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