Actress and writer Judy Lei draws inspiration from her life for “The World’s Greatest”

For some people, their own life experiences serve as inspiration for their art.

In her first solo show “The World’s Greatest” which is directed by MC Jin, New York-based actress and writer, Judy Lei’s protagonist is a young girl growing up in Chinatown and does not care about school until she gets accepted into Murry Bergtraum High School through a second chance lottery system after initially not getting into any of NYC’s public schools and makes a promise to start over and reinvent herself.

“It is a personal story,” Lei said. “I’d say 85 to 90 percent of it is real. It’s based off my high school experience and all throughout the four years I was there, and I didn’t really think about where I really came from until I was in college and I reflected a lot and when I decided to pursue acting, that was the time when I thought about who I am and the story I wanted to tell because there aren’t a lot of Asian American stories.”

Lei said that while acting was always a passion of hers, it was not initially what she started her career in after college.

“When I was applying for colleges and acting programs, I was really discouraged by my mom because she said I would never make it as an actor in New York and gave up on that dream for four years and after college, I did the usual Asian American thing and tried to look for a full-time job, and then landed a job at the Congressman’s office,” Lei said. “I was there for six months and then Jeremy Lin happened and Far East Movement also happened the year before that, and I was so inspired by their stories of how they pursued their dreams and followed their hearts and I said ‘Fuck all of this! I need to do this now. I can’t live with regrets’ and that’s why I decided to do acting.”

At first, she said it was difficult trying to break into acting because of limited opportunities, but she started writing her own story to stand out.


(Courtesy of Judy Lei)

Lei, who is an alumni of Kollaboration New York and the director of the Asian American International Film Festival, said she feels as though being involved with these organizations and having them as a venue to be able to tell these stories that are often times aren’t told in mainstream media.

“Our stories and our histories are not told in history books,” Lei said. “I think having platforms like this is really bringing Asian American stories and talent to the forefront. There is a lot of narrative right now that focuses on colorblindness and casting directors saying they are just concerned about talent and not what race you are, but it’s untrue because when you go into auditions or try to tell your stories, there’s still that gap where people cast those who is more mainstream and we never get a chance to shine, so these platforms gives them a chance to be stars.”

“The World’s Greatest” will be showing at the TBG Studio Theatre on 312 W. 36th St., from August 19th-August 22nd. Tickets are available for $30 here.