Hey, Shay! Pretty Lit­tle Liars ac­tress Shay Mitchell gets hon­est about so­cial-me­dia star­dom and crit­i­cism.

Ocean Drive - - Contents - by KATIE JACK­SON pho­tog­ra­phy by RAN­DALL SLAVIN

From your smart­phone to the big and small screens, ac­tress, ac­tivist, and so­cial me­dia su­per­star Shay Mitchell is slay­ing Hol­ly­wood and be­yond as the girl next door— but not with­out speak­ing her truth and in­spir­ing her (mil­lions of) fol­low­ers.

I na place like Hol­ly­wood, where the me­dia glare is un­for­giv­ing and im­per­fec­tion can be fa­tal, it’s rare to en­counter some­one who is truly down-to-earth. En­ter Shay Mitchell. The Cana­dian-born bomb­shell was cat­a­pulted into the spot­light at just 23 years old when she landed the role of the sporty and spunky Emily Fields on the hit tele­vi­sion show Pretty Lit­tle Liars. Fast-for­ward seven years and Mitchell has so­lid­i­fied her sta­tus as an in-de­mand ac­tress, launched a life­style chan­nel on Youtube, coau­thored a novel ti­tled Bliss, and be­come one of the fiercest and most fol­lowed so­cial me­dia stars of her gen­er­a­tion. Yet de­spite her suc­cess, she re­mains gen­uinely kind and hum­ble, con­tin­u­ously re­mind­ing us that she’s “just like any­one else.”

Now, with the PLL se­ries fi­nale air­ing in June, a very dif­fer­ent role in the up­com­ing hor­ror film Ca­daver, and a new decade ahead of her (she turned 30 in April), Mitchell’s star is shin­ing brighter than ever. She has a zest for life that is as charm­ing (and ir­re­sistible) as it is in­spir­ing. It’s no won­der she has 16 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers and count­ing...

What’s your fa­vorite Pretty Lit­tle Liars mem­ory?

My first day on set and the very first scene that I shot with Lucy Hale. It was the same scene that I au­di­tioned with. Those mem­o­ries just stick with you. And the last scene will al­ways be a re­ally fond mem­ory, al­though sad. It was all of us girls say­ing good­bye, and it was by far the hard­est thing I’ve ever done. All of us were cry­ing. And if one of us stopped cry­ing, we would look over at the other one who was cry­ing and we would start again! It was in­cred­i­bly emo­tional. It’s been seven years and a long jour­ney, and so many things hap­pened—from our crew grow­ing up and hav­ing kids to en­gage­ments and wed­dings. We have been a huge fam­ily, and it’s al­ways sad to say good­bye.

What did you think of the PLL fi­nale?

Mar­lene King [the show’s cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] has said that this last sea­son was like our love let­ter to the fans. We wanted to re­ally give a sea­son to them, which meant that it would be the most ro­man­tic sea­son and one that would an­swer ev­ery ques­tion that peo­ple have had—most of them, at least. You will find out who has been the mas­ter­mind of this en­tire thing, and it’s go­ing to be a re­ally fun ride for the fans.

You’ve said that the hard­est part about your ca­reer is the crit­i­cism. What have you been crit­i­cized for?

So many dif­fer­ent things! I do have a big so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing, and the more you put your­self out there, the more you lend your­self to be­ing crit­i­cized. As long as I’m good with who I am and I can go to sleep at night con­fi­dent with how I spend my time, my day, and the type of per­son that I am, then all is fine. The crit­i­cism started when I first went into the PLL role and [the crit­ics said], “Oh, she doesn’t look any­thing like the char­ac­ter. The char­ac­ter is sup­posed to have red hair, fair com­plex­ion, and freck­les; she looks noth­ing like that.” I thought, All right, that was the girl next door, and I’m the new ver­sion of the girl next door. The world is a melt­ing pot now. It’s no longer the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. That didn’t stop me for one sec­ond from want­ing to go in and give it a try. I still wanted to give them my best take on who I thought this char­ac­ter was. And had I stopped at that phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion this char­ac­ter was known for, then I wouldn’t be here right now. It’s all about tak­ing chances and step­ping out of your com­fort zone. About not tak­ing no for an an­swer and con­tin­u­ing to fight for what you want. If we don’t, then we can’t com­plain about stay­ing stag­nant.

You’re a queen on so­cial me­dia! How do you take a good selfie?

My big­gest tip is to take 5,000 pho­tos. I’m not even jok­ing. My friends who have taken pho­tos of me know that it takes an en­tire cam­era roll full of pho­tos, and hope­fully, fin­gers crossed, there will be one that I like. I al­ways want to make it a point to say that when girls say, “You take such good pho­tos!” Also re­al­ize that I, like you, take 5,000 dif­fer­ent shots to get the one I like. We all do the same thing; I’m def­i­nitely no dif­fer­ent. And I re­ally think [so­cial me­dia] shouldn’t be taken too se­ri­ously. I like see­ing other peo­ple’s out­fits of the day, so if I’m wear­ing an out­fit that I like, I take a photo against a white wall and there we go. So start filling up your cam­era roll, okay? And al­ways find the light! Nat­u­ral light is the best.

You’re also fol­lowed for your beauty tips and style se­crets, but was there ever an awk­ward stage?

I was so awk­ward when I was 14, 15, and 16 years old, and be­fore that and after that. We all go through a phase when we look back at pho­tos and are like, “Why was I do­ing that?!” I con­stantly ask my mom, “Why did you let me dye my hair blonde and wear green con­tacts? When did you think that was a good idea?!” And my mom al­ways says the same thing: “I just wanted you to be who you were and who you wanted to be at that time and have no re­grets.” And I don’t re­gret it. It’s funny to look back at pho­tos and see your­self so dif­fer­ent. But if I could have given my­self ad­vice back then, I would have just said, “Em­brace your nat­u­ral beauty and en­hance what you al­ready have.” I was al­ways try­ing to change my­self and con­form to what my friends and girls around me looked like, or girls in the mag­a­zines. Most of the time, they had blonde hair and light eyes and weren’t as tan as me. So there was a big pe­riod in my life where I was do­ing ev­ery­thing that was the op­po­site of what I was born with. I think now what has helped me the most is stay­ing true to what I was born with nat­u­rally. We al­ways have those up and down days, but we should cel­e­brate the fact that we are all unique. That thing that you don’t like, it could also be the thing that makes you dif­fer­ent from other peo­ple. And if we all looked the same, wouldn’t that be bor­ing?

Do you see kids in your fu­ture?

One hun­dred per­cent. That is some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted. Fam­ily is a huge part of life. I am def­i­nitely not rush­ing to have that hap­pen right away, but when it does, great!

You’ve done a great job at keep­ing your pri­vate life pri­vate. How do you do it?

When I want to go out and have fun with my friends, I know there are places where pa­parazzi aren’t go­ing to take your pic­ture. I’ve been caught hav­ing a few too many drinks, and you’re ask­ing for it when you go to places where there are pa­parazzi. But if you want to have fun and let loose, there is no bet­ter place than your home. I have peo­ple over quite of­ten, and it’s my sanc­tu­ary. I can be who I want to be and let loose and not have to worry about cam­eras or any­thing. I think you just have to be care­ful in pub­lic and on so­cial me­dia as well. Don’t put up things that you think you’re go­ing to take down

in a mo­ment. Peo­ple [take] screen­shots. So I’m re­ally care­ful. I love wine and have drinks with din­ner; I’m no an­gel. But I also don’t have to be in the pub­lic eye when I’m hav­ing fun like that.

Is dat­ing in Hol­ly­wood dif­fi­cult?

I think it’s hard to date in gen­eral. Ev­ery­one has the same strug­gles, whether you work in Hol­ly­wood or not. We all have the same in­se­cu­ri­ties when it comes to re­la­tion­ships. The only dif­fer­ence in Hol­ly­wood is that your re­la­tion­ship is more pub­lic. It’s about how com­fort­able peo­ple in Hol­ly­wood are with post­ing about their re­la­tion­ship and know­ing it is go­ing to get picked up by ev­ery sin­gle news out­let. For me, like other parts of my life, I want to live it ex­actly how I want to live it. If I post some­thing on so­cial me­dia, then you have all the right in the world to ask me about it, be­cause I’m putting it out there. But with [re­la­tion­ships], I don’t. I’m hav­ing fun, I’m very happy, and that’s it. I don’t want to have any­one look at my In­sta­gram and see a time­line of guys I’ve dated.

Your char­ac­ter on PLL is gay and you’ve said in the past you can love who­ever you want to love. What does love mean to you?

I be­lieve that love means that the per­son brings out the best ver­sion of you. When I love some­one, I love be­ing in their pres­ence. And it’s also about putting some­one else’s hap­pi­ness first.

You Snap a lot of your work­outs, some­times do­ing three in a row. How do you find the time?

When­ever peo­ple ask, “When do you feel most beau­ti­ful or con­fi­dent?,” it’s after I work out. It’s then even more so than when I’m on a red car­pet all glammed up, be­cause I’ve got­ten stronger and pushed my­self. I’m a com­pet­i­tive per­son, but I’m com­pet­i­tive with my­self more than any­body else. Do I think I’m ex­treme? Yes, ab­so­lutely. Do I think peo­ple need to do three work­outs in a day? No. But if it makes you happy, then go for it! The body is such a won­der­ful ma­chine and you don’t un­der­stand or ap­pre­ci­ate it un­less you take care of it. That’s why I like to do it, and be­cause of the fact that I fuck­ing love food so much and I need to work it off.

What’s your ul­ti­mate cheat meal?

When I’m in Miami, you will prob­a­bly find me at Joe’s Stone Crab; it’s the first place I go. That Key lime pie is not okay. I’ve had it flown to my house in LA. I can’t even de­scribe it. It’s too good!

What else do you like to do when you’re in Miami?

I love Lit­tle Ha­vana and the live mu­sic. I love the Span­ish in­flu­ence that Miami has, and I love go­ing out danc­ing. I went to Ball & Chain and just started danc­ing with the older man out­side. And I like to peo­ple-watch in there, too. The women are so glam­orous and done up. Miami is so sexy.

You’ve worked with a lot of dif­fer­ent char­i­ties. What is one that is close to your heart?

Free the Chil­dren [now called WE Char­ity] is such a great or­ga­ni­za­tion. They go around the world to dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and teach chil­dren how to be self-suf­fi­cient. They also help build wa­ter wells and schools so that kids around the globe can have an equal chance at an ed­u­ca­tion. To me, that is so im­por­tant, and when­ever I can help out, I do.

Dress, Ralph Lau­ren Col­lec­tion ($2,990). Bal Har­bour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-861-2059; ralphlau­ren.com. Turquoise ring, David Webb ($24,000). bro­ken en­glish­jew­elry.com

Dress, Ralph Lau­ren Col­lec­tion ($2,990). Bal Har­bour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-8612059; ralphlau­ren.com. 14k gem­stone hoops, Jac­quie Aiche ($3,250). Saks Fifth Av­enue, Brick­ell City Cen­tre, 701 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 786-9073800; saks.com. Betty...

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