The Stunning Transformation Of Janel Parrish

Fans may recognize Janel Parrish from her parts on the show Pretty Little Liars and in the Netflix film To All the Boys I've Loved Before, but there is a lot more to her resume than these roles. Parrish's career goes back decades — the star got her start in show business when she was just a few years old. It took her several years to reach mainstream success, but, now that she's made it, there's no stopping her.

Many people may not know that the actress actually has roots in musical theater. Parrish's impressive musical chops are just one of the things that makes her a force to be reckoned with, as there is a lot more to Parrish than meets the eye. From her early days on the stage to her life post-Pretty Little Liars, Janel Parrish has come a long, long way, and her transformation has been a stunning one.

Janel Parrish's parents discovered her talent when she was just 4

Janel Parrish got her start in the performing arts when she was just a little girl. It was actually Parrish's dad, Mark, who discovered his daughter's talent. He revealed to the Honolulu Advertiser that he had known his daughter wanted to perform since she was 4 years old, but it wasn't until she was 5 that he realized how truly talented she was.

Mark explained that he had bought the soundtrack for The Phantom of the Opera in preparation for bringing his family to see it on stage when the show's tour came to Honolulu. He played the music in the car and was surprised when his then-5-year-old daughter started singing along — in perfect pitch. "I realized that she had a pretty good singing voice for such a young age," said Mark, who also revealed that she had been making up songs since the age of 4.

One of Parrish's teachers, Carol Nishita, also recognized her talent, saying that it was clear that "she had some training with her voice" even in kindergarten and that the budding star "kinda stood out with her personality and charisma."

Janel Parrish got her start on stage

It wasn't long before Janel Parrish landed her first major role as young Cosette in the touring company of Les Miserables. She told So Fetch Daily (formerly The Daily Quirk) that she was around 6 years old when her father saw the casting call and Parrish decided she want to audition.

Parrish had "no training, no experiences whatsoever" but went out for the part because she "really, really wanted to do it." She landed the role. "From then until [age] 11, musical theater was my life," said Parrish. She would later go on to play the role for a Broadway Company production.

While landing the role of young Cosette was a dream come true for Parrish, being on tour was difficult for the family. Her mom, Joanne, accompanied her on the tour, leaving the rest of the family behind. Parrish's father, Mark, told the Star Bulletin that having his wife and daughter on the road was "more of a trying situation on the rest of the family," noting that he'd missed them.

Janel Parrish's mixed ethnicity made it hard for her to land roles

When Janel Parrish was 14, her parents decided to move the entire family to California for her to pursue her acting dreams. Moving to another state was hard for Parrish, who told Entertainment Tonight that the move to Hollywood "was lonely and it was terrifying." The move was so difficult on Parrish that there were times when she thought she had made the wrong decision. It's clear that the move eventually paid off, but things were touch and go for a while, especially because her mixed Chinese and Caucasian ancestry made it difficult for her to land roles. "I was getting discouraged because I was really close to getting a part (but didn't)," she told the Honolulu Advertiser.

"Being a mixed-race actress was very difficult, especially growing up," Parrish told SheKnows. She explained that she didn't "quite fit into the Hollywood look" when she first moved to California, but things got easier for her as she got older because she no longer had "to fit into a family in roles."

Janel Parrish's big break was in Bratz

While Janel Parrish may have had doubts about whether she would find mainstream success as an actress, she was destined to be a star. She finally got her big break in 2007's Bratz, playing Jade. Parrish was 18 when the film was released. The then-teen revealed that she was so excited to land the role that she screamed when she found out and bought a Bratz doll to commemorate the moment. "It was just a dream role; I got to sing, dance, act and perform," she told the Honolulu Advertiser. Parrish added that she identified closely with her character, who was also a creative teen pursuing her dreams.

The movie wasn't just Parrish's big break — it also validated her decision to move to Los Angeles. The actress told Entertainment Tonight that she "couldn't believe" that she was exactly what Bratz was looking for, revealing that the breakdown "said they wanted somebody who was diverse ... [who was] mixed Asian."

Pretty Little Liars catapulted Janel Parrish to superstardom

While Bratz was Janel Parrish's big break, it was her role as Mona on Pretty Little Liars, alongside actresses like Lucy Hale and Shay Mitchell, that truly catapulted her to superstardom and established her as a household name. Parrish landed the role three years after Bratz, starring on the show from 2010 to 2017. The show took fans on quite a wild ride and was also exciting for Parrish, who didn't always know what the writers had in store for her character. Parrish said that Mona was "crazy," but she did have fun exploring her character, especially her vulnerability. "Just wanting to be accepted is something I [feel] like a lot of people can relate to," she told Seventeen.

A couple years after Pretty Little Liars wrapped, Parrish reprised the role of Mona in a spinoff of the show, The Perfectionists. Parrish was only able to revisit the character for ten episodes, though, as The Perfectionists was canceled after one season.

According to her website, Parrish won Teen Choice Awards in 2012 and 2013 for her Pretty Little Liars role. 

Janel Parrish has always been "one of those girly girls"

Audiences grew familiar with Janel Parrish playing fashionable characters, like Jade in Bratz and Mona in Pretty Little Liars. It turns out that this was a case of art imitating life because Parrish is actually a real-life fashionista, and she has been since she was a little girl. She revealed to Entertainment Tonight that she's always been "one of those girly girls who loved makeup from a very young age." Some of her earliest memories are of sneaking into her mom's makeup when she was around 5 or 6 years old, in spite of being told not to. "I was like the rebel child who just wanted to do everything I wasn't supposed to do," said Parrish. "I just had to try it. I had to try it just once."

Parrish doesn't just love getting glammed up for the cameras or even for fun. Beauty is a true passion for her. She told Modeliste that she thinks that she may "have gone to hair and makeup school" if she hadn't pursued an entertainment career.

Janel Parrish showed off her dancing skills on Dancing With the Stars

In 2014, Janel Parrish proved herself as a triple threat on Season 19 of Dancing With the Stars. While Parrish didn't come away with the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy, she did pretty well in the competition, coming in third place behind Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro and Duck Dynasty's Sadie Robertson. Competition was fierce that season, with all of the pairs in the finals receiving perfect scores from the judges. Parrish credited her dance pro partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, with getting them so far, telling him, "You were my trophy the entire season," after the results were announced (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Parrish and Chmerkovskiy were understandably disheartened by the outcome of the competition, but they were proud of their strong performances. "I was obviously disappointed," Chmerkovskiy admitted to Glamour, although he did say that he was happy for Ribeiro coming away with the win.

Interestingly, Parrish has quite the background in dance. When she was 14, Parrish competed on the show Star Search and revealed that she "can hula dance." 

Janel Parrish has enjoyed seeing Hollywood become more diverse

Hollywood has changed a lot since Janel Parrish and her family uprooted their lives to move to California for Parrish to pursue her performance dreams. Parrish is happy to see the acting industry becoming more diverse. Not only is it important in terms of representation, but it has also opened up doors for Parrish who told Bustle that, when she was growing up, "there were no movies with strong Asian American leads" for her to "identify with."

In 2015, the actress told She Knows that she was happy to see the industry changing with Asian American actresses like Maggie Q "getting lead roles." She added, "That's not something I think would have happened 10 to 12 years ago when I first came here."

In an interview with Just Jared, she said. "When diversity is normal, and not questioned, that's when I feel like progress has been made." She cited her role in Tiger, in which her mixed ancestry isn't mentioned as a plot point "because it's not important to the story." This, said Parrish, is how she truly knows that the times have changed.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before marked a big moment for Janel Parrish

To All the Boys I've Loved Before is another film in which Janel Parrish's ethnicity was simply allowed to exist on the screen. The film, one of the best romcoms of the past decade, centers on a mixed race protagonist, Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor), and her family, something that Parrish was particularly excited to portray because of how "normal" the family is. "That they are just an Asian-American family and the story is not centered on that — it just happens to be about a girl who is Asian American," Parrish told The Mary Sue. "But really, it's more about her story and learning to be comfortable in her own skin."

Parrish added that she wishes she had a movie like To All the Boys I've Loved Before when she was growing up, calling Lara Jean a "wonderful representation of every girl going through high school." Parrish was excited to play a part in the film, believing that it conveys a strong message of confidence and empowerment to young girls.

Janel Parrish learned to accept her flaws

Growing up in show business isn't an easy thing, especially as being in an industry where so much emphasis is placed on looks can take its toll. Like many others, Janel Parrish felt the pressure that comes with being in the entertainment industry, telling SheKnows that there have been times when she found herself "wanting to be beautiful and wanting to look like the models in the magazines."

As she's grown older, though, she has grown more secure in her own body and has stopped comparing herself to others. These days, Parrish is confident in spite of what she views as her imperfections and is against her photos being Photoshopped. "I think people's imperfections, whatever they are, give them character," said Parrish. "And I think it's beautiful." 

Parrish added that she's now okay with her cheeks (which she calls "chubby little chipmunk cheeks"), as well as her teeth (which she says are "kind of crooked"). She may not be crazy about those features, but she's decided that, for better or worse, they are a part of her and she wants to keep them.

Janel Parrish chose not to focus too much on her growing social media presence

Janel Parrish has seen her social media explode over the course of her career, especially after her role in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. While she could easily have used that surge in popularity to turn herself into a social media influencer, she has been reluctant to capitalize too much on her growing social media popularity. It's far more important to her to have meaningful engagements with her followers than to have millions of adoring fans.

"I care more about having a fanbase that knows and appreciates my work, and having them peak into my world as Janel is super fun too, but I don't care much about the numbers," the celeb told Just Jared, adding that she is happy to "post for 6 million followers the same way I would post for 6." No matter how many followers she has, Parrish said that she's "honored" by the fans who want to get an inside look at her "goofy, silly life."

Janel Parrish is very careful about what she reveals to the public

Even though Janel Parrish is a major star, she wants to be careful to separate her career from her private life. She may not be as secretive as her Pretty Little Liars counterpart, but the actress has learned the importance of keeping certain aspects of her life private over the years. It's why she's so reluctant to voice her opinion on political matters, telling Just Jared, "When you're in the public eye, it's important to pick and choose what you keep for you." However, she does "applaud those who are brave and outspoken."

Some public figures may publicly endorse political candidates, but that's just not Parrish's style. That being said, though, Parrish does believe it's important to vote — she just doesn't want anyone to know who she's voting for. "Your opinions are yours and valued, it's your voice so use it," she said. "Whether you post about it or not though is up to you"

Janel Parrish may pursue a solo music career... one day

Janel Parrish is a talented singer and songwriter, but her musical career has largely been overshadowed by her acting career. She did sign a record deal with Geffen Records in 2007, as noted by Kidz World, but, as of this writing, has only released a few singles, including "Rainy Day" and "Heart Made of Stone."

While starring in Pretty Little Liars, Parrish also appeared in For the Record: Baz Luhrmann, a musical show. Broadway World noted that she acted in Spring Awakening, a "staged-reading" of A Walk to Remember: the Musical, and Cruel Intentions: the Musical during the run of the show.

In an interview with MTV News, Parrish said that she may "eventually... explore a solo [music] career." Another thing she'd like to do is star in "some sort of musical film or musical TV show" where she can explore both her passion for acting and her passion for music.

Janel Parrish got married and has been enjoying life with her husband

Janel Parrish and her longtime beau, Chris Long, tied the knot in her home state of Hawaii on Sept. 8, 2018. "We feel so lucky we found each other in this crazy world," the star told Us Weekly.

Married life seems to be treating Parrish well. She has said that being with Long has had something of a transformative effect on her life, telling Entertainment Tonight that having him on her side has made a huge difference in her career. Parrish said that Long isn't awestruck by being with a famous star, although he is "fascinated by" her career. She called her husband "the perfect partner," saying that being with someone so in tune to her needs "takes a lot of pressure off" because she knows she always has her husband on her side, no matter where her career takes her. 

"It's the best feeling, honestly," added Parrish.