Shay Mitchell, Entrepreneur, Actress, And Founder of BÉIS, Shares Her Journey To Motherhood, The ONE Thing She Is Craving, And How She Plans To Run Her Business After Baby
With a glittering career as an actress (see ‘You,’ ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and most imminently, ‘Dollface’), this stunning entrepreneur and founder of multimillion dollar travel and accessories lifestyle brand, BÉIS, plus YouTube star of ‘Almost Ready’ (a video diary of her pregnancy journey, def tune in!), has a ‘little Shay’ on the way. And, if you don’t know, now you know…this magnetic multifaceted mama-to-be is a total powerhouse.
Nearing the end of her pregnancy, Shay shares how she emotionally made it through the isolation of the first six months, why she gives mad-cred to working while pregnant (with zero plans to stop), and what’s next for BÉIS (mamas, get ready!). Plus, did someone say 7-Eleven Slurpee? @shaymitchell
Current state of mind?
We got good news today! I went to the doctor, and she’s flipped head down, which is such a relief! Having her face in the right direction lowers our risk of a C-section. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down to do whatever is best for her, but I’d love to avoid a C-section (if possible); I’ve never so much as had a broken bone, so the idea surgery scares me, plus the recovery time on a vaginal delivery is generally far less!
Physically, how are you feeling?
For months, my hands have been extremely swollen with constant pins and needles. Other than that though, I feel great. I have been super lucky in that I didn’t have a lot of the typical pregnancy symptoms (outside of my mental struggles) such as morning sickness or wild cravings. I know some women that are reading this who did have intense nausea or physical symptoms will be like, “wow, F-you,” but that’s the way it has been for me. Physically, I have been very fortunate.
Emotionally, how did you deal with keeping your pregnancy a secret?
The first five months of this pregnancy were super isolating, and I went through a severe depression. I previously had a miscarriage and that experience gave me anxiety about sharing the news of this pregnancy with anyone outside of our parents. With the first pregnancy, I was elated and told everyone at eight weeks. However, I wanted to be sure that this second pregnancy would be viable before shouting it from the rooftops, so I hid it for nearly six months and became very anti-social. Usually, I’m incredibly active and outgoing, but instead, I mainly stayed home to avoid stares and questions. I was extremely lonely.
On top of that, I was gaining weight without having a noticeable bump. I became paranoid that my team was giving me the side-eye (not knowing I was pregnant) and thinking I should hit the gym — which added to my loneliness. I think it’s really interesting that prepartum depression or feelings of isolation in pregnancy are not more vastly discussed…feeling that I was alone in my depression compounded my state of mind, but have found since sharing the news publicly that many women feel as I did…pregnancy can be a hard time, especially if you’re having to hide it. After I came out publicly, I felt an enormous wave of relief and was finally able to start enjoying the pregnancy.
How did you heal from your miscarriage?
I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason. To follow a miscarriage with a healthy pregnancy generally means the first fetus was not viable. As difficult as that was to wrap my head around when I was going through it, I tried to remind myself there was a reason the pregnancy didn’t come to term.
Sharing my struggles also helped me heal. As a community of women, we’re getting better about speaking up, discussing our challenges, and shedding light on fertility issues. There shouldn’t be any shame in miscarriage. The support I received from other women when I was trying to recover was so powerful! While everyone’s experiences are unique, we can all benefit from hearing other women’s stories.
We’re obsessed with ‘Almost Ready!’ Why did you decide to launch this series?
I started my YouTube series, ‘Almost Ready’ as a way to depict the imperfectness of pregnancy, and to be as honest as possible throughout the entire experience. I didn’t want to post a perfectly curated photo with an idealistic caption…it wouldn’t have done this experience justice and I would have felt like a fraud because you can’t sum up the transformation into motherhood with a few perfect images. Instead, I wanted to approach this as a true journey…with everyone. Over the past nine months, there’s been a lot of awesome things and equally not-so-awesome things…it’s all there. To be authentic and relatable I feel that we have to share the good with the bad. Showcasing the real experience has been liberating for me, and hopefully it will help other women feel less alone or self-conscious in their journey.
On filming ‘Dollface’ throughout the pregnancy?
I was cast on ‘Dollface’ when I was in Tokyo with my family at nearly 13 weeks pregnant. Since I knew that we would be done filming before I popped, I agreed to do the show. Honestly, it was the best thing I could have done. Every day I was surrounded by an incredible cast of amazing women that kept me inspired and motivated. In the final month of filming, I came out about my pregnancy to the cast and crew — joking that I wasn’t simply “bulking up” because of the craft table (although I indeed spent a lot of time there!). Just after we wrapped, I went public with the news.
What was that like to share the news publicly?
Total relief. Fortunately, I was able to come out on my terms in exactly the way that I wanted. I was a little nervous that at some point a photo would be released before I was ready to talk about the pregnancy. I’m so happy it all worked out as I had hoped.
Most surprising part of pregnancy?
My PREpartum depression! As long as I can remember, I’ve heard about POSTpartum depression. However, to be depressed at the beginning came as a shock. The isolation and anxiety I experienced was crippling. I thought I was going out of my mind and questioned why nobody ever talked to me about this phase. I’ve been fortunate since sharing the news of my pregnancy to have some amazing conversations with other pregnant women and moms and know that all these feelings are “normal,” so now we just need to normalize them by discussing more openly!
Most looking forward to?
Decided on a name?
Yes! Although, we’re keeping it to ourselves until she comes. Funnily enough, a dear friend of ours had suggested it before we were even pregnant. When we first heard the name, Matte and I looked at each other, and knew it was “IT”!
Working out while pregnant?
I planned on it. However, when I booked ‘Dollface,’ I was working crazy hours. We shot a lot of the show at night and were often on our feet until 7 am — no doubt I got my “steps” in without actually hitting the gym.
Resting or on-the-go?
By nature, I’m super active; I think the true “slow down” for me (and I’m sure every mom is like “ya right!”) will come when I have her. I figure I’ll be home breastfeeding and that’s when I can catch up on a show or relax. Until then, I’ll be working!
Has nesting been a thing for you?
I have so much to do still. We’re under a complete renovation, the garage needs organization, and the nursery isn’t quite finished. My real theory on nesting? It only happens because there’s nothing else to do. For the first time ever, I’ve been stuck at home and can’t drink, workout or socialize. What else is there to do besides fixate on what needs fixing, painting, or organizing? Being housebound has forced me to notice all the little details of our home that need attention. I believe anyone stuck in their house for this amount of time (pregnant or not) would go through this…it will be nice to have it all done in the end, but for now it’s a bit of a headache.
Do you have a birth plan?
Honestly, there’s no such thing. It’s not up to me how she decides to enter this world. My only plan is to have Matte stay above my shoulders, play my song on repeat, and have candles lit in the room. Other than that, there’s nothing more to plan. When people tell me their intense birth plans, I’m like, “Good for you, sister, but at the end of the day, the baby is going to decide how she’s going to come!”
I am, however, planning to have a drink just after I give birth! My drink of choice is a Slurpee with half soda and Hennessy. That’s right, you heard me. I want a legit 7-Eleven Slurpee (I love all the flavors mixed!) with a little soda, crushed ice, and Hennessy.
Totally agree! What’s THE song?
Boasty by Wiley. I love it so much and play it on repeat.
I also want to play Runs The World (Girls) by Beyoncé just as she comes out.
Seems you have your drink sorted, but what about your first meal post-birth?
There isn’t much I have held back from while pregnant, including Sugarfish sushi every other month, so I’m not really going crazy with the desire to eat something in particular after birth.
And, any crazy cravings?
I have always been an eating machine. I don’t hold back. The only real craving I had in the first three months was Raman, really spicy Raman from a package. I think it was the salt. Now I have an insane amount of it at the house — legit like 200 packages!
Will you take maternity leave?
This question about when I plan to go back to work doesn’t apply as I’m not stopping. Pretty much the only time I won’t be available is when I’m in labor! I mean, I’m sure I’ll take it down a notch for a few days after I have the baby. For the most part though, I can work while breastfeeding, and I’ll touch base with my team on the daily. I love what I do, it keeps me sane and happy, so I don’t want to stop. I recognize that my schedule and priorities will shift, but the intensity with which I run my business will not. My mom went to work three months after having us, and that didn’t change anything. She was still a super mom when she came home and inspired me to follow in her footsteps.
That said, to each their own. Some people are happy staying home and connecting while others want to go back to work. My stance on pregnancy and motherhood is everyone needs to do what works for them. It’s such a unique experience and not the same for everyone.
Speaking of work, what was the inspiration behind launching BÉIS?
I have traveled ever since I was a little girl. It’s my first love. My own personal travel experiences – or nightmares – fed me ideas for many years about a potential brand, so when the opportunity and time felt right, I literally pounced at the chance.
For as long as I can remember, I was always disillusioned with the luggage and travel gear options available to me…I always found that they were either SO expensive, looked good but lacked function, OR they were super ugly and bulky. I mean, why would I want to start a vacation pissed that my expensive luggage was ruined, or that my cheap luggage hadn’t stayed in-tact or kept me organized. It didn’t make sense to me!
Before launching BÉIS, I found myself on planes looking at the pocket in front of me, questioning why no one had come up with an insert to organize our iPads and headphones. I was tired of tossing my phone into a gross pocket with a dirty Kleenex. Riffing off what I felt was missing in the marketplace, I started doodling what a line of “ideal travel essentials” might include on cocktail napkins and in random notebooks. These original doodles served as the inspiration for BÉIS, and when the opportunity arose I began to develop a range of luggage that was fashionable, functional AND affordable. Why should we be forced to compromise between function or form?
As for the name, I used to have this beige bag that came with me everywhere I traveled. It was my favorite, but it finally gave out around the same time I was starting BEIS, so I thought it would be a great idea to to recreate it and pay homage to this special bag with our brand name. I tried to call the line Beige as an homage to this perfect travel bag, but when we couldn’t trademark that, we went for the Spanish version, BÉIS, and added the accent to be a little surprising and playful!
How will the brand evolve as you become a working mom?
BÉIS will grow organically with my life and evolve as my needs change — that’s how we roll. First and foremost we are entering new product categories starting in 2020 with our first diaper bag dropping in January 2020! I’m – for obvious reasons – super excited about this launch, and the path to incorporating baby was very pragmatic and organic. Similar to my inspiration for travel,when I found out I was pregnant I started to look for a diaper bag that would suit my needs; I tested almost every diaper bag on the market, and when I came up short, and couldn’t find anything that was fashionable, functional, plus a good value, I decided to make it myself. My team was in full support and very excited! I mean, I’m already carrying shit diapers, and even though I don’t want an expensive bag to carry said shit, I still want to look chic.
Charitable component to BÉIS?
I think it’s super important that we all pull a little extra weight these days. Anytime we open our social media or turn on the TV, computer, or radio, it’s apparent how much the world needs fixing. Regardless if you own a brand or not, we all need to do our part to leave this earth in even a slightly better place. I realize this now more than ever as I prepare to bring a baby into the world, and I wonder what kind of world it is…no action in the “right” direction it too small.
When thinking about starting my own company, I always knew I wanted to build a brand that gave-back, so when launching BÉIS, a company founded in travel, I thought it made total sense to educate people about what is happening in the world and address specific issues – like empowering women around the globe.
Traveling, to me, gives those on the journey such a unique perspective and hands-on education….empathy, experience and visual understanding of the things that bind us together in a world constantly focused on amplifying division. I sincerely believe that if everyone could travel more, and get out of their bubbles and comfort zone, the world would be a much better place.
Your pregnancy style?
Comfy. As we can see, I’m wearing my house slippers out now and have been caught more than once by creepy photographers wearing these gems! It’s all that fits these days, so, whatever. Plus, it’s hot in LA, and I‘m just doing my best.
Although I have to say, I’ve never felt more confident. It’s incredible to eat a big meal and let it all hang out! I’m not sucking in what-so-ever and enjoying every moment of it.
It’s critical, as women, that we speak about our experiences openly and honestly. The more and more we come out to raise each other up, the more powerful we’ll become. Each of us has a story that will help another woman feel less alone. The worst thing is to feel isolated as it makes anything we’re trying to deal with or heal from that much more difficult.