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EXCLUSIVE! Annie LeBlanc and Jayden Bartels open up about quarantine, their new show and why they're #BFFgoals

Name a more important time to have a super-close bestie than summer 2020.

With the global pandemic, quarantine and the Black Lives Matter movement all happening at once, it's definitely been the most intense summer on record for most girls—and that includes 15-year-old best friends Jayden Bartels and Annie LeBlanc.

Though the L.A.-based actresses can't always be together right now, Jayden and Annie say they've actually never been closer. "I think all this has made us realize that we really need each other," Jayden tells us during our heart-to-heart. "We've been going through a lot together." One positive thing Jayden and Annie have been up to while #saferathome? Starring in Nickelodeon's Group Chat. Making the best of a not-so-ideal situation, it's a quarantine-friendly talk show that gathers their celeb BFFs to play games and perform zany challenges—all from their bedrooms. "It's been a great way to stay connected during this very weird time. I love it. And because we film it at home, we get props sent to our house!" Jayden shares. Adds Annie excitedly, "Sliming myself in quarantine is something I never thought I'd ever do in a million years! It's been crazy but it's been fun." 

Group Chat has also taken some of the sting off Annie and Jayden's next Nickelodeon collab getting put on hold due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Back in February, the duo announced they'd be teaming up for a new show called Side Hustle. The series follows two besties named Presley and Lex who accidentally destroy a neighbor's car and have to scrape together a business to pay for it. "It's our first show like this, and we are really excited," Annie says. While bummed about show being on the back burner (update—Side Hustle started filming this fall!), the girls admit that having time away from the grind gave them more opportunity to reflect and learn about themselves—and the world around them.

"We're living through a really big part of history with the pandemic and the [Black Lives Matter] movement," says Jayden. "It's taught me that I can't say I'll do better tomorrow. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, so I have to take risks. Life is too short to hold back. This has really been an eye-opener."

Annie adds: "I was just going to say, growing up in this time has been eye-opening. There's still a lot of learning that I need to do. My friends and I love sharing opinions and educating each other. We're very lucky to be able to do that." 

Finishing each other's sentences is kind of a thing with Jayden and Annie. Both are optimistic, talkative, and completely obsessed with all the same things (performing, skating, hot Cheetos). The pair seem like they've been friends forever despite just meeting four years ago at a bowling party.

And, spoiler alert, they didn't even click right away. "It wasn't like BFFs at first sight or anything," Jayden confesses. But then, Annie explains, they started "running into each other more, hanging out, sharing secrets and the rest..."

"...was history," Jayden chimes in, matching Annie's words in unison. With big events and even small in-person hangs mostly still on pause, Annie and Jayden stay tight through nonstop texting. And, luckily for us, they let us in on their group chat—where they talk honestly about, well, everything...

Jayden: Annie, I wish I could just hug you right now. I miss you. 
Annie: I miss you. 
Jayden: I mean, we did just FaceTime last night, but still. 
Annie: We're really lucky, I mean not all best friends get to talk this much or do creative things together...especially not in quarantine. That's why communication is such a big part of being friends. 

GL: How has your friendship changed since quarantine? 

Jayden: Even though Annie and I have always known we're important to each other, I've learned to value our time together even more. I feel like I'm a completely different person in the best way possible from a few months ago. And all my friends have told me that. I'm so much more confident. I don't care what others think as much anymore. It's really nice. I've seen you change too, Annie. Like you've become so comfortable in your own skin. Just taking time for yourself—it's definitely made you mature a lot. 
Annie: Oh, 100 percent. I have changed as a person for the better. I've also gotten a lot closer with my family—and I didn't even know I could get any closer with them. And this quarantine has been great for our friendship, too. Jayden is probably one of the only people I could spend all night on FaceTime with. 

GL: It's amazing to be able to grow together as friends. Do you remember the first deep conversation you ever had with each other? 

Jayden: It was about boys. 
Annie: Yes!  
Jayden: We were at a party. We didn't really know if we could trust the other person yet, so we told each other, "Everything we just said stays right here in this square." 
Annie: Then after we left, we texted each other like, "Do you remember that thing we talked about in the square?" 
Jayden: It's like an inside joke. 
Annie: I always give Jayden relationship advice. 
Jayden: Oh yeah, I *always* go to you for relationship advice. Sometimes, I go to you because I know something is true, but I just don't want to hear it. 
Annie: You'll say, "Why are you spitting straight facts?" 
Jayden: That's just me saying, why do you have to tell me something I already know, but I don't want to hear? 
Annie: It happens every time. 

GL: So, since you two always talk about boys...let's talk about boys. You both recently went through breakups. What are the qualities you look for in someone? 

Annie: I think it's important to have a balance between deep and funny, having someone to laugh with, have meaningful conversations with and just be human with. That's the best. 
Jayden: I think Annie's ideal boy will always be someone who's nice to everyone and there for her no matter what. Because you like when people are respectful, and you deserve that. 
Annie: Awww! 

GL: I'm not crying, you're crying! How else have you two been supporting each other throughout quarantine? 

Jayden: Honestly, it's just nice to have someone to talk about stuff with.
Annie: Yeah, it was hard when we heard Side Hustle got postponed. 
Jayden: I was really upset at first and I know you were, too. We were really looking forward to it. Neither of us has ever had our own scripted TV show, which was something we always wanted. We're giving it our all when we come back. 
Annie: Instead we have Group Chat
Jayden: Exactly! And we've been doing more important things this summer anyway. There will always be time for adventures. 
Annie: I usually overthink summer. Last year, I was panicking, like, "I have to do this and this and this," because you always compare yourself to what people are doing on Instagram and TikTok. But this summer, I've just been focusing on myself. So that's been great. 

GL: Carving out time to just *be* is so important. Spill the self-care activities you recommend for a healthy, socially distanced summer... 

Annie: I'm not roaming on social media right now, and that's helped with my personal health. 
Jayden: For me, it's journaling a lot. Working out every day. I follow this girl Bailey Brown on YouTube who does these five-minute workouts, which is great because I have the shortest attention span. Annie loves skateboarding, so maybe soon we'll go out together. We also go on Pinterest a lot together and make boards. OMG, you know what we should do? Get an RV and just travel. 
Annie: Yeah, just travel to places where no one else is there. Eat Goldfish. 
Jayden: Wait, there's that snack combo we invented. 
Annie: Oh, it's so good! 
Jayden: Hot Cheetos and Oreos. 
Annie: Have a hot Cheeto, then an Oreo, and mwah! 

GL: That does sound oddly delicious. Are there any shows or music you binge when you just need to chill out? 

Annie: Criminal Minds. 
Jayden: My show is The Good Place. I just finished it for literally the eighth time, and I was crying. We listen to a lot of Lennon Stella. We love her. She's fire. 
Annie: Harry Styles's "Watermelon Sugar." All day, every day. 
Jayden: I am also taking guitar lessons right now. I went on tour for my album last year, and it was life-changing. It helped me gain so much confidence. My last show was in L.A. All of my friends came, including you, Annie. It was just the best feeling, because I’d worked so hard.
Annie: Watching you on stage, it was just like you were meant to be there. I went to your concert at The Troubadour, and you’d already improved so much. I could tell you were loving every second of it.
Jayden: That means so much to me. Since Side Hustle is postponed, I have a lot of time to write new music, which is good.

GL: What about your music, Annie? 

Annie: The last song I put out was “Utopia.” I did a music video for that one, which was really great. I’m working on making music that’s just more me. I want to be proud of what I’m putting out. For a long time, I felt my music was what my producers or writers thought was good for me. I’m focusing on finding my voice and my sound.

GL: Any other goals? 

Annie: Well, I’m really excited to drive and get my permit, too.
Jayden: You’re already so good at driving!

GL: OK, BFF lightning Q&A. What makes Annie laugh the hardest?

Jayden: Embarrassing videos of me! 

GL: Who was Jayden’s celeb crush when she was younger?

Annie: Zendaya (because she is everyone’s crush).

GL: Which reality show would Annie do best on?

Jayden: The Amazing Race—with me as her partner!

GL: What’s the #1 song Jayden loves to sing in the car with you?

Annie: “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove.

GL: What’s Annie most afraid of?

Jayden: Drowning. 

GL: If you two were stuck on a deserted island, how would Jayden help?

Annie: Jayden would definitely be the one trying to build a shelter, making it all cute and cozy like a Pinterest board.

GL: What does Annie put on her pizza?

Jayden: Pepperoni! 

GL: What’s Jayden’s go-to dessert?

Annie: Vegan ice cream.

GL: What’s the first thing Annie will do when quarantine ends?

Jayden: Go on an adventure!

GL: What’s Jayden’s favorite summer outfit?

Annie: Baggy T-shirts, shorts, high socks. 

GL: Name three things you 100% agree on.

BOTH: Salmon is the best food, Nike Air Jordans are the best shoes and we’re moving to Hawaii when we’re older. 

GL: What’s your favorite memory together?

BOTH: Going to Disneyland last year. 

GL: Describe each other in three words. 

Annie: Jayden is hardworking, driven and fun.
Jayden: Annie is precise, determined and open-minded.

GL: Thank you for group chatting with us. Here’s hoping summer gets a little easier for everyone—you guys and all our readers out there. Any final advice?

Jayden: Value the people you have around you. Annie and I get each other through everything. I don’t think I’d be able to go through this stuff with anyone else.
Annie: Mwah! 

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our August/September 2020 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

Images by MANICPROJECT.

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by Amanda Montell; edited for digital by Katherine Hammer | 9/16/2020
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