Wonderland.

SAVANNAH LEE SMITH

From stage school to the Upper East Side, the newcomer is making her screen debut in HBO’s buzziest new show, Gossip Girl 2.0.

Savannah Smith blowing bubbles
Savannah Smith blowing bubbles

Taken from the Spring 21 issue. Order your copy now.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but realistically, sometimes a picture will tease nothing more than three: Gossip Girl reboot. For actor Savannah Lee Smith, these three words were all it took for her name to be thrown into the spotlight.

After an image of fresh-faced Upper East Siders lounging on the show’s iconic Met steps sent Twitter into a frenzy last November, the cast were thrown into the arms of a devoted fandom almost overnight. Where was Smith when all this took off? Relaxing in a world of oblivion thanks to an untimely social media cleanse. “Oh my gosh,” the 20-year-old laughs with a hint of embarrassment. “So, I’m a pretty disconnected person. I delete Instagram off my phone all the time, so I didn’t know until my friend texted me a TikTok she saw. I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s me! What the hell?’”

Months later and the 2021 revival of Gossip Girl continues to be one of the most hotly-anticipated shows. “In this world, the original Gossip Girl characters already exist,” Smith explains, describing the series as more of an extension than a classic reboot. “But they’re now 10 years older and are living their separate lives in New York City and this is just showing the new generation. The new kids in school.” Set to launch this summer on HBO Max, Smith will make her debut alongside co-stars Emily Alyn Lind and pink-haired skater-photographer Evan Mock.

Savannah Smith smiling

(RIGHT) Full look by MIU MIU and ear cuff by BULGARI.

Savannah Smith smiling
Full look by MIU MIU and ear cuff by BULGARI.

“It’s already a dream to be able to be a part of this project, but on top of that I get to be a part of a greater responsibility that I feel as a Black, bisexual woman in the media.” As we discuss the series’ shift from 2007’s predominantly straight, white characters to a cast that better reflects the diversity of New York City, it’s clear Smith is not focused on what the original lacked, but instead motivated by what 2021’s cast will signify. “It’s important for everyone to see Black bodies and Black female bodies and people of colour in positions of power, and positions of wealth and status. It’s just as important to see everyone in those positions and I feel like when you start to level out the playing field then we can start to see some real change.”

Smith may have found fame through acting, but it’s in music she finds her release. “I’ve always loved acting, but I mean, singing is just part of my identity and music is a part of me. I have a very strong connection to music and I don’t have any plans of abandoning it.” Growing up in a family of musicians, her childhood was often filled with the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, so it’s no surprise jazz continues to be a heavy influence. “I like to have a very smooth sounding voice. My dream is to be the background music at a party in a loft in Brooklyn.”

Savannah Smith sitting down

Top by DSQUARED2, jeans by PRISCAVERA, shoes by BALENCIAGA from ALBRIGHT FASHION LIBRARY, earrings by LADY GREY and ear cuffs by JENNIFER FISHER.

Savannah Smith sitting down
Top by DSQUARED2, jeans by PRISCAVERA, shoes by BALENCIAGA from ALBRIGHT FASHION LIBRARY, earrings by LADY GREY and ear cuffs by JENNIFER FISHER.

With music already being such an integral part of her life, it was Smith’s ability to push herself out of her comfort zone that truly enforced her acting success. “I didn’t really get into acting until high school and really I didn’t even start taking it seriously until the end. So when college applications rolled around, I was nervous. I thought ‘Well, I’ve always been a singer. I’ve been singing since I was three. I make music, and it’s something people know me for’. I wasn’t confident in my acting yet, so I figured I would play it safe,” Smith admits. “When I got to the school, a lot of the things I was learning I could learn at home.” It was at that moment Smith realised where she needed to be, swapping out music for the stage.

Just before we bring our conversation to a close, Smith talks of her additional hopes to build a career as a playwright and to perform on Broadway. As the young artist continues to add talents to her ever-growing résumé, it’s clear she has a natural gift that’s only just beginning to be recognised. With so many paths on the horizon, who knows which medium Smith will dominate next. But if there’s one thing the past year has taught her, it’s to not put too much pressure on herself: “I’m just taking it one year at a time.”

Photography
Aingeru Zovita
Fashion
Jamie Ortega
Words
Catherine Kirby
Hair
Naeemah LaFond at The Wall Group using Amika.
Makeup
Keita Moore at The Only Agency using Armani Beauty.
Producer
Wei-Li Wang at Hudson Hill Production.
Digital Technician
Matt Torres.
Photography assistant
Casey Weis.
Fashion assistant
Katelyn Johnson.
SAVANNAH LEE SMITH