It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m standing in a crystal shop next to an amethyst the size of a grandfather clock, waiting for Mandy Moore.
It’s hard to explain, but today at 2 p.m., Mandy and I have an appointment with a mystic named Kate, who is scheduled to “read our auras.” As in, take a photograph of Mandy Moore’s aura, take a photograph of my aura, and then tell us what they mean. Trust me when I say this isn’t a normal weekend activity for me. Or for Mandy, as it turns out. (“Have you ever done this before?” are the first words out of her mouth. She hasn’t, and neither have I.)
It has already been one of the strangest weeks in history—the election was less than four days ago—so when the opportunity arises to interview my childhood pop icon, it feels natural to do something outside the box. I should probably be surprised when Mandy agrees to meet me, a perfect stranger, at an unfamiliar location 10 miles from her Hollywood apartment to have a silver-haired woman in palazzo pants scrutinize her spiritual character. But something about it feels like kismet. At 2 p.m. on the dot, Mandy walks through the door.
Traditionally when we interview celebrities, they show up with an entourage—a publicist, a bodyguard, a gaggle of girlfriends. But Mandy arrives at Aura Shop in Santa Monica, California, alone. Our next two hours together reveal why—the woman is more earnest, more adaptable, and lower-maintenance than most people I meet in Los Angeles, famous or not.
This fall, after half a decade out of the spotlight, Mandy made her big comeback as the star of NBC’s wildly popular new drama This Is Us; but her laid-back demeanor bears no sign of this. Perhaps it’s because her time off humbled her—before this season’s pickup, Mandy pursued three TV series that never made it to air. During that period, she considered changing careers. The rejection was “debilitating,” she tells me.
But I get the sense that graciousness is in Mandy’s nature. Throughout our day together, I almost feel like she’s hosting me instead of the other way around. After our aura reading, she walks me to a vegan ice cream shop down the street and buys me something called Death by Chocolate. “You’re going to love it,” she says. And I do.
Mandy’s beauty look reflects her authentic, self-effacing attitude. Her hair is tucked under a floppy, camel-colored hat. It’s shoulder-length and effortlessly waved. When I compliment it, she blushes. Her makeup is equally minimal—no foundation, just a trace of coral lipstick. (I make her dump out the contents of her purse at the ice cream parlor, where the secret to her pout is revealed: Linda Rodin’s Luxury Lipstick in Tough Tomato, $38, and Glossier’s Balm Dotcom, $12).
Mandy is 32 now, but her skin doesn’t seem to have aged like it should have since her smash hit “Candy” dominated the radio in the late ’90s. She chalks it up to genetics—when I ask about her anti-aging routine, she’s embarrassed to admit she doesn’t have one. “I’m trying to get better,” she says. “My boyfriend [musician Taylor Goldsmith] is really good about vitamins, and just this morning I made a pact to start a vitamin routine.” Before our meeting, Mandy swallowed a veritable pharmacy of pills: vitamins C and D, fish oil, selenium, iodine, and more. “I want to have kids in the next couple years,” she says. “I always said that I want to take care of myself to the best of my ability before I venture into that phase of my life.”
But even someone as low-maintenance as Mandy has her beauty vices. I spy a set of eyelash extensions, which Mandy breathlessly admits are her “most favorite thing in life.” As she explains, “I would have them a little bit longer and more glamorous if I could, but I can’t for work right now.”
In the likely event that you’ve never had your aura read before, this is how it works: Mandy and I meet individually with our spiritual guru, Kate, who takes a photo of each of us. Then a computer maps out head-to-toe images of our auras and spits out two detailed reports for Kate to analyze. Ever since I first heard of aura readings, I’ve been amused by the idea but never taken it too seriously. “I promise I’m a rational, skeptical person,” I assure Mandy. “Oh, I’m rational,” she smiles, “but never skeptical.”
Mandy and I compare auras: Mine is yellowish, apparently reflecting a state of knowledge and philosophical thought. Mandy’s is objectively prettier—a vibrant lavender, representing imagination and mysticism. “Are you in a period of change right now?” Kate asks her. Mandy nods, wide-eyed and attentive. Kate tells her she’s in a state of floating, needs to do something to get grounded. “Go home and write down two lists,” she says, “one of your top values in life and one of all the people you wish to forgive.” Kate pegs Mandy as an especially selfless person who needs to be careful with her heart. “You can’t give too much,” she says. “You need to have an open heart but with boundaries.” Mandy agrees, knowingly.
Before we leave, Mandy thanks everyone in the shop, then does a quick spin for a crystal souvenir. “Let the crystals choose you,” Kate tells her. On the way out, Mandy drops a breezy $312 on half a dozen colorful quartzes, reminding me, if I had any doubt, that she is indeed a world-famous celebrity. With a velvet bag of crystals in our possession, Mandy and I emerge into the cool Santa Monica air.
If you didn’t see Mandy Moore as the New Age–y, crystal-loving type before, don’t let our aura reading give you the wrong impression. Down the street, with a feast of plant-based ice cream before us, I ask her how much she really buys this spiritual stuff. “I appreciate all it has to offer,” she says with diplomacy. “I like to take care of myself, and I’m open to new ways of doing that.” When it comes to self-care, the only thing Mandy doesn’t buy into is doing something purely because it’s trendy. The rest is fair game. “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” she says. “I guess that’s sort of my philosophy.”
By nature, Mandy is not a ritualistic person. From makeup to nutrition to fitness, her life is uninformed by routine. Sticking to a consistent exercise program is one of her current struggles, especially with the demanding schedule of This Is Us. “I love hiking, anything that keeps me outdoors,” she tells me. “But I’m also the type of person who does better in a class situation because at least there’s some accountability. I’ll cycle or I’ll do a Barry’s [Bootcamp], you know?”
Rarely, though, does something in Mandy’s life root firmly enough to become a regimen. “Which is probably what my aura was saying that I need to ground myself in something,” she says, swirling her cup of ice cream. “It’s weird because I feel like so much of that aligns with being in therapy.” Mandy credits much of her mental wellness to talk therapy, which helped her through her divorce from musician Ryan Adams early last year. “A lot of what Kate said echoed stuff I heard in therapy; it’s about understanding yourself,” Mandy says. “I think that’s what all of us are truly trying to get to the core of. Who am I? What makes me tick? Why am I in these specific patterns, and how can I break them?”
The night before meeting Mandy, I binged the first six episodes of This Is Us (if you have a Hulu account, I highly recommend this), in which she plays a devoted mother of triplets. Ice cream cups empty, I ask her if she’s ever felt pressure to lead a more traditional family life—marry a lawyer, have kids before 30, that sort of thing—and she answers without hesitation: “No.” Mandy says her family is “the least traditional.” “I’ve never really talked about this,” she offers, “but my parents are divorced. My mother left my father for a woman. And both of my two brothers are gay.”
Growing up, Mandy’s nuclear family unit was still intact. “My parents loved each other; they did an incredible job raising all of us,” she says. It wasn’t until she and her brothers got older that their “seemingly traditional” family began to fracture. Getting married so young (she was 24 when she wed Adams in 2009) might have been a way of creating her “own kind of normalcy,” Mandy says. “Then I learned that that wasn’t going to be the fruitful experience I wanted it to be.”
Today, the actress says everyone in her family is “exactly where they should be. Everyone’s so much happier, richer, and more fulfilled, being their authentic selves.”
Even Mandy seems so much more at ease now, in her 30-something skin, than she did when we first met her 17 years ago. “I feel like I’m a 62-year-old in a 32-year-old’s body,” she jokes. Though Mandy says this with a laugh, I believe her. She has little nostalgia for the 15-year-old pop star we once knew. “Oh god, I was just a clueless suburban mall teenager from Orlando,” she says. “You couldn’t pay me to go back.”
Lucky for Mandy, forward is exactly where she’s going. “I’m totally ready,” she says. “I can’t wait until the day when watching 60 Minutes is perfectly acceptable for my age. The aging process: I say bring it on.”
If you could ask Mandy Moore one question, what would it be? Tell us in the comments below, and then check out our exclusive shoot with Priyanka Chopra.
Photography: Sacha Maric; Makeup: Jenn Streicher; Hair: Ashley Streicher; Styling: Dani + Emma