It's not easy being Taylor Momsen. She just turned 17, an age when other girls might spend time cramming for SATs or shopping at the local mall. But thanks to her recurring role as the raccoon-mascaraed, home-wrecking vixen Jenny Humphrey on the CW's red-hot Gossip Girl series, her schedule is so hectic she hasn't even had time to find a boyfriend. "I date my vibrator," she dryly deadpans. "It's been a weird life, and I didn't necessarily choose acting. I just started when I was 2½."
That was when Momsen first appeared on television, ad-libbing her precocious way through a Shake 'N Bake commercial. By age 7, she was starring alongside Jim Carrey as Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and by 13 was working with Gus Van Sant in Paranoid Park. At 14, she became an IMG model, and as of Aug. 3, the face of Madonna and her daughter Lourdes' first-ever clothing line, Material Girl.
Currently, Momsen — who has a penchant for stiletto heels and Gothic miniskirts — swears that she "can't go outside without having somebody ask for an autograph or a photo, or secretly take one behind their friend's head when they think they're being discreet. You can pick out people who notice who you are, and it's funny — it's kinda become a game with me."
So Momsen already knows what you're thinking about her eponymous debut EP with her scruffy rock combo the Pretty Reckless: How good, exactly, could it really be? Unusually good, truth be told. "And it is a very honest record," she says. "I'm not trying to be anything other than me. And people can talk about it all they fucking want, but frankly, it's what I wrote. So I hope people will at least give it a shot before they hate it."
On The Pretty Reckless EP (a full album follows this fall), Momsen snaps and snarls like a metal-scene vet on power-chorded grinders like "Zombie," "Goin' Down" and the Romeo-and-Juliet-themed "Make Me Wanna Die." Her personable rasp imbues each cut with the same bad-girl conviction she brings to her Humphrey vamp. "But don't take everything I write literally," she says, warning. "Because a lot of [the lyrics] are just from observations and not necessarily taken from my life. They're all just stories, just songs."
The actress never considered pursuing music until her dad took her to a White Stripes concert at 9. Then she bought her first six-string and started composing. Once she found co-writers — producer Kato Khandwala and guitarist Ben Phillips — the Pretty Reckless were born. "Which I thought sounded better than 'Moderately Reckless,'" she says, laughing. "But the TV show has been super-supportive, and I have to thank them for that. They're letting me follow my passion."
Momsen chuckles at the mention of a recent teen-photo magazine spread that delineated her fashion descent from sunny girl next door to sinister, ebony-cloaked spookster. "I was the Goth girl in middle school, but in all the press photos you could see I had a stylist and someone gussied me up. So now I do shots by myself, and I'm a lot happier. Which goes back to what my mom and dad always said: Just be yourself, and fuck anyone else who doesn't get you. Because it's not worth trying to be something someone wants you to be — you'll never be happy doing it."