From the day she participated in a vigorous game of on-air girl-to-girl tonsil-hockey (to celebrate the addition of the words "sexual orientation" to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) to the moment she debuted the devilish character "Rock Chick 2000" (complete with tenuously teased coif) to cover Lilith Fair, actress/singer/performance artist Sook-Yin Lee certainly spent her six-year tenure as a Much Music VJ doing it her way.
And after giving her notice last month -- bowing out gracefully by reading a brief statement on air, and carefully avoiding any ensuing media blitz -- Lee has been feeling understandably reflective.
"[Working at Much] was a really great, invigorating experience, because I was allowed to be me, I had the creative control to do what I wanted," she said by phone from Toronto in her first extensive interview since signing off. "It's a highly visible role, yet at the same time I felt that I was able to impart to people essences of me, truth and conviction in terms of who I am."
And unlike many artists, Sook-Yin -- who herself has continued to pursue her own musical career, as well as the occasional movie role ("The Art Of Woo", "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" ) -- still sees TV as a challenging and viable artistic option.
"In an interesting way, I find television a breath of fresh air in terms of its accessibility. It's there for public consumption, not without its problems, but there is that ability to speak with people. I still am interested in television as a medium, and I'm interested to see how different stations operate and see perhaps another environment or another situation which I can express myself in."
When queried about her future plans, she laughs good-naturedly, then apologizes for the lack of glamour in her answer.
"I have been going without break; I took my four weeks holiday to make the movie [the aforementioned 'The Art Of Woo']. Pop culture is a hungry creature, and once I took stock, I thought, 'You know what? Here's time for Sook-Yin. Time to see my sister, time to see my family. Time to put a stop to endless deadlines'. This is just a re-look to see what I need. Everyone's like, 'So, what are you gonna do? Where are you going?' We're programmed that way. But it's time to lie around, eat some good food, and not feel like I've got a bunsun burner on my ass. I'm gonna try and force myself to be down for a few months."
Even in the course of her departure from Much, Lee's openness and candor -- refreshing in the often disturbingly slick medium of television -- seemed to reach people.
"The day that I quit, I wanted a sense of closure between me and the audience, so I was just discussing following your spirit versus staying for financial security, wanting to explore life, all kinds of ideas like that. It was like I was describing the situation I was in, the wrestling.
"The next day, a couple of people came up to me and said, "Thanks, we're going through those same kinds of pulls, and you gave us a shot in the arm.' That's a little moment squashed between commercials, and if someone wakes up and listens to it, that's pretty cool.
Here's a look back at three memorable moments from Sook-Yin Lee's days at MuchMusic:
THE INTERVIEW WHERE SHE PUT THE MOST PRESSURE ON HERSELF: That's hard to say; I really try to put a lot of thought into every single one that I do. Probably Madonna; she's a person who, god, my life is a breeze compared to hers. Always being watched, surrounded by handlers. There's a very uptight environment around her, like being in an elevator where nobody talks but everyone is aware of each other. To dispel the energy of the entourage that surrounds her takes even more work than preparing for an interview. Blocking stuff out, that was something that was pretty intimidating to walk into.
MOST ANNOYING INTERVIEW: There's this band called the Parade Of Losers, which were a knock-off of Green Day. The kids loved them but didn't seem to realize that the lyrics were, like, fantasizing about cutting your girlfriend's tits off, wanting to kill everybody on Death Row, stuff like that, which I found deeply disturbing, and disturbing that kids didn't seem to get it. I had a responsibility to myself and those around me to call them on that, and seeing them being surrounded by adoring masses of teenagers, I just thought "Oh God, I've got to go in there and burst the bubble. I wouldn't say 'annoying', but that was one of the days I had to go in there and be brave.
MOST DISAPPOINTING INTERVIEW: It's always interesting for me to see the people who have been built up by the celebrity machine as gods. I like the fact that within the job, I've been given that perspective. It was very interesting to meet Robert Plant and Jimmy Page; it wasn't disappointing meeting them and hearing their endless stories. But it was disappointing when I asked them "those words 'in through the out door' - what a cool phrase! What inspired that? How did you come up with that?'' And Plant said, 'Well, we were gonna go buy some off-sales, but the pub was closed, so we went in through the out door.' That's when you realize the veneer, that you are talking to human beings. I know that there is a compulsion in human nature to want to worship, but at the same time, we can all be boiled down to simple things.