Interview: Pankhuri Bhutani
Photography: Jason Rivera
With the help of the massive talent inside of her waiting to burst out, Peng-Peng Lee has made a well reputed name for herself as a multi-talented sensation. Best recognized as a member of the Canadian team that qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and gymnast who led UCLA to a comeback win at the 2018 NCAA National Championship, Peng-Peng Lee hails from London, Ontario.
Marking her phenomenal gymnastics debut in 2004 merely at the age of eleven, competing in Elite Canada, Peng’s gymnastics career quickly took off at a junior level, resulting in her receiving multiple accolades, including numerous medals at the 2006 Canadian National Championship and Pacific Rim Championships, to name a few. In 2012, Peng’s career continued to take off as she qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London but unfortunately had to pull out due to an ACL injury. Not letting injury put her down, she went on to join the Olympic team as acting captain.
Outside of the gymnastics world, Peng is widely known as the co-creator and producer of her own YouTube show “The HONESTLEE Show”.
Since retiring, Peng has extended her creative potentials by showcasing a different side to herself. Inspired by her childhood passions, Peng is returning to her love of music and singing, which audiences can currently see more of through her platforms. Currently busy behind the scenes, fans will soon be seeing more of Peng in the music world as well as her creative side alongside notable brands.
We recently had a wonderful chat with the sensational Peng-Peng Lee regarding her gymnastic and TikTok career, how she is dealing with the current pandemic, her motivations, what she plans to do in the future and much more!
Hi there, Peng. Thank you for joining us on ReVamp! Lovely to have you! How are you doing amidst everything going on currently?
Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I’m doing well! It’s definitely been an interesting year, I’m very extroverted and thought I wouldn’t be able to last as long as I have without going back to my normal life, but I have definitely tried to make the best of it. During last year, I started doing a lot more content creating and spent a ton of time with my family. Honestly, the time off opened many doors, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was able to use the time that I had to explore myself creatively.
You made your gymnastics debut in 2004 at the age of eleven and have garnered several accolades so far! Huge congratulations on that! What was it initially that made you attracted to the field of gymnastics?
Yes! Thank you! I was an extremely hyper kid, and my parents needed something to exhaust my energy, so they thought to put me in gymnastics at the age of 4. However, it didn’t work because I would come home, flip on the furniture, and climb the door frames! I think I may have come home with more energy!
Where do you draw your major motivations from when it comes to your professional journey?
Different things motivate me for different events in my life. But there’s one thing I’ve consistently realized as I’ve gotten older that helps keeps me stay motivated. The biggest one for me is happiness. It sounds cheesy, but I get anxiety easily, and that’s something I’ve noticed more as I’ve entered my adulthood. If I am not doing it because it doesn’t make me happy, doing anything for me is extremely tough and wearing on my mental and physical well-being. During college, I would get very sick purely off stressing myself out to the point where I officially decided my motivation for anything would be to do it because I love it or find the excitement in what I’m doing at the moment.
You have transformed into a massive TikTok sensation as well as have also created your own YouTube show, “The HONESTLEE Show.” Was there a specific reason that made you realize you needed to step out of the gymnastic world and explore your other creative potentials?
Wow, thank you! I never really think of myself as a TikTok sensation because there are so many other amazing creators on the app! I started TikTok to just post things that I genuinely have fun doing and am appreciative that I’ve gotten to where I am today!
I’ve always wanted to explore myself creatively, ever since I was a kid. Gymnastics was one of those things that I got into a routine very early, so it was normal for me to go to practice and train 25+hours a week since I was 10. But while I was training, I always did other things, such as singing and guitar lessons. When I was injured, I ended up doing acting lessons too! Due to some restrictions, I couldn’t fully commit to anything creatively while I was a gymnast, but I am so excited that I can do it now, and I am going in 110% with it!
Were you following the recent Olympic Games happening in Tokyo? If so, was there anyone, in particular, you were rooting for the most?
I always check-in to see how the Canadian National Team is doing! I always root for my fellow Canadians every Olympic Games! Canada has never won a medal in Women’s gymnastics, and personally, that was my goal going into the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, I got injured right before the games, so I couldn’t pursue that dream, but every year I root for someone on team Canada to make that dream a reality! Also, It’s always fun to see people who I used to compete with when I was an elite gymnast still competing. Anyone who is a veteran, in my eyes, is a superstar because gymnastics is not easy on the body at all.
If there was a movie made based on your life, who would you love to see bring out the character of ‘Peng-Peng Lee’ on-screen?
I love this question! Being an Asian in Hollywood / entertainment, I love the uprise of Asian actresses and actors (even content creators!). For my movie, I think I would love to be played by a full Asian who is completely new in the industry. Someone who hasn’t established themselves yet but has a lot of charisma and talent to showcase. So maybe this will be my open casting call. Who knows!
What are the top three things on your bucket list regarding 2021? Is there anything that you really want to achieve by the end of this year?
This is a tough question, I always want to do random things every year, and I’m super spontaneous, so sometimes I want to check things off my list on a whim! But the top ones that come to mind for my 2021 bucket list would be creating / collab with other TikTokers, having a single fully written and produced, and lastly, learning how to do my own acrylic nails!
Lastly, is there anything that you wish to convey to your fans and supporters reading this interview?
I just want to thank all my penguins and everyone who has been following me, whether through gymnastics or now. Life after sports has definitely been an emotional roller coaster that I am still trying to navigate through it all, but I appreciate every single one of you who has supported me for just being me. I have so much more to offer that I want to showcase to everyone, and I can’t wait to continue creating and adventure through whatever life throws my way!