Every Sunday morning, I make it a point to stroll through my neighborhood. It would be easy for me to take my normal route, the same main street. But one Sunday, for no particular reason, I decided I would explore. After some time, I ended up in front of the most amazing Victorian brownstone, deep in the heart of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn--the home of The Notorious B.I.G., Chris Rock, Isaiah Washington, Adrian Grenier, and Twinkie Byrd, to name a few.
I was in awe of it for several reasons, for one, the architecture is breathtaking. The grounds are exquisite and well-manicured. I walked past and thought how amazing it looks. Then, I went about my merry way. Some months later, I got an invite from an industry friend, saying they would love for me to attend an Open House. To my surprise, it's at that amazing house! The home that I love so. It's the Moran Victorian Mansion.
When I arrive to the open house, a beautiful, dark caramel-skinned woman with the greatest smile, Claudia Moran, greets me at the door, and I am speechless. The outside structure, beautiful as it is, can't compare to the beauty of the house's interior. Every piece of furniture is perfectly placed. The artwork had to have been selected with the most care. As I stroll through each room, one after the other, my mouth opens wider. It's simply divine. The piece de resistance is the grand piano that sits in the main living quarters, inches from the window. The balcony frames the structure ever so lovingly. A well laid out brick road leads to the lush foliage.
To the far right of garden is a perfectly designed pond with sea creatures that are lucky enough to call this sanctuary their home, in the heart of Brooklyn. As we continue to make our way through the house, Ms. Moran invited me back, and insisted that I return for a private tour. I did as promised, and discovered the best part of the house. This time, she showed me the unfinished divisions and the attic. I don't know why, but I was so excited to see the attic.
The property is a landmark and was built for water meter king John C. Kelley, by Montrose W. Morris. Its history is very rich. That day, I saw the structure of the house, the portion that had not been touched for years, the bare bones. I saw the potential of what it was to become. Months later when I returned, it had been gloriously designed by an amazing young architect. I was stunned by its magnificence... a hidden treasure, right in the middle of Brooklyn.
This was the feeling I experienced when I met Ms. Robinne Lee. I had passed this lovely flower several times during my participation at ABFF. Yes, I had noticed her. She is quite beautiful, so one cannot help but notice her. I recall her on the red carpet, but was unsure who she was exactly. It wasn't until she stood on stage discussing her role in Russ Parr's movie The Undershepherd that it clicked. This was the beautiful woman I just watched in Jenifer Garner film, 13 Going On 30.
After the screening of The Undershepherd at ABFF, we caught up with Robinne Lee and asked her a few questions about her life, her career choices, and what the festival means to her. We had a meaningful discussion on the importance of seeking your dreams, while keeping your family values intact.
Robinne Lee shares the ancestral lines of greats such as Harry Belafonte, Bob Marley, Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell, Lois Samuel, Sheryl Lee Ralph and the late Heavy D. Lee is the daughter of Jamaican parents (of African, Chinese, British, and Arawak Indian descent). Her father was a successful executive for an insurance brokerage, and her mother was a Registered Pediatric Nurse. Both now have retired in Florida. This New York born beauty is no different than any true Caribbean girl. Once in the land of opportunity, you better take from it what it has to offer. And take she did. Earning a BA degree from Yale University, and JD from Columbia Law School, she made her parents proud by honoring their request for her to become a lawyer. I am sure they thought that their daughter would fulfill the American dream by reaching great heights in corporate America.
However, Lee exercised her free will, and got a job as an Editorial Assistant for Elle Magazine while still in school. Pretty impressive, one may think. Not to her parents, though. I'm sure they thought it was a waste of an advanced degree. But Robinne, being true to herself, pursued that path anyway, and it opened doors to the world of the Arts. The gateway to acting was now open. She landed her role inHav Plenty, in 1997, which screened at Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals during her first year of law school. And it was also the opening movie for the very first American Black Film Festival in Acapulco, Mexico.
Since then, Lee has been seen in over a dozen films and television shows which include Deliver Us From Eva, The Runaway, National Security and Tyler Perry's House of Payne. A supporter of the Independent artists, Lee starred in This Is Not a Test, and more recently The Undershepherd, starring legendary actors Isaiah Washington and Vanessa Bell Calloway, and directed by Russ Parr. The film screened at ABFF this summer in Miami to rave reviews. Lee plays the role of Shirley, wife of Roland (Lamman Rucker). Being Mary Jane, a BET pilot also recently got picked up. In addition Miss Dial, another indie, finalized a distribution deal with Phase 4. "It's been a big week of announcements for me!" exclaims the actress excitedly.
The mother of two she keeps her children very active. I asked her about some of her children's pastimes. She says, "Both of my kids love the arts! My son plays soccer and tennis, and loves storytelling and woodworking. My daughter will most likely start gymnastics, ballet and soccer in the fall. She loves to sing and play her guitar. So, we'll see." You can hear in her voice the value and the importance of creating her own legacy.
Just like that Victorian Mansion deep in the heart of Brooklyn, with the unfinished attic, I definitely see this flower named Robinne Lee blossoming into a wonderful hidden treasure. And very soon the world will see.
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