COLIN MCCONNELL/TOrSTAR news service
There’s something perfect about the sight of Lisa Marie Chen driving her bright yellow Porsche Boxster around her dizzying multicultural city.
And in the blink of an eye, she pulls the sexy convertible into the parking lot of a Markham Starbuck’s, where signs are posted in English and Mandarin.
The coffee shop is a favourite gathering place for the former child actor turned magazine publisher. At 23, she’s part of a new generation of Canadians transforming the energy of biculturation into ambition, quickly defining Toronto as the world’s coolest cultural gathering place.
Born in Toronto to Chinese parents who grew up in India, she defies the image of second-generation Canadians caught in the intersection between cultures and identities.
Her magazine, blink, she explains, “fills a void in the media market — a product for a generation not produced by their parents or grandparents, many of whom are caught up in tradition, but still addresses the issues young Asians face.”
Chen became conscious of her unique comfort between cultures after graduating from the public school system in Markham (where she grew up and still lives) to a private high school in Rosedale.
“There were hardly any visible minorities at De La Salle, but everyone was really just motivated to succeed. I took on a lot of leadership roles there and, in a way, became even more connected to my Chinese identity.”
She began a more intellectual exploration of her place between cultures after meeting author Pico Iyer, who wrote The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, And The Search For Home, a seminal examination of how cultural identities around the world have converged, particularly in Toronto.
The meeting was at the University of Toronto, where she graduated this spring. “I was actually asked to show him around while he was here for a speaking engagement.”
What she’s most proud of is her magazine’s ability to highlight influential young Asians around the world through profiles of entertainers, artists and entrepreneurs as well as the contributors that give blink that professional look.
Chen put the magazine together with the help of her team of volunteers. The production costs were covered by Chen’s savings, which have accumulated since her acting days on Global and YTV.
And she’s learning all the ins and outs of publishing a magazine. “I’m very hands-on. I have to work on things, understand them from the inside out, by actually doing things myself.”
When asked if magazine publishing is where she sees herself for a long time, Chen lists the things she still needs to accomplish.
“I want to get my Master’s, maybe in Asian-American studies at UCLA, then probably law school after that. I also want to be a chef and open my own clothing store.”
As for the magazine?
“I will always be involved with it, but I’d eventually like it to stand on its own so I can do other things, too.”
• You can contact Chen throughblinktoronto.com.