Ashley Park - Cover Story - 1

Ashley Park Goes After What She Wants

After beating cancer as a teenager, the "Emily in Paris" star vowed to never let anything get in the way of her dreams — and wow, has she succeeded.

Ashley Park is the walking definition of je ne sais quoi. Her charm and effervescence cartwheels off the screen in Emily In Paris, which returns to Netflix for its third season on December 21. She’s such a natural, she makes everything — including singing, acting, and walking Paris’ cobblestone streets in stilettos — look easy. But make no mistake, Park has worked her butt off to get to where she is, staying motivated and driven even during the toughest of times. 

Even having worked so hard, Park says she could have never imagined she’d find such success with the show. “When we were filming season one, we had no idea how much a part of the pop culture zeitgeist it would become,” Park admits when she sits down to chat with us for her Shape cover story. As anticipation for season three builds, it’s crystal clear that fans have not only fallen in love with the show but are also obsessed with Park’s character, Mindy Chen. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Mindy is the frank, funny billionaire heiress who has a fractured relationship with her dad because she is pursuing her dreams of becoming a singer — and is besties with the eponymous Emily, played by real-life BFF Lily Collins. 

Ashley Park - Cover story
Versace top & pants. Casadei shoes. Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

Proof of just how strong the love for Mindy is: The character’s stylish looks have inspired new trends, TikTok is filled with videos of fans praising her character, and songs she sings on the show have sky-rocketed up the charts of most downloaded tracks from TV. 

But what’s really cool is that Park loves playing Mindy just as much as her fans enjoy watching her on screen. “I’ve learned a lot from [Mindy],” she says. “She’s got a great ability to be a safe, non-judgemental person, but is also honest and not afraid to call out what she needs. She doesn’t hold back anything.” 

Like her character, Park isn’t afraid to really go there. In talking with Shape, the 31-year-old was outspoken about her career, how cancer impacted her approach to health and wellness, and where she finds motivation in all areas of her life.

Ashley Park Cover Story
Versace top & pants. Casadei shoes. Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

Embracing the Beauty In Life

You can’t talk about Emily In Paris without talking about the fashion. The show is a kaleidoscope of both vintage and designer finds. From a rhinestone-encrusted bustier to a hot pink houndstooth mini dress, Mindy is not afraid to stand out. And the bold style choices on the show have taught Park that fashion can be a wonderful tool for self-expression.

“The fashion world isn’t one I grew up in, but I love it now,” she says. “I’ve learned that it’s about way more than vanity. You can use it as a tool to express how you’re feeling that day. When you wake up, you can say ‘What version of myself do I want to broadcast today?’ There’s a certain bravery in showing your personality in that way.”

Similarly, Park says the show’s glam team has taught her a lot about the world of beauty. Having worked in theater (she was nominated for a Tony in 2018 for her role as Gretchen Weiners in "Mean Girls" on Broadway), Park said she used to think of makeup and skin care as a way of getting into character. But, with the help of her hair and makeup team on Emily in Paris, she’s come to realize these practices can also be part of a self-care ritual. 

“I’m a huge skin care person now, and I love FaceGym [a facial exercise studio and line of skin-care products],” she says. “I have a face massager from them. The face is full of muscles and we never think to work them out. So, now I use a gua sha tool to massage them. It makes your face feel so much more relaxed.”

Ashley Park - Cover story
Versace top & pants. Casadei shoes. Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

Skin-care wisdom aside, Park says she’s grateful that her Emily and Paris team celebrates her authentic beauty. “As an Asian person, to have people who really hear and see me and want to enhance my features? It’s very special,” she shares.  

Picking Projects That Matter

As a Korean American actress, Park says there’s another upcoming project that’s particularly meaningful to her: She’s set to star alongside Ali Wong and Steven Yeun in the Netflix dramedy Beef. Park is tight-lipped on the details of the show but says her character is quite different from Mindy. 

“With Mindy, I am proud that people get to see this really great character on this very popular show who is Asian — that’s not something I got to see growing up.”

“It’s very special because it has a Korean American showrunner,” she says, explaining why she was eager to sign on to the project. “There are many elements that are very familiar, having grown up in a Korean American household. It felt really important to me to be in a room led by Asian Americans.”

Ashley Park - Cover Story
Cult Gaia top. LBV pants. Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

In fact, many Emily in Paris fans have spoken out about how impactful it is to see an Asian American woman play such a central character on the show. And Park is quick to acknowledge that she didn’t really see herself represented in mainstream media when she was a young girl — something that has both inspired and motivated her in her career.

Even still, she says she sometimes has a difficult time receiving such praise. “I am, of course, honored,” she says of the feedback she hears from fans. “It’s been a journey for me. If I am being candid, there was a time when I thought I had done my job if people walked away from a scene forgetting that I’m Asian. But, then I realized, people can acknowledge that I am Asian and still connect with the character." 

Now, Park is much more likely to own her characters with confidence. “With Mindy, I am proud that people get to see this really great character on this very popular show who is Asian — that’s not something I got to see growing up,” she explains. "And for that to be more familiar is important.” 

Finding Motivation In an Unexpected Place

Much of the last two years for Park has been go-go-go, she says. But to be fair, her life wasn’t exactly calm before Emily in Paris became Netflix’s most popular comedy series of 2020 when season 1 premiered. Park had already appeared on Broadway in shows including "Mamma Mia!" and "Mean Girls" and was used to a grueling schedule that often involved appearing in up to eight or nine shows a week.

“Once cancer physically left my body, I made it my mission to not let it affect my life. I didn’t want it to define me."

So, what gives her the motivation to keep up with such a breakneck schedule? Much of it can be traced back to her experience with cancer as a teenager. When Park was 15, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. She spent nearly a year in the hospital going through rigorous chemotherapy and being told what she could and could not do. For example, Park shares a story about how all she wanted to do was eat some grapes while undergoing treatment, but couldn’t because they weren’t part of her approved nutrition plan.

Ashley Park - Cover Story
David Koma London top & skirt. St. John vest. Aliette jacket. Valentino shoes. Versace necklace. Bulgari rings & earrings.

Leeor Wild

Beating cancer was an intense and formative experience, to say the least. In past interviews, Park has said she turned to the theater because it allowed her to forget about her health issues and become someone else. 

“Once cancer physically left my body, I made it my mission to not let it affect my life,” she says. “I didn’t want it to define me. People were so worried about me, and I became the person that was like, ‘I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I am going to go after what I want and just do it.’” 

This motivation and determination clearly served her well, and Park has proven that cancer did nothing to get in the way of her dreams. But as for how the lessons from her adolescence and young adulthood have shaped her views on health and wellness as an adult, Park says she actually draws more from her time on Broadway than her experience with cancer. 

“When you’re performing so much, you realize that your body is your vessel — it’s your instrument,” she says. “So, you have to treat it as such and really take care of it.”

Staying Healthy — Mind, Body, and Soul

One of the ways Park takes care of herself is through fitness. “I have to move every day,” she says. “That can be hard with my filming schedule, so I’ve learned that to stay motivated, I have to adjust what type of physical activity can fit into my life at any given moment.”

“I sweat a ton and feel much stronger when I am done with [my workout]. There's a real mind-body connection that happens with [Pilates]."

Ashley Park Cover Story
St. John top. Nour Hammour jacket. Isabel Marant pants. Paris Texas shoes.Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

When it comes to specific workouts, Park isn’t picky. “I’ve done everything — I had a big yoga phase, a big cycling phase, a big running phase,” she lists. “And I’ve always loved dancing.” 

Recently, Park says she discovered Pilates and absolutely loves it. “It feels very athletic, but it’s low impact,” she explains. “I sweat a ton and feel much stronger when I am done with it. Similar to dance, you use a lot of different muscles and there’s a real mind-body connection that happens with it.” 

Though many people may find they feel more motivated when they sign up for a group fitness class, Park, who tends to opt for private Pilates sessions, says the opposite is true for her. “When I’m in group class situations, I feel like it’s easier to cheat,” she explains. “You can hide behind other people.” But in one-on-one sessions with her trainer Brandon Perry, she feels “held accountable.” 

Ashley Park Cover Story
St. John top. Nour Hammour jacket. Isabel Marant pants. Paris Texas shoes.Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

In terms of nutrition, Park says she feels best when she eats a balanced, primarily plant-forward diet — with some exceptions “I am highly anemic because of what I went through with my cancer,” she divulges “So, I do like a nice steak every once in a while.” Interestingly, Park says when it comes to dairy and gluten, it all depends on where she’s eating these foods. “When I’m in America, those things don’t sit that well with me,” she says with a shrug. ”But, for some reason, when I am in Europe, I can eat an entire bread basket and so much cheese, and it’s fine.”

"As my life gets crazier and crazier, I’m understanding the value of my time and space. I've been trying to set more boundaries to make sure I’m making my well-being a priority."

When talking about her health, Park is quick to point out that caring for her mental health is just as important as her physical health. “I find that I am my happiest, most-fulfilled self when I’m surrounded by good people.”

One of those good people is her co-star Collins. The two play pals on the show and are just as close off-camera. “To be able to walk through this chapter of my life with a best friend has been so meaningful,” says Park. “What you see on screen between Mindy and Emily is very reflective of Lily and I meeting each other as grown women and being like, ‘Oh my God, it was like part of my soul was missing, and now I’ve found it.’” 

Ashley Park Cover Story
Bella Freud jacket & pant. Dodiee top. Paris Texas shoes. Bulgari jewelry.

Leeor Wild

And while Park knows how important it is to take care of your mental wellness, she admits she’s still learning to put herself first. “I’m such a people pleaser and always want to make sure other people are okay,” she admits. “But as my life gets crazier and crazier, I’m understanding the value of my time and space. I've been trying to set more boundaries to make sure I’m making my well-being a priority.” 

From surviving cancer to getting the role of a lifetime on a hit show, Park doesn’t take one minute of her life for granted — and these experiences only serve to motivate her to keep living life to the fullest. “I am so grateful for every opportunity,” she emphasizes. “Taking care of myself so I can fully enjoy every minute of this life is very important to me.”

Ashley Park - Cover

Leeor Wild

Credits

Photographer Leeor Wild


Videographer Liam Le Guillou


Set Designer Amy Jo Diaz


Stylist Erin Walsh


Hair Sunnie Brook


Makeup Mai Quynh


Editorial Director Alyssa Sparacino


Creative Director Jenna Brillhart


Associate Photo Editor Amanda Lauro

Beauty Direction Hayley Mason


Social Direction Marietta Alessi


Senior Video Producer Kareema Partin


Digital Issue Video Producer Lisa Fischer


Executive Producer Bree Green


Video Editing Mike Pasquariello


Booking Talent Connect Group

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