To say that Janel Parrish is booked and busy is to make an understatement on par with calling a hurricane "light rainfall." On the day we spoke alone—and a Friday afternoon, at that—Janel's schedule was enough to stuff an entire G-Cal. Her movie, the final installment in the To All The Boys I've Loved Before trilogy, premiered on Netflix that day, she was on-location for a new project, doing hours of press, attending several fashion shows that weekend, and still managed to fit some resistance bands workouts in between it all. While we (me) might be stressed just reading that, Parrish is taking it all in stride. The self-described "musical theater geek" has been performing, acting, and singing since her childhood days on Broadway to her roles on generation-defining media like Pretty Little Liars and To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Online, the Hawaii-born star routinely regales fans with pictures from film sets, colorful makeup looks she's test-driving, and lots of puppy pictures. The effect is warm, familiar, and sisterly, not unlike what it feels like to speak to Parrish directly.
These days, Parrish manages her busy workload with grace, dedication, and some serious organizing hacks both on-the-go and at home. She's focused on work, friends, and family but also keenly aware of Hollywood's struggle to platform Asian American stories and creatives and knows where the industry needs to improve. No matter the subject we're on though, be heavy like racial representation or lighter like her makeup challenges, Parrish stays so overtly hopeful and positive that it's not long before you feel it too.
Here, we caught up with the multi-hyphenate Parrish to talk about her newest projects, top makeup tips and favorites, and how she keeps her life together while constantly in-motion:
I know you're getting ready for NYFW's virtual shows now. How does getting prepped for a digital event differ from an in-person one?
Well, the main thing is that I'm going to be doing it myself here! [LAUGHS] But it's fine because I'm having help from the amazing makeup artist, Vincent Oquendo. He's going to help me create my makeup look with everything I have for the Jason Wu show, I'm really excited. It's going to be super fun.
Do you have a makeup look that makes you feel most confident or like yourself?
I really like bold lips and eyeliner. I have my go-to eyeliners and lipsticks I've been using for years so I'm really excited for Vincent to show me what I can do with that. It's really fun to rediscover the makeup and the fun lip colors and eyeliners I've already had in my collection for so long and play with them and do something new.
What are some must-have items that never leave your purse?
Oh, yeah! I always gotta have my mascara, I always gotta have sunscreen, a good lip balm. One brand I'm obsessed with—I really love Tata Harper. They're a clean beauty company so everything in all of their face serums and face creams is organic and so amazing, I'm obsessed with them. I also love Bare Minerals for the same thing, all their mineral powders are so good on my skin. Love them. Also, I'm a sucker for L'Oréal. Their lipsticks? I mean, I have them in my collection at all times. Their lipstick colors, I haven't found anything that beats them. The pigment is so strong and so beautiful. My favorite mascara is any of the L'Oréal mascaras, I like to switch them up. But I like to layer two different ones, that's kind of my secret: a lengthening one, and then I do a volumizing one on top.
You're constantly on the go, on-set, shoots, at work, everything. How do you keep organized while always in motion?
Yes! Right now, I'm obsessed with the Ziploc Accessory Bag. They are amazing. We all have Ziploc in our households, but now they have these thicker, cute ones that are for your purses. They're reusable, they're washable, you can wipe them down and are so great for anything. Especially when I go to set, I like to have a big tote bag so I put my scripts in there and all the things I want for set, so Ziploc Accessory Bags fit so perfectly in my purse. They have two different sizes: the bigger one is perfect because it expands on the bottom so it's perfect for putting my toothbrush, my cellphone charger, my AirPods. And the smaller one is perfect for makeup. They just help me keep things organized because, like you said, I'm always on the go. Otherwise, I'd just throw eventing in my purse and everything would just go in there and die and just disappear. [LAUGHS]
Your new movie, the third installment in the To All The Boys I've Loved Before series, is out now, congrats! Do you have any favorite memories from set?
The movie is out on Netflix now which is so exciting to end this chapter with a third movie. I think fans are really going to love it, and I think it's the most romantic movie of the three. And you get a lot of sister time! A lot of family time. You see my character a lot more than the second film. We got to go to Korea and shoot which was just a dream. I think the movie is so visually stunning as well, I think people are really going to like it.
What was filming in Korea like? It seems like it was an incredible experience with your castmates.
It was a dream come true. I had never been to Asia—actually, all three of us had never been to Asia. So to be in Seoul for three weeks together, we're the best of friends, tromping around through this amazing city, eating all the food, going to all these amazing tourist destinations pre-COVID. It was such an amazing experience. And we actually got to wrap the movie in Korea together which was such an amazing memory I'll treasure forever.
Considering your hectic schedule, do you have any favorite fitness routines or workouts?
When I'm home, I've been obsessed with my Peloton bike. I just think it's so much fun and it kind of tricks you into thinking you're back at the studio with people because the energy just bounces off the screen. But when I'm on the go, I bring my resistance bands with me and there are a bunch of little exercises I like to do. It's so easy. Like today, I have a long press day so I just brought my bands upstairs with me and between interviews, I'm just popping them on and doing a couple things here and there. I feel so much better and so much more energized when I'm active.
When you do get some time to yourself, how do you like to relax and practice self-care?
Honestly, during this time, it's been a really good time for me to reorganize my life and get my life together! [LAUGHS] Because like you said, I'm usually so on-the-go so it's been so fun to like, reorganize my makeup kit and go through it and rediscover makeup I'd forgotten about and reorganize it which is really fun. I'm a big fan of self-care days and taking nice, long bubble baths and reading a book, just listening to my body and giving it what it needs. I think it's so important to listen to ourselves and be kind to ourselves when we have the time to do so.
Growing up, did you see yourself represented in media and magazines? Do you think that affected your perception of beauty?
Growing up as an Asian American, I definitely did not see myself represented on-screen very often back then. There were definitely a few movies and actresses that did represent Asian Americans and I clung to that with so much hope: like The Joy Luck Club, or Flower Drum Song. I'm a huge musical theater geek so Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon. I clung to those things because I was like, "I see myself represented there so if they can do it, I can do it and that means there's a place for me in Hollywood or on-stage." I think I just always kept hopeful. I don't think it discouraged me. I'm sure it did a couple times growing up, but for the most part I always had faith and was inspired by these beautiful Asian women that were represented on-screen, thinking, "That'll happen again." I'm so glad to be apart of a movie with To All The Boys I've Loved Before, that really is helping to take strides toward representation in the industry. To see it more and more is beautiful and exciting and makes me really happy.
Where would you like to see the industry go from here in terms of Asian American representation? Where needs more work in your opinion?
I think we're getting there. I think the key is when it's normalized. We're totally getting there, and back to To All The Boys, it's really beautiful to see that be the case in this film. Even though Lara Jean is Asian American, it's not the sole focus of the movie; it's not the plot, it's not built around it. It just happens to be her story, and she just happens to be Asian American. To see Asian Americans be given a platform to have a voice to tell their stories and it not be a big deal that they're Asian American, not have it be the sole focus of the movie, that's when it's normalized and that is huge. That's such a big step. I think we're getting there and it's exciting to see.
Do you have any advice you'd give to young Asian American actors and actresses who are trying to make it in the industry now? What's something you wish someone had told you?
Wear it like a superpower. Don't ever let it make you feel like you're different, don't ever let it make you feel insecure in any way. Wear your identity and who you are and your uniqueness like a superpower.