‘Gossip Girl’ star Savannah Lee Smith was bullied, rejected on road to fame

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Growing up in Los Angeles, ­Savannah Lee Smith felt like she was embroiled in “Gossip Girl” culture — and not in a good way.

“People in LA can be very shallow,” said Smith, who co-stars in the HBO Max ­reboot of the classic series. “There were some really nasty people at my school who’d constantly remind me that I didn’t fit in because of how I look.”

She told The Post how mean girls ostracized her for being one of the few black students at her predominantly white Catholic high school.
“But once I enrolled in the drama program,” said Smith, now 21, “I knew the theater was where I belonged.”

Her love of the stage and disdain for LA superficiality drove her to New York City after graduation, enrolling in the theater program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2018.

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Actress Savannah Lee Smith said moving to New York City from California liberated her: “In a city with so little free space, I feel like I can take up as much space as I want.”

“Being in [New York City] has reshaped me as a woman,” Smith said of her adopted hometown. “Here I don’t have to fit. I can just be myself.

“In a city with so little free space, I feel like I can take up as much space as I want.”

As a result of the recently rebooted “Gossip Girl,” which features different characters than the CW show that ran from 2007 to 2012, she’s also commanding a lot of attention.

Smith plays queen bee Monet, who, as The Post wrote in July, “rules the school proudly wielding her wealth and her sharp tongue.” (The first six episodes of the show are available to stream now and the next six will drop in November.)

But it’s not what the actress thought she would be doing when she first moved to the city.

“Ninety percent of my auditions were for theater because it’s always been my true passion,” Smith said.

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When she got the call confirming she had been cast in “Gossip Girl” — while quarantining with family — “I literally lost my mind.”

So much so, she threw her phone to the floor, destroying the screen.

“I was crying so hard that when I tried to tell my boyfriend the good news, he thought someone had died,” she said. “I was finally able to say ‘No. I got it!’ ”

But embodying the spirit of the snooty, scheming Monet was a challenge.

“Although she’s driven like me, Monet and I are very different,” Smith said. “From our personalities to our fashion senses, we’re polar opposites.”

One big difference: “When I was 16 I learned that I had severe scoliosis. The doctor said if I didn’t have surgery immediately, I’d be unable to walk by the time I was 25.”

She noted that such surgeries can cost between $100,000 and $250,000, and that her singer mom and film-writer dad struggled to pull the funds together.

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“Even though it was expensive, I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I had to get it done.”

While recovering from the “super invasive” procedure — during which physicians placed a metal rod in her spine — Smith accidentally outed herself as bisexual to her family.

“I’d just gotten off of bed rest after a month and I was teaching myself how to walk again,” she said. “And it just came out.”

Smith admitted that some relatives were not accepting of the news, but that playing Monet has given her confidence.

She recalled how, as soon as “Gossip Girl” costume designer Eric Daman draped her in a silk lilac cropped blazer by Christopher John Rogers, she was ­finally able to embrace the essence of her char­acter.

“Eric said, ‘Well, isn’t Monet the type of person that can wear an outfit, but it doesn’t wear her?’ ” Smith remembered. “I realized that I have to carry myself differently if I want to give Monet her due vivaciousness.

“So now, instead of being intimated by an outfit — or anything in life — I say, ‘How would Monet work this?’ Being Monet has taught me so much. She’s shown me that it’s OK to be strong, powerful and fully self-expressed.”

On the rebooted “Gossip Girl,” Smith (above left, with co-star Jordan Alexander) plays the scheming rich girl Monet.
On the rebooted “Gossip Girl,” Smith (above left, with co-star Jordan Alexander) plays the scheming rich girl Monet.
The actress says the role is a far cry from her own school experience, as she grew up with a singer mom (above, with young Smith) and was bullied by classmates.
The actress says the role is a far cry from her own school experience, as she grew up with a singer mom (above, with young Smith) and was bullied by classmates.


Photos: Annie Wermiel/NY Post; Stylist: Elise Sandvik/See Mgmt; Hair by T. Cooper/crowdMGMT using Eva NYC; Brittany Whitfield using Milk Makeup; Stylist Assistants: Ryan Castelli, Nicholas Brade; Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park.

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