Photographed by: Emman Montalvan Styled by: Molly Dickson Written by: Leah Faye Cooper
It’s late in the morning on a sunny Friday, and Lucy Hale is comfortably seated in her white-walled Los Angeles home. The picture of coziness in an oversized navy sweatshirt, her hair is pulled back and she’s fidgeting with the necklaces hanging from her neck. “This is for my dogs, Elvis and Ethel,” she says, gently pulling on a gold nameplate with two cursive E’s while she leans forward to give me a better look through Zoom. She drops it, then points to a dangling pendant. “It’s called lapis lazuli. It’s a crystal for your throat chakra. I love jewelry with a bigger meaning than just being pretty.”
I clock a solitaire diamond ring on her left hand just before she takes it off and holds it close to the screen. “This is the most important thing I own,” she says of the bauble, which is set in an intricately carved gold band. “It was my grandmother’s. Before that, it was my great-grandmother’s, and before that, it was my great-great-grandmother’s, so it’s been in the family for a really long time.” Hale and her grandmother were incredibly close, and the ring is a constant reminder of their bond. “She died the year I moved to LA when I was 15, and I got this ring. It’s always on me or near me. I do believe she’s my guardian angel in a way.”
Hale’s angel is likely beaming at all the 34-year-old has accomplished. Born and raised in Memphis, the self-described introvert grew up frequenting Mississippi after her parents divorced and her father moved there. She was drawn to the arts and performance early. “I felt in my element when I was being creative, or when I was singing or when I was acting or when I was writing down these stories,” she says. “I felt joyful.” So joyful that when most kids her age were trying out for sports teams or getting ready for school dances, Hale was setting her sights on Hollywood. After winning the American Idol spinoff, American Juniors, at 14, she asked her mother if she could move to LA for a few months to try her hand at acting. “My parents are amazing and both of them fully supported my dreams,” she says. “Not only did we try it out for a couple of months, but I’ve been here ever since. I literally never went back to Tennessee.”
I love jewelry with a bigger meaning than just being pretty.
RINGS (L-R) SINGLE STONE, LIZZIE MANDLER, SYLVA & CIE • BLOUSE SAINT LAURENT
After landing the lead role of Aria Montgomery in the hit Freeform series Pretty Little Liars, Hale quickly ascended to stardom, and a level of independence rare for a teenager. “By the time I was 17, I was pretty much supporting myself and had a steady job and steady income, which I fully recognize is not really normal,” she says. Though she loved the “chaos of it all,” her decision to not finish high school was something that she grappled with, and she pursued her career. “I think somewhere along the way that did something to my self-confidence,” she says. As did her foray into the public eye. “That’s the one part of my career and life that I am constantly trying to find balance with,” she admits. “Ultimately, I love the work, [but] I think there will always be a part of me that feels really disoriented by being a public figure and knowing that people are watching what I’m doing.”
And people are certainly watching. Google “Lucy Hale” and an endless scroll appears. There’s the Wikipedia page with her full given name (Karen Lucille Hale); countless photos of her signature bob and red carpet outfits; an IMDB page listing her extensive film and TV credits (Truth or Dare, Fantasy Island, Katy Keene) and interviews with Elle, Allure, Teen Vogue and more. Though the attention is something she doesn’t ever think she’ll get used to, the work that attracts it “is my lifeline,” she says. “It’s still how I cope in the world. It’s how I show up in the world. I don’t know any other way [and] I wouldn’t want any other way. I’m an artist.”
While Hollywood tends to be overly critical of women as they age, Hale’s thirties have proven to be liberating from insecurities and societal pressures. “I think now at 34, I feel more comfortable because it’s not just about the way I look,” she says. “In my twenties, I thought I had to look a certain way and do certain things, and I didn’t really have an identity. Now that I do have an identity, I’m like, oh, I actually do feel like I have a strong point of view, and I feel like my stories do matter and I feel like people are interested in what I have to say about certain things. When you feel that, you get some wind in your stride.”
The self-assurance has inspired Hale to revisit her early love of music. Shania Twain, Britney Spears and Martina McBride were among her childhood idols she still admires, and Hale once dreamed of a life on the road as a touring musician. She got a taste of it after recording an album in 2014 and performing on stage, but the timing was off. “All of that actually proved to be really scary for me,” she says. “I have so much respect for people who can do that because it really is a challenging career path. It’s so vulnerable; it’s so exposing. I don’t think emotionally it was the right choice for me at the time.” Today, however, she is ready to give it another go. “Now I’m back at the point in my life where I’m like, I want to do music again. I feel like it’ll probably be through a movie role or maybe theater. I don’t know if I’d necessarily record an album again, but I also don’t like setting rules for myself, so we’ll see.”
Recently, Hale’s name has been making the media rounds not just for her film and television career, but also for her sobriety, which she began to open up about earlier this year. “It’s always so hard to summarize that topic because it has been a big part of my life for a while, I just hadn’t been public about it,” she says. “The very long story short is that I wasn’t coping with certain things in my life.” Childhood struggles and early success were among the issues that overwhelmed her. “I developed really unhealthy coping mechanisms that helped me deal for a long time, and then they didn’t work.” Hale sought various avenues for help and ultimately decided to stop drinking. January will mark two years of the actress being sober. “Something really clicked,” she says. “For the first time in my life, I feel like who I’m supposed to be. I feel so in alignment. It doesn’t mean life is great all the time. Getting sober is deeply uncomfortable and very painful because you have to acknowledge some really ugly parts about yourself that you might not like. But it’s hands down the best thing I’ve ever done for myself because when I’m taking care of myself in that way, life is just better.”
For the first time in my life, I feel like who I’m supposed to be.
That clarity was palpable during Hale’s Only Natural Diamonds shoot, as she was bedecked in pieces by De Beers, Single Stone and Anita Ko. Looks by Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent highlighted the jewels. “I do like to believe that I’m pretty daring when it comes to fashion, but my day-to-day is timeless and classic,” she says, adding that she culls lots of style inspiration from being on set and dressing in character. Hale is constantly changing her “ear story” with an assortment of diamond studs and hoops secured in her many piercings, and a classic diamond tennis necklace and matching bracelet are among the pieces she’s bought herself to commemorate career highs and personal triumphs. She celebrated her 33rd birthday with a gold, diamond-encrusted Rolex. “It was a very big investment piece, but 33 was my favorite year of life,” she says. “I was really proud of some choices I made, and I was like, you know what? We’re going to do it—we’re going to get the watch.” For a moment, Hale backtracks— “It’s maybe a little too flashy,” she says—but the sentiment is fleeting.
“No, it’s perfect. I made the right choice.”
Words by: Leah Faye Cooper Photographer: Emman Montalvan