Shay Mitchell, born Shannon Mitchell to a Filipino mother and Irish/Scottish father, is a native of Toronto, Canada. Even as a young child, she was interested in the performing arts, declaring to her parents that she would pursue such a career. Shay began dance lessons at the age of five, and she and several of her classmates toured the city to compete with a variety of other dance schools.
At the age of 10, Shay's family moved west to Vancouver, British Columbia. Within a year of their arrival, an international modeling agency held an open casting call for teen and pre-teen girls who were vying for representation. Shay was one of the girls selected.
By her late teens, Shay had successfully modeled for a variety of companies in cities as varied as Bangkok, Hong Kong and Barcelona. Wanting to focus on her true passion, Mitchell returned to Toronto and began to study acting with great focus and determination.