Maia Mitchell is well on her way to becoming your next favorite young starlet. Hailing from Australia, the 20-year-old actress found her big break starring in Disney’s Teen Beach Movie, where she sang, surfed and danced her way through a 1962-themed musical time warp. The movie pulled in 13.5 million viewers and came second only to megahit High School Musical 2 as the most watched Disney telepic.
Now, Mitchell currently plays bad-girl Callie on ABC Family’s The Fosters, a show that’s been getting a lot of attention for its portrayal of LGBT characters. Her role—a foster child of a biracial lesbian couple—is often drawn to trouble, giving her plotlines that are mature and challenging for the young audience the show targets.
“I didn’t have any concept of what the programming particularly in America was lacking and so I feel blessed and I’m really lucky that I landed in the middle of a show that’s really progressive but is also entertaining,” Mitchell said.
We had the chance to shoot the actress on an 18-hour trip to New York, styling her in a look that falls somewhere between her fun Disney character and the bad-ass Callie (think ripped jeans, crop tops, statement jewelry, and smokey eyes.) We also got to talk with her about where her character is going next, what her favorite style secrets are, and how she’s finding the switch from an easygoing Australian lifestyle to the famously fast pace of in Los Angeles.
We’re dying to know: What’s next for Callie?
You’re going to see her really trying to piece her life together. I think she’s trying to figure out whether she wants to embrace this new family she’s found out she has, and what that means for her past. She’s trying to move forward to be a part of the Fosters and to be able to kind of function as an adult and she’s beginning to feel like maybe she needs to understand all of the elements of her past.
And maybe she does need to open some doors that she’s potentially weary to open and could bring out some stuff from the past that she’s really going to have to work through.
Okay, let’s talk fashion: Do you have any go-to pieces you reach for every day?
I do, I wore it today! Basically, I always wear high-waisted jeans because they work with my body. And then a crop top and sneakers or sandals. And if I’m having a bad hair day— which I usually am if it’s me doing my hair—I’ll just wear a hat or a beanie and that’s pretty much my go-to.
What are some of your favorite places to shop?
I generally find myself shopping at secondhand or vintage stores, just because it’s cheap and also I think you can find some really interesting individual pieces.
I really like Zara, especially in the winter. [I think] their coats and jackets are really smart and fashion-forward. I also think that Topshop has some really good options that aren’t too expensive. I don’t like spending a lot of money on clothes. I think you can find really great stuff for really cheap if you look hard enough.
What are your tips for shopping vintage?
You always have to try it on. Other than that just look for whatever you feel comfortable in. You have to be patient, you have to really dig to find the gems, but if you commit and you have time, its definitely worth going through.
We love asking people this: What’s your most used emoji on your phone?
I love the squid emoji. The cry face is always a good one. And the sunglasses one.
What do you find are some of the biggest cultural differences between in the states versus Australia?
In terms of the media, I think Australia is a lot more low key. I grew up doing television but there was never a strong media influence, so that was good for me. American culture is completely different, I wasn’t expecting that. I’m still dealing with some culture shock and there are subtle nuances that are different, so I think it’s about adapting and kind of making the most of wherever I am.
I’m still getting used to L.A. and America. In L.A .,everyone’s talking about television or what script they’re writing, but [in Australia] people aren’t chatting about film ideas in Starbucks, so it’s really refreshing when I go home.
Ultimately, where do you see yourself settling down?
L.A. is an interesting city. It’s full of really creative people but it’s also a very bizarre place. It’s odd and can feel a bit like a bubble so, going home [to Australia] is really advantageous for [stepping out of that] bubble. I love Sydney and I love Melbourne, they’re really great cities. I also love New York and I would love to be able to spend more time here. Being here for 24 hours is just a tease! I’d love to spend more time out here for sure.
Are you used to the Hollywood red carpets?
I see red carpets as dress-ups. Because there’s so much work involved in it and there’s so much preparation, if you see it as almost a game of dress up it makes it easier to step on the red carpet and feel confident. You’re not feeling too exposed if you’re wearing a costume almost. I’m definitely getting more brave.
What’s next for you, career-wise?
I’d love to go home to Australia and become more integrated in the film industry there because Australia is really producing some amazing dramas and some amazing films so that’s kind of where my focus is right now in terms of trying to pick an interesting role in an interesting film.
Want to learn more about Maia? Find out all her favorite beauty tricks and how she maintains those amazing eyebrows on Beauty High!
Photographer: Greg Sorensen, Kate Ryan Inc.
Stylist: Sofia Karvela
Makeup Artist: Samantha Trinh, Kate Ryan Inc.
Hairstylist: Kozmo, Bryan Bantry
Editorial Director: Sam Lim
Beauty Director: Rachel Adler