Meester was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Constance (Haas) and Douglas Meester and lived most of her life in New York City and Los Angeles. Meester’s last name is the Dutch word for “master” or “teacher”.
At the time of her birth, her mother was serving time in a federal prison for her involvement in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana from Jamaica to the United States. She was able to give birth to Leighton in a hospital and nurse her for three months in a halfway house, before returning to prison to complete her sentence, after which Leighton’s grandmother cared for her. She has a brother, Alexander, who is 8 years younger.
Meester has maintained that her parents gave her a normal upbringing and, despite their criminal past, are good people with experience that has only made Meester more open-minded and non-judgmental, “It made me realize that you can’t judge anyone — especially your parents — for what they’ve done in their past, because people change.” Meester has joked, “Look, I could’ve turned out a lot worse.” She has cited her mother as her style icon.
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