May 11, 1997
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Imagine you're 18 years old. You've just gone out on your very first film audition. It's for a substantial role in a long-running series of comic book blockbusters, and the successful A-list director hires you based on your audition tape alone. Flash forward to the day you take those tenuous first steps onto your very first film set: To your left is Michael Fassbender, and to your right is Jennifer Lawrence. Welcome to the world of Lana Condor, the dancer-turned-actor who followed her colorful feature debut as Jubilee in "X-Men Apocalypse" (2016) by headlining the hit Netflix movie "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" (2017) the very next year. Of course the bright lights of Hollywood are half-a-world away from her home country of Vietnam, where she was born Tran Dong Lan in 1997. At age four months, she was adopted by Chicago Tribune Health and Fitness writer Bob Condor and his wife Mary Haubold, who had simultaneously adopted a slightly-older boy from the same lavish Vietnam "Ritz-Carlton of baby homes." Their magical first moment as a family vividly captured by her father in a heartfelt article entitled "Journey of the Heart," the newly-formed clan returned to the shores of Lake Michigan, where they spent six chilly years before relocating to a rustic island in Washington State. Six years spent living off of the land followed, and a subsequent stint at Professional Performing Arts School in New York City found the natural-born entertainer focused more on dance than acting. Following her father's recommendation, Condor signed up for an acting class at the New York Film Academy. As fate would have it, that decision couldn't have been timed better; shortly thereafter, her father's job sent their family clear across the country to the California coast, where another acting class brought Condor into the orbit of a manager and an agent, who landed her an audition for "X-Men Apocalypse." Condor was auditioning for the role of Jubilation Lee, aka Jubilee, the orphaned Chinese mutant with a flair for shopping mall fashions, and the power to launch plasma fireworks from her hands. Previously portrayed by Katrina Florice in "X-Men" (2000) and Kea Wong in "X2: X-Men United (2003)," Jubilee had been thus far underutilized in the series due in part to an effort to keep special effects budgets down. By the time "X-Men Apocalypse" hit screens in 2016, it appeared that budgets had finally come in line with ambitions. But die hard while fans of the character flooded theaters in hopes that she would finally get her due, yet again Jubilee had been relegated to secondary status. No worries for Condor, though; shortly after gaining a bit more exposure in director Peter Berg's Boston Marathon bombing drama "Patriot's Day" (2017), she would land her very first leading role in the romantic comedy "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" (2018). Cast as a literate teen whose life turns topsy turvy when her secret stash of love letters goes public, Condor charmed in the Netflix film adapted from Jenny Han's popular young adult novel. And though you can't get Nielsen numbers on Netflix, Condor's soaring Instagram following was more than enough to confirm that -- much like the book -- the actor had found a loyal fanbase.