Sophia Bush on Refusing to 'Tone Down' Her Beliefs: 'I Will Be Uncompromising on Advocacy Forever'

The actress and activist joined PEOPLE's Senior TV Editor Breanne L. Heldman for a candid conversation about her career — over cocktails!

Sophia Bush joins Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker and the ERA Coalition in standing with the Equal Rights Amendment at The Campbell Bar on March 10, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty

After nearly two decades in Hollywood, Sophia Bush isn't afraid to turn downprojects or partnerships that don't align with her brand. But the fearless star admits it took her some time to build up that confidence and self worth.

The actress and activist, 38, opened up to PEOPLE's Senior TV Editor Breanne L. Heldman about "being pushed too far" and learning to stand up for herself early on in her career during Women@Meredith's debut Sips 'n Tips event, hosted in partnership with Jane Walker, which features casual conversations over virtual drinks with exciting news makers of our time.

Bush — who partnered with Jane Walker, a sister brand of Johnnie Walker, in 2019 and has been focused on bringing forward more firsts for women within the entrepreneurial industry through the brand's First Women empowerment campaign — said her team advised her to "be a little more palatable" when she first started speaking up about topics that "lit" her up inside, including political debates, human rights issues and environmental initiatives.

"There are so many brands who I've had approach me and say, 'We'd love for you to work on this, but you need to tone down your politics by 50%.' And I've just said, 'No,'" the One Tree Hill alum explained. "I will be uncompromising on advocacy forever."

Sophia Bush attends the 2020 Black AIDS Institute's Heroes In The Struggle Gala at California African American Museum on February 08, 2020
Jemal Countess/Getty

Bush admitted she wasn't always as vocal as she is now and wishes she would've adapted her unapologetic attitude earlier in her career. "I think the advice I would give [my 21-year-old self], starting my first TV show, would be when you have that feeling, trust it," she said.

"I got talked out of standing up for myself in the way that I should have a lot when I was young. Because people would say, 'Well, you're just not seeing it, or look what's happening over here.' Or, whatever the sort of excuses [were]."

"It takes a long time of being pushed too far, I think, to learn where the line is and hold on," the actress continued. "You learn to hold the line for yourself and that's the way you can hold the line for others too."

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