She has 24 million Instagram followers, almost 4 million YouTube subscribers and another 3 million or so Twitter fans. But sometimes Shay Mitchell just wants a break. With an upcoming role in Hulu’s Dollface, the former Pretty Little Liars star (and mega beauty influencer) shares how she stays balanced and pursues her dreams.
I didn’t always want to be an actress. I never took drama or any of that in high school or elementary—nothing. When I was younger, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I realized that wasn’t the career path I was meant for when I went scuba diving for the first time at 12 and I was terrified of the ocean. At 19, I decided acting is what I wanted to do, after coming back to Canada from living in Bangkok. I’d tried modeling, but it wasn’t for me—I enjoy food too much. I did enjoy the traveling aspect of modeling, and I loved the community that it built and being able to work with a lot of people to get the shot. I realized I could do that with acting and not have to fit into a size 0, so I startd going down the road, and I booked Pretty Little Liars. I was on that show for seven years.
When I was playing Emily [on PLL], I was a completely different person than her. She had flats and only flats in her wardrove. But when I was playing Peach from You, the majority of her wardrobe was from my own closet, though my hair was a little bit more polished than what it would normally be. Obviously, You is super creepy just because it’s so relevant. It’s really easy to stalk somebody when you just have to follow their social media postings. There are safety precautions that you can take. I mean, knock on wood, nothing has ever crossed the line for me, but I’m very careful. If you post about where you are, people are probably going to come. I always post a few hours after I’ve left. That’s something everybody should do, celebrity or not, lots of followers or not.
I scout most of my glam squad on Instagram. Actually, I first saw Patrick Ta’s work on Instagram, and we had a trial where he came and did my makeup for a job. Now I joke with Patrick: I’m like, “I started you.” I’m kidding, but not. For me, getting ready for an event, most of the time, is more fun than the actual event. Being able to work with a team I feel comfortable with is huge. Back in the day, when I didn’t have a choice, it was a little but more difficult. I have a darker complexion, and I had trouble finding concealers and foundations that worked for me. I would make up my own concoction and take the dark-pigmented stuff and mix it with lighter ones to get my shade. Now there are more options, and I’m working with the best of the best, so I’m not scared to try new things.
I don’t color my hair—that’s where wigs come in. I dyed my hair platinum, and it just wasn’t a good look. My hair broke off and went brassy really quickly. It took a long time to get back to normal. But I do think I’m more experimental now than I was back in my 20s. Now i’m just like, “Why not? It’s just makeup. You can take it off.”
When it’s up to me, my hair is what it is when I come out of the shower, and then I tend to just have really light makeup on. Skin care is my number one thing. To have good makeupm you need to have a good canvas to start with. I take off my makeup with micellar water to really get it all off. Undereye cream is crucial—there’s nothing worse than having dryness underneath your eyes. When I do at-home beauty spa days, I fill up a big bowl of hot water and add essential oils, like lavender, and steam my face. If I want to wake up a little bit in the morning, I’ll use citrus oil. And if I have a shoot where I need even more of a wake-up, I’ll put my whole face in a bowl of ice water. It’s really good to depuff your skin.
I never go anywhere without my phone. Because if I were to go on a hike and this double rainbow shows up, I’d have to capture it. just for memory’s sake. But I think it’s important to know when to shut off. You need to be aware that when you look at Instagram what you’re looking at is a highlight reel, not real life. My Instagram feed is super curated—not for anyone else, just for me—but if you go to my Story, I’m taking you behind the scenes of everything. We’re all going through one thing or another, so we don’t need to pretend everything is perfect and rainbows. It gets a little cloudy sometimes, but that’s fine.
I found this little girl online who says “JOMO [joy of missing out],” the opposite of FOMO [fear of missing out]. That’s what I have every day of my life now. I see people going to these amazing parties and these amazing events, and I’m just happy to be watching it from my bed, hanging out with friends, watching Chef’s Table, and eating popcorn.Because when you’re having the most fun, you’re not posting about it. You’re living the moment.
— as told to Cotton Codinha