Here at Who What Wear Australia, we’re constantly scouring the film, television, music, and fashion talent pools to bring you the next big wave of emerging stars. So it excites us to bring you our new series, Girl on the Rise! We’ll be regularly spotlighting fresh faces on the verge, served with an exclusive interview and a side of great fashion.
Maia Mitchell shouldn’t need an introduction. The 22-year-old Australian actress has been on our screens for close to a decade, landing her first major role (on Mortified) when she was just 12 years old and since then, has gone on to star in a number of films and television shows—most notably as Callie Adams Foster in The Fosters. So with her ever growing IMDb page, why does she qualify as a ‘fresh face on the verge’? Mitchell is growing up, her style is evolving, and we can’t ignore the 3.6 million social fans who follow her every move.
Who What Wear Australia: How long have you been living in L.A.?
Maia Mitchell: It’s been four years now, which is crazy to say out loud.
I’ve been living by myself for the past two years, but I just moved out of my apartment in L.A.—I’m choosing to sort of be nomadic for bit, and just take it [living arrangements] month by month, depending on when we’re shooting the show [The Fosters] and when other jobs come up. I’m just going to follow the work and float around and travel. I’m young and don’t having anything tying me down so I’m going to take advantage of that. I’m actually very excited—it’s been really exciting for me to give myself permission to do that.
WWW: Does L.A. feel like home now?
MM: Definitely not, no. I’ve definitely been trying to make an effort to make it feel like home, and there are certain elements that I really love, but it’s not a very homey city—it isn’t very conducive to finding yourself.
WWW: So you’ve gone from Lismore [in NSW, Australia] to Hollywood, have you had a moment where you’ve thought to yourself ‘Okay, I’ve made it.’?
MM: No, definitely not—I don’t think that will ever happen, but you know there are certain moments that can be quite surreal. I think the first moment for me, was when I presented an award at the American Music Awards three years ago. I was kind of new to the city and I don’t think anyone there knew why I was presenting an award—even I had no idea why I was presenting one! But I just remember looking into the crowd, and Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and One Direction were all sitting there—it was a room full of just insane people—that was definitely one of the most surreal moments… and definitely hideously nerve-racking.
WWW: What do you miss the most about Australia?
MM: I miss many, many, many things. I miss my friends and my family of course. I miss the culture and the lifestyle, I miss the food—especially my mum's cooking.
I’m really lucky because I was just visiting home and I got to spend six weeks in Australia. I went to Uluru, which I’ve always wanted to visit. I realised that I spend so much time travelling around different countries, and hadn’t actually seen Australia. So I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to try and see all over Australia—it really was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever done.
WWW: Do you have a favourite Aussie breakfast?
MM: Oh, of course. Vegemite on toast for breakfast and then Vegemite and cheese for lunch.
WWW: Now onto the fashion… Who are some of your favourite Australian fashion designers?
MM: I love Sir the Label, Lover, Alice McCall, and Shakuhachi. Honestly, most designers that I love are Australian. Australians have great, simple taste—it’s more grounded.
WWW: Where do you love to shop?
MM: Honestly, most of my shopping happens at flea markets and in my town in Lismore, there’s this unbelievable market that I go to every Sunday, and pretty much all of my wardrobe is what I bought there from when I was in high school. I don’t really shop, and I don’t usually go for high-end designers when I shop. I’m so lucky because I’m able to work with a stylist and play dress ups and wear these amazing outfits to events and for work, and then in my real-life I honestly just live in T-shirts, skirts, jeans, sneakers or no shoes.
WWW: Do you think your style is influenced by the ’90s?
MM: I suppose it is, but I’m not really sure what influences it. I think that pop culture and fashion trends right now are pretty heavily influenced by that era too, so it’s hard to say. It’s just so accessible right now. I like mismatch patterns—checked pants with a stripe shirt, and off-beat outfits like that. I like to wear combinations you wouldn’t think make sense or don’t make sense.
WWW: What would be your go-to throw-on outfit for autumn?
MM: It would be a floral dress, sneakers (I bought Adidas Superstars and I haven’t taken them off in months) and a denim jacket.
WWW: Where do you find your style inspiration? Do you look at blogs and Instagram, or friends, stylists or old movies?
MM: I’m inspired by my friends and the people I grew up with—it’s quite an alternative area. Just having permission to be quite out-there and quirky has inspired me a lot. When we were going out in high school we were going to hang out in paddocks and going to parties in the middle of nowhere and walking around in Doc Martens and sleeping in the car that night, so I feel like I’ve been quite influenced by my social environment as to what I like to wear. I never wore heels until I moved to L.A., or makeup or anything like that. How I grew up and the people I surrounded myself with has affected the way I dress the most.
WWW: What have you learnt from working with different stylists?
MM: My stylist is Australian and she’s so fantastic. We try to use Australian designers and connect with the Australian fashion industry—I think that’s really important. She’s good at letting me know when I’m being a little bit too crazy and reeling me in a little bit. We have a fun back and forth, but what’s interesting is you don’t realise how political the fashion industry is until you’re in it, and I’m quite fascinated by that. It’s been interesting to get to know and become a part of.
WWW: If you weren’t an actress what do you think you’d be doing?
MM: I have absolutely no idea—there are many things that I’m interested in, but I’ve never thought about it long enough to come up with an answer. Maybe psychology? I definitely wouldn’t be able to sit in an office, I would find that really, really difficult—especially after being exposed to this line of work where you’re always running around at different location. It would have to be something on the scene—maybe a social worker or something very interactive.
WWW: What would your fans be surprised to hear about you?
MM: I prefer not to wear shoes when I can, and people always think it’s really weird.
WWW: I think that’s an Australian thing, we’re all a bit relaxed here.
MM: Yeah I didn’t wear shoes at all for like a month and a half when I was just in Australia, and I got back to L.A. and my friends were like, “Maia, what are you doing?”.
WWW: Have you got any career advice for aspiring actresses?
MM: This may sound blunt, but if there’s anything else you can imagine doing, or that you’ll be happy doing, do that first, because this is really hard, and you have to really, really, really love it for it to be worth it. The lifestyle is a huge sacrifice, and if you love your work, love getting up early and you’re excited by the idea of a day on set, then it’s totally worth sacrificing everything else.
WWW: You have a huge following on Instagram—what’s your favourite way to use the platform to speak to so many people?
MM: For me, I think it’s really important to reflect your real life on social media. Especially for young girls growing up in this social media age—what’s presented should be authentic, accurate and not always a glamorous, stilted version of reality. That’s unattainable and doesn’t really exist. I’ve always wanted to just be very upfront and treat it as I would treat a personal Facebook page.
WWW: What’s your stance on fashion, is it important to you? Is it a big part of your everyday life?
MM: My aesthetic is important to me. I like feeling good in what I’m wearing and I like feeling like a part of me is expressed through my aesthetic. As far as labels are concerned—not so much. I’m not really too concerned about what people think of my clothes, I just want to feel good when wearing them.
WWW: Last question, what’s your biggest goal for 2016?
My biggest goal is to travel more—I really want to go backpacking through Europe with my best friend. Hopefully that will happen in July.