Serena van der Woodsen: beautiful, glamorous, elegant young woman about town; fashionable and firm but fair ruler of Manhattan’s young social elite; wooer of hearts and slayer of men with names like Trip van der Bilt; tabloid magnet and off-and-on dater of her off-and-on step-brother-and nothing even remotely like Blake Lively. For three seasons, Lively-owner of the most talked-about hair in television since the heady days of the early-Friends Jennifer Aniston shag-has played van der Woodsen on the CW’s hit series Gossip Girl, guiding her through myriad breakups, scandals, falls from grace, and spirited comebacks amidst the show’s hyperreal vision of misspent youth in uptown New York. Now as the series enters its fourth season, the plot for Serena has begun to further thicken. Will she return from her summer vacation in Paris as a new woman, or out to settle old scores? Will she get back together with Dan? Will Nate come calling once again? What will she wear? But just as the arc of Serena’s sordid life on Gossip Girl has brought about new priorities, changes, and directions, so too has the trajectory of Lively’s career away from the show signaled a shift in direction for the 23-year-old actress.

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