Why Shay Mitchell is Raising Her Daughter to be a Social Justice Activist

Morgan Noll

Amidst the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the ongoing fight to end systemic racism, there's one thing Shay Mitchell and her boyfriend, Matte Babel, are working to teach their nine-month-old daughter Atlas: how to be an activist. This may sound a bit complex for someone who's been on the earth for less than a year, but Mitchell believes it's crucial to get this training going as early as possible.

"This is something that I think is important for us to start in her reading routine right now, explaining the importance that everybody is treated equally and no matter what you look like, we all deserve to love and be loved without judgment," the former Pretty Little Liars star tells HelloGiggles. "And that is just something that we will continue to speak to her as she gets older."

Every night, Mitchell says, she and Babel read to Atlas books on social justice. Recently, they chose Innosanto Nagara's A is for Activist, a brightly illustrated children's book that uses short rhymes to cover issues like environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. As a biracial woman (Mitchell was born in Canada to a Filipino mother and white father) raising a biracial daughter, the actress is determined to pass down the same beliefs about equality that she was brought up on as a kid.

"I was definitely raised with the notion of treating everybody as equals no matter what you do, no matter what you look like, who you are, or what you identify as," she says.

Mitchell adds that she's grateful her parents ingrained those values in her and her brother growing up, and she believes that today, "everybody should have those conversations with their children."

Another important talk for families to have right now? How to navigate a global health crisis. "Fortunately for us, our friends and family all feel the same way, where health is number one, and we're taking all the safety precautions that the CDC recommends," Mitchell says of her pandemic experience, which has included teaching Atlas effective hand-washing techniques every day.

In addition to staying safe within her own home, the actress recently partnered with soap brand SafeGuard for a $10 million initiative promoting hand-washing practices, spreading hygiene education, and donating products to underserved communities across the U.S. For the initiative, Mitchell joined the #SafeguardSplash challenge on TikTok, which involved dancing to a catchy theme song created for the challenge while washing her hands. (FYI, she's also participated in a variety of other TikTok challenges like recreating Kylie Jenner and daughter Stormi's #ToddlerTemptation and dancing to Doja Cat's "Say So"—just in case you're looking for a new feed to scroll.)

The 33-year-old says she was excited to participate in the initiative and encourage other parents to teach healthy habits to their young kids. "It's really about showing our children the importance of proper hygiene and how to do it correctly and then making it fun," Mitchell says.

She also emphasizes the need for parents to instill in their children the idea of "not only protecting your family and friends, but also your community as well." That belief is why Mitchell has also used her platform to raise awareness about the disproportionate effects of coronavirus on people of color with her 28 million+ Instagram followers. "As we know, COVID has spread across the world, and it's taken a lot of lives, but it's disproportionately affecting minority communities," she says. In her "IMPACT" highlight, Mitchell encourages followers to donate to environmental, gender, and racial justice organizations like the Black Doctor COVID-19 Consortium, Re:Store Justice, Unicorn Riot, Black Visions Collective, Data For Black Lives, Girl Trek, and more.

The star is also working with her own travel brand, BÉIS, to respond to some of the world's most pressing needs right now. After Mitchell learned that the secondary compartments in the brand's luggage could be useful for doctors and nurses to keep their dirty scrubs and clean clothing separate, BÉIS started donating bags to frontline workers.

As a frequent traveler herself (and lover of what she calls #Shaycations), Mitchell hasn't been able to get out and explore as much as usual this year, but she's keeping a level head about it. "I've had to move quite a bit of travel, but you know, that's fine," she says. "It's better to do that and be safe." Right now, the most important trip on her mind is going to her parents' home in Vancouver so that she can see her mom and dad and Atlas can spend more time with her grandparents. But with everything going on, "We're just kind of doing everything day by day," Mitchell says.

She has the same attitude about re-starting production for the second season of Hulu's Dollface, a breakup comedy about female friendships in which she stars alongside Kat Dennings, Brenda Song, and Esther Povitsky. "I miss the girls and all of that," Mitchell says, but she's happy to wait as long as necessary to return to ensure everyone's safety. When it is finally okay to travel again and get back to work, she knows that getting back in the swing of things will require a big adjustment. After spending every day at home with Atlas, leaving her behind will take time to get used to, but Mitchell thinks it will be healthy for both of them.

"I think it'll be great for her to see that her mom goes to work and can balance a lot of different things in addition to being a mom," she says. "So many women have done that; my mom certainly did, and I think it was really encouraging and inspiring to see my mom get ready and go to work when I was younger."

As busy a mom, actress, and entrepreneur as she is, Mitchell seems to have her priorities exactly in order.

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