12/13/2013 10:10 am ET

The Jennifer Lawrence Effect: How One Girl Is Changing Hollywood

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The first time the average moviegoer really paid attention to Jennifer Lawrence was the 2011 Oscars, when the young actress, lacking confidence but full of grace, appeared for her Best Actress nomination for Winter's Bone. Her floor-length red Calvin Klein dress was perfect: It seemed to hint at something simpler but still statement-making, lacking embellishment but no less awards-show-ready. Winter's Bone wasn't a giant hit commercially, but it had teeth, and the film was carried entirely on Jennifer Lawrence's hard-edged character, Ree. And, not even a month after her she turned heads as Hollywood's newcomer, she bagged the role of Katniss Everdeen in the little series called The Hunger Games. With that, she became one of the biggest stars in the world. But, even more importantly, she began to change the way we perceive young actresses. She made us — the media-barraged editors at Refinery29 and you, our media-weary readers — that it was okay to really love an actress because she was worthy of it.

Ask anyone who consumes any amount of Internet to describe Hollywood, and the words are familiar. Vapid, superficial, contrived, fake. Even the people who purchase gossip mags admit, hey, this stuff isn't real, but it is fun way to escape. For years, stars give the same interviews, and glossy magazines promise the same major scoop: So-and-so Star Finally Speaks! Here's The Real Whatsername! A-List Actress Like You've Never Seen Her Before! But, the truth is, it's the same talking points recycled and recast, because we all kind of implicitly realize this is an industry that deals in image as a currency. And, when those carefully crafted images fall or crack, we often see Real People, and Real People have problems. (Especially when they are surrounded 24/7 by Hollywood and end up, say, open-mouth kissing their brother, having their husbands ditch them for tattoo artists, or saying just the strangest things.)

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