Photography Aleksandar Tomovic
MTV has found their first lady in 21 year old Ashley Rickards, the star of their biggest hit to date, Awkward. The critically acclaimed series has been praised by major critics, and with its third 20-episode installment completely wrapped, the teen show seems to be getting better by the season. I sat down with Rickards, and unlike her sometimes shy and inevitably awkward on-screen persona, she gave it to me raw—no awkward pun intended.
Since its premiere to the network in the summer of 2011, Awkward. has become the hallmark of relatable adolescent television, and series star Ashley Rickards doesn’t take that responsibility lightly. “It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” she says. “I’ve been here about nine years now. There has been a lot of trying to do things the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, for the money… Honestly, Awkward. was for the money at first. I was living with my mom, and I didn’t want to live with my mom anymore.”
At 17 years old, Rickards booked the role of Jenna Hamilton just two weeks shy of her 18th birthday. For this teen, the change in age meant more than getting piercings or having the option to work at a bar. It meant moving on and moving out. Having an adult job required an adult mindset.
“Eventually I found my way, just like everyone can, but that whole journey was something that needed to happen. And now I go to set, and I’m full-on so excited to wake up at 4:30 a.m., because I know someone’s going to be happy, and I’m just going to make someone smile. Now, Awkward. is more than just a paycheck. It’s a lot more. I mean, granted, I love a paycheck, because I also love the finer things in life, whatever that is. It changes from time to time.”
Awkward., a true product of the times, can very well be one of those shows that goes on for seasons and seasons to come. But that doesn’t stop Ashley Rickards from having thoughts on how her beloved series should end. “I don’t think the show will ever end. I hope that people continually find it to be happy. But on a more comedic level, I wish the show would end with my character exactly where we all go: to the next chapter. I don’t know if she’s going to be a blog writer forever. But maybe we end on her college essay.” I don’t know about you guys, but with all the drama going on in Jenna’s life, and the people surrounding her, how on earth could the freak of suicide’s past muster up the time and concentration to write a college essay? She simply couldn’t. Not now, anyway.
Boys have always been a constant struggle for Ashley’s character, Jenna. At one point it was the issue of not having one, which quickly turned into a battle of which boy to choose. Surely I wondered which boy she’d choose if under the same circumstances of Jenna’s life. Obvious heartthrob Matty? Nice guy Jake? Or pretty boy Collin? In theory, if she had to choose, fans of the show wouldn’t exactly make the elimination process any easier, according to Rickards.
“The fans…are so all over the place, and so opinionated about which boy to choose. I think I could never choose, because I know all those boys for the goodness in their characters [rather] than what all their breath smells like when they don’t pay attention. So there’s a part of me that’s sort of like, ‘we’ve been through this, and it’s just…y’all are great, but you’re like my brothers at this point.’”
The handsome and irresistible faces of Jenna’s record of boy toys is not something to be forgotten, much like the show itself. Awkward. survived on a network that had attempted script programming many a time before Jenna’s faux suicide attempt. The network was on the search for a voice. Hard partying teens came to MTV screens in the form of America’s version of the hit British series Skins. Advertisers didn’t stay for long after that sting, and neither did the hard-partying teens, with MTV silently canceling the series after its first season. A well-endowed awkward boy with a high sex drive tried out the digs too in The Hard Times Of R.J. Berger. R.J. stood its ground and lasted a bit longer than its predecessors with two 12-episode seasons. But it was an unpopular girl, with a crush way out of her reach (publicly anyway), who marked her territory on the network, and in many ways redesigned its entire primetime platform. And thank the heavens it did. Ten seasons or four, Awkward. has earned its place in television history, and continues to make strides in programming geared towards teens. I can already see the TV Guide Magazine 20-year reunion cover. Rickards’ thoughts aren’t much different than my own.
“With TV, a project is either an escape from reality, or a relief to know that it’s all the same, and Awkward.’s very much the latter; it’s a relief to know that it’s all the same,” she says.
“It’s very relatable, and there’s something special about the writers on the show that have been able to make it timeless. I think people watch the show and they see themselves. And people have things on DVDs and DVR – and I have things on VHS still – simply because. And they have those because they can always look back. What we do now is always going to be there, and granted, a part of my ego’s greatly flattered by the fact that someone thirty years from now could stumble upon Awkward. and be like, ‘This is great! I’m going to be a hipster now because I know about something that no one else remembers!’”
If not her MTV series, Rickards’ yet to be released book Get Your Sh!t Together will keep you from forgetting her name. The book, coming to you from Harlequin Enterprises, will be an advice book for teens and young adults, with the star’s personal stories about health, beauty, and relationships.
“Get Your Sh!t Together is really close to my heart,” she explains. “I’m not an expert in everything, but I have experiences just like everyone else, and I hope to be able to somehow save someone from learning the hard way,” says the actress. “I can’t live their lives for them, but I can sure be of help. And that’s all I want to do, whether that’s writing this book, or writing another book, or just being on the show and giving teenagers 30 minutes of peace and happiness, something to laugh at after they’ve had a hard day at school. That’s why I do what I do.” It’s unclear when her book will be released and ready to purchase, but if it’s anything like Awkward. or anything like Jenna’s off-screen counterpart, it’s a book signing not to be missed.
“I’m lucky enough to have a specific type of voice, which is definitely scattered in with a whole lot of swear words – as I like to say, a fuck ton of swear words – but you know, I think I just have to trust that because I do my best to tell the truth. And I’m just not afraid of anything anymore, because I know that everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be. I’ve tried every which way to Sunday to get my shit together, and I feel like I have a grasp on exactly what it means to be in the process of getting your shit together. That’s really what goes into my book.”
The Sarasota, Florida native continues to prove herself worthy of the success she’s garnered over the years, citing the outlook on life that gets her by: “I just sort of do whatever’s right in the moment. And whatever that is usually works out.” Excuse me while I take Ashley Rickards’ life motto and apply it to my own.
Beauty Breakdown // Giorgio Armani Beauty
Maestro Foundation is an ultra-fine foundation that perfects the skin with a soft, luminous finish. Apply with a foundation brush or Beauty Blender and concentrate the product where you need it most, usually around the nose and center of the face. Blend outward.
Add a flush of color to the cheeks with Sheer Blush. Ashley is wearing Light Rose.
Fluid Sheer in 7 adds a highlight to the cheekbone, brow bone and bridge of the nose.
Eyes to Kill Intense Eyeshadow in Khaki Pulse is a multi-dimensional pigment that layers for a long lasting smokey eye.
For rich color, I used Rouge Ecstasy Lipstick in Androgino and Scarlatto. Press the color into your lips with your finger to create a stained look.
Production Bello Media Group