You can say no. In this industry, everyone is eager to please and think “this opportunity will never come along again” and will do just about anything someone tells them to do. If you’re not comfortable with something, speak up! Simply say no. Bottomline, never do something you do not want to do.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Lee, international swimwear model, reality television personality and MTV’s new Bombshell Rookie on The Challenge: Total Madness.
Jennifer Lee is a professional model and American reality television personality best-known for CBS’s Amazing Race and MTV’s The Challenge: Total Madness. She is also widely known for winning Miss Korea, California.
This year, Jenn joined an all-star lineup of reality stars for a landmark season of The Challenge: Total Madness. The Challenge included veterans audiences have come to know, love and hate. For Total Madness, the show returned to its solo game format where, in true MTV fashion, there was a major plot twist. Jenn, along with 28 players, took part in challenge after challenge in hopes to win the 1 million dollars prize.
Jenn’s first TV appearance was in 2017 on Amazing Race, a reality game show where teams race against each other in a global scavenger hunt. The teams make specific “pit stops” where they complete different challenges to gather clues that help them move forward in the game. Jenn attributed her competitive nature, background in psychology and familiarity with travel, thanks to a long, successful career in modeling, for making it onto the coveted Race. After competing with her teammate Kevin NG, Jenn walked away with an even stronger love for adventure and travel.
Represented by several modeling agencies, NTA Models being her mother agency, and best-known for her work in swimwear, Jenn has been featured in Esquire, Maxim, TMZ, CBS, The Eric Andre Show, and has walked in several Swim Weeks. On top of her work in editorial and runway, Jenn was a Grammy Trophy Model and successfully landed work with world renowned director, Chris Applebaum, known for his worldwide Carl’s Junior ad campaigns. Jenn is proud to be an advocate for health and wellness and has partnered with Guess, Revolve, ALO Yoga, Honey Birdette, along with a slew of bikini brands.
Over the years, audiences have quickly come to know and love Jenn’s spontaneous, confident and quirky personality. Born in Australia, Jenn moved to Palos Verdes when she was 2 years old. Growing up in Southern California, she developed a love for swimming, running on the beach, hiking, and anything outdoors.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thanks for having me! I was originally born in Sydney, Australia then moved to Palos Verdes, CA at a young age. I have citizenship in both the US and Australia and go back to visit family all the time. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up by the beach, even in college I lived in Newport Beach, so I’m basically a true California beach girl at heart.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
All my life growing up, my family and relatives always insisted I compete in Miss Korea. I’m more of a tomboy so I wasn’t very interested initially because I would rather have been outside riding bikes, etc, you know, tomboy things! But I finally agreed to do it. I’m the type of person who once I’m in it, I’m in it to win it. So, I gave it my all and ended up winning which sparked the start of my modeling career and fueled my competitive spirit.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career, reality television and/or modeling?
The most interesting thing that happened to me is when I ended up working with the people that I’ve watched on my TV screen growing up; which sums up my experience coming into The Challenge: Total Madness, a show I watched as teenager. I always thought it was a badass show. So I would say the most surreal moment was when I showed up at LAX when we first started filming this season, and met all the veterans in person. It was like jumping into my TV screen. Meeting CT, Johnny Bananas, and Wes, I felt like I was meeting the OG Challenge trifecta.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
One really exciting project I’m working on is MTV’s The Challenge. I used to watch this show growing up and thought all the challenges were badass and always wanted to play, and now I actually am! Crazy how the world works like that. I will say it is a really tough show and I had to train for it because a lot of the cast are size-wise, way bigger than me. Most of them also are used to doing these crazy competitions so they do have a leg up on me! This season also has a lot of twists and living situations alone are supposed to break you, so you’ll have to stay tuned and see what happens.
We are very interested in 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?
I’m really loving how nowadays the entertainment industry is representing diversity in film and television! We’ve come a long way! One reason is the fact that America is a melting pot, the land of opportunity, and showcasing that races from all over the world can make it in entertainment shows we can accomplish anything! Another reason, is it helps viewers learn about what else is out there when they watch films/television and learn about other cultures. Lastly, I think incorporating diversity in film and television exemplifies equality and really shows that no matter what color your skin is or where you come from, you have a fighting shot to make it in this industry.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Always be yourself. I learned this early on. When walking into a casting, most of the time you are walking into a room full of your lookalikes, or people that fall in the same category as you. At first, it’s quite intimidating, because subconsciously you are comparing yourself to them, thinking, they may be better looking than me, they may have more experience than me, etc. However, at this point there is nothing you can do about it but be yourself! Once you’re in the room with the casting director, no one else matters, this is truly your time to shine and BE YOURSELF. You might just have a better personality or confidence than the others, their look may not be what the director is looking for and yours is, theres is a plethora of reasonings as to why you might be the one to book this job. But at the end, as long as you show them who you are as a person, thats all that matters.
2) You can say no. In this industry, everyone is eager to please and think “this opportunity will never come along again” and will do just about anything someone tells them to do. If you’re not comfortable with something, speak up! Simply say no. Bottomline, never do something you do not want to do. Honestly, I think if you say no and stick to who you are, it’s more respectable than being a puppet and being molded into someone you are not. Know your worth.
3) Make your impression, then forget about it. When you go into a casting, definitely go in and give it your all!!! But once you leave, personally I think it’s best to just forget about it and pretend it never happened. Once you starting thinking about it, you start to second guess yourself, or start to ruminate of how you could have done it differently, or just wonder aimlessly if you are going to book the job. That’ll just drive you up the wall and stress you out for no reason, because at this point, it’s out of your hands! So let’s say you go in and do your thing and forget about it, when you do get the call that you booked it, it’s way more exciting!
You are a person of great 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m a very green person, so I would say saving Earth’s resources and going green is of utmost importance. Our resources are not going to last forever, especially at the rate were going so we really need to conserve for our future generations, because they are our future, quite literally. Our resources, and our planet Earth, is applicable to everyone, because hey, we’re all living on it, so I think it’s only fair to do our part and be as green as possible.
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?
One particular person who I’m grateful for who’s helped to get me where I am now is my mom. She’s my everything and best friend. She’s always been so supportive and provided everything I’ve ever needed to make it. Specifically when I was starting off in pageants, I was still in school and was juggling pageants and my education, so she took it upon herself to basically be my coach, stylist, and of course my support system. She’s my rock.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t think, just do. The more you think about something, the more you’re likely to second guess yourself. You might as well take a chance and see what opportunity comes out of it! There’s no harm in trying right? I’ve applied this life lesson to basically everything, I would not have been on The Challenge or the Amazing Race if I hesitated to deliberate whether I should or should not take the chance. I honestly probably would have been self conscious and thought I wasn’t tough enough, but here I am now!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The person that I would love to sit down with for a private lunch is Jennifer Lawrence. I respect her because through all of her success from such a young age, she’s always remained so humble and well rounded. She’s also experienced bullying in her life growing up and I really appreciate her outlook towards bullying “ignore them or forgive them.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Catch Jenn Lee battle it out on MTV’s The Challenge: Total Madness this Wednesday April 1st 8|7c on MTV
Plus, be sure to follow Jenn-