The art of Sook-Yin Lee by Fiona
her first major movie role, former MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee decided to go against
type. A self-described tomboy who's as comfortable in heels as Stone Cold Steve
Austin would be in a bra, Lee plays a dainty, feminine golddigger in the romantic
comedy The Art of Woo (playing at
not a girlie girl," she admits, sitting inside the lobby of Fifth Avenue
Cinemas. "I had to completely transform my physical body language and the
shoe thing was quite a problem. I had to keep getting wardrobe to find smaller
and smaller heels."
the film, set in Toronto, Lee plays Alessa Woo, an ambitious art curator who
poses as a rich Asian heiress to nab a wealthy man. Love doesn't enter the equation.
Her plans are complicated, however, when a gifted painter named Ben Crowchild
(Adam Beach) moves into the suite next to hers. Passing himself off as poor,
Ben falls in love with Alessa and vice versa, but her goal of finding a rich
husband gets in the way and she dismisses him. Both, however, have secrets about
their background, which are slowly revealed.
it's very much a fairy tale, Lee insists the film is grounded in reality. For
Alessa, security comes in the form of money, which motivates most people. The
daughter of Chinese immigrants, who left war-torn Hong Kong decades ago, Lee
says her mother always sought wealth. "It symbolized security for her and
her quest for money brought a lot of pain," she says matter-of-factly.
"There are a lot of women like Alessa. Money is a major motivator and she's
looking for the motherlode. But beyond the money, it's really love and acceptance
that's prompting her and that is something I could relate to in the character."
in Lynn Valley, Lee left home and moved downtown when she was 15, looking for
like-minded individuals with whom she could express her personality. She found
it in Bob's Your Uncle, a rock band that released five albums, toured Canada
and the U.S. and led to her landing a plum job on Much Music. But music is only
one of Lee's passions. She also explored movie-making early in her career, first
with The Escapades of the One Particular
Mr. Noodle, an autobiographical tale based on a summer job she had walking
the streets dressed as a ten foot egg noodle. After the film was selected to
be part of the NFB's Five Feminist Minutes, she was commissioned to write and
direct Hey, Kelly!, part of an educational,
anti-racism series for which she also wrote and recorded the soundtrack. Since
then, she's had small roles in a variety of films, including Hedwig and the
reputation soon spread. MuchMusic creator Moses Znaimer heard about Lee through
a Vancouver producer and asked her to audition as a VJ. He liked what he saw
and hired her. With Bob's Your Uncle dead and nothing else keeping her in Vancouver,
Lee relocated to Toronto. After six years, however, Lee felt it was time to
move on. "MuchMusic was always pushing me creatively and artistically,"
she says. "It was never one of those comfy cozy jobs until recently I started
to get that familiar feeling that I had to get out and explore a new area."
Dressed in faux fur coat, Mongolian-style
winter hat, Lee is clearly someone who has no problem expressing herself. On her
last day at MuchMusic a couple of months ago, the flamboyant Lee mooned the camera.
Lee is currently in a "state of flux," trying to figure out her next
career move. But she is certain of one thing. "I want to be able to tell
stories and create-it makes me very happy to sing, to act, to write music, to
work with my friends who are like-minded and to explore new things together. That's
my goal. "