Victoria Lee, director and producer, joins the 2020 edition of Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.
The Reel Chicago Black List includes Global Mixx founder Mary Datcher, McDonald’s US Marketing Director Lizette Williams, and filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. To view the archives, click here.
Writer, creator and cellist Victoria Lee is a Milwaukee native securing her place in Chicago’s vibrant community of artists. By day, she’s a copywriter at an ad agency. By night (and on weekends, and holidays, and sometimes while she’s at work but please don’t tell her boss) she co-writes, produces and stars in her web series, Low Strung.
When she’s not doing that, you can find her schlepping her cello through the streets of Chicago, on her way to either a rehearsal, the studio, or a funeral gig… the cello is a somber instrument.
Classically trained, Victoria performs with the Chicago Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and has recorded with a number of notable Chicago artists like Lili K., Qari, Shawnee Dez and The Social Experiment. She’s a band member in Flowers for the Living, a collective of musicians led by spoken word artist, Harold Green.
Victoria’s acting career, while young, is off to a robust start. She won Best Actress at the 2017 Brooklyn Web Fest for her role as “Victoria” in Low Strung. She’s also appeared in a number of music videos and was once spotted eating in the background of a Las Vegas news segment.
Victoria attained her B.A. in Communications from DePaul University, but her artistic drive stems primarily from her upbringing in a creative family and an extensive arts education. She also really loves outer space.
LOW STRUNG | OFFICIAL TRAILER
WRITTEN BY VICTORIA LEE 7 SHERVIN BAIN | DIRECTED BY ADDISON WRIGHT AND LILI K
Meet Victoria Lee
What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
An astronaut. Still do.
How did you get into the creative field?
I’ve managed to work my way into Chicago’s music, film and advertising worlds — I think if Chicago’s creative scene were an Applebee’s, I’d be the “Pick 3 Appetizer Sampler” on the menu. Despite being 3 unique industries, I was surprised to see how deeply interwoven they were, and how they each played an important role in my professional journey.
I’ve been playing the cello since I was 8 and I spent most of my youth playing in orchestras and attending performing arts schools. When it came time to choose my major at DePaul, I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was hesitant to put all my eggs into the extremely competitive classical music basket. So, I minored in Music Performance and majored in Communications with the hopes of becoming a copywriter.
My first “big girl” job was as a receptionist at a small digital ad agency in the loop. My boss said he hired me because I played the cello and “cellists are smart,” which is a universal truth. At that agency, I moved from receptionist to copywriter. I also met a couple of wildly creative and funny people with whom I would later go on to create a web series called Low Strung.
A year later, the Annex hired me as a copywriter. I had an okay portfolio of advertising work, but it was my web series that caught their attention.
SEE! It all connects.
Who were your mentors?
Jane Hollander, my late cello teacher who taught me everything I know (and was just an all-around boss).
I’ve also worked under some incredibly creative and supportive people at the Annex like Bobby Waltzer, Cameron Schultheis and Nick Lipton who have all helped me to grow as a writer and a creative (while also constantly reminding me how cool it is that I play the cello and have a web series.) Also my mommy. I’m not really sure if parents can be considered mentors, but she was the one who made me play the cello in the first place and she was also my principal, so it counts.
BROCKHAMPTON-“SUGAR” (COVER) | HAROLD GREEN
MUSIC BY FLOWERS FOR THE LIVING COLLECTIVE FEATURING VICTORIA LEE ON CELLO
What is your greatest achievement?
I perform in an orchestra, play with a band, produce a web series with next to no money and work a full-time job — I think my biggest achievement is being able to do all of those things while still maintaining a nightly skin-care routine.
What is your greatest disappointment?
When I found out I was allergic to rabbits.
What is your biggest peeve?
People who don’t know public transportation etiquette.
What are your predictions for the creative industry over the next decade?
Everything will be genre-less and award shows will be obsolete. Angela Bassett will still look amazing.
Name a job you had that would surprise people.
I worked at the Lover’s Lane over on Diversey and Sheffield back when I was in college. It was uncomfortable.
What Marvel or DC superhero do you get to play?
Hold on, let me take a Buzzfeed quiz real quick…
Oh, I got Gamora! Love her. Deadliest woman in the whole galaxy. Tight.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
Daydream. I have a pretty overactive imagination and I would love a little more time in the morning to stare at my wall in my bath towel while thinking up some extraordinarily unlikely scenarios.
What drives you to be extraordinary at what you do?
If I’m not creating things, I feel sad. When I make great things, I feel happy.
Congratulations, you built a time machine! What do you go back and tell your 15-year-old self?
Winning lotto numbers.