March 1, 2017 10:08 AM EST

When Emma Watson was at the peak of her Harry Potter fame, living what appeared to be the most glamorous life, she didn’t feel like herself.

“I’d walk down the red carpet and go into the bathroom,” the actress tells Vanity Fair in her March 2017 cover story interview. “I had on so much makeup and these big, fluffy, full-on dresses. I’d put my hands on the sink and look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Who is this?’ I didn’t connect with the person who was looking back at me, and that was a very unsettling feeling.”

So unsettling, in fact, that it pushed Watson to take a step away from Hollywood in 2009 to attend Brown University, where really embraced her feminist point of view. She even chopped off her long iconic Hermoine hair into a Tinkerbell pixie in 2010, which she said made her feel “the sexiest I’ve ever felt.”

RELATED PHOTOS: All of Emma Watson’s Stylish (and Sustainable!) Fashions from Her Beauty and the Beast Promo Tour

Now, as a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and avid activist, the 26-year-old star does everything she can to make a difference — even when it comes to fashion and what she wears. In 2011, Watson collaborated with fair-trade fashion label People Tree and most recently, the star’s wearing and promoting sustainable fashion she’s wearing on the Beauty and the Beast press tour with daily posts on her new Instagram account.

But how does she decide what’s worth wearing and what’s not?

Watson tells Vanity Fair when prepping for the promo tour, she created a PowerPoint presentation that her stylist sent fashion designers, which included a questionnaire about how their garments are produced, what their impact is on the environment and the moral reason why she should wear it on the red carpet.

“The first shot of the movie cannot be Belle walking out of this quiet little town carrying a basket with a white napkin in it,’” she says. “We need to rev things up!” Instead of flouncy dresses and ballet flats, Watson wanted her character in bloomers, riding boots and tool belt-like pockets for her costume.

“The original sketches had her in her ballet shoes, which are lovely — don’t get me wrong,” Watson shares. “But she’s not going to be able to do anything terribly useful in ballet shoes in the middle of a French provincial village.”

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