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Jarry Lee, 27, lives the dream millennial life. Originally from Wales, she’s now an agency-signed model, actress and singer based in a city as busy as her – New York City. Lee is also an influencer with more than 600,000 followers on Instagram alone. Not to mention, she’s a practiced writer who served as the Deputy Books Editor for BuzzFeed News. Based on her posting history – with a staggering 599 Buzzfeed posts – you may have found a kindred spirit in Lee if you are also a Potterhead like her.
We were excited to chat with Lee to learn more about how she has achieved distinction in her creative endeavors.
Lee could have made many other career moves. Besides Lee’s impressive summa cum laude graduation from New York University (NYU) – go Violets! – her intellectual interests were apparent even when she was a kid.
“As a kid, I was obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and writing morbid poems – I wanted to be a poet or a screenwriter,” she revealed. “I edited a couple of literary magazines/journals at Choate (the boarding school she attended in Connecticut) and NYU, and still occasionally will write, but poetry isn’t exactly lucrative.”
“I also had a childhood fantasy about working as a CIA field agent because I loved all things spy-related (and still do.) More realistically, I had assumed that I would end up working in tech since it runs in the family and both of my parents have computer engineering Ph.D.s,” Lee said.
Lee divulged other childhood interests when she answered questions for an article series about inspirational women in Hollywood. “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," she said.
Lee used to think that she would follow a typical path by continuing as an editor and journalist, for which she seems well qualified based on her eclectic interests. However, her side hustle of acting and modeling eventually led to a pivot in her career path and revamped her life.
“I had written for and performed in a playwriting festival while in school and really enjoyed it,” she said. “I had thought about commercial acting in NYC for fun for a while, and decided to try it out after I had gotten professional headshots in 2017-2018. I started booking modeling jobs as well and eventually was working too much so I decided to switch careers.”
“The freedom of being in control of my own schedule was empowering and energizing, whereas I was feeling burnt out at my full-time job as a deputy editor and journalist,” Lee remembered.
“In retrospect, I’m grateful I made the choice that was a little scary at the time – there’s much more financial uncertainty in being self-employed or a freelancer – rather than sticking with a more traditional career path, which, up until then, I believed to be the only option,” she said.
Rather than merely being motivated by the pursuit of cash or a large following, Lee is motivated by higher social purposes.
Lee first got into modeling after walking for a New York Fashion Week show where she honored the #MeToo movement; and with that opportunity, she bravely shared her stalking experience. According to the NY Daily News, “Lee was stalked by a man after rejecting his advances on a dating app. The stalker was later found around the building where she worked, and Lee had to be escorted out by security following the incident.”
Lee also made headlines for coming out as bisexual on an episode of Netflix’s “Dating Around.” That appearance is especially notable since openly bisexual individuals are typically not well represented in media.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to share about my bisexuality on television — there’s still not enough bi representation in media/entertainment,” Lee commented. “I used the experience as a way to publicly come out.”
Her portrayal of a smart, young Asian ‘fempreneur’ in the third season of the television series “The Fever,” also breaks down barriers.
“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,” Lee said. “I didn’t know this career was an option for me in childhood because of the lack of Asian representation on-screen.”
The next chapter
Despite already enjoying a level of success that many people aspire for, Lee’s efforts in setting goals are far from over.
“Personally, I’d love to eventually run a marathon,” she revealed. “In 2019, I ran a half marathon for the first time – ASICS sponsored me to race in their shoes – and it really challenged and pushed me physically.”
“Professionally, I’m working on writing and recording original music. I’ve been producing song arrangements in 3-4 part harmony, but original songwriting is more of a challenge," Lee said.
We were happy to continue our chat with Lee so that we could derive more life lessons from her journey so far.
What has been your favorite modeling gig so far? What about your favorite acting gig?
In 2019 I modeled for legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown’s brand Evolution_18 and it was such a cool experience to work with her and see how she did my makeup! She’s a wonderful, kind person and I respect her a lot. For acting, it’s a toss-up between being able to share and talk about my bisexuality on Season 1 of Netflix’s Dating Around, and portraying myself in an AT&T commercial for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip smartphone (I was asked to bring some of my own wardrobe to showcase in the spot, which was really fun).
You have more than 600K followers across all social media platforms! What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an influencer?
I think that trying to become an influencer is a bad goal – true influencers have a large following because they’re doing something interesting in their career. Work on building your career and growing in whichever industry you’re interested in, and the followers will come. Social media is a great platform for self-branding and marketing. It shouldn’t be an end-goal in itself.
What are 3 words you would use to describe your character/you as a person?
Driven, confident, adventurous.
What is one critical moment in your life that has shaped you and where you are today?
I was bullied in prep school and learned to value my personal opinion of myself over what others thought of me. It taught me resilience, true self-confidence and worth and to live and create work without fear of judgment from outsiders – and I’m a much happier, stronger person as a result.
Who is an influencer that you look up to?
I respect my former co-worker Jen Winston (@jenerous) for using her platform to spread awareness for social change and equality. She’s bold and isn’t afraid to speak out.
What was it like when you realized that you have a significant following online?
I don’t think I realize it even now – I don’t think much about it, to be honest. I still feel surprised so many people actually watch my Instagram stories, but it’s weird to think about, so I don’t! I’m grateful to have a platform and people who are fans of my work.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to be unafraid to pursue a non-traditional career path or industry. But I’m also really happy with my life, so maybe I wouldn’t tell my younger self anything!
What do you want your legacy to be?
I hope to show young women that they are not limited to, and can succeed outside of, traditional career paths. These days, it’s more possible than ever before to create one’s own dream job and career, especially with the self-marketing opportunities that social media provides. I hope my path inspires others to take the risk and leap of faith to pursue their own passions.
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