Four minutes into my meeting with Shay Mitchell at the Edition Hotel in New York City and we're already talking about dating apps, meaning we're not even remotely sticking to the topic I was brought in to discuss with her: birth control. In my defense, the 31-year-old actress and YouTube sensation has the kind of easy-going, approachable nature that makes it too easy to forget that I'm there for work. Throughout our conversation, it quickly becomes obvious that Shay could make anyone in her orbit feel comfortable dishing to her about, well, anything — even birth control.
My original mission was to talk to Shay about her recent collaboration with the Know Your Birth Control campaign, an initiative launched by pharmaceutical company Allergan to help empower women with information about birth control. Once we get back on topic, it's clear that it's exactly her knack for taking a potentially uncomfortable situation (you know, like an interview at 9 in the morning with a total stranger about contraception) and making it feel totally natural that makes her the perfect woman for the job.
When I ask Shay what motivated her to get involved with the Know Your Birth Control mission, the former Pretty Little Liars star credits her upbringing and the open dialogue she shared with her parents at home. "Growing up and always having that safe space to talk to my parents no matter what it was, I really did feel when it came to [birth control] decisions I was super informed and confident about whatever decision I made."
But Shay wants women to know that they should never feel like they need to come up with all of the answers about their birth control options on their own. "It's OK to not know, you know? And that's why there are resources out there and available to you to educate yourself prior to going and talking to somebody. [Informing yourself first] is, like, a good first step, is how I like to explain it."
When it comes to taking control over her own health choices — birth control and otherwise — Shay says her first step is always the same: gather all the information she can. "I don't rely on other people. I do my own research and then I go and talk to a professional. In any regard — health, wellness, fitness, whatever — I always like to do my own reading about it and do that as my initial step, and then I like to go and talk to a professional about whatever it is."
So, how advanced is Shay's knowledge about her own birth control? Pretty damn good, based on the trivia video she made for the Know Your Birth Control campaign. Shay hopes other women take the quiz and use it to "find out just how much you know or how much you don't know. And then whatever questions you have you can go and speak to somebody about it and get the right answers."
Toward the end of our conversation, I find myself oversharing one more time (again, it really is too easy to do that with her), chiming in to admit that I'm in my mid-20s and know next to nothing about the birth control pills I've been taking for years. In what I'd guess is typical Shay fashion, she immediately flashes a big, understanding smile, and without missing a beat says, "YES, 100 percent!" before moving on seamlessly to talk about her next Shaycation (it's Vancouver, by the way). Shay just really is that good at making any conversation — even one about contraception with a total stranger at 9 in the morning — easy and fun.