Ashley Benson skyrocketed to stardom while starring in the hit television series Pretty Little Liars. But did you know that before her appearance in the drama series, Benson also acted in many of your favorite nostalgic noughties films and television shows? Before landing her breakout role as Hanna Marin, the blonde beauty was a regular on our screens for many years. Growing up on set, many of the young actress’ life milestones were played out on-screen, including her first kiss. And, in the years since, she’s gone on to date a slew of stunning celebs.
For all the highs during her career, the star has also taken her fair share of hits and has battled anxiety and dealt with body-shaming comments from casting agents. But she’s retained her composure throughout it all and has admirably used her platform to advocate for body positivity. Read on to discover the untold truth of Ashley Benson.
Ashley Benson used to suffer from crippling anxiety and had daily panic attacks
Ashley Benson may have played an outgoing It girl who loved being the center of attention on Pretty Little Liars, but her real life personality couldn’t be more different. In fact, Benson revealed in an interview with Health that she has dealt with crippling anxiety and had once suffered panic attacks every single day. “I started getting panic attacks for two years straight. I think it was 2011 to 2013,” she told Health. “I could barely go to work.”
Fortunately over time, Benson developed strategies that allow her to cope with her anxiety, including meditating, exercising, sleeping, eating well, and drinking water. “I have this meditation app on my phone. I use it at least three times a week. There will be times where I will get [anxiety], but it’s not a full-blown panic attack,” she shared with Health.
Before she made the big time, Ashley Benson had small parts in iconic films and TV series
Although she may be best known for her breakout role as Hanna Marin in Pretty Little Liars, you might be surprised to learn that a young Ashley Benson appeared in many of your favorite films and television series. A scan of Benson’s IMDb page reveals many classic titles listed amongst her accolades, such as Bring It On: In It to Win It, The O.C., How I Met Your Mother, and Zoey 101. She was also one of the kids from 13 Going on 30!
In an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Benson reflected on her first day as a teen on Days of Our Lives and how far she’s come. “I had 80 pages and I was like ‘Oh my God, I hope I don’t forget my lines,'” she said, adding, “But I did it.”
Pretty Little Liars was apparently a big change. “We have like five pages a day so maybe a couple of lines here and there,” Benson shared. “I’m like, ‘Ah, this is easy!'” Benson has certainly come a long way since those early days!
Ashley Benson was the last of the Pretty Little Liars stars to be cast
Although it’s now impossible to imagine Pretty Little Liars without Ashley Benson as Hanna Marin, the series’ showrunner, I. Marlene King, revealed an interesting truth during an interview with Seventeen: Benson was the last star to be chosen for one of the main characters. Once Shay Mitchell was cast as Emily Fields, Lucy Hale signed on as Aria Montgomery, and Troian Bellisario was secured as Spencer Hastings, one main role remained — Hanna, a complex character who rises to Queen Bee status after her friend Alison DiLaurentis (played by Sasha Pieterse) mysteriously disappears.
Being in the right place at the right time helped Benson secure the role. “We wanted one of the four original Liars, excluding Alison, to be blonde. We couldn’t find anybody that felt right,” King told Seventeen. In a twist of fate, the show Eastwick, on which Benson starred, was canceled while Pretty Little Liars was casting, leaving Benson ready for new opportunities. After seeing Benson in tears while coping after learning the news that her show was canceled, King was convinced. “She knows how to use those ‘Pretty Little Liars big eyes,’ I call them,” she explained. “We knew we had our Hanna.”
Ashley Benson's first kiss was on screen
For many, a first kiss is an unforgettable coming-of-age milestone often experienced while hiding at the back of a movie theater or at a school dance. But for Ashley Benson, her first-ever kiss occurred on set for Days of Our Lives. The actress shared the details during an interview on Conan. “I had my cousin drive me that day. I didn’t want my mom there,” she shared, noting that the person she kissed was in his mid-20s, while she was just 15 years old. She recalled, “I was like, ‘Hey, so, just so you know this is my first kiss. … Don’t do anything weird.'”
While it’s not surprising that having your first kiss while filming could be uncomfortable, Benson told late night host Conan O’Brien the experience was made even more awkward by the authoritative presence of a producer on set, who instructed her every move. She noted, “It was very weird. And the producer was like, ‘Tilt your head this way, and then go this way.'”
Ashley Benson has been romantically linked to many celebs
During her time in the limelight, Ashley Benson has dated gorgeous A-listers with looks to rival her own. Her first noteworthy long-term relationship was with producer and actor Ryan Good, who was also previously Justin Bieber’s “swagger coach.” The pair began seeing each other in 2011, but, after a tumultuous on-again, off-again three-year relationship, they finally split in December of 2014, as reported by Us Weekly.
Benson also reportedly dated Paper Towns heartthrob Nat Wolff and has even been linked to Pretty Little Liars co-star Tyler Blackburn, who played her boyfriend in the series.
Benson later had a long-term relationship was with British model and actress Cara Delevingne, one of the most beautiful supermodels in the world, but sadly, the two left fans heartbroken when they cut ties in May 2020, just shy of their two-year anniversary, according to People. Since then, there have been rumors that Benson developed a spark with rapper G-Eazy. People revealed that Benson even took the artist as her plus-one to her sister’s wedding.
Ashley Benson was once told she was "too fat" for a role
With her incredible figure, it’s difficult to believe anyone could think of a bad word to say about Ashley Benson’s physique. But in 2016, Benson told Ocean Drive (via E! News) that she was once left in tears after being told she was “too fat” for a role — even though she was a size two! “I cried for 30 minutes,” the actress said, “but then you have to let it roll off your shoulders or it could cause a serious eating disorder.”
Benson shared in the same interview that the practice of performers being told they need to shed weight is widespread in the industry. Fortunately, she’s learned to brush it off and not let it get to her. “A lot of people in this industry hear they need to lose weight more times than they should. It does make you stronger, though,” she said. “Because if you let that affect you, you can’t be in this industry — you’d go crazy.”
Ashley Benson is against heavy photo editing, and she's not afraid to call it out publicly
Ashley Benson isn’t afraid to speak out on issues close to her heart, and she’s a vocal advocate for body positivity. She doesn’t shy away from taking to task those who promote unrealistic body standards. During an interview with StyleCaster, Benson detailed an experience in which a heavily edited promotional poster for Pretty Little Liars left her and her co-stars gobsmacked. “[Pretty Little Liars] had put up this poster and it was from our first season and it was completely crazy. Nobody looked like themselves,” said Benson.
Although Benson is no stranger to seeing herself edited in published photoshoots, even she was shocked by the number of changes that had been made to her and her co-stars in the poster. “You never know how it’s going to turn out because you have no control and you’re not editing the photos, but it sucks when you’re like, ‘Wow. That’s a completely different person,'” Benson shared.
Ashley Benson was "afraid" to have her mom watch her in Spring Breakers
During her career, Ashley Benson has frequently played fairly conventional characters. But since her big break on Pretty Little Liars, she’s challenged herself with new character types. In 2013, she burst onto the independent film scene in the controversial flick Spring Breakers, acting alongside Selena Gomez, James Franco, and Vanessa Hudgens. But Benson was “afraid” for her “super conservative” mom to see her playing a “crazy psychopath who does drugs all the time,” as she told Glamour. Still, she was glad she took the risk. “Nobody wants to see their daughter play a role like that. But you know what? It’s acting, and I’m so proud of this movie,” she explained.
Benson shared that she came upon the part while looking for something “different” that would “help put [her] in a new category.” She continued, “The script was edgy, it was fun, it was scary.” Benson managed to nail her wild Spring Breakers role and break free from the popular blonde girl parts she’d previously been typecast as. It’s clear she’s a versatile actress, and we can’t wait to see the roles she takes on next.
This caused Ashley Benson's hair to fall out while filming Pretty Little Liars
Prior to filming Season 3 of Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson had a go at coloring her signature blonde tresses at home, but the process left her strands so damaged that she began to lose her hair. Recounting her major beauty blunder, Benson told Entertainment Tonight she had decided to bleach her hair after arriving back from filming Spring Breakers. She shared that after processing the bleach, “[My hair] all fell out. Literally I was balling my eyes out and I called my hairstylist… saying that I have no hair.”
Due to the incident, eagle-eyed fans may have noticed Benson’s hair looking less than lush during Pretty Little Liars’ third season. “I had no hair. Like legit, it was strings. Everyone at Warner Bros was like, ‘Why isn’t she getting extensions in?’ And I was like, ‘My hairs gonna fall out,'” Benson divulged. Yikes!
Fortunately, Benson’s hair appears to have since made a full recovery. Let that be a reminder to all of us that the box bleach from the drugstore can be dangerous to your locks if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Unlike her character on Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson keeps her beauty routine simple
Ashley Benson’s Pretty Little Liars character, Hanna Marin, is known for her glamorous beauty aesthetic, which usually featured bouncy, full curls and a full face of flawless makeup complete with a pop of berry lipstick or a swipe of nude gloss. But, for Benson herself, a fussy, time-consuming beauty regimen couldn’t be further down her list of priorities.
“On [Pretty Little Liars], I was always all dolled up but I am not that girl. I try to be but I like to be as comfortable as possible and I feel my best when I’m more downplayed,” Benson shared with Elle. She continued, “We wore pounds of makeup on the show, like it was actually horrendous how much makeup we wore. You could scratch off the makeup and get it in your nails.”
In Benson’s interview with Elle, she also revealed her Holy Grail beauty product is none other than the budget-friendly, kitchen staple coconut oil, which she uses to moisturize her face. “That’s as glamorous as my beauty routine gets!” she said.
Ashley Benson prefers to keep a low profile when it comes to social media
Ashley Benson belongs to that exclusive club of celebrities who subscribe to the belief that less is more when it comes to social media, and we think her mature outlook on her social media presence is refreshing.
“I’ve kind of taken a step back from social media. … I don’t want people to see everything I’m doing all the time,” she shared with Elle. “I think it’s very important to keep your private life private. Just let the fans see my work and then I can have my own personal life.”
Online bullying and internet trolls are another unfortunate aspect of social media Benson is keen to avoid. “I’ve always been very wary about social media,” she shared with Health, noting that she likes Snapchat because there are no comments to view. And while she enjoys Instagram, she dislikes all the “bullying in the comments.”
Ashley Benson's tattoo collection continues to grow
Would you believe us if we told you Ashley Benson has at least 15 tattoos on her body? We wouldn’t blame you for not knowing this little piece of trivia as some of them are so incredibly tiny that they’re rather hard to spot! The majority of Benson’s tattoos have been done by New York City tattoo artist JonBoy, according to PopSugar.
As for Benson’s tattoo designs, she uses the tiny bodily embellishments to pay homage to everything from her grandmother and a friend’s daughter to — we’re assuming – her favorite snack (pommes frites, AKA French fries!). And that’s not even mentioning the ink she got after her time on Pretty Little Liars. In 2016, Benson and her Pretty Little Liars co-stars had the first letter of their respective characters’ names tattooed on their fingers.
According to PopSugar, Benson also has two tattoos dedicated to ex-girlfriend Cara Delevingne — an elegantly lettered “CD” (though the inspiration behind this hasn’t been confirmed) and the word “squish” on her hip, the latter of which was reportedly her nickname for Delevingne. Since Ashley Benson and Cara Delevingne have split, we wonder whether Benson will look into having her Delevingne-inspired ink removed. Or maybe she’ll keep them as memories of the good times with her former girlfriend.
These celebs are Ashley Benson's style icons
While in character on Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson’s wardrobe as Hanna Marin followed a glammed-up, preppy style that saw her frequently donning fitted mini skirts, colorful tailored blazers, and sky-high heels — even for scenes set at her character’s high school! But Benson’s own style couldn’t be more different than her character’s. Benson is frequently snapped by street photographers wearing more relaxed attire like skinny jeans and vintage tees. For anyone wanting to steal Benson’s style, her favorite vintage store is The Vintage Twin in New York City, which is owned by a friend of hers, according to W magazine.
So, just who is her style inspiration? None other than celeb twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who’ve had changing looks over the years, as Benson revealed while chatting with the magazine. “I follow at least 20 different Mary-Kate and Ashley accounts on Instagram, just for their fashion. I love it,” she shared.
Ashley Benson would rather act in indie films than blockbusters
Although Ashley Benson’s acting resume boasts a slew of impressive parts, the star revealed in an interview with Vogue that she has her sights set on pursuing roles in independent film projects. She told the magazine that she feels pulled to indie films, as they’re more “challenging” and even “more fun” to her. She shared, “There’s more dimension to them. They tend to be racy and raw — that’s the stuff I want to do.”
Moreover, it seems Benson is so passionate about chasing roles that challenge her that she’s even willing to forgo financial gain to embrace the opportunity. “One [film] that I didn’t get paid for — really, at all — was Spring Breakers, which turned out to be one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done,” Benson revealed to InStyle. “In the indie film world, I would rather get paid [next to] nothing to work with someone like Harmony Korine and have an amazing experience and the outcome be an incredible film I’m really proud of.”
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