Organically Growing Up | Lana Condor on Street You Grew Up On
- Have you been to Vietnam? - Yes, I have. - Yes. - So Michelle Obama has her Girl's Education Program. - Just a casual mic drop.
"So we went with Michelle Obama." - I love her. I love her! (upbeat music) - Hey, everybody, today's guest on "Street You Grew Up On" is somebody who is just the sweetest, most adorable, phenomenal, incredible young lady. She's so lovely inside and out.
I'm very lucky to be able to call her one of my Neutrogena sisters. Very exciting to have her here today to talk to her about the street that she grew up on. She's an actress, a producer, a singer, a trailblazer, and I think you're gonna love hearing all about her journey. Please welcome Lana Condor.
- You look beautiful as always. - I wanted to clean up for you. - This is such a great set. Wow. - It's a little bit inspired by kind of the apartment that I grew up in, but I'll tell you really quickly, so I wanted to do this show because my production company, Simpson Street, is named after the street in the Bronx that my mother grew up on. - Yeah. - And that street is kind of part of my origin story.
It's like where my family came from. It's our family lore. - Yeah. - And I really believe that every one of us is the lead character of our own story.
The hero on our own journey. - Absolutely. - So I wanted to talk to people that I respect and admire about where their story begins. - Gosh! Thank you! That's the highest honor of all, I've peaked. (both laugh) - No, girl. You have a lot to do. You have a lot to do. You're such an amazing artist and person.
- Thank you. - So I wanna jump in and just ask you, if it's okay. - Yes. - I wanna ask you what
your porn name is. So the name of your first pet and then the street you grew up on. - I had a horse and her name was Carrot. - A horse.
- So Carrot Double Bluff. - Yeah, yeah. Got it. Okay. So Double Bluff. And Double Bluff was where? - So it's 30 miles north of Seattle and then you get on the ferry and then you go to Whidbey Island, which is where I grew up. And I'm an island girl, which, but not in the way that like, it's tropical and it's fun. - Yes, no.
It's very mountainous - My island- - And kind of cold. - Yeah! Exactly. It's more of like, nature and camping and farm lifestyle and all of that type of island vibe, instead of like party. - Wow. (Lana laughs) Okay. So Double Bluff.
Tell me about this. Did you grow up in a house? I assume not an apartment. A house, right? - Yes. - Okay, and what was that house like? - I'll always hold it so dear to me. It was like tucked on the bluff of Double Bluff. It was almost as if the landscapers had like, just kind of plopped a house in the middle of the forest.
And so we had beautiful views of Puget Sound, but then everything else around us was just the forest on top of the bluff. My mom had curated it with all of the different things that she had got through travel, or like, we're a big hand me down family. So a lot of special trinkets that her mom and her grandparents had, kind of helped furnish our home, which is now, ironically, and I guess not ironically, 'cause this happens.
I just got my first home and basically every piece of art, you know, cookware and furniture is now hand me downs from her. - From the house. - Yes. From that house. So even though we don't have that house anymore, I still have memories and mementos of it because that's how I get to wake up in the morning. I'm like, "Oh, that's how I grew up."
- How did your parents find that home? How did they find that island? Are they from that area? - No! (laughs) Well, my dad is like very much, so he's a journalist. I picked, I've moved around a lot. - Okay. - But I picked Double Bluff as my street I grew up on because my formative years - Love that. - Was there. - I love, I think it's really interesting how people pick that street, so tell me more. Is it that you feel like you came into yourself or your, okay. - Yes, absolutely.
It was like, you know, middle school era. - When your identity starts to form and you start getting challenged about - Yes. - Who you are. - Yes, and like,
friendships and like, middle school's the first time I had a crush. - Yes! - So that's where I'm like, and the hormones are going. - Yes, yes, yes! Okay. So your dad's a journalist. - So he's a journalist. - He discovers this place. - Yeah, so he, we were living in Chicago and then he came to Seattle to look at jobs with newspapers out there.
And then he took a trip to the island and he was like, "We're moving." So he moved from Chicago. - City. - City, to the island out of nowhere. - Rural, rustic. - Yeah, it was so rural. So rustic.
But I really genuinely think that that move was so integral to my development as a young woman and my personality and what I value, because there, it was like, you were playing in the woods all day. I was mucking poop for fun, like, at the stables for fun. We had a black and white TV. - You did? - Yeah! - In what year? - My mom brought this black and white TV with her through her life and then just kept hooking it in. And I'm like, "Mom."
- I need some color. - I need some color. Although looking back, I'm so happy I didn't have technology in my home. Like we were pretty strict about, like, we didn't have phones. We didn't do any of that. It was very rural. - No phone. You mean like not cell phones.
You had a phone. - No cell phones. We had a house phone, but my brother and I didn't have a cell phone, 'cause we were out playing in the woods. - So you had crushes. Did you mean at school or on television, in movies? I'm wondering who, like what were it, being that you're a bit of a rom-com icon. Being one of the first Asian leads of a rom-com. - Thank you. - Did you have your own
crushes that were from movies and television shows? Did you have posters in your room? - I mean, not really. 'Cause we didn't really watch that much film and television. - You mean IRL crushes? - I had IL crushes.
- Wow. - I think being on Whidbey made me grow up slowly. - Mm. - It was like, I actually feel like I had a proper childhood in terms of the speed of it all.
Because I think about my cousins these days or just like young, like people in middle school and high school. - Yeah. - Grow up so fast it feels like sometimes, you know, because of many reasons, but social media and just technology in general.
- Mm hmm. - And so I feel really blessed that I was able to grow up at the right pace. - Mm. For you. - For me, for me. - What were the subjects that you loved in school when you were living on Double Bluff and what were the foods, what are the foods that when you smell them or taste them, they take you back home? - My favorite subject was always social studies and English.
So writing, reading, breaking down novels, and social studies because I have a curiosity about the world around us, you know? And then foods. - Foods. Are there any foods that when you smell them or when you taste them, they immediately take you back to Whidbey Island? - Oh yeah, muscles, clams, oysters, and crab and king salmon, so. - Wow. - Some of the most famous muscles in America are Penn Cove muscles.
And Penn Cove is on Whidbey Island. - Wow! - And so we'd get super fresh muscles. And then my brother and I, before school, we would throw in a crab pot. And then after school, we'd go to the crab pot. - What do you mean? - Bring them to my mom and she would boil up the crab for dinner. - Wait, explain this to me. I don't understand.
I thought you meant crab pot like you were cooking them in a slow cooker. That's not what you meant. - No. So you throw in, so imagine- - This is like, the girl from the Bronx meets the girl from Whidbey Island. - Yes. - I'm like, "What?" - So imagine Artie and I, about yay tall. - Yes.
So cute. - We're going to middle school in the morning. We have our crab pot, which is like a cage, and inside the cage is raw chicken. - Okay. - And then you throw it,
the cage, off the pier. And then by the time school's over, we would walk back to the pier, pull it up, and then hopefully have a lot of crabs in there. - 'Cause the crabs were attracted to the raw chicken. - Yeah. - They were like,
(mimics eating) - That's what they would eat. - That's amazing. - Yeah. - So I wanna know more about your bedroom. Like what was, I wanna about the house itself. What was your bedroom like? Did you have a favorite room in the house? - Oh, my bedroom was my favorite. My mom surprised me 'cause I, I was a scared kid, so I stayed in my brother's bunk bed for a while. - Oh, you guys shared
a room for a while while? - No. - Oh! - I had a room - That's so sweet. - And he had a room, but I was just too afraid to be in the room by myself.
- And he let you be in there with him. - It was more of a, he didn't really have a choice. - After he was sleeping you went to his room. - Yeah. - Got it. - And so for the longest time, I slept in the bunk bed and then my mom was like, "We gotta make sure she feels like she has a safe space." So she painted all of the walls teal and she put up all of these really sweet flower wallpaper and pictures of horses, 'cause I obviously, I was very into horses, and a beautiful bookshelf and an old antique vanity that her grandma had.
- Wow. - And so it was like, so beautiful. I still have it.
I still have it because it was just such a nice thing. And then she made this princess bed, which was like pink covers and then like a little canopy that had butterflies on the canopy. - Oh my goodness. - 'Cause I think, she wanted it to feel that I had a space for myself that I felt safe in and that magic was possible. It was really magical. - Did it work?
Did you feel inspired? Did you feel like anything was possible with all of that? - I did. We're in this stage where, they're always gonna be my parents, but we're in the weird stage of like, now they're my friends. - Yeah. - Which is the most amazing stage of life, for me at least.
But I wanted both, I wanted a parent, and now I get, they're like my best friends. - What was your relationship with your brother like? - So we were both adopted. - Oh. - We're not biologically related, but we are from the same orphanage.
- Are you from the same part of the world? - Yes. From Vietnam. - Okay. - Yeah, and so, we aren't biologically related, but when my parents came to, when they were looking for a child and hoping to adopt, they actually were trying to just go for one girl, but then they fell in love with Artie. And so they were like, "Oh, surprise, we're bringing two home!" - Wow. - Yeah, and that's a whole other story, which I would love to share, but we're so close in age.
He's like four months older than me. - Almost twins. - Almost twins. And when we were younger, you know, you're in the same class, you do all the same extracurricular activities. We often would just tell people we were twins when we were younger, 'cause we didn't wanna like, go into the, "Well," like this whole story. - This whole thing, mm hmm.
- So because I think we were so close in age, we were super close when we were babies. And then by kind of like, you know, sixth grade, we were just not close at all. If you do the same thing and you're always together and we're always competing, it was just a nightmare. And then eventually when we moved to New York, he ended up going to his own school and I ended up going to mine and our relationship got better, so.
- Have you been to Vietnam? - Yes I have. I have. - Yes, yeah. - We always wanted to go when, like, it was the four of us together, you know, when we were younger. 'Cause my parents always wanted to, like, basically show us the journey in which they went on to find us. - So they went to Vietnam.
- Yes, I get so emotional on Father's Day and Mother's Day because I dedicate the day to being like, "Thank you, thank you so much for choosing me." And my parents always say like, "It wasn't a choice." They always were like, "No, this was always meant to be," and the moment that they saw us, they knew. But to me, I'm just so grateful to them.
I wouldn't even be in America, let alone here speaking with you, you know? But they gave me this just incredible opportunity to have a life that would've been like, not even in my wildest dreams had I not been adopted. We always tried to go, but it's a long trip and with two kids, life gets in the way. So Michelle Obama has her Girls Education Program.
- Just casual mic drop. "So we went with Michelle Obama." - I love her. I love her! She has her Girls Opportunity Alliance. - Yes. - And she does incredible work all over the world.
All over the world! Well, she had planned a trip to Vietnam to go see the girls in Vietnam and do her queen thing. - Yes. - And so she invited myself, which by the way, when I got that email, like, "Oh, Mrs. Obama and Mr. Obama would cordially like for you
to travel with them to Vietnam to go talk to young girls about education." That's like. - Pinch me. Pinch me moment. - Yeah, like you don't really get a better email, probably in your life.
And so obviously I was like, "Yes! Oh my God, this would be amazing." And then quickly was like, it doesn't hurt to ask. Let me just ask if I can bring my brother and my parents. And they were like, "Yeah, bring your family." - Oh my good Lord. - And so we went, we worked with the Obamas and we worked with the girls and then after that portion was done, we went off on our own and we connected with the manager from my orphanage.
He picked us up in his truck and he brought us through the exact journey that he drove my dad and my mama, just to get to us. - Were there things about the culture or the food that felt like home for you or did it all feel new and foreign to you? - No. That's a great question. I actually heard this from a lot of people who visit their home for the first time.
The moment I stepped off the plane, my skin felt so good. It felt supple and moisturized. The humidity in my hair was so strong. My vision, honest to God, felt like it was clearer and my heart, it was like the calmest I had felt. - A peace.
- A huge peace. And so the moment I stepped off the plane and felt my entire body settle, I was like, "Of course it would do that." I was born here. - Here.
- In this climate, in this environment. - What was different when you went back to Double Bluff after that trip? How did it change how you saw the street that you grew up on? - After that trip, it took me probably like weeks to even unpack it. 'Cause it was such a life changing, like seeing where you come from, it was definitely very humbling when I came home because we have a very stark difference.
Everything is different, I think, at least where I was in Vietnam. - You mean an awareness of privilege? - You get a deep awareness of privilege. I had, it was a weird emotional journey trying to unpack feeling like, when I was standing in front of the orphanage and also seeing the community and the homes and the houses around it, like why me? Like why, 'cause you see so much suffering, and you almost feel a sense of like, you almost feel guilty. - Survivor's guilt. - That was a weird, interesting thing to unpack going back home to Double Bluff.
I think I'm unpacking it with you right now. - Great. - I'm like, "This is like therapy." - I'm here for you. - I have a scholarship with The Asia Foundation where I put girls through secondary school. I have 11 girls right now and they're doing really, really good. And I got to visit them.
We met when I was in Vietnam. So I was able to get all of the 11 girls together and meet them and like ask them like, "How are you doing in school?" And they take their education so seriously. It was so inspiring, so inspiring to hear. And they're like, most of all the girls favorite subjects was math. - Wow. - And then they all love music and Coca-Cola. (laughs)
They're like, "We love math and then we like to go for recess and listen to music and drink Coca-Cola." So with my feelings that I'm still trying to unpack, I did develop this scholarship because I was like, "I need to give back. I have to give back. What are we doing here if we're not?" Right? We are so lucky to be in the industry. We are so lucky to have this job. But like I am nothing if it's not from where I came from, it's like I have to pay that back and pay that forward.
And these girls are just so cool. - Give the opportunities that you've been blessed with to others. - Yeah, yeah. - I'm so grateful to learn about that, 'cause you know, this season on "Street You Grew Up On," we have some resources, - Yeah! - We're able to share funding with our guests to be able to pour that into what they care about.
And it's so inspiring to hear where that money's gonna go for you. - Yeah, yeah! I mean, that was another reason I was so excited to be on your show because I was like, oh my God, not only do we get to have a fun time and share stories, but also, now there's gonna be, you can't really quote me directly, I'd have to see, but now there's gonna be at least five girls that get a full education from your show alone. - Oh my goodness. - And it's amazing. So that stipend is all of their textbooks.
They get a bike to ride to school because transportation is kind of limited. - So that's freedom, in a lot of ways, that bike. - Yes. Transportation is really a big reason why a lot of girls aren't getting educated in places like that. And so the bike was for that and then they get rice stipend and they get their uniform and they get all their books and they get it for all of their secondary schooling, so, your show is gonna be great. - Lana, that's incredible! Thank you. - So little did I know, I'm like oh my gosh, she sponsored me! - Thank you for letting us be a part of that. - Yeah.
- Can we play a game? - Yes. - Okay, I wanna play a game where I have a bunch of pictures of you from your childhood when you lived on Whidbey Island. - Okay. - And I wanna ask you
to tell me what is happening in these pictures, okay? - Okay. (upbeat music) - [Kerry] What's happening in this picture? - So that's Artie and my parents always thought it was so cute to just dress us up, like matching. - So cute! - And they really did want to preserve my culture. - Culture. I love this picture because it, again, is such a testament to the kind of free spirited love that your parents provided you with, because they didn't try to keep your culture from you. - No, no. - They provided a space for you to have it. - Yes.
- Okay. Tell me about this. - That at a ballet camp. I did ballet for years and years and years. And I started on Whidbey. It was a way for me to kind of be able to entertain.
I was like, "Okay, I can entertain people with my body and through the performance." But I also was like, "But I have a brain and a mouth. And I wanna like, I wanna talk." - Wanna bring my full self - Yes, yes! - Into my performance. - So that's why my dream was to be an actress because I've always loved to perform, but in ballet, it's a different type of performance. You don't get to express your point of view.
- Mm mm. - You know? - So powerful. Tell me about this. I know where this is, 'cause I think this is my hometown. - That's your hometown! - Mm hmm. Talk to me. - [Lana] That's the Empire State Building.
- Yes. - And that is my first press tour. You know how they, like, they let you go up there onto the Empire State Building and then they let you go to the very top. - Very top. Yes. - That no one gets to go to. And you kind of, you actually do feel like the king of New York. - Yes.
- That was my first acting job. And so I was very much thrown into like, it was very much a sink or swim situation. I thought you had to pay for crafty. That's how much I knew nothing. I was so green. I didn't even know a press tour was a thing. I was like, oh, do I need, like, I'll just do my own makeup.
Do I need to, like, I'll just wear what's in my suitcase. Like I didn't know anything. And so this picture is kind of where my life started to change, yeah. - Mm. I just have a couple more questions. So you've brought up the beauty stuff, being able to do your own hair and makeup, which a lot of dancers are great at.
But talk to me about what beauty meant in your home growing up, because you are such a beauty icon. It's so fun to work with you at Neutrogena, and I know you're such a role model - Thank you. - For so many young women, for so many young people around your beauty and what you bring to the table. And so how was beauty talked about or thought about in the home you grew up on Double Bluff? - I wore stage makeup when I was dancing, right? But physical beauty was not something that I ever cared about. I was very much kind of a tomboy. I was very, I just wanted to play in the woods, and you don't need a red lip.
You can have a red lip if you're playing in the woods. But for me, - You don't need one. - You don't need one. Beauty in my home definitely started from like, are you happy with yourself? - Mm. - Do you feel comfortable in your body? - Mm! - Beauty definitely came from the inside. My parents are amazing and they were really awesome about that.
So it was more like, do you feel beautiful today? I feel really happy, you know? So it was more of the inside. And then I think as I got older and of course now I'm in the entertainment industry, beauty for me now has obviously changed because of simply kind of the job that we are in. But it's still very much starts from within.
But I will say the one thing about beauty that was always a part of my Double Bluff routine was sunscreen. - Ah, preach, preach! - 'Cause my mom is like, yeah, so all the sunscreen. Because I wear so much makeup for work, when I'm not working, I'm like, just put on my sunscreen - Me too, me too! - And let it go. - A little lip gloss,
a little sunscreen. - I know, it's so nice! I get excited for those days. - So my last two questions are, is there anything, I mean, in a way I'm interested what you'll say about this, because you do have a lot of your life growing up on Double Bluff in your life today. - Yeah, for sure. - Whether it's, like, actual furniture or just the values of that place and what it meant to you.
But is there anything, when you think back and you're talking about it, from your childhood that you wish you had more of in your life today? - So Double Bluff, Whidbey Island, Double Bluff Road was my haven. It was my rooting spot. It was my home.
And the pacing in which I was able to grow up and enjoy my childhood was very sacred to me. It's not a tangible thing that I would like to bring from Double Bluff into my world. It's more of a sense of peace.
Peace and play. 'Cause when I lived there, things were so slow. Life was just so slow. Life was intentional because we really cared about sourcing our food from literally- - The farms and the ocean. - The farms and the ocean. So everything was intentional, but it had so much peace and play and I would really like to bring that more into my life today. - I'm so moved by your childhood and by your parents because it's interesting to me that you used the word peace to describe how you felt when you got off the plane in Vietnam, but that deeper peace was only possible because of this peace that they gifted you with in your home. - Wow.
- It's like it led you to be able to have more than one home and not be torn about it or not feel, not feel like you couldn't integrate all of you into you. - Wow. That's amazing. - It's true. - I feel like, you're my therapist.
That was amazing. (both laugh) - You know, as I said, for me, I just, I really believe that every single one of us, no matter who we are, we are at the center of the fable of our lives. And so if you were to write the story of your journey and you could start with once upon a time, just give me like the first three or four sentences of your story beginning with once upon a time. - Once upon a time, the luckiest girl and her brother found a home. - Mm. - Probably.
- Mm. That's beautiful. I love that. Thank you so much, Lana. - Thank you! - This was so special.
- I'm so happy to be here. This was the best conversation ever. I'm gonna sleep easy tonight. (both laugh)
- Thank you for being so generous and honest and open. I appreciate it. - Yeah. - I'm so grateful to Lana. I feel like that interview was so open and vulnerable.
She was so generous. I'm so grateful to hear about her journey and all the places that brought her peace and that she calls home. Thank you, Lana. If you want more information about The Asia Foundation and the incredible work she's doing, just go to our channels. We'll provide all that information. Make sure you watch "Boo, Bitch," it's streaming now, along with her other films, which you've probably already seen, but if you haven't, go see them.
And make sure you wear your sunscreen. Skin cancer is preventable. No excuses. Thank you for joining us, like and subscribe, and come back for "Street You Grew Up On," we have some more amazing guests coming your way. (upbeat music)