Victoria Justice, star of the hit Nickelodeon series Victorious and Perez Hilton–approved teen queen, prepares to settle into the corner of a sofa in a New York City studio for her interview, mother in tow, only to discover that the phone cord won’t stretch far enough so her publicist can be conferenced in via speakerphone. Nevertheless, Justice being Justice (i.e., polite, well-spoken, efficiently problem-solving), she quickly arrives at a solution: stretch the phone cord as far as it will go, and she will sit on the floor. (We rearrange the furniture, of course.) It’s this kind of down-to-earth-but-down-to-business pragmatism that has thrust the 18-year-old actress to the front of the teen-star class.
Her Victorious alter ego, Tori Vega, is an aspiring entertainer at a Los Angeles–area performing-arts high school, and though Justice herself was born not in the Hollywood Hills but in Hollywood, Florida, she, too, projects a very particular kind of youthful ambition. “I was watching TV one day when I was 8 years old and saw some kid doing a chip commercial,” she explains. “I was like, ‘Mom, I can do that!’” She convinced her mother to take her for a go-see at a South Beach modeling agency, and soon after, booked an Ovaltine spot and began appearing in print ads for Polo Ralph Lauren and H&M. But like most young women her age, Justice is now thinking about the future. To wit: She just wrapped Gossip Girl–co-creator Josh Schwartz’s upcoming feature directorial debut, Fun Size, in which she plays a snarky teen named Wren who takes her younger brother trick-or-treating and loses him. “At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do Fun Size—my character’s got a little bit of a mouth on her,” says Justice. “Then Josh sent over this sizzle reel with clips from Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles set to ‘Sweet Disposition’ by The Temper Trap, and I was like, ‘I have to do this!’ ” But Justice remains teen-star politic about the essential questions of Schwartz’s oeuvre—Serena or Blair? “I downloaded a few episodes of the first season on iTunes and remember thinking they were both really talented,” she demures. She is, though, as always, eager to do whatever it takes to get the job done. “I’ve always taken direction pretty well,” Justice says. “Sometimes in the winter, I’d have to shoot a summer campaign. I’d be in a little bathing suit, and the wind would be blowing, and my hair would be whipping. . . . But I’d stand there and smile for as long as they needed me to.”