The word “charismatic” might not be an appropriate adjective to describe a woman. However, Lee Young-mi (‘93, Political Science and Diplomacy) is well known to be the charismatic queen of musicals. When asked how she feels about this modifier, she says, “I want to be remembered as a passionate actress who gives everything and tries her best in both singing and acting. If representing this character with a color, red would be perfect.”
Many of her fans are surprised to find out that Lee majored in Political Science and Diplomacy. This is because her career as an actress does not seem to match with her past life. “I was the type of person who wanted to be acknowledged by many people. When as a student I really studied hard because obtaining good grades was the only way to be praised by people. It is quite embarrassing to say but I was an exemplary student with a high GPA. However when I entered Ewha, I realized that all the students were smart. Although I still maintained a high GPA, I began to lose interest in studying and started to challenge myself with a new field, singing,” said Lee.
Lee debuted as a musical actress in 1999. Her talents in acting and singing were soon recognized by starring in many of famous musicals such as Hedwig, Greese, Jekyll and Hide, and Subway Line No. 1. “All of the works are special and memorable to me. As an actress, I believe the role of playing another person’s life is hard to forget. But if I were to choose only a few, I would choose Hedwig, Greese, and Jekyll and Hide, not only because those musicals were well received by many people but I played each role for quite a long time.”
Lee is currently enjoying the role in a musical called Pump Boys. The songs in Pump Boys are fast and delightful. “If my character in previous musicals was somewhat gloomy and dark, this time I play the role of a bright and funny bartender. I am trying to change my boyish character to girlish but you can still find unique personality in the musical,” adds Lee.
In the 11th Korea Musical Awards in 2005, Lee won the Popularity Award with her role as Yitzhak in the musical Hedwig. It is always great to receive any kind of awards but she says this award was especially meaningful to her since it was voted by netizens and fans of musicals. Then what makes the netizens and musical mania so attracted to Lee?
“I don’t know if this can be included as my strong points but I believe I am a very outspoken person. Being a frank person might sometimes hurt others’ feelings but I do not like the feeling of hiding something in my mind. It makes me uncomfortable, so I am always straight forward. This kind of personality can be seen and appeared before the audience and they seem to like this kind of gossip girl,” says Lee.
Lee’s position popularity was not earned from the beginning. In the times when she was unknown, she also had difficult times. “What made me hard was that expectations from my parents were different from those of mine. Now I have starred in many musicals and am recognized by some people but in the early days, I felt regretful and pathetic about myself wondering if I am going the right direction especially whenever I see my friends going the way as they have planned.” Lee continued, “To overcome this, I did not do anything special but sang. Singing is like a magnet to me. After wandering, I always pulled myself together thinking, ‘Yes. This is the way. If others can, why can’t I?’”
Lee encourages Ewha students to do whatever they want and pursue their own dreams. “Nowadays university students, especially juniors and seniors, live under a fixed notion. In my perspective, they confine themselves in a formality either in work or love. They seem to pursue living a successful and luxurious life and if they don’t, they regard themselves as a loser. What I want to remind those students is to “wake up!” The most important thing in living a successful in life is to break the stereotype and follow your heart.”
By Cha Ji-hae