Vanessa Hudgens underwent a dramatic make-under for her upcoming film "Gimme Shelter," but that wasn't the only preparation needed for the role.
Hudgens revealed that she lived in a homeless shelter for two weeks to get into character to play a pregnant runaway.
"I actually went and stayed in a shelter for two weeks before I started filming," the 23-year-old actress told Rachael Ray on her show on February 10. "I lived there with all the girls, with all the kids, so I think that it's really interesting because you find so much more about yourself."
In the movie, which is due out later this year, the actress plays a pregnant teenager who leaves her abusive mother's (Rosario Dawson) home to look for her biological father (Brendan Fraser) who works on Wall Street and urges her to get an abortion. When she refuses, she is forced to live on the streets.
"I actually cut my own hair for this movie. I did that to myself, yes I did," Hudgens said, adding that she and Rosario Dawson, "both look so messed up in this movie."
"It's really empowering and its fun pushing yourself as far as you can," Hudgens said of the role. "I think that it's really interesting because you find so much more about yourself."
Hudgens surprised fans in July when she was photographed with her cropped black hair, a neck tattoo and piercings on her lip and nose while filming in Newark, New Jersey. The slender actress finished the look with baggy jeans and a shapeless T-shirt.
"I grabbed the scissors and started cutting my actual hair and then my director [Ron Krauss] decided that he was going to grab the scissors, he grabs a chunk of my hair and just chops it," Hudgens told Access Hollywood after debuting her new look.
Last year, the actress was a spokesmodel for Candie's apparel (see photos), which is affiliated with the Candie's Foundation, a non-profit group that aims to "educate America's youth about the devastating consequences of teenage pregnancy."
Hudgens currently appears in "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," in which Josh Hutcherson's character partners with his mom's new man (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) on a mission to find his grandfather, who is thought to be missing on a mythical island. Hudgens portrays Hutcherson's love interest in the film, while Kristin Davis of "Sex and the City" fame portrays his mother.
Hudgens and Hutcherson briefly dated in real life, in early 2011. The pair faced an awkward situation when they were asked about their relationship in a January interview with the Australian show "Today." Hutcherson responded by saying that they were dating at one point, but are now "really good friends."
Hudgens has more recently been linked to "Switched at Birth" actor Austin Butler, 20, who has appeared on TV series' like "Life Unexpected," "Zoey 101" and "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide."
Hudgens rose to fame playing the female lead in the Disney Channel's "High School Musical" franchise and has also starred in films like "Beastly" and "Sucker Punch."