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The Transformation Of Chyler Leigh From Childhood To Supergirl

After more than two decades in the entertainment industry, Chyler Leigh is still going strong. She went from appearing in syndicated teen TV as a young actress in the 1990s to starring in beloved shows like the medical series "Grey's Anatomy" and the superhero adventure "Supergirl."

Leigh is perhaps best known for playing quirky yet lovable surgeon Lexie Grey in ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" from 2007 to 2012. She briefly reprised her role in 2021, and the show has since become the longest-running primetime medical drama ever. More recently, she's made headlines for her role as LGBTQ+ hero Alex Danvers on The CW's "Supergirl."

Over the course of her career, the actress has gone from starring in films like "Not Another Teen Movie" to becoming a standard presence on huge network TV shows. There aren't many corners of the film and TV industry where she hasn't made a mark. From childhood to starring as fan favorite characters like Lexie Grey and Alex Danvers, here's a breakdown of how Leigh got to where she is now.

Chyler Leigh began acting professionally at 15

Born in 1982, Leigh spent most of her childhood in Virginia Beach, Virginia, before her parents divorced. Afterward, she moved to Miami, Florida with her mom and brother, where she began modeling at 12 and later acted in local TV commercials. By age 14, Leigh landed her first recurring role as the co-host of the syndicated teen news program "Hall Pass."

She made her film debut at an early age, too. A 15-year-old Leigh appeared in the 1997 movie "Kickboxing Academy," in which she played she played a teen boxer named Cindy.

In 1999, Leigh and her mother moved to Los Angeles to help her pursue her acting dreams in Hollywood. However, in 2008, the actress admitted to People that "I was quickly over it. Someone could tell me I wasn't pretty enough or good enough? I hated it. I used to cry on the way to auditions."

She soon moved up to mainstream films and recurring TV roles

She nabbed her breakout role as "Not Another Teen Movie" main character Janey Briggs, an unpopular yet rebellious high schooler who soon becomes a popular prom queen. Fun fact: Leigh starred in the film alongside Chris Evans, who was making his film debut at the time. The 2001 film was a box-office hit and parodied many common teen movie tropes, especially those seen in "She's All That."

Off-camera, Leigh met her future husband Nathan West, but according to People, they struggled with "a teenage fascination with drugs and drinking." Around 2001, the couple sought faith-based help and got clean.

She continued to build her profile in Hollywood in the following years. By 2002, Leigh had major roles in two short-lived new TV shows. She played a lawyer named Sarah Mickle in the legal drama "Girls Club," and rock musician June Tuesday in "That '80s Show." Both shows were quickly cancelled, and Leigh briefly became a series regular on another legal drama, "The Practice." 

Leigh shot to stardom as Lexie Grey in Grey's Anatomy

While Leigh made a name for herself in Hollywood in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she became a household name when she appeared as Lexie Grey in  "Grey's Anatomy." Introduced at the end of Season 3, Lexie was the half-sister of protagonist Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and was a major character from Seasons 4 to 8. She was known for her dorky yet earnest personality, and soon began an on-again, off-again relationship with fellow doctor Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) while growing closer to her sister. During this time, the actress also played Lexie in the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off, "Private Practice."

The role earned Leigh a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2007. However, Leigh chose to leave the show after Season 8, citing her desire to spend more time with her family. Her character was then killed due to a devastating plane crash.

In 2021, the actress reprised her role as Lexie in "Grey's Anatomy" Season 17, in which a sick Meredith dreamt she reunited with her sister on an idyllic beach.

"To be able to close the chapter for Lexie, and to appear in a way where she's not eaten by wolves. Kind of bring a little life back to it," she told Entertainment Tonight. "It was a special experience to be able to be part of that."

She's currently known for playing Alex Danvers in Supergirl

These days, Leigh stars on The CW's hit superhero show "Supergirl," which is currently in its sixth season. The actress portrays Alex Danvers, protagonist Kara Danvers' (Melissa Benoist) adoptive older sister. As Kara embraces her superpowered alter ego, Supergirl, scientist and government agent Alex investigates local corruption to help protect her. Along the way, Alex comes to terms with her LGBTQ+ identity after developing feelings for police detective Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima). In recent years, Leigh has opened up about what playing a role so significant to many LGBTQ+ fans has meant to her.

"I have cried in the best way and in a heartbreaking way where people are telling me their stories and knowing that what we're doing is changing lives," she told Awards Daily in 2017. "In a lot of ways, we're breaking the mold. It's this comic book show that's coming along and making waves." Leigh will soon wrap up her run as Supergirl, as the show is ending after a 20-episode final season. We have no doubt that Chyler Leigh will continue to inspire many people somewhere else.