Shailene Woodley Isn’t Your ‘It Girl’

Charting Shai's career evolution, from Secret Life to Snowden and all of the Divergents in-between.

Shailene Woodley is an acclaimed young talent who marches to the beat of her own, unique drum. From her role selection to her unusual personal hygiene tips, the soulful actress is never one to make the expected choices. In doing so, she defies the very nature of her ’It Girl’ status.

She’s fiercely independent and follows her intuition in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to her career.

The 24-year-old’s star has been on a steady rise since her humble days as the star of ABC Family’s Secret Life Of The American Teenager. Though she started acting when she was five, Secret Life was her first foray into major exposure. The show was essentially a sex-ed class wrapped in a soapy teen drama, and yet for five seasons, it had us completely hooked. Every drop of teen angst that dripped off Daren Kagasoff’s brow fueled our entire high school existence. Shai got her big break as high school french-horn enthusiast and teen mom Amy on the ABC Family drama. Amy never met a scarf she didn’t like, and we loved her for it.

During her time on Secret Life, Shai made her big screen debut in Alexander Payne’s family drama The Descendants, starring opposite George Clooney. The role would be a career-defining moment for Shailene; it proved she had depth. Shai scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her complicated performance as Clooney’s troubled daughter and earned recognition as one of the best criers in the biz.

Shailene’s first post-Secret Life career move was starring alongside her friend Miles Teller in Sundance darling The Spectacular Now, a brutal coming of age film about two teens falling in love. Shai’s character Aimee is an emotional livewire, evoking pathos as easily as breathing. She’s empathetic, vulnerable, and completely captivating.

She followed up her critical success with a leading role in a big-budget dystopian franchise. (Hey, it worked for Jennifer Lawrence.)

The Divergent franchise has been Shai’s biggest blockbuster to date. Based on the young adult novels by Veronica Roth, the movie drew obvious comparisons to The Hunger Games. As vigilante Tris Prior, The Divergent Series has given Shailene the opportunity to prove that she can be the face of a successful franchise. She also demonstrated that she could balance a blockbuster franchise with smaller, more serious film work.

After Divergent, Shai starred in yet another movie based on a young adult novel, but The Fault in Our Stars is about as far from the futuristic dystopia action of Divergent as you can get. For starters, TFIOS is grounded in reality, as devastating and beautiful as it may be. Based on the popular John Green novel, Shailene played Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl with terminal cancer who falls in love with a boy at a cancer support group. The role was a starmaker.

The film was a critical and commercial success, and it cemented Shailene’s status as one of the most promising young talents in Hollywood.

20th Century Fox

Around this time Shai also started to make headlines for more than just her stellar performances. Her free spirit and quirky personality traits — she’s been known to hug fans, friends, family, and entertainment journalists alike, just because she wants to bond with everybody she meets — were quite honestly refreshing, even if they came off as odd or unusual. Who else in Hollywood embraces kindness, openness, clay toothpaste, valerian root, tea, and Ansel Elgort?

This weekend, the third film in the Divergent series, Allegiant, will open nationwide, and while it may not reach the box office heights of its predecessors, something tells us Shai’s not going to worry about it. She doesn’t worry about labels.

After all, she’s already got her next career move in the bag. Last year, she landed one of the most coveted roles in the upcoming Edward Snowden biopic. Directed by Oliver Stone, the film will continue to play on our fascination with the man who is alternately a hero or a traitor, depending on who you ask. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star as Snowden, and Woodley will play his longtime girlfriend Lindsay Mills, who has her own incredible story within the NSA scandal that Snowden unearthed.

TL;DR, an Oscar nomination could finally be on the horizon for Shai — not that she cares about that sort of stuff. Where would she even keep her Oscar?

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