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Simone Ashley has got this red carpet thing figured out. The 26-year-old star of Bridgerton may be a relative newcomer to the scene, but in the past year, she’s racked up a series of major style milestones, from taking her place in the front row at Prada and Chanel to standing out at one of the year’s biggest fashion events. For Ashley, the journey has been transformative. “This year has been a 180,” she says over the phone from Los Angeles. “I moved a lot, I traveled a lot, spent more time on my phone than I ever thought I would in my life! I managed to find my voice through all the taking emails, going to meetings, and reading scripts. I wasn’t shy or reserved before, but this year, I turned up the volume.”

Turning it up is an understatement. With a fragrance campaign for Loewe, an appearance in British Vogue, and plum roles on Netflix hits Sex Education and Bridgerton, Ashley is experiencing career lift-off—but one that’s allowed her to grow as a person, too. “We’re all in this industry because we want to entertain and inspire people,” she says. “I’ve been able to find the joy in [my work], and it’s freeing to have a sense of community, the confidence to express myself whether it’s in how I want to portray a character or what I choose to wear.”

Fans of Bridgerton will have to wait until 2022 to see Ashley’s heroine Kate Sharma, but she’s already joined the ranks of the series’ most stylish stars. Season one brought Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, and Nicola Coughlan into the fashion sphere, snagging plenty of campaigns and brand ambassador roles along the way. Still, even though she’s always been interested in style, Ashley has undergone a fashion education in the last few months. “There was a massive learning curve for me,” she says. “Just learning all the designers, exploring their oeuvres, and understanding what makes them unique. Once you know more about their voice, you think, ‘Well, what can be my voice, how am I going to use this [knowledge] to express myself?’’’

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Ashley in a look from The Vampire’s Wife moments before the The Hollywood Reporter’s 29th Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast

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Growing up listening to Fleetwood Mac and admiring the free-spirited vibe of SoCal fashion, Ashley—who hails from Surrey, England—always felt like a California girl at heart. “I spent a lot of time in Ojai, where my family is from, so my vibe was bohemian and very inspired by Stevie Nicks,” says Ashley. “I’m a big summer girl, still figuring out how to dress for winters. I love the color of my skin, using moisturizer and highlighter so that it looks glowy, healthy, and chocolatey. I want to have my legs out, wear combat boots with a spaghetti strap mini-dress, or denim shorts with cowboy boots. For a long time, I dressed quite youthfully, but working with Rebecca [Corbin-Murray, Ashley’s stylist] has taught me so much.”

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Simone Ashley Is Bridgerton’s Newest Style Star