Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Stella Artois
Best known for her role as Emily on the hit ABC Family drama Pretty Little Liars, Shay Mitchell can now add author to her growing résumé. The actress—alongside Michaela Blaney, her best friend with whom she cofounded lifestyle blog Amore and Vita—has written her first novel, Bliss, loosely based on her early career and racy Hollywood experiences.
On this particular afternoon, Shay also put on her party-hostess hat, inviting us on the Manhattan by Sail’s sunset sailboat with Stella Artois, where she designed a dinner party on the sea and we got to chat about her book, entertaining tips, her girl squad, the biggest life lessons she’s learned, and how she maintains that awesome mane of hair.
Congrats on the book! It was so personal—and somewhat scandalous. Was that your goal?
Yes! This is not like Pretty Little Liars. I wanted to put a warning on the book [so girls would know] “I’d love you to be 16 or older t0 read this.” I’m talking about my life here; there is a lot of shit that happened at 21, both good and bad, and I wanted to put it out there. I’m basically living book three right now. I’m 28, and I have enough material from the last couple years of dating and relationships for the second book. I wanted to have fun with it, and I wanted it to be for my age demo. I’m not a little girl anymore. This is real life stuff, so … here it is.
So how true are the events?
It’s loosely fiction, [but] there are a lot of events in there that are true, events that we went through. The third character that we made up is sort of a mixture of girls that we know and stories we’ve heard. It’s fiction at the end of the day, but there are a lot of true events in there.
What are you most connected with in the story?
I’m most connected to the lessons that we learned growing up. At the end of each chapter, I wanted there to be a quote and a lesson, like finding your bliss at the end of your day. In your 20s or 30s, it’s not always gonna be easy, but you learn from every single experience that you have and that’s what you need to focus on.
What one piece of advice do you have for young women?
Celebrate being you. I know there are always times when you’re like “I wish I had her …” and “I wish I looked like …” At the end of the day, there’s only one of you and that in itself is a celebration. Instead of wanting to be like somebody else or change something about you, just embrace it and love it because you are adding so much into this world by being just one version of you.
We know you have a girl squad. Who’s in it?
Honestly, I’m so lucky to have a lot of great friends. The girls from my show are amazing, and we hang out all the time, especially Ashley [Benson.] Emmy Rossum is such a good friend, and we hang out a lot. Sophia Bush is another girl I absolutely love, and I have a lot of friends from Vancouver whom I knew before all this.
Let’s talk about fall fashion.
It’s all about playing with color. I go out to New York a lot, so I actually get to wear my fall and winter stuff. I love layering, especially sweaters and leather jackets.
And your beauty regimen?
I wear tinted moisturizer with SPF that also serves as a light foundation; it’s like killing two birds with one stone, which is amazing when I’m trying to rush out. And for me right now, it’s all about playing around with lipsticks and colors; I just love it. You can throw on sunglasses and do a great lip, and you’re set. I’m really into matte browns or wine tones right now.
Obviously your hair is incredible. What’s your secret?
Honestly, I try not to do much with my hair when I’m not shooting. I let it air dry a lot of the time. A beachy wave is my most comfortable style—it can get messed up even if it’s windy like today, and I can just toss it over. To style it, I use a clampless wand and just wrap hair it around.
Since you love entertaining, what are your tried-and-true tricks when hosting a party?
Everyone knows that I love to play hostess. It doesn’t matter if I’m inviting a girlfriend to the beach for a picnic or throwing a big poolside BBQ, I always try to add a few special, personal touches to a get-together. Working on the Stella Artois Host Beautifully campaign has taught me that a little goes a long way: Make sure you have your essentials—like good food, cold drinks, and playful decor—but don’t forget to bake in small details unique to your personality throughout the evening to really make it your own.