Actress and dancer Deborah Lee Fong has taken her decades of experience on both the stage and television into new areas with her recent appearance at New York City’s renowned Urban World Film Festival. This bilingual Panamanian/American performer has appeared in a number of notable productions in recent years including starring and supporting roles in the film You and Your Decisions, PBS productions such as Footsteps and Footsteps 2, as well as many national theater productions. Her specialization as a dancer with the pole dancing and salsa styles translates well into her acting as she engages physically with a role rather than relying on facial reactions and intonation alone.

Her appearance in the Live Staged Screenplay Readings component of the festival as Agnes in the reading of Secret Santa should serve to further elevate her profile. It takes considerable love for what you are doing and faith in yourself to continue for over thirty years in the wild and wooly world of modern entertainment. The competition is fierce, disappointments common. Even a brief perusal of her credentials and credit illustrates the obvious – what separates Deborah Lee Fong from many of her peers and contemporaries’ lack of staying power is passion. It is likely that she cannot be anything else than what she is and the world never mores performers like that in every genre and medium. 

She has found an ideal forum with the Urban World Film Festival. Since Stacy Spikes founded the five day festival in 1997, Urban World has built a reputation for focusing on a lengthy slate of diverse film from around the world and celebrate cinematic creativity in a fuller fashion than many similar festivals. It is little wonder than someone with Fong’s pedigree and professional past would find a home with this five day event and surround herself with those who understand how to feed off and best highlight her considerable talents. 

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It isn’t difficult to imagine her returning for further appearances at the festival. The sort of free-ranging and cutting edge work presented by filmmakers at the festival is ideal Fong territory and she is the sort of performer attracted to new challenges rather than miring themselves in a rut. There is no question that Secret Santa asked Fong to explore areas of her talent she doesn’t often get the opportunity to exercise and she has undoubtedly emerged from the festival an even better actress than when the festival began. 

There’s a half true misconception that roles become harder to find for women with advancing years – at least roles outside an increasingly narrow purview. Deborah Lee Fong proves getting older doesn’t have to be a professional death sentence if a performer remains willing to challenge themselves, continue working hard, and reject coasting. The world needs more actresses like Deborah Lee Fong and, with any luck, the hard and rewarding labor she brought to her recent Urban World performance will increase her visibility with casting directors, producers, and anyone looking to recruit a passionate and talented performer for their production.

Nicole Killian

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