Sook Yin Lee

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Sook Yin Lee


Location

Toronto


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Lee grew up in a Vancouver suburb, the second-oldest daughter of immigrants. Her father a post-World War II orphan from Hong Kong, her mother an escapee from Communist China who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when Lee was young. As a consquence, Lee's upbringing was within a strict, secretive and abusive family. When Lee was 15, her parents split up and Lee ran away from home, eventually living with a "community of lesbians and artists".

In the 1990s, she became the lead singer for Bob's Your Uncle, a Vancouver alternative rock band. Lee often incorporated performance art techniques into the band's melodic rock. When that band broke up, Lee pursued a solo music career, releasing several solo albums and performing as an actor in theatre, film and television projects. She is now a singer for the band Slan. Neko Case covered Lee's song "Knock Loud" on her 2001 EP Canadian Amp.

In 1995, Lee became a VJ for MuchMusic, bringing her theatrical and musical background and her unique creative perspective to the channel. She was best known as the host of MuchMusic's alternative music show, The Wedge. (Now a weekly show, The Wedge was a daily series when Lee hosted.)

Lee has come out as bisexual. In 1995, on the day that sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Supreme Court of Canada, Lee celebrated the decision by kissing a woman on the air. She later appeared on the cover of Xtra! in 1997.

She left MuchMusic in 2001. During her last appearance as a MuchMusic VJ, Lee and her co-host turned their backs to the camera, and mooned the audience on live television. The following year, she was named as the new host of CBC Radio One's Saturday afternoon pop culture magazine, Definitely Not the Opera.

In the fall of 2004, she produced and hosted a documentary celebrating Terry Fox as part of the CBC Television series The Greatest Canadian. Fox finished second in the voting to Tommy Douglas, whose advocate was another ex-MuchMusic VJ, George Stroumboulopoulos.

In 2003, she became the centre of controversy when the CBC threatened to fire her for taking a lead role in John Cameron Mitchell's sexually explicit film Shortbus (released 2006), in which she performs non-simulated intercourse and masturbation on screen. When their position proved unpopular with the public, and celebrities such as director Francis Ford Coppola, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, actress Julianne Moore and artist and musician Yoko Ono rallied behind her, the CBC backed down. In 2007, Lee was subsequently honoured for her work on Shortbus with a Best Supporting Actress award from the International Cinephile Society.

Lee played the lead character, Alessa Woo, alongside fellow Canadian actor Adam Beach in Helen Lee's debut feature film The Art of Woo (2001). Sook-Yin Lee's feature film directorial debut Year of the Carnivore premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. She also stars in and directed The Brazilian segment of Toronto Stories (2008).

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