In life there are some absolute facts that, because we know them to be true, bring us deep comfort: The day is 24 hours long; water freezes into ice when cooled; 1+1=2; and Blake Lively will be insanely, incredibly, wildly famous forever.
Lively’s latest appearance in theaters comes courtesy of The Shallows, a shark-attack film out next week about a girl who is presumably attacked by a shark and features said shark circling Lively’s precarious perch on a rock 200 yards out at sea. The Shallows couldn't be coming at a better time, as 2016 has so far felt like a yearlong shark attack. But in the decade since her film debut, Lively has shown us that she is something like a Weeble Wobble, in that she will weeble wobble but she won't fall down.
Lively was already a cheerleader and class president in her senior year of high school when she auditioned for the role of Bridget in the adaptation of the teen-lit favorite The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. At the time, Lively was the only unknown on the cast. America Ferrera had Real Women Have Curves, Alexis Bledel had Gilmore Girls, and Amber Tamblyn had Joan of Arcadia, but Blake Lively had good hair, and by the time the pants were ready for their second outing, Hollywood had already come calling with bigger, decidedly non-tomboy parts. Following her first taste of acting, Lively promptly took on the role of glamorous socialite Serena van der Woodsen in the CW show Gossip Girl.
Despite the high-profile marketing campaign that featured Lively’s face and Lively’s face alone, the show was always dominated by her more expressive costar, Leighton Meester. Years later, Lively would confess to Vogue that she was about as interested in Gossip Girl offscreen as she appeared onscreen. “We had to produce so many episodes so quickly,” she said. “And when you’re working 15-hour days, 10 months a year, the only time you have for real life is between takes. So you’re not really acting anymore. You’re reciting. I could have fought harder and made Gossip Girl something different, but I also needed to have a life, you know?” Lively didn't mention how her offscreen relationship with onscreen love interest Penn Badgley affected her performance, but whether that was tact or shade is up to you to decide — as Lively attests, her sense of humor often goes over people’s heads.
But you don’t need to have a gift for acting to have a gift for advertising, and Lively eventually became a spokesperson for Chanel in 2011, with L’Oréal soon to follow. In 2014, she launched her own antebellum lifestyle brand, Preserve, which was devoted to Southern style despite Lively herself having been, of course, born and raised in sunny California. Lively took other acting gigs between Gossip Girl seasons, including an acclaimed turn as a hardscrabble prostitute in Ben Affleck’s Boston movie The Town in 2010. Rumors abounded that Lively and Affleck became involved on set, but nothing ever became public, which saved Lively from the dreaded Abbie Cornish fate — to be wiped out of cinema forever by a much beloved heartland heroine scorned — despite the fact that Lively has yet to touch a movie even half as good as Bright Star.
Lively followed The Town with a significantly less acclaimed turn as a highly authentic, very plausible vice-president of an aircraft company and love interest for Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern. For some, Green Lantern might have been an irrevocable disaster that even managed to ruin what should be unruinable hair, but Lively salvaged what she could and married her costar — proving that, just like your local cheerleader and class president probably once told you, everything in life happens for a reason. And even when the rewards to be reaped are less fruitful, as in Savages, Lively still manages to escape unscathed, unlike her Savages costars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Taylor Kitsch, both of whom saw their careers more or less destroyed. Nothing can kill Blake Lively — not bad reviews, not bad box office numbers, not her lifestyle brand collapsing, not clueless comments about her Oakland booty, and not even Lively skeptic Megan Ellison, who dropped out as a financier on Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects until Soderbergh promised to replace Lively with Rooney Mara. (Lively would eventually have the last laugh, when Mara starred in one of the best movies of all time last year that still only earned less than a third of Lively’s girl-who-never-ages puff period piece The Age of Adaline at the box office.)
In fairness to Blake Lively, there is more to admire about her than just her exceptional hair. Lively also has good teeth — very straight and very white. Unlike her terrible spoilsport peers, Blake Lively smiles even when she’s being peeped on at the beach by paparazzi. Despite the noise and the flashes, she never looks stressed on a red carpet, and she’s been styling herself for the red carpet as long as she’s been walking red carpets. Her idol Martha Stewart helped re-coordinate her wedding, and her friend Beyoncé wished her a happy birthday.
More than anything, there’s a particular freedom from anxiety that comes with looking at Blake Lively, as if her pleasant blankness could be contagious. Blake Lively is the physical embodiment of all things blonde, sun-kissed, American, white, and happy — she’s not true neutral so much as she’s an advertiser’s dream of neutral. She’ll vote for Obama, then throw a destination wedding on a Carolinian plantation. Her favorite condiment is mayonnaise — unless icing counts as a condiment. She’s Jennifer Aniston without the sarcasm, Cameron Diaz without the goofiness, Gwyneth Paltrow without the snobbishness, Reese Witherspoon without the ambition. Congratulations, Hollywood. You’ve done it. The search is over. You’ve found the perfect woman — all blonde and no edges, so smooth it’s like she’s not even there.