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Taylor Michel Momsen was born on July 26, 1993 in St. Louis, MO. Her father Michael was a musician-turned-business owner while her stay-at-home mom Colette had an eye for fashion and the arts. She had a younger sister named Sloane who was also an actress. Momsen found her gift for performing as soon as she could walk. She began taking dance classes at the Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis while attending Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Grade School. Momsen booked her first acting job when she was three. Wearing a little yellow shirt, the star-in-training ad-libbed the line "You shake it all up 'til it's crunchy and ready to eat!" for a Shake 'N Bake television commercial. She made her feature film debut in the thriller "Prophet's Game" (1999) opposite veteran star Dennis Hopper. A year later, director Ron Howard cast Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, the little girl who befriends the spiteful and greedy Grinch (Jim Carrey) in the film version of the Dr. Seuss' classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The holiday-themed movie spent four weeks at No. 1 in the U.S.
It was quite a family affair for Momsen's next feature film, "We Were Soldiers" (2002). She co-starred with her little sister Sloane as the two daughters of a dedicated U.S. Army officer (Mel Gibson) training his Vietnam-bound troops. The actress had a more lighthearted role that same year in the adventure movie "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams." She played the president's daughter in the film that also starred Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, and Steve Buscemi. Momsen made another classic literary character come to life in "Hansel & Gretel" (2002), starring as Gretel, a girl who gets lured with her brother inside a gingerbread house owned by a wicked witch. One of her co-stars was Dakota Fanning, who, like Momsen, became a Hollywood star by the time she was in high school. With a solid film resume to her credit, Momsen began dabbling in television acting. She got cast in the pilot of the comedy series "Misconceptions" (WB, 2006) opposite Jane Leeves and French Stewart, yet the show never aired.
The cancellation of "Misconceptions" ended up a blessing in disguise for the young actress. In 2007, she landed a starring role on "Gossip Girl," a CW series that revolved around the lives of wealthy teens living on New York's Upper East Side. Based on the series of young adult novels written by Cecily von Ziegesar, "Gossip Girl" had plenty of high fashion, teen angst, and major eye candy for both sexes. Momsen later confessed she had only read one or two books prior to filming the "Gossip Girl" pilot. She played Jenny Humphrey - or "Little J" - a Brooklyn gal who attends an elite private school on the Upper East Side. Momsen's character shifted from a teenage social climber to an independent, budding fashion designer during the show's first season. She was also the youngest member of a principal cast that included Blake Lively, Leighton Meester and Chace Crawford.
Although "Gossip Girl" was not initially a success (during its first season, it ranked last in its timeslot in the Nielsen ratings), the series' fresh and fun approach to the tired high school drama struck a chord with its young and hip core audience. The network even used negative criticism to market the show, with posters for the second season boasting it was "Mind-blowingly inappropriate." Momsen and her co-stars, on the other hand, became fashion muses, getting invited to every designer show in New York and red carpet event in Hollywood. At the age of 14, Momsen was signed to a modeling contract with IMG Models. Yet even with all the attention from her professional career, the actress refrained from getting tutored on set. She attended the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City to have a normal high school experience with her friends.
Momsen's mainstream exposure from "Gossip Girl" allowed the young star to pursue edgy, independent film roles early in her career. After reading the 33-page script for "Paranoid Park" (2007), the actress sent in an audition tape to the film's director, Gus Van Sant. Filming "Paranoid Park" was just the departure from "Gossip Girl" Momsen had hoped for. The film was mostly improvised, unlike her heavily-scripted CW show. That same year, Momsen acted in the adventure comedy, "Underdog," which featured the voices of Jason Lee and Amy Adams.
While she had been acting all her life, Momsen's dream was to become a musician. That came true when she became lead singer of the band The Pretty Reckless, which signed a deal with Interscope Records in 2009. Their music blended indie rock and pop, while Momsen - who often wore lingerie-inspired clothes, thigh high boots, heavy eye makeup, and tousled hair - was often compared to a young Courtney Love. It did not stop with her looks, either. The underage Momsen became a fixture on the New York nightlife scene, photographed smoking, partying and showing plenty of skin while making friends with troubled ex-child stars like Lindsay Lohan.
In September 2009, photo agencies ran shots from the set of "Gossip Girl" with Momsen sitting down with part of her underwear showing. Although it was not as scandalous as past paparazzi images of Lohan and Britney Spears, many were concerned the young actress was also headed for disaster. Momsen declared her fashion antics and punk attitude were merely a part of her love for music and art.