dae lee

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IF YOU’VE DRIVEN DOWN EDSA within the past three months, chances are you’ve seen Dae Lee in a bill­board for a TV5 Wattpad adap­ta­tion. If K-Pop hap­pens to be your thing, you’ve also prob­a­bly seen him host a few gigs. His fans call him “oppa” (“older brother,” used by fe­males), much to his cha­grin, but he says it’s all cool and he can’t ex­press his grat­i­tude enough to those who sup­port him.

What most peo­ple don’t know, though, is that act­ing is just part of his multi-hy­phen ca­reer. Dae Lee is an ac­tor/pro­fes­sor/de­signer/ chief mar­ket­ing of cer, among other things. He dreams big and his dreams go be­yond him­self. He’s some­thing like a poster boy for the slash gen­er­a­tion, jug­gling dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions with ease, some of which he does not for the sake of per­sonal gain. When asked what he wants peo­ple to per­ceive him as, he says he wants to be seen as a phi­lan­thropist, but not in a Deepak Cho­pra or Bill Gates way. “I think the mis­con­cep­tion of peo­ple [about phi­lan­thropy] is about giv­ing money and all. I say phi­lan­thropist is [show­ing] love for mankind in gen­eral,” he says. “So it’s more about shar­ing knowl­edge and things that are bene cial to all.”

Cit­ing Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt, an­other mul­ti­hy­phen­ate fel­low, as some­one he looks up to, the way he ma­neu­vers his ca­reer isn’t really so much a sur­prise.

You’re kind of all over the place. Not your mind; the things you do, I mean. What do you say when peo­ple ask what you do for a liv­ing?

My job de­scrip­tion now is I’m the Chief Mar­ket­ing f cer of ver­mind, a cre­ative con­sult­ing com­pany. I also teach. I’m an in­struc­tor at the Univer­sity of Asia & the Paci c, but that’s not really a job. That’s a side thing. I teach Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing and some other sub­jects that are re­lated to what­ever’s hap­pen­ing about brand­ing or mar­ket­ing. What I teach is just me re­mind­ing my­self again what I’ve learned the past few years that I was in the in­dus­try. It’s also shar­ing my knowl­edge, be­cause mar­ket­ing and the world al­ways changes. I feel like I really have to share that be­cause what’s in the text­books aren’t really ap­pli­ca­ble most of the time.

Also on the side, I de­sign. I started as an in­dus­trial de­signer be­cause that’s what I really wanted to do be­fore, if I couldn’t pursue act­ing.

So you’ve al­ways had your sights set on show busi­ness?

I really wanted to be an ac­tor when I was a kid. But, of course, things didn’t hap­pen. I tried au­di­tion­ing in Korea. They told me it’s gonna take six years to train and ev­ery­thing. I kind of got scared. What if I don’t really get in? And also the fact that I’ve ac­cepted that Korean ac­tors are su­per tall and way, way, way bet­ter look­ing. 186cm is av­er­age, and I don’t look as pretty as them. ( laughs) So when they told me that it’s gonna take six years and you never know if you’ll really get to de­but then...what if I waste six years of my life and noth­ing hap­pens, right? So I just de­cided to pursue stud­ies.

You starred in a TV show that put a lot of em­pha­sis on your phys­i­cal fea­tures. Do you think there’s the dan­ger of you be­ing typecast be­cause you’re Korean?

I’m really thank­ful they gave me that role, of course, but yes, I fear [type­cast­ing]. But I don’t look su­per Korean and I have played dif­fer­ent roles in plays be­fore. Given the chance, I’d like to show that I can play other roles on TV. Any role would be a dream, be­cause the process of get­ting into char­ac­ter and be­ing some­one else is what’s ex­cit­ing.

Busi­ness, teach­ing, and act­ing. You’re like the prime ex­am­ple of the slash gen­er­a­tion.

You know what, that goes against what I teach, which is brand­ing. And in brand­ing, you’re sup­posed to have fo­cus. But if you think about it, what I do isn’t really un­re­lated to each other be­cause you know how when you’re in col­lege, you have your orgs and you have your stud­ies, which is your job to do? Same with me. My job is to be chief mar­ket­ing of cer. Give brand­ing ad­vice and con­sul­ta­tion. That’s my main thing. Then I have de­sign work be­cause that’s what I started with. And brand­ing is not far from de­sign. Like, de­sign as strat­egy, even if it’s not vis­ual there’s still de­sign el­e­ments.

As for the org part, you have your hob­bies, in my case it’s act­ing be­cause I’ve joined theater com­pa­nies be­fore, just to have an out­let. I guess you can look at it that way. I’ve been in a few theater or­ga­ni­za­tions. And when I was in Korea work­ing with an in­dus­trial de­sign rm, I also used to act in theater com­pa­nies there.

Why come back to Manila?

At rst I de­cided to take a va­ca­tion and come here to Manila then go to Lon­don af­ter­wards to take a mas­ter’s de­gree for in­dus­trial de­sign so that I could do it pro­fes­sion­ally and also teach at the same time. But that didn’t hap­pen. I was on va­ca­tion and I was try­ing to do ran­dom things. I pur­sued making short lms, I pur­sued what­ever in­ter­ests me.

Woah. Have you al­ways been this am­bi­tious?

Yes, I guess? But I was never an honor’s stu­dent. I never made it to the Dean’s List, or any kind of list. I’ve failed a class in high school and a class in col­lege. Why did I fail? Prob­a­bly be­cause I wanted to do other things. Things that in­ter­ested me. I failed The­ol­ogy... ( laughs)

Speak­ing of am­bi­tion, you teach univer­sity stu­dents, right? Kids th­ese days are be­ing un­fairly la­beled as lazy. Would you be able to say that your stu­dents are am­bi­tious, too?

I think they are. They’re pas­sion­ate. They tell me about their ideas and plans. The only thing that I think both­ers them or hin­ders them from do­ing things is noise, like so­cial me­dia and the In­ter­net. And I think that...I don’t know, a lot of peo­ple may go against me but I be­lieve it’s be­cause of mul­ti­task­ing. I per­son­ally be­lieve it’s not pos­si­ble.

Really? But you have a lot of things go­ing on with your life.

That’s why I do a lot of sched­ul­ing. I don’t do two things at the same time wherein I act while I con­sult. That’s im­pos­si­ble. It’s just the same thing as hav­ing orgs when you were in col­lege. Act­ing for me is a break from what­ever work that I do. Same with other peo­ple, they go bik­ing or ex­er­cise or draw. We have hob­bies. If sur ng the net is your hobby, then that’s still part of it. It’s just really know­ing how to han­dle your time.

In­ter­view by CAI MAROKET Pho­tog­ra­phy by PAOLO CRODUA

Dae Lee has plans and he’s not in the habit of half-ass­ing things

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