Ashley Benson might be best known for her role as impetuous high school queen bee Hanna Marin on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars—but in her new film Spring Breakers, the 23-year-old California native plays a hard-partying college coed whose troublemaking ways make Hanna’s seem like child’s play. Harmony Korine’s controversial dark comedy casts Benson alongside fellow teen favorites Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as a group of close pals who plan a robbery to fund their vacation—a scheme that goes horribly awry, as you might have guessed.
She may wear a skimpy bikini for much of the film’s running time, but thanks to her recent press tour and a new role as the face of eveningwear label Faviana, Benson’s had the opportunity to wear lots of fancy dresses lately. We sat down with the star to talk dream dresses, showing skin onscreen and why she’s super-tight with her Spring Breakers costars. Read on for the scoop!
As a brand ambassador for Faviana, you’ve obviously been spending lots of time around fancy prom dresses. Did you go to prom yourself?
I was home-schooled, so I didn’t get to go—which is why I love working with Faviana and helping my fans pick out their prom dresses! When I was younger, I remember going with my sister to pick out hers.
What do you think makes the perfect prom dress?
Whatever you’re most comfortable in—you don’t want to be uncomfortable on prom night! I love bright colors and I love sequins—a lot of the dresses I’ve worn to premieres recently have been sequined, and I always go for something like that if I want to be really girly. In a bright color, you always stand out more. If I were to go to prom now, I think I’d pick a short dress. It’s more fun and it’s easier to move in—you’re not constantly worrying about stepping on the hem!
Do you have any personal fashion regrets?
Um, everything from 2000 to 2007! When I was younger, I had really bad style, and my mom would pick out most of my outfits. There’s this one picture that I remember—I was maybe 15 or 16—where I’m wearing these rolled-up jeans, weird brass-colored cowboy boots and a weird aqua-colored sequined top. I looked like a mess. But whatever, my mom picked it out…
How does your personal style compare to your PLL character Hanna’s?
I’m the complete opposite of Hanna. I love wearing the clothes on the show, but I’m more casual in real life. I’m always in black and white. I love baggy t-shirts, leggings, boots, skinny jeans and Converse. I’m not a hipster by any means, but I like that sort of casual, thrifted look.
What are a few of your favorite stores?
Topshop! We just had one open in L.A. but I still love the one here in New York. And Brandy Melville is great—a lot of my comfortable basics are from there.
You spend most of Spring Breakers in a bikini. Were you nervous about putting it all out there, so to speak?
Well, I’m really glad it wasn’t just me wearing a bikini—all four of us were. And it makes sense in the context of the movie—we get arrested and there’s not exactly time to pack a bag to go off to jail, so we’re kind of stuck. I felt pressure, I guess, since when you’re in a bathing suit people are going to talk about how you look, but Harmony was like, "You’re playing college girls who drink all the time, and you’re not supposed to have the best bodies." I mean, these girls probably live on fast food. Beforehand, I was stressing—I was trying to eat super-healthy, I got a trainer—and then as soon as we got to set, Harmony was like, "No, we want you to look normal."
All those weeks of hard work ruined! What did you do?!
Well, Selena took me to Cracker Barrel for the first time—she was like, "Ashley, you’re gonna die"—and we literally ate everything. It was so good.
That sounds like the best dinner ever. Are you girls all really close?
They’re like my sisters. Vanessa and I have known each other forever, since I was 13 or 14, and Selena and I got super-close before the film. Spending two months together was amazing—we all got to know each other even better. This European press trip we just did was so much fun. It’s very rare that you get four girls together who actually get along. I love them.
You guys were in a different city every day, it seemed. As someone who’s traveling all the time, what are some of your must-haves when you’re on the go?
Moisturizer for my face, cucumber eye masks for my face—my eyes get super-puffy when I’m tired—and Emergen-C. Honestly, I always overpack, and then I either lose everything or everything ends up all over the hotel room! So for this trip to New York, I literally brought two shirts, two pairs of jeans and one pair of shoes. I’m sticking to that from now on! I always bring too much, and half the time I never wear any of it.
Spring Breakers is such a departure from the characters you, Selena and Vanessa usually play. What are you looking for in your next project?
I’m being super-careful with what I pick. After working with Harmony and James and the girls, doing a movie like this, I just really want to do another independent film. They’re raw, they’re real and you get to show off a side of yourself that’s completely different. I mean, this character’s completely different from anyone I’ve ever played, and being able to do that for my first movie was amazing.
Who are a few of your personal style heroes?
I’ve been a huge fan of Mary-Kate and Ashley since I was little. Their everyday personal style is amazing, and so are their clothing lines. I love what they wear—all those big coats, skinny jeans and great boots. In terms of events and premieres, I love what Blake Lively wears. And she dresses herself, which is amazing. I don’t know how she does it!
Circling back to your work with Faviana, has your role with the brand made you interested in possibly designing something of your own?
For sure. I mean, I’ve always loved fashion, but I love being involved in it like this. I’d love to have a clothing line down the road.
Finally, your hair looks darker than usual today—we’re used to seeing you as a blonde on PLL. What’s your natural color?
I’m naturally blonde, but I got bored, so I had my hair guy dye it for me! I really don’t want to go back to being blonde when we start filming again, so hopefully I can wear a wig or something. It’s really hard on my hair, having it worked on every day. I hope I can have a wig—that’s my goal.
Benson’s publicist, overhearing our conversation from across the room: That should probably be the headline of your story: "Ashley Benson Just Wants To Wear a Wig." That should be the main takeaway from today.
Yep, that and Cracker Barrel.
Spring Breakers hits New York and L.A. theaters on March 15, then expands nationwide on March 22.
Photos courtesy of Faviana.
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