Geum Yi

Clara sets her sights on Hollywood

November 21, 2014
(Photo by Kim Tae Oh)

(Photo by Kim Tae Oh)

By Tae Hong

What’s the first image that pops in mind when you hear the name “Clara Lee”? A bombshell wearing leggings out on a baseball mound, or the No. 2 Most Beautiful Woman in the World according to Mode Lifestyle Magazine?

Forget it all — Lee’s honored, and flattered, but really, she just wants to keep going, move on, live a busy life.

Between an upcoming South Korean film, another Hong Kong short film in the works, a never-before-tried rap single (“Fear,” featuring rapper Yasu), a newly launched charity fashion brand and a book waiting to be released in December, the 28-year-old actress is ready to take on her hometown of Hollywood, U.S. of A.

“Everything’s a secret [for now],” she said, sitting inside a meeting room in the Korea Times Los Angeles office Thursday. “But I want to keep doing new things. I love working.”

(Kim Tae Oh)

(Kim Tae Oh)

That’s maybe because work — the kind that started pouring in following her now-famous baseball pitch clad in skin-tight leggings at a Doosan Bears game in May last year — was less bountiful for the seven years Lee spent as a working, but never well-known, television actress.

Things changed quickly after the pitch. The keyword “Clara” led search rankings on Korean web giants for weeks as she became an overnight sex icon. Netizens dug up the information: Clara Lee, daughter of pop band Koreana member Lee Seung-kyu, English citizen, former Angeleno.

Lee was in sixth grade when she moved to the City of Angels from Korea to attend school and live with her aunt. By the time she had graduated from high school and enrolled into El Camino College to study fashion design, she’d juggled an impressive resume of part-time gigs working at malls, burger joints and boba shops.

“I never wanted to become an entertainer,” Lee said. “I always wanted to become a fashion designer. That was it, only one dream. But my mom always wanted me to become an actress. It was her dream. She thought I had talent. She thought I was different. When I was young, I was always dancing in front of mirrors.”

Lee turned 20. She’d come to share her mother’s dream, had already filmed a couple of local commercials for Korean banks in town and been handed business cards by interested parties from JYP and SM Entertainments at L.A. cafes and Korean festivals. She went back home.

South Korea of 2005 was a different place to someone who’d been away for nearly a decade.

“When I came to America, I couldn’t say a word of English. It was difficult. But after I learned English and went back, I was too Americanized,” she laughed. “I was saying hello to everyone on the street in Korea. They were like, is she a crazy girl?”

Adjusting to Korean society as a near-foreigner and as a young girl thrust into the entertainment industry was a challenge, especially after the ratings failure of the first television drama in which she starred as a supporting character — “Invisible Man Choi Jang-soo” in 2006 — but Lee, ever the optimist, often refers to herself as a “happy girl,” both past and present.

“That drama helped me to learn a lot. Before, I didn’t know that I had to work hard at it. I’d just thought, ‘Oh, this is easy. I just do the audition, film.’ After, I worked hard on acting. Now I’ve been acting for eight years.”

Her comparatively short time since spotlight found her has seen its ups and downs.

She was a cast member of “Saturday Night Live Korea” and became a fixture on Korean variety programming. ‘Working Girl,” an upcoming film starring Lee and Jo Yeo-jung, is a comedy due out in January next year. The new single “Fear,” released earlier this month, saw some popularity in China, where Lee said it hit No. 12.

On the flip side, Lee’s found herself in the middle of controversy after netizens accused her of claiming a sausage recipe found on Internet blogs as her own on a TV talk show and faced both admiration and criticism for provocative photo shoots.

“I think [my sexy image] is positive. As a woman, it’s really good to have this sexy image on the side,” she said.

She’s adamant that she wants to show different sides of her, not just the sexy. Her typecasting as a typical rich girl in dramas and films led her to try new things like music, she said.

There’s also Audrey.C, a fashion brand charity she started in August as an homage to Audrey Hepburn, her role model and a famed philanthropist who helped children in Africa. Each pair of Audrey.C-brand leggings sold will donate a vaccination to African mothers and children who need them, she said.

As Lee looks toward the future, which she says includes projects in South Korea, Hollywood and China, as well as a book about her journey due out next month, she’s as optimistic as ever.

“I really think life is short. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You have to enjoy the moment. You have to be really appreciative about it,” she said. “If there’s a chance to try something new, if I see that light, I just go for it.”

One Comment

  1. soulspirit441

    March 27, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    love story