Forget the grade-school Christmas Pagent. As a little girl growing up in New York City, Julia Stiles had her sights set on loftier stages. After attending her first avant-garde play at age 11, Stiles wrote a letter (in crayon, no less) to the theater's artistic director, begging for a part. "I told him that if he had any roles for children to let me know," says Stiles, now 19. The director responded to the precocious thespian by creating a part for her in his next play. Since then Stiles has proved her versatility, playing a pregnant flower child in the miniseries The '60s and an acerbic teen in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. This month she can be seen as a small-town seductress in David Mamet's new movie, State and Main, and as a headstrong ballerina swept up in an interracial romance in the film Save the Last Dance. Last fall Stiles took an entirely different role: college student. As a university freshman in New York City, she has happily put aside the perks of her budding celebrity to immerse herself in the everyday reality of college living -- communal showers, dubious cafeteria food and cramming for midterms. "I was sort of nervous about (taking time out to attend school)," she says. "But I think in the long run that all of the experiences I'm having now will make me a better actress." She credits Bill Murray -- who played Polonius to her Ophelia in last year's film version of Hamlet -- with helping her make the decision. "He has always made sure his life isn't second to his career," says Stiles. "I really admire that."
How has your beauty routine changed since you started college?
I still pay attention to the way I look, but college is one place you can be scruffy and nobody cares, particularly around midterms or finals. I go to class without makeup, especially if it's early morning. I've also pared down my toiletries. When you have to carry everything back and forth to the bathroom, it's not fun to have tons of soaps and lotions. I have my shampoo, conditioner, and face soap, and that's about it.
Have you worried about gaining "the freshmen 15"?
No. If you go out drinking every night and you eat candy all the time and you don't exercise, then, yeah, you're going to gain 15 pounds. But I've made sure I don't do that.
So you watch your diet?
I eat whatever I want but in (smaller) portions than I want. I've become sort of involuntary vegetarian since I started school because the dining hall meat is gross. I eat a lot of sushi, though because we have a pretty good sushi bar where you can pay with you student ID. I also try to eat as close to the earth as possible -- my mom instilled that in me -- so I'm not really into preservatives and packaged foods, although I do love chocolate. I'll have Raisinets when I go to the movies, and even once in a while I'll have some chocolate twizzlers when I'm studying.
What's your exercise routine?
I play soccer, which is great exercise and a lot of fun. When I'm not practicing, I'll run. I also love to dance and I got to do a lot of that for Save the Last Dance. I trained in hip-hop and ballet four hours a day for three months. But I must have had an overload because ever since , I've been feeling more "yang" about exercise. I'm less into yoga and dance and more into aggressive sports.
How would you describe your personal style?
I wear everything from hip-hop baggy pants to beautiful Armani dresses. I also like to mix vintage clothing with designer pieces.
Did you have a beauty idol growing up?
Madonna. I loved her sense of style and how she wasn't afraid to change her look constantly. She was always ahead of the trends. When I was six or seven, I did the whole "Like a Virgin" thing, with the lace gloves, petticoats, crosses, and bangle bracelets. Actually, I still like crosses and bracelets.
How do you take care of your skin?
A makeup artist turned me on to Dr. Hauschka, which is really good for sensitive skin. It's pretty much all-natural, and it's sold at health-food stores. When I'm working, I try to get oxygen facials every other weekend. They're amazing. Your skin feels like a baby's afterward.
What's your daily hair regimen?
I go for drugstore stuff. Vidal Sassoon's shampoo and conditioner work really well. If it's humid, I use (John Frieda) Frizz Ease so my hair doesn't get totally out of control.
Is your hair naturally curly?
Yeah, and surprisingly I've always liked that. Stylists want to straighten it, and I don't understand why. My dad always told me, "You have such beautiful curly hair," so I have taken pride in it.
What's in your makeup bag?
I don't really carry one -- I just stuff whatever I need into my bookbag and go. I always make sure I've got some black Estee Lauder mascara and some Benefit Benetint. I hate wearing lipstick, so Benetint is a good substitute. It stains your lips, but you don't feel like you're wearing anything at all. I also use Benefit Boo Boo Zap if I'm getting a blemish. You just put a little on and it gets rid of it.
Do you wear more makeup at night?
I definitely do. If I'm gong out to a club I like to have fun with it. I'll use blue or red sparkly eyeliners and glittery eye shadows. Then I'll put on some blue mascara. I focus on the eyes.
Are you making any New Year's resolutions?
Definitely. I've picked up so many bad habits since I started school. For one, I'm going to try to be more diligent about washing my face. Also, I'm a coffee addict, so I'm going to drink less. I'm so bad. You should see me in the morning. I'll roll into class in pajamas, with no makeup, carrying a thermos of coffee. Glamorous, huh?
Article by Shawna Malcom
Originally published in the January 2001 issue of In Style Magazine