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INTERVIEW: How Pretty Little Liars‘ Shay Mitchell is redefining the girl next door

Shay Mitchell has gone skydiving in Dubai, hovered above the Earth in a hot-air balloon and come dangerously close to a cobra being wooed by a snake charmer. And need I mention the fact that the fearless actor currently stars in the pop culture monolith Pretty Little Liars?

But while life for this woman who dreams of cage-diving with great white sharks is certainly enviable in many ways, she’s ultimately just like the rest of us.

Mitchell relishes girl time with her best friends, like PLL costar Ashley Benson. Fashion is her favorite obsession. She dreams of far-off places (and thanks to her Instagram feed, so do we).

And, naturally, she’s suffered through bad breakups, the most recent of which she experienced last year, and has been refreshingly candid about since.

“I would say that everything happens for a reason,” she said. “You learn something from each of those relationships and, moving forward, only time can heal.”

Clearly, Mitchell is a girl who knows how to keep her eye on the silver lining. “There are other fish in the sea,” she added. “You were fine without that person before; you’ll be fine afterward. You know, it may be just time to enjoy yourself for a minute.”

Ah, yes, love is a fickle thing. But, like most of us, Mitchell remains a bit of a hopeless romantic at heart — a trait she got to embrace recently as the host of the Get Roped In dating show, hosted by SweeTarts.

“We had a great day that day… there were a lot of laughs! I don’t know where any of those matches will end up, but I do know they had fun on that group date and it was definitely fun to put them together,” she shared.

And, like so many modern women, Mitchell feels as though the traditional gender-role tropes are played out.

She elaborated, “Honestly, think from back in the day when people thought that way — that women should be at home and the men should be working. It has changed so much. You know, there are so many women that are working now, and I feel like there’s been a huge movement in that. Do I think it’s all fair and equal as it should be? No, we definitely have more room to grow in that regard. But I do feel like it has gotten better.”

But, arguably, the most interesting thing about the fact that Mitchell is so much like the rest of us is that, well, she isn’t.

Born in Ontario to a Filipino mother and an Irish/Scottish father, multicultural Mitchell is a beautiful reflection of the new normal developing in modern society.

It’s a truth not lost on Mitchell. “I feel really blessed to have been able to play a character who was, yes, not only gay but was also supposed to be the girl next door,” she explained. “And, according to the criteria and in the book — my character did not look anything like me — many years ago I don’t think I would have been considered the girl next door, but now I am.”

Today, Mitchell feels empowered by all of those things she may have been typecast for only 10 years ago.

“Now I feel like I am able to go out for those roles where they are asking for the all-American type because, really, how can you say I’m not?” she said. “You know, how can you still say there is a certain look? There isn’t.”

More on Shay Mitchell

Shay Mitchell just answered PLL fans’ biggest question (EXCLUSIVE)
Shay Mitchell’s 6 inspiring quotes about gay characters and body positivity
Friday’s Fashion Obsessions: Shay Mitchell and Minka Kelly

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