Shay Mitchell Talks Life Before ‘Pretty Little Liars’ with ‘Teen Vogue’

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In 2010, our lives were forever changed when we were introduced to Pretty Little Liars. Now, it’s hard to picture what life was like without Emily, Aria, Spencer, Hanna and all of the rest of the people in Rosewood. But that’s exactly what Shay Mitchell dishes on in the latest issue of Teen Vogue. Don’t care to reminisce on pre-PLL days? No worries, Shay also spills on the impact of playing a lesbian on TV, and her attitude toward those who didn’t think she could play Emily on the series.

Shay Mitchell, Teen Vogue April 2013 Cover

Fresh out of high school, Shay “went to Bangkok first… to model. I lived there for three months and then spent another three months in Hong Kong, and then I came back to Canada. It didn’t take me very long to realize that modeling wasn’t very satisfying. I was always asking people, “How are you going to set up this shot? How will it be lit?” And they’d say, “Stop. Just pose.” I had a problem with that. So when I got to Toronto, I sent my package out to, like, 34 different talent agencies, and in the meantime, I got a job working as a hostess at a restaurant/lounge, which I did for three years. Finally, someone at one of the agencies called me back. I started doing small parts in commercials and TV shows, and then I auditioned for Pretty Little Liars.”

When asked if she had any concerns or worries about playing a lesbian character, she says, “No. The casting directors told me Emily was gay and asked if I was cool with that, but I didn’t have to think twice. I have a lot of friends who are gay; my aunt had a girlfriend. It’s just normal. And the way that fans have reacted [to my portrayal of Emily] has been amazing: I’m not playing the gothic chick dressed in all black who eats lunch in the corner and is a lesbian. If you look at the poster, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pinpoint which one of us is the lesbian, and that was really important to me.”

Before the show aired, fans raised issues with the fact that Emily’s described as having pale skin, strawberry blonde hair, and freckles in the book series. Shay’s response: “Right. I remember being so excited to get the part, and then I started getting messages on Twitter saying, “You are not right for this.” In the casting breakdown, the producers said they were looking for the girl next door. Who’s to say I’m not the girl next door in this day and age?”

For more of Shay’s interview, visit TeenVogue.com or pick up the April 2013 issue of Teen Vogue on newsstands. If you’re still looking for a little bit extra, go behind the scenes of her shoot in the video below!

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