Heads up anime fans!
Quirktastic got the awesome opportunity to chat with the talented voice actress Mela Lee (Vampire Knight, Fate/Stay Night, Durarara!!, etc.) about her journey into the world of Voice Acting, and how it feels to be a woman of color in an ever evolving fandom space.
Read on below for this exciting exclusive!
What is your geek origin story? What got you into anime?
I took a voiceover “sample” class, and my boyfriend thought I should get into film and television. I was working part time with a bank at that time, and thought it was much more likely that I would go to law school. I booked my first anime with Tokyo Pop that had been acquired by Disney, and learned from my director about this “new” thing called anime (obviously only new to me).
But having been a math and chemistry geek in school, I became fascinated with the medium that connected me with so many like-minded people. I began booking a role a year—small parts here and there. I never imagined that I could make a full time career out of it, or that years later I’d be traveling the world and playing some of those characters (like Rin Tohsaka) for most of my adult life! The anime and geek culture has had a profound effect on me and my connection with the world. I feel very fortunate…and I’m probably not going to law school. 😉
How did your career in voice acting begin? Any tips for someone trying to get into voice acting?
There are so many resources [available] now online. Crispin Freeman’s podcast, Steve Blum’s online school, and countless blogs and vlogs. Access as much as you can for free [to learn] about the technical side of recording. Tech has made it much more feasible for people to work in our industry from anywhere in the world.And, if you are like me, you’ll be part timing for a few years until you transition —but it’s much easier to do that now. Also, remember that Voice Acting is more than just “doing voices”: It’s storytelling. It’s authenticity. It’s connecting through voice. Bring yourself and your passions to your work. Don’t try to hide yourself in your characters — those characters are there to bring out authentic and amazing parts of yourself.
Being confident in your own voice and story will go a long way. I was very flexible when I started, but it made it difficult for casting directors to really know who I was. Have your signature voice and characters. Focus on creating your demos, [having them] centered there, and then branch out.
You voice some iconic characters! Who would say is your favorite character you’ve voiced?
Mela Lee:I can’t choose a favorite. Rin Tohsaka from the Fate series holds a special place in my heart. She actually wears a school uniform quite similar to mine from prep school. Lifeline ( Apex Legends) and Jade (Mortal Kombat) are the first characters that represented my culturally diverse heritage ( Pacific Islander, Creole, Ethiopian,Welsh). That has meant a lot to me and my family. Those kind of diverse roles just weren’t common a few years ago.
As a woman of color , how does it feel voicing characters that bring representation to our community? (i.e Lifeline,Canary, Jade, Dex)
Mela Lee:It’s an exciting time to be a voice actor in anime, animation, and gaming. The diversity in storytelling has exponentially increased in the last few years. I am grateful for the pioneers and incredibly talented voices in the industry who paved the way for that to happen — ( Cree Summers, Phil Lamarr, Dave Fennoy, and so many others). It’s an honor to be able to voice such complex and vital characters.
What is your favorite anime?
Mela Lee:Of course, as a quantum mechanics and string theory buff , I love the Fate franchise. I was into alternate universes way before it was cool. (I know they’re pretty common storytelling devices now, but that wasn’t always the case.)However, for fave, I’m going semi old school and choosing Vampire Knight. I am fascinated by the two paths of Yuki and Zero. Yuki, who had love for both vampires and humans — loves herself as she discovers who she really is. Zero’s hate for “others” ended up meaning he hated himself.In a culturally diverse world where people groups with very different value sets are having to find ways to co-exist, and where many of us are a product of a merging of cultures and ethnicities, Vampire Knight addresses the grace we need to extend to others and how it can greatly impact our relationship with our sense of self and self esteem.
It was great talking with you. Thank you for all you do to connect, enlighten, and elevate our community!
Keep up to date with Mela Lee on her social media channels: -Mela Lee @theMelalee on insta/ twitter!
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Destiny is a podcast host, producer, media personality, lover of all things cute and proud dog mom. She is also the Social Media Director of Quirktastic. If she's not watching anime she is probably scrolling through Instagram looking at cute pictures. You can listen to her anime podcast “Getting Animated” by visiting Destinysenpai.or/gettinganimated.