SHAY MITCHELL

Maxim - - CONTENTS - by DAVID HOCHMAN

Un­der­cover(s) with the star of the cult-smash Pretty Lit­tle Liars.

AS the WORLD’S MOST AL­LUR­ING LES­BIAN SLEUTH ON the CULT-SMASH PRETTY LIT­TLE LIARS, SHAY MITCHELL IS CHANG­ING the FACE OF TV— ONE TWEET and IN­STA­GRAM AT a TIME.

“PEO­PLE ASK WHAT IT’S LIKE KISS­ING a WOMAN, AS IF THERE’S SOME­THING AWK­WARD OR WEIRD ABOUT IT. I COM­PLETELY EM­BRACE IT. WHEN I STEP INTO EMILY’S SHOES, I’M TRULY IN the MO­MENT, and I’M FULLY AT­TRACTED TO the WOMEN I’M FOOL­ING AROUND WITH.”

SHAY MITCHELL IS ABOUT TO DE­STROY me com­pletely with a sin­gle tap on her iphone. The woman who plays the de­lec­ta­ble les­bian next door on the most tweeted-about se­ries in tele­vi­sion his­tory just ac­cepted my in­vi­ta­tion to see who could get more ac­tion on our so­cial me­dia feeds over the course of our time to­gether.

Just look­ing at her tells me I’m a goner. The star of Pretty Lit­tle Liars, a cult-smash cable crime thriller about a group of mean-girl high school vix­ens tor­mented by a web of cy­ber threats, dark hood­ies, darker se­crets, and out­ra­geous mur­ders, ar­rived at a Los An­ge­les art mu­seum on this rare rainy day dressed like the planet’s hottest se­cret agent—com­plete with a short-short trench coat, her pink cash­mere thumb sleeves tan­ta­liz­ingly peek­ing out. There’s stretchy black denim un­der­neath, knee-high riding boots, an adorable pink um­brella. Right on the nose for a girl who is fa­mous as the most de­sir­able DIY sleuth to ever winduponthe­abc­fam­i­lynet­work.my pa­thetic selfie is out-fa­vor­ited the very mo­ment Mitchell’s glo­ri­ous pic hits In­sta­gram.

“Whoa, this is kinda crazy,” she says as more than 1,000 likes reg­is­ter un­der her photo in less than 60 sec­onds. Yes, 1,000.

@Shaym can dom­i­nate you like that. At 27, she spreads her se­duc­tive magic in so many ways and via so many plat­forms— on TV; in print as a model; on her Youtube chan­nel; with her lifestyle blog, char­i­ties, and en­dorse­ments; and via Face­book and In­sta­gram—she seems like an en­tirely new kind of celebrity life form. Too al­lur­ing and am­bi­tious to stick merely to one screen, Mitchell sucks you in to them all.

As we en­ter a gallery of Pi­cas­sos, she snaps a shot of a re­clin­ing nude even af­ter a uni­formed guard an­nounces that pho­tos aren’t al­lowed.

“I re­ally like tak­ing risks,” she whis­pers, gaz­ing with a head tilt at the paint­ing: a mas­ter­work of car­toon­ishly large breasts float­ing over a dis­em­bod­ied vagina. Mitchell flips back her chest­nut hair and grins.

“Poor woman,” she says. “Pi­casso ob­vi­ously did this way be­fore Pho­to­shop.”

THE PATH TO BE­COM­ING A GOD­DESS OF all me­dia be­gan with a col­lage in her child­hood bed­room back in Canada. Ev­ery­thing young Shan­non Ash­ley Mitchell craved was thumb­tacked up there: the Hollywood sign, glit­tery gowns, red car­pets, a white Range Rover. “I al­ways had this idea that if you fan­ta­sized about some­thing enough, it would come true,” she says. (Guess whose top-of-the-line white Range Rover is parked out front to­day?)

Mitchell grew up the el­der of two sib­lings in Toronto and Van­cou­ver with her mom, who’s Filipino, and her dad, a fi­nan­cial plan­ner who has roots in Ire­land and Scot­land. She started danc­ing at age five, and by her early teens, mod­el­ing agents were el­bow­ing each other aside to sign her to a con­tract. Mitchell isn’t coy about her de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed. “Friends of mine would say, ‘Shan­non’s gonna take over the world or die try­ing.’ Be­cause that’s what I al­ways talked about.”

As a young model, Mitchell con­torted in biki­nis for a few years on beaches in Thai­land and atop sky­scrapers in Hong Kong but ul­ti­mately grew rest­less. “A beau­ti­ful photo is amaz­ing, but just walk­ing into a room and be­ing judged on your phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, with­out be­ing able to be your­self, or even say any­thing—that was very frus­trat­ing to me.”

A pha­lanx of field-trip­ping third graders glances our way as we stroll into a room­ful of pop art. But it’s their young fe­male teach­ers

“IT’S SEXY BE­CAUSE TWO BEAU­TI­FUL GIRLS ARE SOFTER, MORE SEN­SU­OUS, SLOWER, and ALSO SORT OF ED­U­CA­TIONAL. GUYS WATCH BE­CAUSE THEY LIKE TO LEARN FROM IT. IT’S LIKE, ‘HEY, WHAT’S SHE DO­ING TO THAT OTHER GIRL’S BODY THAT I MIGHT WANT TO TRY?’”

who get that starry, dumb­struck gleam of recog­ni­tion in their eyes. To say that Pretty Lit­tle Liars is pop­u­lar among a wide swath of mil­len­nial women (along with ever-in­creas­ing num­bers of their male coun­ter­parts) is like say­ing the Pope is try­ing to make a few changes in Rome. Now in its fifth sea­son, Liars is usu­ally the most-watched cable pro­gram in its time slot. Most im­pres­sive, it con­sis­tently gets more Twit­ter love than any other scripted show ever— cer­tainly helped along by the re­lent­less so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­ity of its stars. The sea­son-four sum­mer fi­nale, in 2013, gen­er­ated a mind­blow­ing 70,000 tweets per minute dur­ing the last scenes, set­ting an all-time record.

Mitchell is a huge part of the draw, due largely to her char­ac­ter’s story arc of a beloved star swim­mer com­ing to grips with her sap­phic na­ture. For the record, she is straight (and tem­po­rar­ily sin­gle) in real life. But her TV char­ac­ter, Emily Fields, is the über-dar­ling of the (sub­stan­tial) pretty-lit­tle-les­bian dat­ing pool in fic­tional Rosewood, Penn­syl­va­nia. Em has a knack for show­ing up in a locker room just as a nu­bile friend tosses off a towel and leans in for a ca­ress.

“Peo­ple ask me what it’s like kiss­ing a woman, as if there’s some­thing awk­ward or weird about it,” Mitchell says. “I com­pletely em­brace it. When I step into Emily’s Con­verses, I’m truly in the mo­ment, and I’m fully at­tracted to the women I’m fool­ing around with. I’m not Shay when I’m do­ing that scene; I’m Emily.”

Mitchell is com­fort­able with the fact that her make-out scenes are the likely draw for a ma­jor­ity of the show’s male view­er­ship. She ex­plains it like this: “It’s sexy be­cause two beau­ti­ful girls are softer, more sen­su­ous, slower, and also sort of ed­u­ca­tional. Guys watch be­cause they like to learn from it. It’s like, ‘Hey, what’s she do­ing to that other girl’s body that I might want to try?’”

MITCHELL USED TO BE A BOT­TLE-SER­VICE wait­ress in some of the most ex­clu­sive VIP rooms in Canada, amid the vel­vet ropes, the mi­cro­mi­nis, the $1,000 tips, the bla­tantly phi­lan­der­ing pro ath­letes (“and the regular dudes who acted like them”). It’s where she learned ev­ery­thing she needs to know about the dirty se­crets men keep to them­selves. “It made me re­al­ize that I don’t want a guy un­less he’s mine and mine alone,” she says. “I want eye contact, phones face down on the ta­ble. If there’s some­thing in the room that’s more in­ter­est­ing than me, why are we even pre­tend­ing?”

It’s part of her larger world­view: a heavy dose of up­beat, can-do in­di­vid­u­al­ism, just the thing for a girl who grew up lis­ten­ing to Tony Rob­bins’ self-help CDS. “Two-thou­sand fif­teen is go­ing to be the big­gest year yet. I can feel it,” she says. Pretty Lit­tle Liars is con­firmed for two more sea­sons, and the au­di­ence and buzz con­tinue to grow. Mitchell’s blog, Amore & Vita, is now a boom­ing on­line fash­ion bou­tique. She has a slew of movie of­fers, and her new Youtube lifestyle chan­nel drew 100,00 fol­low­ers in its first 24 hours.

Speak­ing of num­bers, Mitchell lets out a com­pas­sion­ate sigh when I ask if we can check the to­tals on our friendly In­sta­gram bat­tle. I’m not com­pletely ap­palled to dis­cover that my photo gar­nered 14 likes in the hour since it posted. (At least it wasn’t zero.) As Mitchell checks her stats, her smoky eyes com­mu­ni­cate some­thing be­tween “I’m sorry” and “Pre­pare your­self, bro.” And then she hits me with the re­sults: 71,500. When I check a few hours later, it’s more than 150,000. By evening, it’s 236,397.

Then again, what’s not to like? ■

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