Crystal Lee served the Golden State as Miss California 2013, placing first runner up and taking home over $45,000 in scholarship money. A double graduate of Stanford University, she has a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and a master’s degree in Media Studies. After her year as Miss California, she went on to found the startup Lifesite.co, and is now busy hosting This is SF, a weekly lifestyle show that features the bay area’s best restaurants, events, and more! We caught up with Crystal to learn more about what she’s up to now.
You’ve recently joined This is SF as a host- what’s one thing that surprised you about your new role?
One thing that surprised me is that in the world of professional video production, clean sound quality is the most important thing. In the city, it’s not rare for us to be recording and needing to pause when a garbage truck begins to back up or an airplane flies overhead. Those beeps will ruin the voice recording because there’s no way to edit out interruptions.
Also, the entrepreneurs, hustlers, and passion-driven leaders who make this show inspire and surprise me every day. There are some amazing stories out there. I profiled some Kurdish, Ethiopian, and Guatemalan immigrants who all embody the American Dream in their unique way. Their place in the show represents the culmination of years of hard work and resilience, and I’m overjoyed to be able to share that moment with them.
Tell us a little bit about the show!
The show is a lifestyle series that profiles the best experiences that the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer. It’s a similar format to a Food Network travel show with a host trying out activities, eating food, and engaging with the business owner. The hosting style is informal, lighthearted, and enthusiastic. Unlike Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives which focuses only on food, This is SF also showcases categories like pets, fitness, health and wellness, sports, and even wedding and wine country!
How did your year as Miss California prepare you to host a lifestyle TV show?
My years of competing helped me develop a voice and personality that I’m comfortable unleashing on camera. MAO interview preparation taught me to be unabashedly myself. To host this type of show, a majority of which is unscripted, I need to channel the most authentic version of myself. The best segments I’ve done were when I forgot the camera was even there.
This show has given me the chance to meet many people from all walks of life and backgrounds. It’s my responsibility to help them relax and feel comfortable speaking on camera. I often only have a few minutes to establish a quick rapport before the camera starts to roll. In those moments I try to show the business owner that I’ve done my research on their brand and crack a joke or two to share a laugh. The best way to combat their nerves is by sending out lots of positive and reassuring energy.
Miss California, Googler, tech entrepreneur, lifestyle show host; you’ve had some vastly different roles in the past five years. Do you find that people try to put you in a “box” and label you as one thing, and if so, how do you address that?
I believe people who “put me in a box” are just trying their best to comprehend who I am in the context of their existing mental models. Since my career arc isn’t particularly common, I don’t expect anyone to grasp it all. I don’t get offended when people label me because their drawing from their own personal experiences to understand what I do. Oftentimes the labels come out when they want a certain side of me to lead a collaboration. For instance, “tech” Crystal will be asked to judge a pitch day competition, while “pageant” Crystal will be asked to do media projects.
Any exciting plans for the rest of 2018?
I applied for an arts grant to make a short film examining the intersection of immigration and food in San Francisco Chinatown. Since Circle 8 Productions gave me the opportunity to host This is SF, I’ve been wanting to explore the producing side and I’m going to start right here in my backyard with the oldest, largest, and most storied Chinatown in North America.
As a Chinese-American, I’ve personally grown up between two cultures so I’ve always been intrigued by places that sit in the middle, embodying the merging of unique, distinct identities. Following this theme, I’ve decided this summer to visit San Sebastian, Spain. It’s in Basque country between Spain and France. I’m already thrilled for what I might discover there.
The Miss California class of ‘18 has just been completed; any advice for the girls vying for the title?
- At least twice, run through every area of competition in its entirety, full-out. If you can’t get access to a stage, rent out a dance studio with a mirror. It’s really important to do it full-out, 100%. Have all wardrobe, shoes, smiling, hair done, your tan, and stage makeup done. Do your talent as if it was the real thing. As a bonus, film yourself and watch it so you can see what the judges see. You’d be surprised how many contestants don’t do this. They just don’t think about it.
- Get used to speaking extemporaneously in public. If you’re not comfortable yet, make it your mission to find ways to practice. There are plenty of options. You can speak at church, go to Toastmasters, stand up and talk during family dinners, raise your hand in class, make a presentation at a nursing home, teach or lead a workshop, attend a school’s Read-Aloud Day, take a public speaking class… the list goes on. Go out and do all of it!
More advice will be assembled in a standalone resource later this Spring at www.crystalclues.com