Things weren’t always smooth for the actress, 24, as she dealt with a period of self-doubt following her Idol elimination in 2010. But with some encouragement from her biggest supporters and a newfound determination, Stevens made a name for herself — first as Karma Ashcroft on MTV’s 2014 series Faking It and now as Jane Sloan in Freeform’s new series, The Bold Type.
Before your Tuesday nights get taken over by the ups and down of Stevens’ glamorous onscreen gig at Scarlet magazine, here are five things to know about the rising star.
1. She worked at Sprinkles Cupcakes for seven months
Following her stint on Idol, a discouraged Stevens found herself in a period of self-doubt and decided to temporarily quit music. Realizing she was running out of money to support herself, Stevens’ parents advised her to get a job. The Idol alum immediately began working at Sprinkles Cupcakes. Though she enjoyed herself, she felt ashamed at the time.
“It was one of those jarring things that I was like, ‘Wow, I went from being on American Idol and being in front of thousands of people, and now I’m serving people cupcakes,’” Stevens admits, adding that customers would often say she looked familiar.
However, the job helped her become more focused and determined to find an acting gig.
“Looking back, it was the best thing I ever did and I feel so humbled by it,” she explains. “I really do feel like the experience for me was that moment in my life where I was like, ‘I don’t want this to be my life. I want my career to start.”
2. She’s a feminist — and believes feminism applies to everyone
Stevens’ new show, The Bold Type, follows three friends who work at Scarlet magazine and explores the ups and downs of their lives. And while the show — which is based on the life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles — carries themes of female empowerment, Stevens believes it has universal appeal.
“If you call yourself a feminist now, people shame you and have a misconception of what it is. Feminism, to me, is just women [being] equal to men,” she explains, adding that her father, boyfriend and male cousins have all encouraged her to be fearlessly outspoken. “It isn’t just a movement solely for women. It’s supported by so many because everybody can relate to wanting equality.”
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3. She would love to work with Meryl Streep
It would only make sense that being on a show with such strong similarities to The Devil Wears Prada would mean Meryl Streep is Stevens’ dream costar.
“Meryl Streep is my favorite actor of all time, period,” gushes Stevens. “That would be a dream to be in something with her. I just think there’s so much I can learn from her.”
In addition to Streep’s talent, Stevens says there’s something else she admires about the 68-year-old actress.
“My favorite thing is when I work with anybody— crew, hair, makeup —I always love to ask who’s the coolest person they’ve worked with in terms of who’s been the kindest and most down to earth,” Stevens says. “A lot of people have said Meryl Streep.”
4. Her guilty pleasures? Ice cream … and puppies!
When Stevens isn’t working, where is she most likely to be found?
“On a river in Tennessee, on a canoe with [my boyfriend] Paul [DiGiovanni] and our dog with some sandwiches and maybe some beers, just enjoying the rest of summer,” says Stevens.
She’s also looking forward to some downtime after wrapping The Bold Type and intends to binge-watch the last episodes of Game of Thrones with ice cream and the company of her golden-doodle, Winnie the Pooch.
“I have the best dog in the world. She’s one of my favorite parts of my life,” Stevens gushes. “One of the best decisions I ever made was getting a dog.”
5. She starred in Dan + Shay’s “How Not To” music video and would love to return to country music
Stevens and her country music-producer boyfriend, Paul DiGiovanni, have been together for four years. DiGiovanni also co-wrote country-duo Dan + Shay’s hit, “How Not To.” So who better to star in the music video than Stevens herself? In the emotional video, Stevens plays Sophie, a woman struggling to beat her alcohol addiction.
As for her own hopes for country music, Stevens says if she were to return she’d likely work on a pop-country album — but she’s focused on acting for now.
“Whatever I do, I have to put 100 percent of my focus into it because I don’t like to do a bad job,” Stevens explains. “Because my acting is taking off, I want to put 100 percent of my focus into this, and then when the wind blows me in the direction of music and I can put 100 percent into it, I would love to do that as well.”
But while there are no plans for a country album right now, Stevens says she’s enjoying the moments as they come and excited to see where her career goes.
“I’m trying to take my life and my career one day at a time, and hopefully with the way things have been going and the way the wind has blown me, it’ll just blow me where I’m meant to be.”
The Bold Type premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on Freeform.