When we think of Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell, words that spring to mind are “Gorgeous!”, “Inspirational!” and “Slay!”. Once upon a time, however, Mitchell wasn’t immune to bullies; she had to deal with people who didn’t look up to her, and instead, were intent on tearing her down with their cruel actions and comments.
As most fans know, Shay is of Filipino and Caucasian descent, and hasn’t shied away from talking about how long it took her to become accepting of her heritage and appearance. The 29-year-old actress was raised in a predominantly White community in Vancouver (where her Filipina mother was often mistaken for her nanny) and tells Self that she was often ostracized by her peers because of her looks.
“Instead of going to the cafeteria, I’d say, ‘Why deal with this?’ and I’d eat in a bathroom stall,” Shay told the mag about her real-life Mean Girls experience. “At least when I left school for the day, it stopped,” she pointed out. “It doesn’t now. You have your phone on you, and the bullying continues. I can’t imagine having all these inescapable outlets when I was that age.”
Hence, landing the role of Emily Fields in PLL was like a dream come true for the actress, who says that she’s glad she’s been able to help other girls who are bullied come to terms with who they are. “I got to be the vehicle for a conversation about sexuality,” said Shay. “A lot of the feedback was ‘Thank you for playing this character.’
After watching Shay bring Emily’s journey — and overall awesomeness — to life over the past seven seasons of the hit Freeform series, we couldn’t imagine anyone else doing a better job handling the material with as much respect and sensitivity. Saying goodbye to Shay as Emily will be tough, but we also can’t wait to see what other projects she has headed her way.
That being you surprised by Shay’s childhood bullying stories? What will you miss most about Emily after the show’s final episode airs? We’re waiting to hear from you in the comments!