One of Reese Witherspoon's most famous roles, sorority girl turned law student Elle Woods from "Legally Blonde," almost went to someone else, she revealed.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon said that during auditions for the movie, she was fresh from the film "Election," in which she played a hyper-ambitious high school student, and the part left a lasting impression on a studio executive who refused to see her as anything else.

Explaining that the studio head "thought I was as shrew," she said her manager encouraged her to "dress sexy" for a meeting with him so that he could see her in another light.

"You're 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money and you're being told that by people who know what they're doing," she recalled. "It's funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you're thinking, 'Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she'd be like, I really hope you're joking."

Things have dramatically changed for Witherspoon, 43, over the past few years. Not only is she still acting regularly -- this week, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role "The Morning Show" -- but she's also become a producing powerhouse, backing "The Morning Show" as well as "Big Little Lies" and the upcoming mini-series "Little Fires Everywhere," among other projects. (Yes, she stars in all three of those.)

At The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment event on Wednesday, during an acceptance speech for the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, Witherspoon encouraged other women to follow her lead, and take charge of their careers. Being called a "shrew," she said, is a compliment.

"The definition of the word 'shrew' as pertains to a woman is technically 'a woman of violent temper and speech.' Which nowadays I understand to be a woman who speaks her mind and raises her voice against the system which underestimates her. So I would like to just say 'Thank you. I am a shrew,'" she said. "Be the first person to say, 'Hi.' Send the first email. Break the silence in a room. Ask the first question. Embrace your inner shrew and do something."