Today, we are interviewing Deborah Lee Fong, an energetic bilingual Panamanian/American actress who has been performing for over 30 years. She is known for her roles on TV, in films and Theater productions.
Please tell us something about yourself.
My name is Deborah Lee Fong, and I am 66 years old. My parents are Panamanian, and they brought together bloodlines from all over the world: China, Jamaica, Africa, Spain, Eastern Europe, Greece, Italy, and the British Isles. My dad gave me the middle name Lee because he thought it went well with Fong, his loving sense of humor!
How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?
I was introduced to the theatre through dance and drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse children's program, where I attended classes every Saturday from elementary school up until high school. I also modeled for the ILGWU for several years and had tremendous fun walking the runway with my mom. When it came time for high school, I auditioned for the High School of Performing Arts on 46h Street in Manhattan and was accepted. High School was an incredible time – studio every day, meeting talented young people from all the boroughs. (I grew up in Queens, so Queens was home, the other boroughs not so much, lol) We were teens, with all the angst and traumas of teen years, and we were also neck-deep in absorbing the details and discipline necessary to nurture our interests. It is time I look back upon with great wonder and affection for the patience and wisdom I received from many of my studio and academic teachers. Nothing is ever perfect, and there were difficult episodes in high school, and during my teenage years, in hindsight, PA was one of the best decisions of my life. The lessons learned there had served me well throughout my entire life. And, many of the friends I made in high school are still close friends today.
Who are your role models?
My parents for their unconditional love and work ethic. My grandmothers who gave me love and a great appreciation for my history and respect for my elders.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the faith my family has in me; their encouragement and support enable me to pursue my heart's desire. I am inspired by my coaches who challenge me all the time to take the extra step, go deeper, and trust myself. I am inspired by the people I meet every day whose stories must be told.
What's your most memorable experience?
A lifetime of experiences, and you are asking for one? Right now, we are all experiencing, what I believe will collectively be some of our most memorable experiences. To share from my heart, I lost both parents within three weeks of each other during the pandemic, not due to COVID-19. That loss against the backdrop of the pandemic and the global outcry against systemic racism and social injustice are experiences that are felt deep within my soul.
What's your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is Alzheimer's Disease and how it affects your loved ones.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
To have greater trust in my instincts, not to fear the exploration.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
There are several strategies. And, perhaps I didn't even know I was employing them. Keeping my mind focused on the task at hand, living in the moment. Keeping a steady outlook and setting small goals, achievable goals rather than setting my sights on the end result. Maintaining flexibility and accepting change.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
Using the strategies outlined above. I recently started meditating and making sure I take time out every day to concentrate on me. Carving out the space for self-care is very important.