in for the rest of my life. When I was little, there was something else I wanted to be everyday: one day I wanted to be a detective, and then a teacher, or a basketball player. Then, I decided that I could do all of that if I was an actress. I realized that I could do anything I wanted to do [as an actress], and from then on that was kind of it. I was 16-years-old when I moved to LA; I basically just went for it and my parents were awesome about it.
 
HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
KD:
When I first started in LA, they were sending me out on Latino roles and I’m like, the whitest b**** they’ve ever seen! They clearly didn’t know me, and I kind of got lost in the shuffle. I ended up working for the agency stapling other actors’ headshots; I basically made them see my face every single day. It was great, because I got to see what projects were coming in and out, and I kind of started casting myself. I was going out for auditions and I started working immediately. There are so many people out there that give up when things don’t go well. You really need to just stick with it!
 
HC: What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
KD: About a year and a half ago, I worked on “How I Met Your Mother”. I was going through a really hard time; I kept feeling like I had the rug pulled out from underneath me. I’d actually met Jason Segel before I worked on “How I Met Your Mother,” and one day he was outside and I sat down at a table with him. We were kind of just chatting and he was asking me about how I was doing. I told him I was okay, but I was thinking about just giving up and going back to school. I was definitely in a really hard place where I wasn’t going to be able to afford the acting lifestyle for much longer before I would have to move out of LA and do something else. He said to me, “Listen, this whole entertainment industry is designed to break you down. It will challenge every aspect and every weakness of what you have. It’s purposely designed to get you out of LA and make you think you’re not good enough. Where else do you put yourself out there and someone else tells you ‘no’? The best advice I could ever give you is to just keep doing it. The more that you’re there, the more they see you—you really have something. Eventually, everyone around you will drop like flies and you’ll still be there.” Almost immediately after we had that conversation, I booked “Gossip Girl”.
 
HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
KD: When I turned 21, I went wild and I felt like I was on top of the world. I started partying a lot. I lost my agency and my job; I lost my life that I had given everything for. I lost myself, really. I definitely had to work from nothing again – I had to prove to everyone that I was serious.

I think it’s absolutely normal and every person struggles with challenge. I fell off the deep end and gained everything back. At the time, I wasn’t prepared to talk to people from my past, but eventually, I told [my new agent] what was going on in my life. He said to me, “I want you to meet with Innovative; I have a script for you to read.” The script was the story of two friends who were getting into drugs. The story really struck a chord for me; I knew I had to meet the director and writer. The role was actually already cast, but I told them, “I need this role, this is me!” They ended up giving me the role. From that point on, I was hooked again – I was re-inspired. I found my spark again and I went back into it. This time, I wasn’t giving up on me. I wasn’t going to give up on [my work].
 
HC: What is the best part of your job?
KD: Working with everyone is one of my favorite parts. In film, it’s kind of like summer camp for adults; it’s going to be a couple of weeks and then everyone is going to go their separate ways. The bonding on those sets is quicker because it has to be. When you’re on a television set, there’s less of that mentality at hand. Everyone has been really great about making me feel welcome and comfortable at “Gossip Girl”; it’s probably one of the best launching pads that I could be on right now. The best part of working on “Gossip Girl” is the people. What makes it great are the fans.
 
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
KD: You have to know exactly where you want to be; otherwise you’ll never get there. It’s important to have a clear vision of what you want in life, whether it is step by step or a bigger picture. The most powerful thing is strength and knowledge. If you’re determined and you really want something, then it’s yours.

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Lauren is a sophomore at Wellesley College majoring in Political Science and Theater Studies. She is originally from Princeton, New Jersey, and enjoys any ice cream flavor with the word "coffee" in it. When she is not writing for Her Campus or satiating her constant need to read fashion and health magazines, Lauren can be found watching the latest MARVEL film, reading restaurant reviews, dancing, singing, or expanding her itunes library. Lauren loves Russian literature, the Food Network, and Jennifer Aniston, and hopes to one day find a career that marries her passions for the entertainment, fashion, and journalism industries.
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