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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow
Leslie Bibb of 'Popular'
(CNN) -- Leslie Bibb is a young woman with definite ideas about the rewards of taking risks. The actress just started her second season as the most popular girl in school, Brooke McQueen, on the WB show "Popular."
Besides starring in the show about the highs and lows of high-school life, she shared the big screen with Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek") earlier this year in the movie "The Skulls."
Bibb's break-through is a fairy-tale story. When she was 16, Bibb was chosen from among 6,000 contestants in a nationwide model search on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She traveled the world modeling for a couple of years, then went to New York to pursue a lifelong dream of acting.
Recently Bibb, 26, met CNN in Perris, California, where she was shooting the October cover of the magazine CosmoGirl. She spoke about stardom, success and skydiving.
CNN: So what brings you here to Perris today?
Leslie Bibb: I'm going skydiving -- much to my mother's dismay I'm sure. I'm doing the cover of CosmoGirl. I'm kind of an active kind of a girl, and I learned how to surf this year and I like to do some different things, and they said, 'well, for the story, we'd like to get you doing something different.' So I said 'OK, let's go skydiving!' It was really fun.
CNN: What was your reaction the first time you went skydiving?
Bibb: The first time I went...I was very excited about it, you know. I didn't let fear kind of come into the equation because it's very easy to surrender to the fear of, like jumping at 13,000 feet and you're going, 'Hi death, knock knock, hi. You going to answer? I hope not.'
It was fantastic. I found it really liberating, and I think the bummer is that when you land, your adrenaline goes so high that for the whole next week after jumping, I was walking around going, 'How do I how do I get this high again? How do I feel that alive?' You really, really feel so alive and you feel like you're flying. Words don't really even describe how amazing it is. I think everybody should try it once!
CNN: You're the youngest of four sisters raised by your mom. What was that like?
Bibb: It's great -- I love female energy. I think women are so amazing. I wouldn't I wouldn't change it for the world. My mom is just beyond words fantastic. I mean, she's such a goddess. She really is one of the strongest people I've ever encountered.
I have great sisters, and it's definitely interesting. My mom married my stepdad about seven years ago and it's really nice having a dad, but it's -- I don't know -- I think having that many women around you, I never was fearful to like stand up for myself or have an opinion. They say that young women when they get into school won't raise their hands that much because they don't want to seem too smart, and they don't want to compete with boys. My mom was never that way. She said 'it doesn't matter if you're male or female, you're a human being and you should be successful and be smart and get an education.' So having that and having all of these really strong women around me has helped to make me a really strong woman, or on my way to being a strong woman.
CNN: Your family was involved in how your modeling start?
Bibb: It's kind of a collaboration. My eldest sister Trisha called my mom and said 'Oprah Winfrey's sponsoring this model search, send in some pictures of Leslie.' And it was my mother who took two pictures of me... we actually took a lot more than that, but they were the only ones where my head was attached and in focus. She's not (famed photographer) Herb Ritts by any stretch. So my
Two weeks later, we got this call saying I was one of 63 girls picked out of 6000. So they flew my mom and me to Chicago and then they narrowed it down to 20 out of the 63 and then I won the entire thing. I talk about the story because everyone's like, 'it's a crazy story,' and it is.
I can remember sitting in our living room, doing my homework, at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon when I got the call. And it was just like when that door of opportunity opens and you go -- it's definitely changed the course of my life forever.
CNN: Did you dream of becoming a model when you were in high school, or what did you hope to be?
Bibb: I never dreamt of being a model. To me, modeling is a great job for women. It's the only profession where women make more money than men. For me, it was like my waitressing job, it was my bartending job, it was the way I paid for my last year of high school.
I started modeling when I was 16. I paid for my first semester of college and then I paid for acting school in New York. It's funny, when you grow up in the country, you always wonder 'what can I do, what am I going to do, what am I going to do?'
And in my heart of hearts, I always wanted to be an actor. But growing up in rural Virginia...I mean, New York City! God, that was like going to Paris, you know, France, not Perris, California! It was a million miles away, so that being somehow attainable seemed impractical for me.
We grew up in the country and there's not a theater program -- it's not the arts. My mom always encouraged us to use our imaginations and to paint, and to sing, and do anything, but really, as far as the public school system there, there wasn't something that was like, 'here, let's do it.' I would do plays and I would have hours and hours with my imagination in the middle of the country, like my imaginary friends, and perform plays for my mom -- but I never thought that I would be here right now.
I think it's easy for you to get beat down. When I moved to Richmond (Virginia) when I was in high school, I thought, 'Oh well, if I'm really lucky I'll get into University of Virginia and I'll go to law school.' And I would've been lucky and I probably would've had a great life, but I don't think I would have been as fulfilled. I wanted to be a trial lawyer, and being a lawyer is very much like being an actor in a wierd sort of a way. I mean, if you see cross examinations and opening statements... but then when I got to UVA, I didn't fit in. I was like a fish out of water, and I knew that I wanted to do something else, but I just didn't know what it was.
My mom was really, really fantastic. When I told her that I wanted to take a leave of absence from my first semester of college... I mean, every mother would be like, 'you're crazy.' But she said 'OK, I give you one year.' But she knew that I could always go back to school, so she was so supportive of me and still is to this day. And that's really great because in this business -- it's really hard. Acting is a really hard profession. You put yourself into every part, you put all your hard work and you have people saying 'no, that's not good enough,' or, 'no that's not right.' So you put yourself out there and when you hear a lot of those 'no's it's hard not to take it personally. I think I'm pretty good at saying, 'It's not me, it's that choice' -- take everything with a grain of salt. So for that, I'm forever indebted to my mother.
CNN: What inspires you about acting?
Bibb: When I get to play a character that I love. When I meet a woman in a script -- I want to give her a voice, and I want to fill her shoes, and I want to go on her journey. I want to bring her to life, and I want to give her humanity. I mean that whole journey is really what sends me. It's scary, because sometimes you screw up, sometimes you're going do stuff where people are like 'that sucks.' But I think you have to challenge yourself, and you have to go to the cliff and you have to say, 'OK, this is going be scary, but I'm gonna jump.' It's that journey, that jumping, and wanting to tell stories. I love to tell stories and I like walking in other people's skin. I like people's problems and people's idiosyncracies -- I do love that.
CNN: You star in the WB show, "Popular," as the homecoming queen/head cheerleader Brooke McQueen. What's that been like?
Bibb: I found a home with Brooke McQueen. We just wrapped (recently) and it's a good show, it's really good. It's the kind of show that we all believed in and I'm not sure everybody else thought would last -- but it did. Everyone puts in so much hard work and we have great producers and great writers, great crew and really talented actors.
It's exciting for me because I love Brooke McQueen so much -- she's a hard nut to crack. She'll be like, 'enough. Enough. Stop complaining.' She's the girl you shouldn't feel any sympathy for, so I don't want people to feel sorry for her, but I want people to say 'wow, it doesn't matter what kind of shell she has. At the center, everybody's feeling the same insecurities in the same way.' And high school -- it's such a hard, hard journey. It's just all of your firsts and it's a really exciting time, so I feel really lucky with "Popular" and I'm really excited we're coming back next year.
CosmoGirl: 'Popular' Pop Quiz
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