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Jarry Lee: “Don’t be afraid to show your personality”

What keeps me moving forward is knowing that I am showing and inspiring young Asian women who look like me that they too can pursue a career in entertainment (or in any industry they want). I didn’t know this career was an option for me in childhood because of the lack of Asian representation on-screen. […]

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What keeps me moving forward is knowing that I am showing and inspiring young Asian women who look like me that they too can pursue a career in entertainment (or in any industry they want). I didn’t know this career was an option for me in childhood because of the lack of Asian representation on-screen. Many young Asian women (and men) have reached out to me and expressed that they felt inspired to see someone who looked like them working in TV/film and succeeding. Representation matters! Fortunately, these days the industry has begun to change but we still have a long way to go. I want to be a part of fighting for that change.


Asa part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jarry Lee.

Jarry Lee is an agency-signed model, actress, musician, and social media influencer with over 675,000 followers across all her platforms. She appeared as herself on the Netflix show Dating Around (season 1), as the lead actress in season 3 of The Fever, and in commercials for AT&T, Dr. Brandt skincare, and various L’Oréal brands. Based in NYC but originally from the UK, Jarry is an alum of NYU and Choate Rosemary Hall, and previously worked as a deputy editor at BuzzFeed for 4 years, covering books and culture, before pivoting to a career in entertainment.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Ispent my childhood in Wales and England, and lived in Connecticut after my parents came to the United States for postdoctoral work. I loved the arts as a kid, and studied classical piano, violin, and painting/drawing with private tutors — I feel privileged to have had an upbringing that encouraged a passion for creativity. I spent a lot of time reading and writing poetry, coding very basic HTML websites, watching classic French films, and listening to alternative/indie music. Oh, and playing Neopets, of course — my secret childhood addiction! I moved to Manhattan, New York City to attend NYU for undergrad and have lived there for almost a decade now.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

In prep school, I had written a play for (and performed in) a playwriting festival, and had taken a few acting classes I really enjoyed — so when in 2017 I was going through a bit of a creative rut, I decided to see what the acting scene was like in NYC out of curiosity. I started with commercial acting, and eventually got into modeling too after walking in a NYFW show in honor of the #MeToo movement in 2018. I left my full-time job at BuzzFeed and my career in media in general in mid-2018 as my bookings were taking off.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was offered the opportunity to appear on Netflix’s first dating docuseries, Dating Around, in 2018. It was a cinematic, beautifully-shot show and I used it to publicly come out as gynandrous. The casting process lasted about a month (and involved a psych eval!), and filming took place from early in the evening to around four in the morning at a hotel and restaurant in Brooklyn. I was grateful for the chance to speak about gynandrous, which is still underrepresented in media and entertainment. Season 1 was released in February 2019 and people still message me all the time about watching me on the show — I guess that’s the power of Netflix!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am not exactly a morning person, and one time I accidentally overslept and missed my call-time for a car commercial (I think for Cadillac). The casting agency was (rightfully) pissed. I haven’t overslept since!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m most grateful to my partner, who has fully supported and encouraged me throughout my career. His deep belief in me and my abilities has been deeply motivating and uplifting. Plus, he’s always happy to help me prepare for auditions, even if he has to read some occasionally ridiculous lines out loud! We’ve also auditioned for and been cast in a few shoots as a couple, which has been fun.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

A friend of mine likes to say that it’s riskiest to play it safe — you don’t know what you’re truly capable of, or how far you could go unless you try! I think a good question to ask is “what do you have to lose?” Uncertainty is uncomfortable and scary but no career is ever truly certain anyway. If you think it will make you feel fulfilled and happy, it can’t hurt to give it a go. And then put in the work — push yourself every day and commit to growing your skills. The entertainment industry is constantly evolving, so you need to learn, adapt, and evolve with it.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

What keeps me moving forward is knowing that I am showing and inspiring young Asian women who look like me that they too can pursue a career in entertainment (or in any industry they want). I didn’t know this career was an option for me in childhood because of the lack of Asian representation on-screen. Many young Asian women (and men) have reached out to me and expressed that they felt inspired to see someone who looked like them working in TV/film and succeeding. Representation matters! Fortunately, these days the industry has begun to change but we still have a long way to go. I want to be a part of fighting for that change.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed some of the projects I was working on, but I’d say I’m most excited about working on writing and recording original music in the meantime, which should be released over the next year or so. I’ve been working on song arrangements in 3–4 part harmony as well.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

One: youth seeing themselves and their stories represented on-screen can be inspiring and motivating. Two: it promotes more education about other races and cultures, which engenders understanding, tolerance, compassion, and unity. Three: the more that diversity is normalized in the entertainment industry, the more that pay rates across the board will become increasingly fair and equalized.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. It’s OK to turn things down — whether that’s a gig, role, audition, etc. I used to try to do everything I was offered, but quickly realized that my time is most valuable. Overextending yourself because you don’t want to say “no” to anything might actually make you miss out on other, better opportunities.

2. At the same time, don’t make up excuses to say “no.” There will be days when I don’t feel like filming a self-tape audition, for example — but if I don’t put in the work just because “I don’t feel like it”, I would never get booked for anything! As the saying goes, you really do miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Working hard on set is important, but people want to work with those they like and have fun around. The best shoots I’ve experienced were ones where everyone got along and felt comfortable enough to be themselves.

4. Ask questions! If you don’t know something, just ask. There’s nothing shameful about being inexperienced or wanting to learn more. Some of the best insights I’ve gotten were from asking others on set about their experiences and expertise.

5. Drink water. I was constantly dehydrated and underestimated how much something as simple as drinking water could affect my performance and mood.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

Something that has helped me overcome anxiety and stress is taking a magnesium supplement — I use “Natural Calm” by Natural Vitality in the raspberry-lemon flavor. In 2016, I was overworking myself and it began to take a toll on my body: I suddenly started having debilitating panic attacks that landed me in the emergency room. A friend of mine recommended Natural Calm and it was one of the only things that helped me combat my anxiety. (The others were larger lifestyle changes, like practicing yoga and journaling). Whenever I take it, I can feel my muscles relaxing, and now even the smell and sound of the powder dissolving in hot water is soothing to me!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I live by “you can do anything you put your mind to.” I believe that success is mostly the result of hard work and dedication, with some talent and luck thrown in — so if you are willing to commit the time and energy, no achievement is truly impossible. I’ve managed to succeed in industries I had no prior experience in simply because I’m open-minded and eager to learn, and to put in the effort to improve my skillset. Being willing to do the work is the key.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to be part of a movement that helps young people cope with anxiety. There’s still so much stigma around mental illness, but we can’t effectively help anyone if these topics remain “taboo” to talk about. I’m open about my past personal struggles with anxiety and panic attacks in the hopes that sharing those experiences might help someone else feel a little less alone. There’s nothing inherently shameful about mental illness, and yet it’s still something actively shamed in our society today.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Two of my favorite actors are Sandra Oh and Daniel Kaluuya. They are both so incredibly talented, and it would be a dream to be able to pick their brains (as much as I hate that phrase)!

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @jarrylee

Twitter: @jarry

TikTok: @jarryleeofficial

YouTube: youtube.com/jarrylee

Official Website: www.jarrylee.com

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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