IN CONVERSATION WITH LOLA TUNG
THIS PHOTOSHOOT AND INTERVIEW WERE CONDUCTED BEFORE THE SAG-AFTRA STRIKE!
Lola Tung is the breakout star of Amazon Prime’s mega-hit series ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’, which returned for its second season on 14th July.The series became a cultural phenomenon when it launched in the Summer of 2022 and is based on Jenny Han’s novel trilogy of the same name.
Lola, you’re starring in Amazon Prime’s mega-hit series ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’, which just returned for its second season on 14th July. What can you tease about the second season?
The second season is slightly different from the first. The tone is different. Picking up a year later, a lot has occurred since we last saw these characters. They are dealing with loss, the distance in their relationships and many changes in their lives. Belly’s grief has been weighing on her greatly and this season we watch her learn how to accept and move forward from these major changes in her life, begin to reconnect with the people that she loves and find the magic that she thought was lost forever. It is a lot about growth and learning how to heal.
The series is about Belly, who on an annual summer vacation to their family friends’ beach house reunites with her brother and childhood friends Jeremiah and Conrad. There she finds herself caught in a love triangle. What makes filming of this series the most fun?
I have so much fun filming the show, we all do. During the filming of the first season, we all became fast friends, which made it very easy to act alongside each other. We would often rehearse, run lines together and hang out when we weren’t working. We filmed at a lot of really fun locations. This year we filmed at a little boardwalk carnival, which was super fun. We had a blast playing games and riding the rides. I think getting to work with good people who care so deeply about the work is the most fun thing of all.
Your role on ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ is your debut and breakout role. How has this first official acting experience changed your life?
This role has greatly changed my life as it is the first official acting job I’ve ever had. Though I did many years of school theater and took many classes that I loved, I had never had experience being on a professional TV set like this one. I have learned so much from working on this show and watching everything come together. My knowledge about the business has been greatly expanded. I have learned about the technical aspects of it all, the amount of setups that are needed for each scene and how certain shots are filmed.
I have met so many incredible people, some who I have admired and looked up to as artists for a while. The show has given me opportunities that I am so grateful for and the greatest one of all is getting to do what I love alongside kind, talented, creative people.
Can you tell us where does your love for acting come from? Has it always been a passion of yours?
I’ve always loved art – music, television, movies, poetry. When I was in 6th grade, I auditioned for my school’s musical ‘The Wizard of Oz’. I got the role of Tinman and had the greatest time doing the show. I loved every part of the process. I loved rehearsing, learning my lines, the costumes, the makeup and most of all, performing the show. I felt so grounded and alive on the stage. I had so much fun. I think after that show I knew that I wanted to act and perform for the rest of my life. I became more serious about it in high school, where I was studying acting everyday. I feel grateful that I did discover what I was passionate about so early on and that now it’s my actual job. I get to be creative, tell stories that people can relate to and make people laugh, cry and feel all of the emotions. And that’s the coolest thing ever.
With the success of the series you are now also dealing with recognition and fans. How do you personally deal with this attention?
It is a weird thing to suddenly be in the public eye. It is something that I am definitely still getting used to. Most of the fans are so kind and say such lovely things about the show and how much it means to them. And I am always grateful for those interactions.
Sometimes the attention can be slightly overwhelming, but I surround myself with the people that I love and that make me feel grounded, safe and happy. My friends and family have been so supportive of me and there for me and I’m forever grateful for all of them. I try to take social media breaks as well.
Besides this, the success of the series has also put you on the map of the fashion community. Tell us more about your fashion endeavors.
I have always had an interest in fashion, especially growing up in New York City being surrounded by people who express themselves through their clothing and have such unique senses of style. I think fashion is a wonderful form of self-expression. My mom always encouraged me to wear things that I felt comfortable and confident in. I love being able to constantly try new things and develop my personal style. I have really enjoyed getting a peak into the fashion world.
Earlier this year, you partnered with Coach for Coachtopia, their sub-brand focused specifically on circular craft and collaborative creativity. What have you learned about sustainability in general and sustainability in fashion through this partnership?
I have learned so much about sustainability and about sustainability in fashion through working with Coach and Coachtopia. The Coachtopia community includes so many incredible activists and artists who are doing so much good to help protect the planet and educate young people about the issues that our generation is facing, especially the issue of climate change. When I first began collaborating with the Coachtopia, Joon Silverstein, the amazing head of the brand, gave a presentation about Coachtopia and their circular fashion initiative. I was so impressed with how thought out and in depth the presentation was and how much they had collaborated with and listened to artists, activists and creatives from Gen Z. They had thought about every single aspect. Towards the end of the presentation, Joon said something that really stuck with me. She told me that though they knew that change would not happen overnight, it was important to stay committed to their goal. It was something so simple, but so true. I think the thought of circular fashion and sustainability can be intimidating because it is a long process and one that you have to continually work towards, but it is so crucial to stay committed in order to change the future of the fashion industry and the future of our planet.
What excites you the most about fashion and your involvement in it?
The ability to try new things is very exciting to me. I love experimenting when it comes to fashion and figuring out what I feel most confident wearing. I can’t wait to continue learning about the fashion world.
You booked this role while still attending school. How do you balance both at the same time?
I actually took a leave of absence from school. I was able to finish my first year of college in 2021 and then began filming season 1 of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ during the summer. I think it would be very challenging for me to balance both at the same time, but I am so grateful for everything I learned while I was in school and wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
You are vocal on social media and also offline about social justice issues, like women’s rights, gun control and climate change. Why are these topics so important to you and what is your personal opinion on them?
They are issues that greatly affect our society and staying silent about them would feel wrong to me. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, in the right to have bodily autonomy. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has made it much harder for people to find access to necessary medical care or the tools to help them do what is best for their bodies. It should not be so difficult.
I believe in the importance of gun control. It is upsetting that guns, and especially powerful assault weapons, are able to be bought with such ease in this country and that many people and politicians oppose background checks so strongly. Passing stricter gun control laws would help decrease the amount of gun violence in this country. Kids should not have to be doing lockdown drills in school while they should be learning how to read. This should not be our reality.
Also, climate change is very real and a very pressing issue. This planet is our only home and we must take care of it in order to keep inhabiting it. Working with Coachtopia has made me much more aware of the steps that big fashion brands can take to decrease their negative impact on the planet. It has been very cool watching how they use recycled and upcycled materials to make their products to create less waste and be more conscious of their impact on the environment.
Lola, what is coming up next for you, after the second season of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’?
I don’t really know what’s next. As someone who enjoys planning and knowing what the next step is, I am trying to be present and embrace the unknown. I am excited to find out what the future holds.
interview by JANA LETONJA @janaletonja
Talent: Lola Tung @lola.tung
Photographer: Zhiyu Qu @zhiyu_qu
Stylist: Britt McCamey @badnewsbritt
Make-up: Misha Shahzada @ A-Frame Agency @misha212 @aframe_agency
Hair: Dana Boyer @ The Wall Group @danawillcutyou @thewallgroup
Photography assistant: Jialang Cai @choi_wanchi
Styling assistants: Sasha Leon & Ying Chu @sashaleonjauregui @yingybabyy
Post production: Rock Management @rock.mgmt
Editor: Timi Letonja @timiletonja