Lola Tung On ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty,’ Fame, & Fashion
She’s a certified Chanel girl.
Lola Tung is poised to become Hollywood’s next It girl — a vibe you instantly get just from chatting with her. The 19-year-old actor from New York City is fresh, unfiltered, charismatic, and friendly — a kind of energy you often see from someone who’s starting out in show business. She made her acting debut in The Summer I Turned Pretty (an Amazon Original series adapted from Jenny Han’s popular book series) as the lovable protagonist Isabel “Belly” Conklin and now Tung is seemingly on everyone’s radar, including one of the world’s biggest fashion houses.
Her most recent It-girl activity involved going out East to celebrate Chanel’s Ephemeral Boutique, located in East Hampton. Tung, along with Han, dined with other tastemakers at The Baker House 1650. The following morning, even in the pre-noon hours, the actor was bright-eyed and ready to chat with TZR about life since landing the breakout role of Belly ... and, the roller coaster of emotions that fame can bring to a budding actor.
“I think [fame] can be overwhelming at times, but I am really grateful that, for the most part, there’s been such a positive reaction [to the show],” Tung tells TZR. “When fans come up to us on the street, it’s really lovely and they’re so sweet. Having a wonderful support system, from my parents to Jenny to the cast, has helped a lot, too, in that you’re never alone in feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It’s OK to feel those things while also feeling grateful and happy.”
To backtrack, Tung was a freshman studying at Carnegie Mellon University in early 2021 when she auditioned for the show at the advice of her manager. Though the actor recalls that she was hyper focused on her college education at the time, the opportunity to work on a project steered by Han was too good to pass up. (Tung notes that she was a huge fan of Han’s To All The Boys series.) “I sent in my audition tapes from my apartment and, soon after that, they told me they wanted me to test for the role, which was a really wonderful surprise. This was the first step, the first time that I was like, Oh, this [role] could maybe happen and change my path,” she recalls.
The life-changing call followed, with Han and the producers delivering the good news: she got the role of Belly. Tung shares that she immediately called her mom crying and then that night, she told her roommates. (They celebrated ever-so nonchalantly by watching Zootopia together.) Tung parted ways with college life later that year, to spend the summer filming in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Most of the cast went down to Wilmington about two and a half weeks early to start bonding and create those really close relationships that you see in the show,” says Tung. “We all immediately connected, which was really lovely and I was just excited for the first day [of filming] and obviously nervous because I had never done any film or TV work [prior to The Summer I Turned Pretty].” The actor shares that the very first scene she filmed — the one fans will remember from Episode 1 — was “the belly flop scene,” where Belly (no pun intended) gets playfully thrown into the pool by her brother Steven (played by Sean Kaufman) and love interests Jeremiah and Conrad Fisher (played by Gavin Casalegno and Christopher Briney, respectively). “It was a really fun scene and it was just us playing around and having a really good time. I knew from that point on, it was going to be one of the best experiences,” she says.
Tung, and the rest of the cast, are currently filming Season 2 but in addition to her acting duties, Tung — as a newcomer in the Hollywood space — is now receiving invites to places the who’s who of fashion frequent. This includes intimate dinners, much like the Chanel fête, where the up-and-coming actor got to flex her fashion skills and show off her personal, off-duty style. At the event, Tung opted for a black cashmere dress from the Fall/Winter 2022/23 RTW Pre-Collection. The LBD featured various motifs signature to the fashion house, from a perfume bottle to the double C logo, down the front of the dress for a playful yet sophisticated attitude befitting of Tung. The party outfit was dressy and elegant, but not overly serious just like the actor.
She then accessorized with delicate jewelry — a “Coco Crush” bracelet in 18K yellow gold — and wore a coordinating black purse and heels from the luxury fashion house. With the help of Chanel makeup, Tung mastered that covetable natural, flushed makeup aesthetic. “Chanel is such an iconic brand and everyone was so lovely at the dinner. I wear a lot of jeans, sweaters, and tees [normally], but I also love to dress up and look cool,” she tells TZR. “I loved how simple yet special the black dress was and every piece from Chanel is beautiful and so tasteful.”
The actor describes herself as somewhere between a minimalist and maximalist dresser while her eye for fashion has always been part of her identity. “Growing up in New York did allow me to find my own sense of style while admiring other people’s. You can really form your own look and I feel like I’ve always had a little bit of an edge to my personal style,” she says. “When I was younger, too, I used to design my own sneakers — the Converse website lets you do this and I’ve always loved that.”
Her experimentation with clothes and accessories continues to this day, as she recognizes that she’s still in the exciting discovery process of refining, and defining, her personal style. “I’m working with a stylist, Britt Mccamey, and she’s so amazing,” Tung shares. “I feel so lucky to be able to collaborate with her and just get to try things on and have an open dialogue about how I want to look and present myself. She is so supportive of [me having an edge to my style] and encourages it. It’s been cool to try different [outfits] for different events, too.”
As our Zoom call comes to a close — Tung has to catch a flight to North Carolina to continue filming Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty — one may wonder how, between juggling her film schedule and cool fashion fêtes, she finds time to mentally reset. “I sleep whenever I can,” she says, laughing. “I like to spend time outside and I like to play guitar, but I’m not too great at it. I also like to journal, write poetry, and listen to music. I love Lizzy McAlpine — I will just shuffle her music and listen to it for hours.”
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