Q&A with Julia Lee
With her infectious personality and passion for pop culture and beauty, model Julia Lee strives to inspire self-love and perseverance.
Q: Can you share some childhood memories with our readers that have shaped you into the woman you are today?
A: I grew up outside of Philadelphia with immigrant parents, so I was first-generation American. My grandma raised my sisters and me until she passed when I was nine. Because both of my parents were working, there were times when they would have to go to work and I would have to wait at home by myself to take the bus to school. I think that was one small part of how I learned to be independent at a young age. My family was also mostly female. I have two older sisters and we were raised by my parents and grandma.
Q: What would you like to see change in the modelling industry?
A: I would like to see more inclusivity that is genuine. After the BLM and Stop Asian Hate movements, I saw a lot more casting of models of colour, which was great, but sometimes I feel like it was done more as a performative activism trend at the time and not something that is here to stay in the future. I also see a lot of brands casting plus-size right now, but to me it feels like they are checking off a box. It all feels like a bunch of boxes. Nothing wrong with boxes, but I feel it’s indicative of meeting diversity criteria without truly embracing the core intent of diversity itself. Don’t use us to sell your products per se, include us IF we sell your products. Intent and impact are equally important, in my opinion. Otherwise we feel used, not included.
Q: What would be your advice to young women who would like to pursue a modelling career?
A: Take your time with it. Your career is not over once you hit 18 years old. Be yourself — that’s the best selling point you have, rather than trying to fit into what you think the industry wants you to be. The camera does not lie and picks up what’s real — like your emotion and imperfections — so it’s important to make sure you’re bringing your true self forward.
Q: What’s the favourite experience you cherish from your modelling career?
A: Shooting for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam. I worked with an incredibly talented team, including stylist Kevin Parker, who heads Philly Fashion Week with Kerry Scott. Philly Fashion Week is where my modelling career started, so it was one of my full-circle moments. And Vietnam is where my father, who had passed not long before, was from. I may not have known it in the moment, but the kismet was undeniable. This whole journey of pursuing modelling as a career was not always smooth. My traditional upbringing did not lend itself to the wanderlust career of modelling, and my parents unknowingly made sure I knew that. There were moments when I felt unsure if I was making the right decisions because it felt like everyone close to me wanted me to go on a different path. Getting this cover was an affirmation of my belief in myself and that chasing my dreams was worth the leap.
Q: What have you learned about yourself, or about people in general, because of your career as a model?
A: It’s not about you, and people are people regardless of what they wear, what they drive, what they brag about, or what they cry to you at night about when all of the above fades away.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Bad customer service, especially over the phone.
Q: What are you most grateful for?
A: My parents trying their best to raise me with what they had and doing better than they could have ever imagined!
Q: What is your definition of beauty?
A: Someone or something that is pure. That’s rare, so when I see it I’m in awe.
Q: Describe to us a typical day when you are not working.
A: I wake up without an alarm and have a moment to myself with a cup of coffee. I’ll warm up to the day by watching the news with my boyfriend and Frenchie pup. Later, I’ll hang out with friends to catch up or have a puppy date in the park. Then I’m relaxing at home. Because my life is very much on the go with work, it’s really important for me to have a solid home base that I can retreat to on my days off.
Q: What do you look for in a friendship or relationship?
A: Someone who is inspiring, supportive and secure. When it comes to a relationship, it’s important that I see a partnership with that person, that there is no jealousy, and he can understand the nature of my business. A cute Frenchie is a bonus!
Q: What is your favourite movie, book or song?
A: Birdman, the movie.
Q: What does your future look like?
A: Full! I am excited to focus on acting and dive deep into that craft. I also want to travel to Vietnam and connect with my Vietnamese heritage.
Q: What is a tough lesson you learned early in your career?
A: It’s one thing to be signed to a Top 10 agency just to say you did it. It’s another thing to be a working model who is booking jobs and making consistent income from it.
Q: Do you have any regrets from your past? If so, what would you do differently?
A: I regret not taking time to journal all the fun moments I’ve had. I have my camera roll to look back on, but I think journaling would make me sit with myself and take the proper time to reflect on my journey and how fortunate I am.