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Claire Danes' so-called life a teen success story

Claire Danes had a dream.

"I was going to be a therapist, live in California, right next door to my best friend, and share a pool," Danes says with a girlish giggle. "I'd be a therapist and do acting workshops on the side. Then I thought about that and made an announcement to my parents.'No, no, I must be true to my heart.'"

Staying true to her heart meant pursuing a career as an actress. Now, at 18, the charming, wide-eyed Danes is widely considered the best actress of her generation. All this is based on her mature, four-Kleenex performances in her TV series "My So-Called Life" and such films as "Little Women," "Romeo + Juliet," "The Rainmaker," and her latest, "Les Miserables."

Danes dismisses such talk. "Once you've been labeled, even if you do a poor job, people still believe you're the actress of your generation, or whatever," she says. "Any time you're pigeonholed as anything, it's limiting and frustrating. People start taking your performances for granted, and they have that ideal set in their heads of who you are and what your acting is about. Hey, it's totally flattering. I'd much rather be labeled a really great actress than a really cute blond."

Life these days is a whirlwind for Danes. She has two other films ready for release - "Polish Wedding" on July 17 and "Brokedown Palace" later this year - and is shooting a movie version of "The Mod Squad," a popular 1960s undercover cop TV series. On the personal front, she recently ditched Los Angeles for Manhattan, where she was born and raised, and she's madly in love with Ben Lee, an Australian musician introduced to her by pal Winona Ryder.

And there's more.

"I'm going to go to Yale in the fall," says Danes, who will shoot films during her summer breaks. "I feel totally inadequate as a student, but I think these are insecurities I share with most freshmen. It'll be another huge shift in my life, but I'm too curious about that world and learning in that way not to experience it." Stellar shades:

All those bright rays are nasty for your eyes, so slip on some shades to be safe. Our faves are all the retro, wrap and wire styles from Riviera Kids ($8 to $10 each at Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's).

Terry topper:

The right hat should keep you cool and deflect the rays from your face, eyes and ears. We like this terry hat ($16) in cool blue or bright white. Order it from Delia's at (800) 335-4269.

Pub Date: 7/16/98

Lisa Skolnik

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