"You gotta be low-maintenance," says Keri Russell, who plays the winsomely earnest collegiate heroine of the WB series Felicity
, "Less is more. I'm definitely not a makeup person. Wearing it doesn't equal feeling pretty. Women look so much better as they are."
Easy to say when you're a 23-year-old Golden Globe winner with blazing emerald green eyes, flawless skin and a 5'3" body honed by 11 years of tap, jazz and ballet (with softball and track on the side). "I got curly hair after puberty," Russell reports of her enthralling tresses, which come to life, she says, when the show's pros "put some gunk in."
Growing up in Mesa, Ariz., and Denver, Russell, the middle of three children born to a homemaker mother and Nissan-executive father, calmly navigated two years of braces and what she calls a "chunky stage." All told, "the closest thing to geeky for me was mall bangs," she remembers. "They were three tiers high when I was in sixth grade." By 15, they were gone, and her career began when, she says, she "fell into acting" at a Denver audition for the Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club
. Her three years in ears led to roles in Boy Meets World
and Married with Children
—and to a long romance with fellow Mouseketeer Tony Lucca, 23. At their L.A. apartment, Lucca, who also costarred with Russell in NBC's 1996 series Malibu Shores
, holds his sweetie's low-tech approach in high regard. "Keri is beautiful in her honesty," he says. "She's not vain." Lucca is partial to her "really great feet, with cute little toes. And great shoulders, collarbone and cheeks. Basically everything."
The sum of Russell's parts was nearly too great for Felicity
executive producer J.J. Abrams. "The character was always intended to be played by someone who was plain-looking," Abrams says. "Keri is so gorgeous. She was too attractive to play Felicity, yet she couldn't have been more right. She is so natural, funny and engaging."
But not engaged, despite the matching silver bands Russell and Lucca sport on their left hands. "They're like commitment rings," explains Russell, who belongs to a gym she never gets to and eats "whatever I want," washed down with plenty of water. "I get hooked on something and eat it four times a day," she says. "Right now it's mangoes. Before that it was Eggo waffles."
Though she keeps her nails short ("I like to touch things") and spends her spare time "sleeping," Russell makes a few exceptions to her no-frills philosophy. "Massages are definitely my treat," she says. "And fresh flowers, live music and trips. I take great vacations—to Ireland and Big Sur. That's where I spend most of my money."