What a difference a year makes. Since GRAZIA Singapore’s previous interview and shoot with Tontawan Tantivejakul, more affectionately known as Tu, for the magazine’s inaugural issue last March, the Thai actress has been on a steady ascent to the top echelons of Thai and international celebrity.

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Following her acting debut as the female protagonist Gorya in the 2021 TV romance series F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers, the live‑action adaptation of the Japanese manga series Hana Yori Dango, the fresh‑faced 23‑year‑old landed another lead role, this time in the 2022 TV drama series 10 Years Ticket, which earned her a win for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 2023 Asian Television Awards just three years into her acting career. Last July, she starred in a music video for I Do by K‑pop girl group (G)I‑dle, opposite her F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers co‑star Jirawat Sutivanichsak, widely known by the nickname Dew.

Tu Tontawan Tantivejakul in Dior for GRAZIA Singapore March 2024 issue
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Two months later, Tu was named a Dior ambassador for fashion and jewellery in Thailand. Shortly after, she headed to Paris Fashion Week for the maison’s women’s Spring/Summer 2024 show, where she sat front row in the company of Blackpink’s Jisoo, Jennifer Lawrence, Anya Taylor‑Joy, Phakphum Romsaithong (also known as Mile), Nattawin Wattanagitiphat (also known as Apo), and other ambassadors and friends of the brand. Coming up, she is slated to make her big‑screen debut early next month in How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies (formerly titled The Chinese Family), a Thai black comedy drama film directed by Pat Boonnitipat, whose previous works include the 2020 TV mini‑series Bad Genius. And as if that is not enough, she has accomplished all this while studying dentistry at Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies trailer

Her schedule is one that could make anyone feel out of breath just reading it, but Tu deftly navigates it as easily as she flitted through Paris last September in her black‑and‑white Dior pumps. It is clear from her Instagram that she is fond of fashion—her taste spans grunge, bohemian, classic and more—and she relished attending her first fashion week, with an enthusiasm that was hard to miss. “I was incredibly excited; it felt like a dream come true,” she shares. “From being a girl watching fashion on television, I now have the opportunity to be part of a real fashion show, alongside so many talented individuals. I feel truly honoured.”

Tu Tontawan Tantivejakul in Dior for GRAZIA Singapore March 2024 issue
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And now that she is even more part of the fashion conversation, her admiration for the craft and its impact is palpable. “Fashion is never static; it’s a realm without limits to the imagination,” she says. “It encourages me to think beyond conventional boundaries, daring me to explore uncharted territories and try things I’ve never experienced before.”

Tu Tontawan Tantivejakul in Dior for GRAZIA Singapore March 2024 issue
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Tu is not one to limit her sartorial expression—“My style evolves with time, influenced by the mood of the moment,” she quips—and she takes that same approach when it comes to her career, exploring a range of roles that so far includes a plucky and outgoing high schooler who stands up to the four bullies terrorising her school (Gorya in F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers); a misunderstood teen who endures blame and torment for a tragedy she had no hand in (Kongkwan in 10 Years Ticket); and a kind cousin of a young man who assumes the role of a devoted grandson to secure a substantial inheritance from his grandmother, the ailing matriarch of a Thai‑Chinese clan (Mui in How to Make Millions Before Grandma Dies). On the last, she says: “This marks my [big‑screen debut], and I’m eager to adapt my approach to expressing emotions and portraying characters, recognising the distinct techniques involved compared to acting in television series.”

Tu Tontawan Tantivejakul in Dior for GRAZIA Singapore March 2024 issue
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At the moment, Tu is moderating her acting commitments, considering that she is approaching her last semester at university and expects to complete her programme mid‑2025. That said, she does have her sights set on a scintillating future in the entertainment industry, sharing that she has already begun preparations for projects timed for after her graduation. “I aspire to be an actress who can authentically embody characters, leaving a lasting impression that convinces the audience of my genuine portrayal,” she says. “Building credibility is crucial to me and I aim for people to not only recognise my name, but also associate it with professionalism and a strong commitment to my craft.”

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With no concrete information on what she has signed on for just yet, there is really no knowing what to expect next, especially given how driven she is to explore roles and genres she has not tried her hand at before. But here is a hint: romantic comedies might be on the cards. “Having predominantly portrayed challenging characters, I’m excited about the prospect of embodying a role that is more light‑hearted and enjoyable,” she lets on.

In the whirlwind that was 2023, Tu has found an oasis of growth and progress, both personally and as an actress, and centring herself in the midst of all her commitments, responsibilities and pursuits guides her forward. “I’ve been dedicating more time to self‑reflection, embracing the art of letting go and fostering a positive mindset. This journey has taught me to appreciate the people and things around me more deeply,” she says. “Above all, I’ve been learning the invaluable lesson of self‑love and the importance of prioritising my own well‑being.”

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Despite the fame, the media and fashion events appearances, and the general visibility, she remains very much Tu the person, who fangirls over K‑pop idol groups such as NCT and Itzy, indulges in photography, shares music covers with her 4.6 million Instagram followers (her endearing rendition of Justin Bieber’s Mistletoe, arranged by her elder brother, the actor and musician Tonhon, won enthusiastic praise from her fans), and turns to knitting and crafting to relax. On days when she is not on set or in school, she lives a quiet life. “I find solace in spending time alone, either resting or engaging in my love for knitting,” she shares. “And if ever I feel a bit lonely, I enjoy going out for coffee to catch up with friends and share some quality time together.”

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