The Aussie actress hopped on a boat, put on her J12, and talked about life after 30.
Phoebe Tonkin has been acting for half of her life, starting with a teen show in her native Australia. The now-30-year-old has built up an impressive acting CV since then and is also known to her 5.2 million followers as an especially beautiful Instagram influencer. Tonkin can also add Chanel ambassador to her list of titles. The Parisian house staged a French seaside takeover on Shelter Island in the Hamptons this past weekend to fete its popular J12 watch. BAZAAR.com took this picturesque opportunity to shoot the New York-based Australian on a Chanel-branded sailboat and to ask Tonkin some questions about social media, her career, and what else when we’re all here for a watch? Time.
Harper’s BAZAAR: Let’s get right into you. When did you start acting? What do you love about it?
Phoebe Tonkin: I started acting when I was about 15. I was taking all the drama classes and acting courses. I auditioned for Home and Away—I don’t know if Americans know about Home and Away—and didn’t get it. And the second thing I auditioned for was a kid show called H2O. And that took me away from my kind of normal childhood, teenage adolescence for three years to shoot three seasons of it in the Gold Coast—I was Sydney based. And then from there, I kind of … I don’t know if I fell in love with acting so much as I fell in love with the world of what making film and TV was and is. I just love being on set. I feel like, I mean, I’m 30 now, the first set I was on, I was 15. So half of my life I’ve been on a set, and it’s so familiar to me. I feel so comfortable. I think I fell in love with the world of telling stories.
What do you think is the project that put you out into the world the most?
H20 was quite popular in Australia and then got bought by Netflix over here. But in terms of what I feel like changed my own kind of trajectory in terms of just personally how I felt about working, it was a show called Safe Harbour that’s on Hulu. I shot it about two years ago and it just … I don’t know, I think it just rejuvenated my passion for telling stories again, and why I love doing it, and the impulsivity, and the just passion. It was a very small budget, with just some of the most incredible talents and creative in Australia all involved in it. It was just so inspiring to me, and every day was such a treat to be on set, even when I wasn’t working, I just absorbed everything I saw. Yeah. Safe Harbour was the one, at least as an adult, that really kind of reshaped where I wanted to go with my career.
How did you become involved as a Chanel ambassador?
I met Ilona Hamer [who styled this shoot] about nine years ago at a Chanel event in Australia that I was invited to—Ilona helped style me for it. And then a few years later, she was shooting something for Chanel and she had all of these samples in her apartment. Our friend Adrian [Mesko] was a photographer and we’d all had a glass of wine or something, and Ilona said, “Why don’t we shoot Phoebe in some of these samples and Adrian can shoot it?” It was just the three of us sitting at her apartment, and she took the photos, put them on her blog, and sent them to Chanel in Australia. And that was sort of how I got properly introduced. And then from then, I shot a few covers and editorials, and went to a few shows. But I became an ambassador last year.
What does Chanel as a brand and an idea represent to you?
I think there’s something really kind of timeless and classic and elegant, but still sort of strong and a little rebellious about the Chanel woman. And I like being part of a brand that really wants you to feel and look like yourself, while still sort of being a face, or a representation of the house. That you can style the clothes in a way that you would wear them, as opposed to being put in full head-to-toe looks. And even today, this shoot is exactly how I would probably be going on a boat—except with more Chanel.
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