As a dapper Psy and Netflix’s bounty of Korean romantic dramas (we personally enjoyed Pasta) suggests, pop culture has found a new playmate in Seoul. And the latest sensation from the bubble gum axis of North-East Asia, comes in the form of a face that has been heralded to be one of the most beautiful in the world by select international press. North America, meet Clara Lee.
At 29 years-old, Lee already boasts pin-up girl status in Korea with editorial spreads in L’Officiel Hommes, Esquire Hong Kong and Men’s Health Korea, not to mention the star role in a racy Sprite commercial that has amassed many a hundred thousand views on Youtube. (We’re guessing this is owed to a combination of a bikini clad Lee and a literal Sprite “shower” on the beach.)
In the world of fashion, Lee too is a heavyweight. Over her career as a model, she’s posed for the Korean subsidiary of titles including Allure, Marie Claire, Nylon and InStyle, she was the runway darling at this year’s Seoul Fashion Week and over here, she’s landed on the media radar with spreads in magazines, such as Audrey and DuJour.
Having already added acting to her list of talents, Lee is on her way to becoming a genuine hyphenate, as she sings and dances her way into the world of K-pop.
“I love the stage and all the cameras. I feel like I’m born to do that…those things come natural to me,” shares Lee during our interview.
To say that this Swiss-born, California-raised Korean-America talent was destined for the limelight is no understatement. Star power courses through her veins. Lee’s father is South Korean singer, Tom Lee, best known for his days with Koreana, the bilingual band behind the 1988 Summer Olympics anthem, “Hand-In-Hand.” Likewise Lee’s mother, Kyung Oae Lee, was also a stage performer. A former professional ballerina working out of Europe, it was she who first took note of Lee’s talents as a child, gently ushering her into the world of entertainment.
“My mom always thought I would be a great entertainer,” she recalls. “Even as a little child, I loved to dance and perform in front of other people. Later on, I felt like it was my destiny to work in this field, as I fell in love with my work.”
In front of the camera, Lee exudes glamour and sexuality, but behind the scenes, she’s more about what she calls a laid-back “California girl vibe,” opting for sneakers and casual comfort over dresses and heels.
“Trust me. I’m not so girly,” she declares. “Of course I have to dress and act certain way in front of cameras, but I really like casual clothing and staying in comfortable clothes.”
An unabashed sports fanatic, with a slew of workout-themed Youtube posts for proof, Lee’s who’s-that-girl moment, occurred on a baseball diamond in southern Seoul. After throwing the first pitch at a local game, wearing pinstripe leggings (seemingly painted on) and a belly baring baby tee, Lee—virtually unknown at the time—became a viral sensation and national sex symbol overnight.
Possessing a knack for turning heads, Lee’s transition into music was a natural progression. How else was she going to get to show off her dance moves?
The singer’s latest video, a cover of the K-pop earworm “Gwiyomi” is quirky, catchy and yes, a head-turner, thanks to an unexpected cameo appearance by another famous “Lee”, Marvel Comics legend, Stan Lee.
With both multi-language films and music in the pipeline, geographical boundaries look like they will soon be a distant memory for this globetrotting beauty. And Lee’s timing couldn’t possibly be better. Think: Met Gala. This spring, a new exhibit has descended upon upon the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, China: Through The Looking Glass, and with it comes a renewed Western fascination with the East.
Should 2015 be the year of Asian fashion, who better to carry the torch than K-Pop’s newly crowned princess, Clara Lee? If she’s got Stan Lee’s vote, she can count on ours.
Eager to learn the secret behind Lee’s glow, we take a moment to chat with the model-actress-singer about her everyday beauty routine and how she achieves her head-turning style.
You’ve had quite a diverse career already, with modeling, singing and acting credits under your belt. How did acting and singing grow out of your career in modeling?
I don’t know…I just love to do new things! I love challenging myself to a new field. I may not be very good at something, but I really enjoy doing them anyways. Sometimes people don’t want me to try new things. They want me to be a one thing, you know? But I want to do everything I can do!
That said, of those three areas in your career, are you currently more focused on developing one?
Acting, definitely. I think acting gives me the most excitement out of all three. Acting is the hardest, yes, but it gives me the most satisfaction. Filming a movie takes the longest time and the most effort, but when I see myself on a screen in a movie theater, I get goosebumps and true satisfaction.
Filming music videos seem like they would be a bit like filming a short. Are you excited for your new video “Gwiyomi” to reach North America?
Yes, you guys will love the dancing! It’s simple and everybody can enjoy the dance. It would be amazing if people around the world followed the dance moves!
We’ll try! Were you a part of creating the concept behind the video?
It’s actually a remake of “Gwiyomi” song, which went viral in Korea and China. We made this new one with more dancing beats and a faster tempo. It’s addictive and fun. Actually, Stan Lee, the guy behind all the Marvel characters, features in my music video! It was unreal when I heard the news!
That’s a big cameo! Let’s talk about your personal style. You spent your teen years in L.A. I understand, do you feel like you have a bit of that California girl vibe going on? Or do you tend to side with the glamour of your European roots?
I think I do have that California girl vibe sometimes. Whenever I visit California, I feel like I came back home. Also, when I tell people I used to live in the states, they say “you lived in Cali, right?”So I guess I have a little bit of that.
Did your mom rub off on your personal style/beauty regime much?
I think so. She has been a great influence in my life in all aspects. Same for my dad as well.
In terms of beauty, what’s your daily skincare routine like? Are you good about keeping to beauty rituals both in the morning and before bed?
These days, I’m very busy, so I do the minimum skincare…I should spend more time on it!
What’s one beauty item you won’t leave the house without applying to your face?
I don’t really have one specific item. I use anything I get. But I can’t leave my house without my pouch! It has everything.
Have you stolen any beauty secrets from the hair and makeup artists you’ve worked with in the past?
Of course! I worked with many hair and makeup artists. They give me alot of tips while they do makeup on me. I’m always surprised at how they use colors.
In your opinion, what’s the single beauty product every woman should invest in?
They should invest in finding the right moisture cream! Moisturizing is everything.
Describe your go-to red carpet beauty look?
Choosing the right dress is the most important. I need to predict what kind of atmosphere it’s going to be and should find the right ones. Hair and makeup wise, I try to stay “normal” compared to other actresses. I think my makeup doesn’t change too much for a red carpet look.
What’s one beauty item can we find in your purse on an average day?
You can find everything! I don’t know.. I can’t pick only one item, but I always carry lip products. I love VOV lip tint! It’s a Korean brand. Having the right color for your lip is very important. It can help set your facial tone.
What’s one thing we will never see you do beauty-wise?
I don’t think there’s no such thing. I like doing new stuff, so if I get chance to do something new beauty-wise, I’m down to do that!
Who is your beauty idol and what about her beauty looks inspires your own look?
Angelina Jolie and Marion Cotillard!