Shay Mitchell is best known for playing Emily Fields on the hit show Pretty Little Liars, and she makes passion a priority in life. She comes from a place called Mississuaga, Ontario, has a mom named Precious, and is a strong supporter of the Somaly Mam Foundation, the non-profit fighting sex trafficking. When we spoke to Mitchell, it was clear that, to her, life and love and career all intermingle.
How has it been playing one of the first openly gay characters in an ABC family show? It’s just been amazing. Every single day I get a tweet from fans saying how much they can really relate to Emily. That she’s the first character they feel isn’t a stereotype.
Do you think of yourself as a role model? I don’t know about a role model. I just have to be really happy with myself every night before I go to sleep. As long as I’m doing that I feel good about myself. But, I think being able to play a character like Emily is amazing and I’m proud of my character. She’s very strong.
What type of character would you love to play next? I would love to do an action feature film. I love doing my own stunts. Whenever I get an opportunity on the show to do a crazy stunt, I’m always begging them not to use a stunt double. They never let me, but I still try!
What projects are you working on right now? Well, right now [Michaela Blaney and I] relaunched and rebranded our lifestyle website, Amore and Vita.
Do you now see yourself as more of a brand? I mean, yes. That’s what I’m wanting to do, expand from the outside. At first I just wanted people to get to know me outside of my character. Then I wanted to take it one step further on the site just because I could write more than 140 characters and I could express myself a lot further then I could on Twitter or Instagram. We will be doing a couple of amazing lines with different people and I’m excited about that. So, hopefully I’ll get to branch out.
What are some of the most important things people should know about being a working actress? I honestly think that one of the things I’ve learned from being on the show is that my schedule fills up a lot more, and prioritizing was something I had to learn along the way. At first I was just saying yes to everything. Yes, I’ll do this! Yes, I’ll do that! And I wore myself down because I was shooting five days a week and I’d fill up my weekends with photo shoots and everything. I’ve learned the power of saying no sometimes and I think there’s a lot of power in that.
How do you escape the daily grind? You need to take care of yourself—especially in this industry—because if you don’t you’re going to break. You’ve got to set aside and take time for yourself. That can honestly be just me in my bed reading a book or watching a documentary I’ve wanted to see, or going to the spa. It’s always great to hang out with my friends and family and that’s all wonderful, but I think it’s nice to have a digital detox and put the phone away, put your laptop away, and spend time with just you. As crazy as that sounds it’s extremely important for me, especially because I’m surrounded by so many people every single day. You need to reconnect.
How do you define beauty? It’s always the happiest people that are the most beautiful people to me. I truly believe that it doesn’t matter how much or little you have, it’s how your outlook is on life. Even if you’ve had the worst day or you feel like you’ve been given a horrible hand, if your outlook is positive you’ll glow from the inside. You can’t get that glow from makeup. I don’t care what anyone else says, it’s happiness. It’s from within. When you see someone laughing that’s when I think that somebody is their most beautiful.
Where do you see yourself in the future of your career? I see myself in a villa in Italy doing things from my computer, having a successful brand—whether that’s in clothing or home décor—and with everything that I do having a positive message that goes along with that.
Photographer: Olivia Malone for brydgesmackinney.com. Stylist: Henna Koskinen for OpusBeauty.com. Hair: Daven for celestineagency.com. Makeup: Samuel Paul for themagnetagency.com. Manicure: Karen Gutierrez for nailinghollywood.com. Photographed at The Redbury Hotel, Hollywood at TheRedbury.com.