By Frank Larue
Jessica Yee started modeling when she was six years old. The daughter of Métis model Theresa Ducharme, Jessica worked for her mother’s agency Mystique Models until she was in her teens. By the time she was 15, Jessica ran workshops with her mother and worked as an assistant producer for fashion shows. Modeling also became a means of helping cultivate self-esteem among First Nations communities. “Because my mother focused on building self-esteem and using modeling as a tool to bring the Aboriginal community together, my first impressions of modeling were very different from what a normal modeling agency and the experience was like. It was very important that as my brother and I were growing up that we understood we were beautiful no matter how we looked like and who we were. These were principals that she taught in her modeling workshops for years and what I have been trying to get across to the Aboriginal youth.”
Jessica graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology and later studied in England at the London College of Fashion. She stayed in London, where she interned at the UK version of Elle magazine and also worked with the fashion stylists. London was a turning point in Jessica’s career, and she took advantage of any opportunity that came her way. “For me, and to any other artist, London is a huge source of inspiration from the busy streets of people from all over the world from many different cultures, the historic architecture, the bold and extreme tastes in fashion. Everything was very much in my face all at once, and my senses felt like they were in overload. Moving to another country on my own at a young age taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life. I grew as a person with the ups and downs and what it meant to pursue a dream. It gave me the courage and confidence to really believe it is possible for myself to really achieve anything they want out of life.”
Jessica returned to Vancouver and started Positive Beauty, which consisted of workshops run through the Urban Native Youth Association with the intent of preparing Native youth for the opportunities within the fashion industry. Fashion designing, photography, makeup artistry modeling, and fashion marketing are presented in a straightforward and personal way. The results are a higher sense of self-esteem and the confidence to make the students dreams come true. One of Jessica’s students has already been picked up by a modeling agency.
Modeling has its own rewards, and sometimes it serves as a stepping stone for television and film, but this was not the case for Jessica. She worked for her Chinese father for several years in marketing before she considered the Thespian profession. “I know its very common for many people to believe that modeling is a natural progression to acting, but for me, it really wasn’t. I worked at a land development company as a marketer for 7 years in between the modeling and the acting. I got back into modeling in my early twenties, which is not common. The more I have been studying acting, the more I realize how completely separate they are as crafts. I have enormous amount of new found respect for actors in terms how much they have trained to make what they do on screen look easy and how much they sacrifice in their personal lives to want to chase a career with no guarantee of success.”
Jessica studied at the Shoreline Studios Vancouver acting school and is now working with her mentor Matthew Harrison at the Actor’s Foundry School. She has already been in several TV commercials for Nintendo Wii-EA Sports More workouts, Nature Valley, Mercedes, and Driftwood Brewery. Jessica was also in the independent film Footsteps Into Gangland and is executive producer for The House, which is in production at the moment. Altogether, Jessica Yee is a successful young woman of flawless beauty who oozes charm that makes you believe that no matter what the challenges are for a young actress, she will overcome them. To paraphrase the old song: her future’s so bright she might have to wear shades.