Shannon Emery Lee, also known as Shan Shan, is an American singer, actress, producer and entrepreneur. She is better known as the daughter of the renowned martial arts fighter and film star, Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Lee. She was four years old when her father died and her mother moved from Hong Kong to the USA. She was brought up in California with her brother Brandon Lee, who also later died in an accident while shooting for a film. People tried to tell her that acting was not good for the family but Shannon decided to maintain the legacy of her father and learnt martial arts from her father’s students. She then made her debut into films and television with movies like ‘Enter the Eagles’ and ‘Martial Law’. She endeavours to preserve and promote the legacy of her father in her capacity as the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation and Bruce Lee Enterprises. She has also hosted shows connected with martial arts and performed as a singer with pop groups. There have been legal issues with her uncles and cousins over the rights of Bruce Lee’s legacy which she has been able to amicably handle along with her mother. She was instrumental in founding the Bruce Lee Action Museum in Seattle.
Childhood & Early Life
Shannon Lee was born on 19 April 1969 in Los Angeles, California, USA to the famous martial arts expert and film star, Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Lee Cadwell. She had an elder brother named Brandon Lee. She is the granddaughter of Lee Hoi-Chuen, a renowned Cantonese opera singer. She is of Chinese, German and Swedish decent.
She lived in Hong Kong from 1971 to 1973 with her parents till her father died a sudden death at the age of 32. Her mother moved to the USA after the death of her husband and lived in Seattle, Washington with her children. Later, she remarried twice but always remained close to Shannon.
Shannon was four years old when her father died and did not fully understand the implications of his death. She was brought up with her brother in Rolling Hills, California and attended Chadwick School, from where she graduated in 1978. She went on to study voice at the Tulane University in New Orleans, from where she majored in music in 1991. During her University days she took part in numerous concerts, operas and musical shows.
Her brother Brandon Lee died of gunshot wounds due to an accident while shooting for a movie after which Shannon moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to pursue a career in acting. She was then 27 years old and wanted to carry on with the legacy of her father. She learnt the martial art called ‘Jeet Kune Do’ from Richard Bustillo, who was her father’s student and further improved her martial arts skills with serious training under another of her father’s pupil named Ten Wong.
She also learnt ‘Taekwondo’ and ‘Wushu’ under Dung Doa and Eric Chen respectively. Later, she mastered Kickboxing, which she displayed while shooting for her movie roles.
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She made her debut in movies playing a small role as a singer in her father’s biopic titled ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story'. This was followed by her appearance in the movies ‘Cage II’ and ‘High Voltage’ where she had a more significant role.
In 1998, she got a major break with her role in the Hong Kong action movie, ‘Enter the Eagles’, where she appeared with Michael Wong and Anita Yuen. The movie received positive reviews and her rating received a boost on the Hong Kong movie charts.
Her career on television includes a guest appearance in one of the episodes of ‘Martial Law’ with Sammo Hung in 1998 and an appearance in the telefilm, ‘Epoch’, which was broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel in 2001. She also hosted the first season of WMAC Masters that features choreographed martial arts fights on television. Her own training in martial arts gave her the confidence to host the show.
She also sang for the American noise pop band, Medicine’s album titled ‘The Mechanical Forces of Love’ in 2003 and the number ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’ for the film ‘China Strike Force’. She has made a number of other musical performances during her chequered career.
She was instrumental in establishing The Bruce Lee Foundation in 2002 to promote her father’s legacy. The family’s rights to her father’s franchisee were handed over to establish the Bruce Lee Enterprises, of which she is the CEO. This is an agency that licenses anything that is linked to the name of Bruce Lee. With her perseverance, the Foundation raised $ 35 million to build the Bruce Lee Action Museum in Seattle, USA.
Shannon Lee has proved to be a shrewd businesswoman and entrepreneur. There have been numerous challenges in her life which she has fought using her father’s philosophy to come out an ultimate winner.
Her movies include ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’ (1993), ‘Cage II’ (1994), ‘Enter the Eagles’ (1998), ‘Blade’ (1998), ‘Lessons for an Assassin’ (2001) and ‘She, Me and Her’ (2002).
She also hosted ‘WMAC Masters’, and appeared on ‘Martial Law’, ‘Epoch’ and ‘I Am Bruce Lee’ on television.
Shannon got married to a lawyer named Anthony Keasler in 1994. They have a daughter named Wren Lee Keasler. She is a strong believer in her father’s philosophy of ‘honestly express yourself, be your best self, cultivate yourself and don’t imitate anyone’. She has dedicated her life to carry her father’s name and legacy forward.
There have always been frictions and legal disputes between Shannon and her father’s other siblings and their children over the rights to her father’s legacy. While she and her mother are based in the USA, the rest of her father’s family are traditionally Chinese. Though the two sides do not communicate much, Shannon has endeavoured to keep the relationship cordial.
When Bruce Lee died, his legacy was divided as 50% to his wife, Linda Lee and 25 % each to his two children, Shannon and Brandon. This became a bone of contention with rest of her father’s family who maintained that they were not kept informed.
In 2010, she took the copyright issue to China and accused companies of using Bruce Lee’s name without the authorization of the Bruce Lee Foundation. She also approached the local authorities of Bruce Lee’s ancestral home to hand over Bruce Lee’s trademark to the Foundation.
Shannon Lee is the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation. She is also the executive producer of the television series ‘The Legend of Bruce Lee’ and the documentary film, ‘How Bruce Lee Changed the World’ which are based on the life of her father. She is also the CEO of Bruce Lee Family Company and oversees the licensing of her father’s name and franchise.
Her Cantonese name is Lee Heung Yee and her Mandarin name is Lee Siang Yee.
She was advised to stop acting because both her father and brother had died untimely while acting. However, she continued with her career of acting in order to maintain her father’s legacy.
Her favourite quote of her father is ‘The medicine for my sufferings is what I had within me all along’. This is something in which she has believed in and drawn strength from to face life.