We had the good fortune of connecting with Trina Dong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Trina, is there something you believe many others might not?
When I was in college, my algebra professor told my class to “work smarter, not harder” to prepare for his exams. My first thought was, “Sir, if I could “work smarter” in math, do you think I would have to take college algebra!?” “No” was the obvious answer and I never trusted that advice from that point on. My career journey proves that sometimes it’s even best to not take the smartest route in order to accomplish your goals. I majored in Public Relations and while most my classmates were preparing for local job opportunities in the midwest, I wanted to work in entertainment on red carpets. So, without a job or savings account, I packed up and moved to New York City. At the time, it was the stupidest decision I could’ve made because at the beginning I had no idea how I was going to pay rent every month. Apparently NYC is expensive. Who knew. For the first year, I worked in retail full-time and also interned full-time, for free, anywhere involving film or entertainment that would take me. My basic math skills tell me that two full-time jobs doesn’t exactly add up to an easy lifestyle. It was really hard and I worked even harder, but that was the only way for a girl from small town Wisconsin to get noticed in the big city. I applied for any job that had the words “publicity” or “public relations” in it just to get my foot in the PR door. One day, I applied for a music publicity job with my resume that only had film experience. Smart? No. Did I care? No. A week went by after I applied for the music PR gig and I got a call from the publicity assistant at a film studio that was responsible for so many of my favorite movies. It turns out, she was looking for her replacement and her best friend worked in publicity at a music label and came across my resume that was filled with film experience, so she passed it on. That was the first day of the rest of my career. After spending a successful 8 years in film publicity and talent PR working nearly 60 hours per week, I fell out of love with the work. I left the money, the city and all of my common sense in NYC then moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting and screenwriting career. 4 years, horrific restaurant survival jobs, hundreds of auditions (a.k.a. hundreds of rejections) and thousands of falls on my face later, I’ve appeared in award-winning television shows, produced and written multiple independent short films, starred in my own short film and always work harder than anyone else in the room just to stay afloat. While working smarter and not harder may seem ideal, working harder in order to get smarter is the way to go.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I pride myself in telling stories that make people feel seen while getting in a laugh or two. As an actress and screenwriter, it takes a while to get your footing because you’re spending most of your time trying to “make it”. I’m most proud that I started from the ground up and continue to rise and improve all the time. The hardest part has been transitioning from a stable career to one that you never know what could happen day to day. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if you’re constantly rejected and you still want to get up and go to the next meeting or audition, you’re doing what you really love. This industry comes along with a lot of self-doubt and overcoming it is difficult but necessary in order to survive it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Where to begin!? We would definitely make multiple trips to Koreatown. We’d hit The Bun Shop for my favorite buns and Somi Somi for the best ice cream. At least two Korean BBQ stops are necessary with Oo Kook for the lunch special and Park’s BBQ for a perfect, giant dinner. You can’t visit LA without stopping at one of the multiple Guisados spots for the incredible tacos and agua fresca. My favorite thing to do is go to the Santa Monica Pier to night beach when no one else is there. It’s more peaceful than you could ever imagine. We’d go to a few comedy shows. Los Angeles is filled with so many hardworking, talented stand up comedians, improvisors and sketch comedy teams that you can’t see anywhere else. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a lot of people that deserve credit in my story, however, there are four people that really championed me and are the reason I was able to start my career. Jeff Abramson, Aaron Levine, Meghan Gold and Ciara Pressler believed in my from the beginning as their intern and helped push me forward. They also taught me early on the importance of treating people well, supporting everyone around you and that hard work pays off.