Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
If you asked Savannah Lee Smith to describe her job, she'd tell you, "I play pretend for a living." Acting has been Smith's passion since high school, but she never imagined she'd land a leading role just a few years later. Playing Monet—the cutthroat publicist of Queen Bee Julien— in the Gossip Girl reboot thrust the 21-year-old actress into the spotlight overnight.
Her career's meteoric trajectory has brought thousands of adoring fans and thrilling opportunities to her life. Smith has graced a magazine cover, secured a partnership with skincare brand Humphreys Witch Hazel, and landed a role in a forthcoming musical all within the last year. Smith is undoubtedly living her dream, and in conversation, it's clear she's grateful for every moment. Ahead, the actress discusses her lifelong love of entertaining, dealing with imposter syndrome, and her beauty routine.
As a child, did you always dream of being an actress?
I knew I would be in some sort of art-related career. I used to draw and paint a lot as a kid. Then, I started singing. My mom is a singer, and she taught me how to sing when I was very young. I just kind of fell into acting, though. I was in the choir during my freshman year of high school. But, I went to the dean and was like, "Hey, I don't want to do this anymore. Can you put me in dance?" However, the only open class was drama. At that point, I discovered acting, and I've loved it ever since.
You grew up in L.A., but your acting career has taken you to New York. How have those two cities have shaped you into who you are today?
I love L.A. because it's home, but I knew I wanted to be in New York City at a very young age. I just feel more confident here. I feel like I have the space to be myself. I also love the connections I've made here—they've been much more authentic.
You also filmed Gossip Girl in New York. What have you enjoyed most about filming the show and playing Monet?
I love that I get to do this and call it my job. Once I decided I wanted to act, I never expected I would be doing it at this level within a year. Getting the phone call that I was cast in Gossip Girl was the best day of my life. But I also was very nervous and had a strong case of imposter syndrome.
As young adults carving out our careers, imposter syndrome is very real. How do you sort through those feelings when they arise?
Those feelings come and go. I just have to remind myself that everyone started somewhere. My start happened to be on a very high-profile show, which is unexpected. To cope with those feelings, I like to be alone sometimes. I think that can help because you constantly feel like eyes are on you in this industry. Having time alone to wind down, recenter myself, and remember everyone's winging it helps ground me.
You are 21-years-old and on the rise in the entertainment industry. What do you appreciate most about being a part of Gen-Z?
My mom and I have a lot of discussions about society, Hollywood, and people like Lil Nas X. She gets frustrated with my responses sometimes, but I love everything about Gen-Z. I love being part of a community that doesn't care what people think anymore. It also makes me happy to see the inclusivity and diversity our generation promotes. It's so exciting to think my future kids will learn about the things Gen-Z did in their history classes.
Let's pivot and talk about beauty. What does your makeup and skincare routine currently consist of?
I've been really into under-eye patches lately. I know there's some controversy about whether they work or not. But, they do for me and help me look more awake. It gets really cold in New York, so a heavy-duty moisturizer is essential. I always carry my Humphreys Witch Hazel Facial Mist ($6) with me when I'm on set. The lights on set are so hot, and the spray is refreshing on my skin.
Are there any beauty tips you picked up on the set of Gossip Girl?
I wear wigs a lot, and the glam team on set introduced me to a lot of really good hair serums and dry shampoos. Around the same time, I learned about toner. The crew on the set of Gossip Girl were shocked I didn't use toner on my skin.
What are you excited to do next? What are you hoping brings joy into your life in 2022?
Gossip Girl has changed my life and made me very happy. In 2021, I filmed a musical in North Carolina. Doing that reminded me how much I love music. So, I think making music is definitely the next step for me. I'm not planning to do it on a huge scale for numbers. I just want to do it because it's fun.