Chelsea Alden may be well on her way to becoming a household name as she makes her debut today in season 2 of “13 Reasons Why.” But long before the Southern California-raised actress landed the role as the witty Mackenzie on the much-buzzed-about Netflix series, Alden was enamored of the arts as a youngster.
“When I was really little, I was fascinated with dance specifically — even at 2 and 3 years old — and I would watch ‘Swan Lake’ on TV or videos of it from the library. There was something emotional about it. That’s what hooked me in initially. My mom right away saw I was passionate and put me in dance class, which led to theater at 6 or 7 years old. I did, like, three different productions of the musical ‘Annie’in a row.”
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Post-orphan Annie and with live theater under her belt, Alden’s trajectory continued to rise. At 8 years old, she booked her first TV commercial and within a few years began trying out for major films and pilots. As a preteen, she found herself auditioning for the likes of James L. Brooks — creator/producer of “The Simpsons” and more.
“It was a fun experience. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I started booking more TV, and the roles kept getting exponentially bigger,” she said.
Those “exponentially bigger” credits have included “Grey’s Anatomy,” HBO’s “The Tale” with Laura Dern and recurring appearances on FX’s “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” among others.
Alden has joined the cast of one of Netflix’s biggest hits, “13 Reasons Why” — but believe it or not, she didn’t realize what she was auditioning for until she got the role.
“I had been auditioning a lot for a lot of different projects, so when I auditioned for ‘13 Reasons,’ I didn’t know that’s what I was auditioning for, so I didn’t even know until I booked it.”
But since signing on, Alden shares that she’s had the best time working on the show, despite feeling slightly anxious about meeting everybody. “It’s been incredible. I actually don’t think I could’ve asked for a better experience to come into,” she said.
She continued: “Everyone created such a family between the cast and the crew. I was a little nervous to come in as a new person, especially knowing how much they’ve been through with the first season — it just exploded. I didn’t know if I would come in and feel like an outsider. Everyone was so open and so kind. And I’m lucky that all of the cast is really great.”
Alden also revealed that she often dresses like her character on the series in real life, but every now and then, she likes to rock a menswear-inspired look.
“We are very similar. Mackenzie is a bit more youthful than I am. She’s a jeans and T-shirt and Converse kind of gal, which is generally my day-to-day. I do like to dress up a little more, and when I do, I like to go for an ‘Annie Hall’ vibe.”
“I like collars, button-downs, tight fitted blazers, I love embracing that style if I’m going to dress up; whereas Mackenzie, we mostly see her in a high school environment. And she gets cool denim jackets.”
She further shared she likes to pair unconventional footwear with dresses. “The things that I gravitate towards, that I get passionate about — I love vintage dresses. Especially recently, I’ve been really into big floral printed ’80s styles — not the big shoulder pads — but sundresses that are really fun. I love to pair them with something untraditional like Converse, Doc Martens or Vans.”
Lucky for her, she got to wear plenty of sneakers, especially Vans, on the job. Of the footwear on-set, she shared that there were “a lot of sneakers, a lot of Vans (I told them this too, that I love Vans). They even had me in these cool Coach sneakers and gave me alternative brands that had a cool style to them.”
As a kid, Alden was obsessed with Skechers and revealed that her mom taught her the importance of quality footwear.
“When I was a kid, my mom was very adamant about good footwear. You know, it was, ‘You’re a growing girl; you need supportive footwear.’ I was wearing a lot of trainers and stuff. I was obsessed with Skechers as a little girl. I thought they were the coolest thing ever. I wanted all my shoes to be Skechers. I wore a lot of Adidas as well.”
Of growing up and her style changing, Alden shared: “The biggest difference now is I have a wider variety and love discovering new footwear and brands. Also, I love being able to use footwear as a style statement. Like wearing all black and wearing shoes with print, even with Toms and Converse will do these floral prints and put a cool design or brand on it to make it pop.”
Speaking of Converse, the actress is a fan of the new Miley Cyrus collaboration. “I just saw that today, and my jaw dropped. I need them all. This solves my life’s [fashion problems].”
Beyond sneakers, Alden considers herself a big boots person. “I would want to own the entire collection of Doc Marten boots. I also love Frye boots. Boots in general.”
Alden also revealed that she’s a big fan of high heels, especially styles with big platforms and anything by Jeffrey Campbell.
“I love wearing heels. I’m not the most graceful when I do, but I’ve definitely gotten better. I prefer chunkier heels because of that — and I’m pretty short, only 5-foot-2 — so I can get away with a big platform. I love Jeffrey Campbell. I will wear just about anything he makes. They’re very comfortable, very sturdy.”