Summer Ly — From Movie Viewer to Actress

The lights dimmed, the smell of various foods enveloped the room, popcorn decorated the floor and the endless munching of crunchy nachos was audibly heard, but young Summer Ly was unbothered because she was mesmerized by the story on the screen. The movie theater was Summer’s place of celebration for her birthdays, and as she grew older, her love for the cinema augmented.

“Ever since I was very young, I’ve loved movies. I went to the movies for every birthday and loved watching documentaries about old Hollywood actors/actresses,” said Summer Ly, “My love for cinema inspired me to become an actress. There is something so magical about movies and how you can feel so many emotions from watching fictional characters. Cinema is such a beautiful tool to tell stories and teach people about things they’re not familiar with.”

It was in middle school, when Summer Ly finally had her chance at trading in her movie theater seat, for a role behind the screen. She booked commercials and co-star roles on Nickelodeon. She was on track for a brightly lit future in front of the cameras.

However, she chose to step away from the camera lights and focus on normalizing her life by attending a normal high school and then continuing to college. It was after her first year as business major at California State University, Fullerton that she realized her passion was elsewhere.

“I eventually made the decision to go to a normal high school and continue the ‘normal’ route of college, until I finished my first year of college and realized my heart wasn’t in what I was going to school for (business)” said Summer Ly.

Once again she found herself trying to break into the massive media industry.

“I had to completely start from scratch,” said Summer Ly, “So at 19 years old I did a ton of research on agencies, and acting classes. I set up my own meetings and eventually got signed.”

“A light bulb went off in my head at 19 years old, that I wish everyone else could realize. No one is responsible for your life, and no one is going to hand you what you want. You are responsible for shaping your life into everything you want it to be. So, if you have a dream no matter if it’s something small like learning how to ride a skateboard, or big like winning an Oscar, do it. Because I promise you, there is nothing like the feeling of regret when it’s too late,” said Summer Ly.

Fast forward a couple years and 21-year-old Summer Ly is currently living in Los Angeles, California. Returning to the warmth of the camera lights. She booked various commercials, appeared on famous YouTube videos, finished a feature film and shot a SYFY pilot. She found her passion.

Summer Ly filming at Universal Studios

The indie film “Rock Steady Row” is expected to premiere in 2017 featuring actress Summer Ly. She attributes this film as being the project she’s most proud of as of now, because the crew was fueled with intense dedication.

“The crew was incredible. We were all young people just so hungry to make the best movie possible,” said Summer Ly, “We all had this passion for cinema and connected on another level.”

There are distinct roles on television shows and movies, which vary from light tones of comedy to serious thought-provoking roles. There’s beauty in complexity because of the reality it presents to people. It’s the drama roles that attract Summer Ly.

Summer Ly (left) in SYFY pilot
“I prefer drama roles. I prefer roles that require less to no makeup and comfy clothes. I prefer roles that are complex, dark, and vulnerable,” said Summer Ly, “I prefer roles that make people uncomfortable because of how real they are.”

When reprising roles on screen, a major part of is attributed to cultural background. Summer is Hmong, which is a small tribal group in Asia that’s closely knit. However there are few Hmong that pursue acting. Thus, it has been a challenge for her to obtain roles because she’s not a dominate Asian race. Nonetheless, the support from the Hmong community is enormous.

“Being Hmong — a tribal group in Asia, we don’t have a country — there are not many of us pursuing acting. It’s a very small community so within the Hmong community, I get a lot of messages and interest from them,” said Summer Ly, “It’s harder to get certain roles if you’re not a dominate Asian race.”

“The best part about being an actress is learning about different types of people. Playing someone who is completely different from myself, really opens up my eyes about why certain people are the way they are,” said Summer Ly. “I’ve never felt so much empathy and understanding towards people. It’s a common rule in acting that you don’t ‘judge the character and what their decisions are.’ I kind of wish that was a common rule in the world in general.”

Summer Ly in Wailua, Hawaii

The young girl who went to the movie theater during her birthdays, eventually made her way behind the screen. Every day, Summer continues to work arduously with immense passion to form part of the visual she once revered, from a vast cinema seating area.