"I had no idea about fashion and being fashionable, I just loved any excuse to get to the mall."

By Isabel Jones
Updated: Jun 12, 2019 @ 6:04 pm

You know Mandy Moore. 

She's not just Jamie Sullivan in 2002's A Walk to Remember, or Rebecca Pearson in NBC's This Is Us — she's a pop culture fixture that's been on our radar for 20 years. The singer-cum-actress's sincerity in her personal life (be it reflecting on her emotionally abusive relationship with ex-husband Ryan Adams or her candid insights about her experience mountain climbing), is something of a rarity in Hollywood, and it's also a trait that she’s excited to lean into.

At the PopSugar Play/Ground festival in N.Y.C. on June 22, Moore will do just that — she and her This Is Us co-star Susan Kelechi Watson will be discussing a topic that’s become something of her specialty: “embracing life's inevitable changes.”

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“I’ve always been one that’s been a bit of an open book and I’m happy to sort of share the trials and tribulations of my life,” she tells InStyle. “I actually really enjoy it. I think it’s important for us to all collectively have conversations about what scares us and what makes us tick and what motivates us ... Just talking about changes, because they are inevitable, is kind of the most important part of any conversation — not learning to brace [for] it but embrace it.”

When it comes to embracing changes onscreen, Moore is also a veritable pro. Playing her This Is Us character, Rebecca, has served as a masterclass in transformation — the Pearson matriarch shifts between countless timelines each season, though the now dominant three have her as a 30-something, 60-something, and 80-something woman.

“I think I need to garner some lessons from Rebecca,” Moore says of her gracefully aging present-day character. “I don’t know if it’s like incredible moisturizer, or just water, or getting tons of sleep, but I feel like she looks wonderful for her age. If I can look like this at 68 I’m so down, I can’t wait.”

As for the seemingly ailing 80-something Rebecca introduced in the show's season three finale, Moore (and the rest of the cast) were less eager to embrace the change. “Initially it was sort of jarring,” she said of the flash-forward. “It was the last thing that we shot on the last day of work for the season this year, and nobody could kind of look at me. It was slightly terrifying — nobody knew if they should avoid eye-contact. People kind of looked down on the floor. They didn’t know what to do,” she said of her castmates.

“It was so realistic and it was so upsetting — she’s clearly not in the best of ways at this point in her life, we don’t know what’s happening. She seems really feeble and not necessarily with it. It was a very bittersweet moment.”

RELATED: Despite What She’s Been Through, Mandy Moore is Still an Optimist About Love

But Moore already gone through a bit of an evolution herself during her time in Hollywood — she’s ridden a wave of popular fashions through her teenage years and into adulthood that even the era-straddling Rebecca would be overwhelmed by.

In her pre-stylist days, she’d wear “whatever I could get my hands on,” which includes “Abercrombie cargos and Nine West heels.”

“I was a 15, 16-year-old girl going on the road with boy bands and stuff and I was just excited to have the opportunity. I had no idea about fashion and being fashionable, I just loved any excuse to get to the mall and go to Wet Seal and find what I was going to wear on stage or something,” she explained.

“You look back and kind of cringe at those days, but I have some compassion for my younger self and recognize that that’s what everybody was wearing at 15 and 16 back in those days.”

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These days, Mandy’s more likely to be gearing up for a hike with Eddie Bauer than flocking to Wet Seal (R.I.P). The actress recently climbed to Base Camp at Mount Everest — about a 12,000 foot difference in elevation from the peak, but no small feat at about 17,500 feet.

As you’d expect, climbing a mountain isn’t the most traditionally glamorous of activities. “You’re not quite camping, but you’re kind of camping,” she says of the “rustic” experience. “I was most concerned with making it to Base Camp and not getting sick. I was terrified I was going to be the one person down for the count with altitude sickness.”

In the face of those worries, skincare was secondary. “You bring face wipes, you bring body wipes, [but] it kind of becomes the least of your concerns,” she said. “There were no showers. You’re just kind of like cool, this is what it is, and it’s warm but you’re not sweating profusely — that might be a completely different story. We all were sort of concerned about our skin, so we made sure to make it a priority, but the good thing is to stay hydrated. As long as you can splash your face with some water at the end of the day, you’re pretty OK.”

What’s next for Mandy? “Climbing more mountains is definitely on the list,” she tells us, but first up, inspiring the masses. “I’m always down to be part of the conversation, also just to be a listener as well,” she says of joining the empowering slate of speakers at PopSugar Play/Ground, which include Chrissy Teigen, Issa Rae, and Camila Mendes. Moore’s This Is Us co-star Milo Ventimiglia will also be in attendance (along with puppies! That you can adopt!).

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