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  • That first year I felt like an idiot,” she remembers. “I didn't work at all, I auditioned like crazy, I didn't go to college and I regretted it that entire year. And then He Got Game came out and that promoted me to something else. But I kept waiting for that Apollo hook to come and yank me off whatever set I was on and force me to get a real job.”

    lace dress to promote her political awareness organization, Voto Latino; days later, she's wrapped up in a chunky black scarf and hat for a climate-change protest rally.

    Her style is varied, but she approaches fashion with her signature passion. “[Actress] Kerry Washington gave me a great tip,” she says. “When you see a designer piece and you're like, I have to have it, but you don't want buyer's remorse, Kerry takes the price, divides it by 10 and if that's the number of times I can see myself wearing it, then it's OK.”

    Not that she gets to wear her own clothes very often. “For 16 hours a day, I'm wearing my character's clothes," she laments. “When I do get a chance to wear my own stuff, I am like, ‘Oh my, I get to play!’”

    “When I get a CHANCE to wear my own stuff, I'm like, ‘OH MY, I get to PLAY!’”

    Embellished dress and vest by Emilio Pucci

    credits

    Hair: Kylee Heath at The Wall Group
    Makeup: Mai Quynh at Starworks Artists
    Fashion assistant: Sofia Catania

    Even with her impressive CV, Dawson says competition for the roles she wants is fierce. Although she'd met with Boyle in the past and they had a good rapport, she had to jockey hard for her role in Trance. "My whole team was aggressively on it. I went in to read for it on performance level – I didn't wear the usual sweatshirt. I dressed up and looked professional and adult. You have to give off that confidence and energy. No one was going to be doing me any favors."

    Still, it is clear Dawson would rather talk about two other topics: fashion and activism. The dual loves are illustrated beautifully in recent paparazzi photos: one night she's in a teal Dolce & Gabbana

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