Actress. ENTREPRENEUR. Social media queen. YouTube star. Shay Mitchell talks exclusively to HAYLEY D’ONOFRIO about taking on HOLLYWOOD, building her business and the transformative effects of beauty.
Shay Mitchell has never been one to shy away from experimenting with her look. She recently stepped out on the red carpet at the iheartRadio Awards sporting a platinum blonde wig so cleverly concealed that she nearly fooled her fan base into thinking that she’d coloured her hair. “I love that hair and makeup can make you feel a certain way,” says Mitchell down the phone from Los Angeles in the weeks following her Gritty Pretty Magazine cover shoot. “It can completely change me into a character—I might become Shay-oncé. Or maybe Shay-Lo,” she laughs, the latter she tells me is the nickname her friends coined due to her obsession with Jennifer Lopez. Mitchell’s love of beauty grew from a young age: “Ever since I was little and I saw my mum apply lipstick, makeup has always been something I’ve loved watching,” she says. It’s also something Mitchell likes to share with her over 24 million Instagram followers, regularly documenting her experiences in the glam chair with the likes of makeup artist Patrick Ta. “I work with such talented artists that I love to share the tips and tricks they always share with me—I feel like I owe it to the world,” she laughs.
At 32, the self-confessed beauty-obsessed actress has spent many a day in the glam chair. After leaving high school with no immediate plans to become an actress, she relocated to Bangkok at 17 to work as a model. “I actually wanted to be a marine biologist when I was younger! I think I had an idea that I would do acting later on in life but I didn’t take want to take any drama classes. I’m kind of happy I didn’t because I think I came into acting at the perfect time for me.” Returning to her native Canada, she appeared in Degrassi: The Next Generation—which she explains is a rite of passage for Canadian actors, much like a stint on Home & Away is for Australians—before scoring a lead in hit television series Pretty Little Liars. Playing the role of Emily Fields, Mitchell maintains that doing the character justice was the most difficult part of her seven years on the show. “The writers had given me such a great storyline and it was a really fun role to play but it was also a really important role to play. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself because I was trying to play [Emily] as authentically as I could.”
When the show wrapped in 2017, Mitchell filmed cult Netflix drama You in New York City. “It had always been one of my goals to live in New York and film something, and I got to really live out my Gossip Girl fantasy by shooting across from Penn Badgley, which was amazing.” And the roles keep on coming; Mitchell is currently in production for television series Dollface, which co-stars Esther Povitsky and Kat Dennings, with Australian Margot Robbie on board as one of the executive producers.
Slated for release later this year, the plot centers around Dennings’ character, who tries to reconnect with her girlfriends after a breakup. “We just did the upfronts together in New York,” says Mitchell excitedly. “The character I play, Stella, she’s the laidback one. She’s a world traveller, easy-going, loves fashion, and has an extreme confidence within her—it has been really fun to play her and experiment with different looks. The script is funny, and it’s a comedy,” a genre that Mitchell says she hasn’t yet dabbled in and is clearly enjoying.
Following in the footsteps of other actresses-turned-entrepreneurs à la Jessica Alba with The Honest Company and Gwyneth Paltrow with Goop, Mitchell decided to further her already impressive résumé by launching her own accessories brand BÉIS at the end of last year. Inspired by Mitchell’s love of travel, BÉIS encompasses luggage tags, travel organisers and cosmetic cases in chic, understated tones that are all at an affordable price point. “I think everyone should get out there and see as much of the world as possible—you grow more as an individual,” she explains. “In saying that, some people fear travelling because they’re going out into the unknown, but that should be exciting! It is only exciting if you feel prepared, and feeling prepared means you [travel] with things that make you feel comfortable. That’s where the idea for travel bags came in; I wanted them to be chic, functional and affordable.”
I work with such talented artists that I love to share the tips and tricks they always share with me—I feel like I owe it to the world.
Starting BÉIS hasn’t been without its challenges though, particularly when it comes to laying down the ground rules—Mitchell is extremely hands on, and across everything from design to product conception and delivery. “It’s different when you’re doing a collaboration with a brand because you’re walking into their world but this is my world that I’ve created and I set the tone. I’m not just the face anymore; this isn’t an endorsement,” she explains. Juggling both careers would be difficult to manage for most but Mitchell takes it in her stride, and thrives on the hectic pace. “It’s what I’m most passionate about. I love being busy about things that I love doing—it excites me to get up in the morning and go to the office or a photo shoot for BÉIS.”
Another arm to her profile? Social media, but Mitchell doesn’t place as much emphasis on it as you might think. She started her YouTube channel well before the medium turned mainstream, as a different way to connect with her audience and to create her own content. From documenting her holidays around the world—also known as her Shaycation series—to beauty and cooking tutorials, her engaging, conversational
tone and real talk are an undisputed hit with her fans—at last count, she has amassed over 3.7 million subscribers. The same can be said for her Instagram account @shaymitchell, and with that in mind, I ask her what it’s like to directly influence over 24 million people. She pauses before answering: “I never really think of it like that,” she says earnestly. “I’m as authentic as I can be on my socials, and what you see is what you get—that’s who I am, and I don’t take myself too seriously. There are a lot of smoke and mirrors out there, and to be honest, the parties I go to, if they’re really fun, I’m not putting them on my stories. If you’re having the time of your life, you’re not on Instagram.”
I’m as authentic as I can be on my socials, and what you see is what you get—that’s who I am, and I don’t take myself too seriously.
Mitchell’s personal take on social media, and also the importance she places on working—and working hard—is both refreshing and inspiring in a time where the desire for fame and celebrity—both on and off the Instagram grid—is so highly regarded. “At the end of the day there are much more important things to focus on that what I upload to IG,” she explains. “I want to be remembered that I left people feeling a little better than they did before, to make them comfortable and happy, [and to] inspire.”
With plans to expand BÉIS—a luggage collection launches this month—and to continue her reign as one of the up-and-comers in Hollywood, make no mistake, Shay Mitchell just getting started.
Source: Gritty Pretty