Happy Wednesday! Today, I am very happy to introduce the absolutely gorgeous Alice Lee to you all in this week’s interview. Alice is incredibly stylish and has an amazing background – former FORD model turned lawyer who also owns more than 80 pairs of Louboutin heels. In short, the person whose bio and photograph I hope never appears directly next to mine in a yearbook. Ha! You’ll read more about her very interesting story below, and you’ll see that I couldn’t help asking some law school related questions as well.Alice was kind enough not only to answer all of my very in depth questions, but also had her very talented photographer friend Tony Yang take some photos for this interview, which are beautiful. Enjoy meeting Alice!
First things first – who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I am Alice Lee, an attorney in the New York/New Jersey area. I currently live in North Jersey but grew up in Queens New York, then moved to Long Island when I was in college. So, I am a Queens girl, turned Long Island girl, who is now an honorary Jersey Girl!
I know you’re a lawyer now but that it wasn’t always your path. Can you share some details about how you ended up where you are now?
My parents were immigrants from Taiwan and we moved to New York when I was 8 years old. We faced the typical challenges that immigrants faced: assimilation, learning the language, studying hard, trying to show our parents that their sacrifice was not in vain. While my mom was a perhaps stereotypical “tiger mom” (haha), she also paid a lot of attention to other aspects of my upbringing, such as style! She took me shopping, bought me my first fashion magazine, etc. She believed in beauty and brains.
When I was 16, she saw a poster for a spokesmodel contest in a local bakery, which was hosted by a Japanese cosmetic company called POLA Cosmetics. They were looking for a fresh face to be their spokesmodel. My mother saw the ad and thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn about poise and stage presence and all things girly. Who knew going to the bakery would yield such information? Haha. She took several Polaroids of me and entered me into the contest.A couple of weeks later, I got a call, they liked my pictures! I was in complete disbelief. I was such a nerdy kid, who had just got her braces removed! I then had to go to New York’s Roosevelt Hotel for the 2nd round, which I passed. Then I competed in the Miss POLA pageant finals in Teaneck, New Jersey and I won the title of Miss POLA 1999. I was the first Chinese American to win the title.From that, I caught the attention of model scouts from FORD Models who said they had never seen an Asian girl that looked like me, LOL! My mother didn’t want me to model professionally, she wanted me to pursue higher education. I was able to persuade my mother into allowing me to model by making her a promise that I would never stop or even pause my education for modeling. This was back in 1999, and I kept my word. I went to college and law school full time while modeling.
Back then, the fashion industry had a very warped view of Asian beauty and what Asian girls “should” look like. My eyes and nose made me look “different” to these agents. They thought I was “interesting” so they signed me. I was the second Asian model to be a part of the Women’s Board at FORD Models New York. I then started to pick up a lot of commercial work because my look was appealing to American companies and advertisers. With the rise of China in the global market, the demand for Asian models grew. Also, the perception of what Asian women should look like also changed. That is progress- this change in perception of Asians. After several years with FORD, I left and signed with Wilhelmina, while attending law school at the same time. Once I was graduated law school, I officially ended my contract with Wilhelmina. It was the ending of one career, and the beginning of another.
Alice’s tower of Louboutins
I know that you have some thoughts about law school, and I have quite a few friends who are either in law school or practicing today. What would be your advice to somebody thinking of becoming a lawyer? And how important in your opinion are school rankings?
My biggest advice for aspiring lawyers or those who are contemplating to go to law school is: make sure you are doing it because you truly want to PRACTICE law. Do not do it if you think it is going to be a lot of money (because it is not that financially rewarding if you calculate the hours you have to work and the debt you have to pay off), or fun, or exciting, (because most days in a lawyer’s life is not fun nor exciting. You are dealing in stressful situations and trying to seek a remedy for your client). Real life lawyering is nothing like what you see on TV. It is a very demanding profession and with the exorbitant amount of student loans these days, many young lawyers are buried in debt. Law school is a very very expensive investment so please choose wisely.
Many people think that rankings are important to secure jobs. In my own experience, your grades and your networking abilities are much more indicative of your success in this profession rather than your school name. Of course coming from a great school is a terrific resume booster and can open many many doors for you while you are in law school or when you are a recent grad. But, after those initial stages, you really need to work hard to distinguish yourself or else you will become disposable and there will always be more intelligent, younger law students from top schools every year, who can do your work for less! Lastly, and most importantly, law is a business. Networking is key, and never lose sight of that!
Okay now onto some fashion. Can you share some more about your style? What’s a typical day and night look for you?
A typical day look for me is a suit or a conservative work dress. My profession does not allow me too much freedom to be more expressive or adventurous. I typically shop at Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J.Crew for my work dresses and blouses. My favorite suits are made by Theory because they are very form fitting and elegant. I like dress shirts from Thomas Pink and Brooks Brothers.A crisp white dress shirt with a sleek knee length pencil skirt would be my typical “uniform”. If I am meeting a client or going to court, then I’m always in a suit. I prefer skirt suits over pants suits, but that is just my own style. Many women attorneys dress very sharply in pant suits. The only liberty I take in my attire would be shoes! I take more risks in shoes. I wear Louboutins almost every single day to work…I have over 80 pairs and I buy them in doubles!
When I am not in the office, I love to have fun and be more expressive with my clothing. I would say I am definitely a girly girl. I love dresses, lace and ruffles. Yup, in that order! I also like to wear items that accentuate the waist line, I think it is feminine and sensual to show curves!
Some lovely Birkins
What are some style mistakes that you’ve made in the past?
Dying my hair! I went through a phase of dying my hair light brown with highlights…I looked like a blonde! I don’t know what I was thinking! Natural is definitely much better. Live and learn.
What’s a splurge that you made that you were so excited about..that now you wish you hadn’t purchased?
All of my Balenciaga bags. I went through a Balenciaga bag phase and at one point I owned about nine of them. I have since sold them all.
What are some of your favorite, loved items in your closet? What about the most worn ones?
My 35cm Ebene Hermes Birkin is my workhorse. I live out of that bag and I carry it almost every single day. My Louboutin black Delics in the 120 mm are my workhorse shoes. I have this exact style in 3 pairs!
How do you decide what items pay full price for, vs. waiting for a sale?
I am not really good at waiting for sales because I don’t have that much free time, and also because my size is usually not available by sale time. I also realized that if I really really like something, then I should just buy it because if it is gone by the time I decide to purchase it, I would be miserable. Ugh!The good thing is, I don’t buy expensive clothing. The only expensive items I purchase are my bags and shoes. Most of my clothes are from common stores that are very reasonably priced. I think I am a true high and low mixed items girl. I enjoy carrying Birkins and wearing Louboutins while rocking H&M clothes!
Can you share a piece of advice on shopping and style that you’ve had to learn over the years? How about some life advice?
Don’t follow trends blindly. Find what works for your body type and stick to it! Sometimes trends can come back to haunt you, like with me and my blond hair!
As for life advice, protect your hopes and dreams. If you can dream it,you can do it. But you need to protect it and follow through with action. Action is the operative word. You will meet many negative people who want to discourage you because they never had the courage to go after their dreams so they want to drown you in their disappointment. Don’t let these naysayers get to you, don’t let others put you down. Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and support you. Be humble and learn, but always protect your dreams!
Some of Alice’s signed Louboutins
What are some of your other hobbies and passions?
MUST LOVE DOGS! I love my two fur babies Princess Mia the Maltese, and Gemma Bean the long hair Chihuahua! I love dogs…I grew up with 2 Shih Tzus (Mimi and LuLu) and they MADE my childhood. I am an avid supporter of the AKC and the AMA (American Maltese Association). I go to dog shows (like the Westminster ) and dog conventions (like the AMA national). Both my girls are from very reputable show breeders so I go to shows to support my dogs’ breeders!
My other passion is service. I am BIG into community service and volunteerism. When I immigrated here, we relied a lot on the NYC Asian community to help us and I believe strongly in giving back to the community. I have always been involved in my Chinese American community since I was a child, from registering senior citizens to vote to being the MC for community events because I am fluent in Mandarin. Now, I volunteer as a legal counsel to Project by Project, a national non profit organization that raises money for charities which focuses on benefiting the Asian communities of need in the United States. I believe in building a stronger, more unified Asian American community so we can help and support one another in all aspects of life in the United States- politically, socially and economically.
And finally…please share something surprising about yourself!
I’m addicted to home work out DVDs! I am a big Denise Austin fan and love all her videos. Currently I am using Bethanny Franel’s Skinny Girl Yoga which I like because it’s three short work outs (15min-20min-15min) which I can squeeze in once a day. I like DVDs that dont scream or yell at you…challenging workouts that you can do daily because it’s short and realistic!I really loved hearing about Alice’s journey, and also her life advice – her words about following through on your dreams were very touching to me, and rang especially strong in light of her own personal story. I also loved hearing that Alice loves mixing H&M with expensive bags and shoes, as everything she wears look amazing on. Thank you Alice for sharing your story and opening up your life and beautiful style with us – you are an inspiration.