While diversity and inclusion may be hot buzz words, they’re not being equally embraced by every industry. The entertainment business is a notoriously homogeneous one, and consumers of entertainment have started opening their eyes and asking why everyone on their screens look the same, and nothing like the population of the real world around them. The battle to break racial barriers in entertainment has been a long one and it shows no signs of ending. So today we’re chatting with one of the warriors in that battle, actor, artist and creator Cory Lee.
Cory was born in Vancouver but now calls Toronto home. The daughter of an Asian mother and German father, the biracial beauty was bitten by the entertainment bug early on in life, beginning her career in the arts at a very young age. A true triple threat, Cory can sing, dance, act and write, and has the extensive resume to prove it. Her first album did very well in Canada, Charting top 10 in the clubs and on the radio, and earning her a Juno nomination for R&B song of the year in 2005. Cory also gained fame and acclaim for recurring lead TV acting roles on Instant Star, Degrassi: The Next Generation and more recently Matchmaker Mysteries along side Danica Kellar (Winnie Cooper of the classic show The Wonder Years).
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For years, Cory struggled against type casting, being cast into stereotypical roles or being ignored or overlooked because entertainment industry folks couldn’t figure out “what to do with her”. But thanks to her perseverance, hard work and self advocacy, Cory has broken every mold anyone tried to put her in. And now, her hard work has paid off with more castings, more bookings and more amazing roles than ever, including being the lead in a new production! Cory shared her trials and tribulations with us and it’s inspiring to know this amazing human. Take a read below!
How did you get your start in the film and television industry?
I started my career doing both music and acting at a very young age. I started at 10 years old in professional musical theater and then moved into being a recording artist and acting in my early teens. I started focusing on my own music more in the early 2000s and when I started gaining music success was when i was asked to audition for a TV show called Instant Star. I ended up landing that role and moved to Toronto. I say my real acting career was born that year, and that was 2006!!
What challenges have you faced navigating your career?
Where do I start? Pretty much everything that you can think of, I have had to face. I have had so many “No’s” and challenges in my lifetime. When I was very young, I was told by numerous people that the only lead role in a musical for an Asian actress was Miss Saigon – I went home and learned every word. When I first started my professional recording career, labels were scared of signing an Asian woman that sang R&B/Pop. I couldn’t get a record deal to save my life. I ended up paying to make a whole album myself and even paid a radio promoter to put a song to the radio. The song ended up doing very well and, surprise surprise, labels started calling. But I did that! I could keep going on and on. I have had success and many failures. It’s a constant rollercoaster and I have had to work extra hard to get to where I am today.
What big “wins” are you the most proud of?
I am proud to say I have been nominated for a Juno award, Toured the world, Had numerous series leads and have been consistently been working the last few years. My biggest personal wins are I have an amazing family, friends and husband and that is everything!
What’s coming up that you’re most excited about?
I have been so blessed this past year . This month cameras started rolling on my sixth movie in the pandemic… where I have a starring role!!!!!! I feel like I am in a dream and I am so beyond excited! Plus, I had two lovely movies premiering in the states this month – Matchmaker Mysteries – The Art Of The Kill on Hallmark Movies and My Father’s Other Family on Lifetime!
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career in film and television?
Keep moving forward. Never shy away from hard work. Love what you do. Get as much training as you can. Never give up.