Credit: Aaron Montgomery/JPI (2), Ray Christian/JPI, Howard Wise/JPI, John Paschal/JPI, CBS

Plus, how Cane helped make Lily the woman she is today. 

If we were to sum up the life of Lily Winters with a catchy slogan from the past, it might be, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” It’s almost hard to recognize the modern career woman as being the same young woman Christel Khalil began playing on August 15, 2002. Back then, the actress laughs, “Lily was sort of a bratty teenager!”

Even all this time later, the actress clearly recalls walking onto the soap’s set for the first time. “I remember it so clearly,” she admits. “I was working with Victoria Rowell (ex-Drucilla), and I was so nervous! Lily was being a little bit obnoxious, and it was so much fun!”

Working with pros like Rowell and the late Kristoff St. John (Neil) helped Khalil get her bearings. “It was all so fast-paced, and I wasn’t used to that,” she recalls. “But I was stepping into this family that was, both on-screen and off, wonderful and supportive. It made everything so much easier.”

Victoria Rowell, Kristoff St. John and Christel Khalil"The Young and the Restless" Set CBS Television City 11/13/03 ©Aaron Montgomery/JPI 310-657-9661 Episode# 7784

“Honestly, they got me through those first few days,” says Khalil of St. John and Rowell.

Credit: Aaron Montgomery/JPI

More: The moment that forever changed soap star’s life

So how has Lily changed over the years? “I think those early years of being rebellious helped her, because despite that, she was loved and respected. That helped her to grow and become the person she is now. Lily knows who she is and what she can provide.”

Of course, it would be impossible to look at the woman Lily has become without acknowledging the role — both good and bad — that Cane played in her life. For her part, Khalil thinks Lily learned lessons by the side of her ex which come into play now, with Billy.

More: Meet the real-life partners of your Young & Restless faves

“She and Billy are really good at talking things out,” the actress muses. “She’s very open with him, and isn’t shy about calling him out if she thinks he’s falling into old patterns. With Cane, it was less about communicating and more her reacting to things. They spent so much time figuring out their relationship and working through the problems that came up that she wasn’t really able to focus on becoming her own person.”

That, as they say, was then, and this is now. “Lily’s in a much healthier place,” smiles Khalil. “She’s grown, and she’s in a much better headspace than she was even just a few years ago.”

Celebrate Khalil’s milestone with the below photo gallery that retells Lily’s whole unbelievable life story.