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NEW YORK – Former good-girl actress Taylor Momsen went from portraying innocent Cindy Lou Who in “The Grinch” and Jenny Humphrey on “Gossip Girl” to baring it all in lingerie and fishnets as the lead singer of The Pretty Reckless hard-rock band.
The band formed in 2009 and released their debut album in 2010. They are currently on their “Going to Hell” tour titled after their album, which is due out in early 2014.
On stage, Momsen is a far cry from her Upper East Side days, writhing around half-naked in all-black outfits and heavy eyeliner, pulling down her top and singing about drug use. The band’s latest music video, “Going to Hell,” features an orgy and Momsen naked wrapped in a snake and dancing suggestively in front of a cross and a priest.
The dramatic transition itself is far from unusual in Hollywood.
Miley Cyrus -- with her transformation from Disney Channel sweetheart to tongue-baring twerker -- has been shocking the world with her recent R-rated antics.
But while Cyrus’ image may have gone downhill, her A-list status and success have not. The star has been topping iTunes with her recent singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” her album “Bangerz” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 270,000 copies in its first week, and she headlined the VMAs with a viral -- albeit shocking -- performance in August.
The same can’t be said for Momsen. At least not yet.
While Cyrus abandoned Hannah Montana for licking sledgehammers in the national spotlight, Momsen ditched her wildly successful show for a smaller, more underground rock and metal audience, touring the country in smaller venues, revealing a darker persona and a tough, standoffish attitude with reporters.
Was the move career suicide? Momsen doesn't think so.
“[Touring] has been awesome,” she told FOX411, adding that while “Gossip Girl” fans might have found the move surprising, she has actually performed music her whole life.
“I finally had a record worth of material that I wanted people to hear,” she said. “I found the right people to work with and the right musical partners."
“People tend to not take you seriously because they don’t see that I’m playing a character [on ‘Gossip Girl’],” she said. “It takes time to separate that.”
“Come see the show and listen to the record,” Momsen said. “It’s meant to be listened to like an old-school record -- front to back. There are common themes, so it’s nice to listen to it that way.”
Momsen has a blasé attitude regarding her image or celebrity status, claiming she doesn’t respond to critics of her risqué outfits (“I don’t. I just don’t.”) or of her drug-related lyrics (“I think you should have the freedom to say what you want, that’s what freedom is.”). She will continue touring with her band in 2014 and has no plans to return to acting (unless, she says, Joss Whedon asks her to play an Avenger.)
So is her acting career over?
“With ‘Gossip Girl,’ Taylor had credibility, but she didn’t have music credibility,” Claude Zdanow, founder and CEO of music and entertainment group Stadiumred, said.
Zdanow, a branding expert who has worked with Eminem, Drake and Nicki Minaj, said although music and TV are tied together, it was easier for Cyrus to change her image and have it be accepted because of her music background.
“Miley already had a career in music,” he said. “It’s one thing to go ‘bad girl’ or ‘bad boy,’ but I don’t necessarily agree that it was the best idea [for Taylor.] I think it’s difficult. People may not take her seriously.”
Zdanow said Momsen’s decision to pursue an off-the-beaten-path genre of music for an A-lister means she has to do a balancing act to keep fans for the long run.
“The worst thing for her to do is alienate her fan base [from ‘Gossip Girl,’]” he said. “If she wants to do something edgy and different that’s fine and she can go in that direction. But I wouldn’t kill the idea of doing a TV show again. You have to really leverage the mainstream.”
Zdanow said that Momsen’s recent decision to appear in November’s Maxim magazine was a good idea.
“I think it was a smart move,” he said. “She can maintain her fan base while riding the bad girl wave and the anti-conformity thing. I think there is a place where there is a crossover and the circles overlap.”
Zdanow said leaving “Gossip Girl” in 2011 and only coming back for the series finale might not have been the most business-savvy move for Momsen, but “she is following her dream.”
A rep for Momsen did not immediately return request for comment.