InStyle has teamed up with the nonprofit organization I Am That Girl to chat frankly with celebrities about issues affecting girls’ self-esteem. Inside the January 2016 issue, now available on newsstands and for digital download, actress Allison Williams, who returns as Marnie Michaels for the fifth delectable season of HBO’s 'Girls,' dishes to I Am That Girl's Emily Greener on how she makes her downtime productive and why Lena Dunham should run the world.
There are countless fun ways to make ourselves look good, but right now we want to talk about inner beauty. What’s one thing that makes you feel gorgeous on the inside?
Maintaining friendships with positive people in my life. I’m still working out the kinks of my high school years. Back then I wasn’t gifted in social gymnastics. I was fixated on trying to be popular, but I was not wired to keep up with the covert manipulation needed to maintain that popularity. I got crushed over and over.
Looking back, what did you take away from that experience?
I admired the girls who ignored the status thing; they should have been my friends. I recently went back to my high school and told students that even though someone seems to have a perfect life, she could have major struggles that you don’t know about. Don’t compare yourself with anybody. It’s ultimately the things that differentiate you from others that are the most special. I learned that as I got older, but it’s hard to have that perspective as a teen.
If you could tell every teenage girl one thing, what would it be?
Stop stressing so much. Everyone has at least a low-level existential crisis during the weird transition from childhood into early adulthood. No one, myself included, is ready for it. One of the best things you can do is focus your energy outward by volunteering for a worthy cause or joining a club.
Speaking of having a positive impact, you were recently named an ambassador for Horizons National, which supports educational opportunities for children in low-income families. Over the years, your mom and grandmother have also worked with Horizons. How were these women role models?
All of my confidence comes from the examples set by my mom and my grandmother. My grandma was the first woman to be hired at the advertising agency she worked at during the Mad Men era. She was like Peggy Olson. It was inspiring to grow up in a family where everyone is an equal contributor and has a fair say.
How did that dynamic benefit your career?
I’ve learned how to express my feelings in a professional way. On the Girls set, the people in charge have always asked us to share our opinions, which laid the foundation for encouraging everyone to be comfortable speaking up. It’s motivating because now no one worries they will be judged or called bossy for stating their views. This attitude comes directly from the top in a workplace. If Lena Dunham ran the world, it would be a given!
Is there a particular challenge you’ve faced in your job?
As an actor, you spend a lot of time not acting in between projects, so you need to decide how to fill that void. Keeping my brain busy can be tough, so I try to use the breaks to develop a more global understanding of the world. For example, on a recent trip to Italy, I spent a ton of time trying to understand the country’s history with the help of a tour guide and by reading news articles. It was way more productive than sitting back and catching up on TV.
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