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Shay Mitchell's Advice to Teens? 'Don't Try and Change Yourself'

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When Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell was asked to promote American Eagle’s “Live your Life” campaign, the answer was easy.

“I’m like, stop! Live your life … that is my entire motto,” she told PEOPLE recently at an American Eagle event in New York’s Times Square. “It’s live your life … live the most authentic life that you can do and celebrate your individuality and your own style.”

That mantra fits perfectly with Mitchell’s advice to teenage girls today: “Just stay true to who you are … don’t try and change yourself.”

It’s something the actress knows a bit about; she admitted that she did, at times, follow the crowd in her younger years. “There were a lot of things that I dealt with … that I now look back on and I’m like, ‘You’re crazy,'” she shared.

Among them? “Wearing blue contacts, dyeing my hair blonde, not tanning, not even wanting boobs when they were coming in.” In fact, looking back, she wishes she had “more confidence, and [liked] the fact that maybe I didn’t look like all my friends, you know?”

One way she thinks people can differentiate themselves? Through style. “I love seeing people with a different style, and I love seeing them wear the same dress, but like completely different, with motorcycle boots or edgy bracelets,” she explained.

But that doesn’t mean she’s overly focused on fashion. “To me, fashion isn’t serious. I can’t take it seriously,” she said. “It’s an expression of yourself. I think I just have fun with it.” Tell us: How do you like to express yourself?

–Sydney Berger