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Shannon Lee: singer, actress and Bruce Lee's daughter

Shannon Lee is the daughter of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. In addition to being a singer and an actress, she is the CEO of Bruce Lee Enterprises. She talks to Doretta Lau about preserving her father’s legacy.
Apr 08, 2010
Shannon Lee

I was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1969. My family and I moved to Hong Kong when I was two.

I remember my father being so playful, and so energetic. He loved to tussle with us kids—he was very physical. He was a really fun-loving and warm dad.

I do have some flashes of his image in my mind... surrounded by a really strong sense of his energy.

There are two of his movies that I really love. “Way of the Dragon,” the one film he wrote, directed, starred in, choreographed, produced—it’s really him through and through. It shows his sense of humor, as well as his martial arts skills and his ability as a director.

But I also really love “Enter the Dragon” because I really love hearing his voice—all of the other films are dubbed.

I’m grateful for the collective memory of my father because a lot of people who lose their parents at a young age don’t have as much as I have in terms of film footage and writings and things that he left behind.

About a year after my father died, we settled in Palos Verdes, in the Los Angeles area. That’s where I grew up.

I shied away from martial arts when I was a kid. I just felt kind of overwhelmed by it because of who my father was. I had to come to it on my own time, which I did eventually when I was older, around 19 or 20.

I studied Jeet Kune Do. My sifu was Ted Wong, who was a student of my father’s. He taught me in his backyard—very much how my dad liked to do things. I also studied taekwondo, wushu and kickboxing.

This is funny. When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer.

My first job was as a hostess at The Olive Garden, a chain restaurant. I had to clean the bathrooms too.

I ultimately studied vocal performance and music in New Orleans and became a classically trained singer.

I sang “California Dreamin’” in “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” and had a small cameo appearance.

I was my brother’s personal assistant on the film “Rapid Fire.” I remember telling him that I was thinking acting. He told me that you should only do it if you really love it.

I was almost 24 when my brother died, and that was very traumatic. He was very protective of me and very much a mentor.

I always felt like Brandon and I shared something that we don’t share with anyone else, having the father and mother that we do.

Acting in my twenties was fun, but I think I was also really nervous all the time. I just wasn’t very grounded.

I’ve sung with Sam Hui here in Hong Kong a number of times. He asked me if I wanted to sing on stage with him at his comeback concerts in 2004. I thought, of course!

Motherhood is great. My daughter, Wren, is seven. I am really grateful for her presence in my life because she has helped me to know myself better.

I’ve been working a lot right now for my father, running that business. There’s Bruce Lee Enterprises, which is a licensing business.

Universal Studios had the exclusive right to merchandise his likeness. I purchased back those rights in 2008.

The Bruce Lee Foundation is a non-profit that has the mission to educate and preserve and perpetuate my father’s legacy. We just started doing outreach programs to schools educating kids about Bruce Lee and who he was, inspiring kids to pursue their dreams.

My life is in a constant state of change, which I welcome. As my father always said, “To change with change is the changeless state.” I feel like everything that I pursue teaches me a little more about myself.

This is my time in life to create something that can last, that can put my father back in front of the public eye.

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