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Rising Above Adversity: The Unstoppable Shine of Sarah

By Billy Montgomery

Despite now holding a crown, the journey of a 31-year-old Filipina actress has been a challenging one, transforming her from a talented immigrant into a multifaceted entertainer. As the current title holder of Mrs. West Coast & Mrs. California 2023, Sarah Grace Lee's climb to success is one of resilience and determination, having overcome numerous obstacles to reach her current position.

Lee was a child model in the Philippines and was always fascinated by dance. She spent hours practicing her moves and expressing her talents. When her family moved to the United States, her passion for dance grew stronger. However, as an immigrant, Sarah faced several significant challenges. Despite all of this, Lee never gave up and continued to work hard to pursue her dreams. “I had been working and studying as a ballerina in the Philippines so when we landed in New York I decided to audition for some really big dance schools,” Less said. “I was 16 but I was ready to go for my dreams.”

Lee's dedication and perseverance paid off when she achieved her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. She received dance training from prestigious schools such as the renowned Joffrey Ballet and the School of American Ballet. To fund her education, Lee said she wrote letters to doctors who had philanthropic mindsets and were willing to invest in her dance career. She credits their generosity as greatly contributing to her success. “Without that support, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Lee said. “I told them someday I would pay their blessings forward to other children.” After auditioning for professional work, she eventually joined the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia. Despite lacking a green card, she persevered through a year of unpaid work and sleeping on the couches of acquaintances. “There were times when I literally had almost nothing but my dreams,” Lee said. “I remember how hopeless it felt along the way. The process was challenging.” After struggling relentlessly for a year, she finally received her working papers and continued her dance pursuits. “I got to experience some amazing performances and tour many beautiful venues in different cities,” Lee said. “Some of my favorites were: “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” and “Giselle”. There are too many to count but I am grateful for the blessings that dance brought me.”

While some teen ballerinas continue to perform for decades, most retire early. Performing and rehearsing cause wear on the dancer's joints and muscles, and injuries can end a ballerina's career prematurely. But for Lee, she said the wear and tear were more mental than physical and eventually led her to leave dance.

“At some point, I knew I wasn’t mentally healthy. I had eating disorders. I didn’t feel like a human being. I needed to take myself out and refocus,” Lee said. “I was overly obsessed with things I should not have been. It was time to do something different” Leaving a childhood dream is never easy, but when you have exceptional talent, options abound. Lee decided to pursue acting and has not looked back. “I went to Playhouse West in Philadelphia to pursue acting training. It was there where I met my husband and we decided to relocate to LA,” Lee said. In LA, she landed modeling and acting roles that allowed her to fulfill her quest for expression. “I have done a lot of things to survive in LA, but it is a fun world,” Lee said. Despite being successful, Lee has always kept her promise to help other children as she was assisted. She supports different charities and organizations and is particularly involved with Compassion International, an American child sponsorship and Christian humanitarian aid organization working towards the long-term development of children who live in poverty around the world. “What I love about Compassion is they have all of these targeted ways to help children in need,” Lee said. “For example, if you want to contribute to ensuring there’s clean water or tutoring, there are funds established just for those interests. At $43 per month, the contributions go a long way. I have been so blessed by others. I feel it is an opportunity to give back.”

She sees her queen platform as a way to be an ambassador to the hopes and dreams of those to come but also for those who are struggling to reach their purpose. "I believe in honoring God through my art and loving people unconditionally through my actions, It's a big title and God has blessed me with much to share," Lee said. Keep up with Lee at

Photos by Billy Montgomery

Heart of Hollywood Contributor Billy Montgomery Billy Montgomery stands as a seasoned photojournalist, accomplished writer, and adept digital content producer with a rich and diverse portfolio. His extensive experience in media production has taken him to illustrious cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Atlanta, where he has successfully crafted compelling photography, videography, and podcasts for a diverse clientele. Beyond his role as a media producer, Montgomery is committed to education, imparting his knowledge through classes and workshops focused on media literacy and production for both youth and adults. He believes in the transformative power of media education to empower individuals in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of digital content creation. In the realm of writing, Montgomery champions innovative thinking as a cornerstone of journalism. His perspective emphasizes the importance of embracing diverse viewpoints, acknowledging that true growth comes from listening to a chorus of voices rather than the echo of one's own. Living by the motto, “We don’t grow by listening to our own voice,” Montgomery encourages a dynamic and inclusive approach to storytelling that reflects the richness and complexity of the world we inhabit.

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The journey to success is not always about money but more about believing in yourself and trusting the process.


Dec 21, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Really encouraging story of hope and resilience.


Dec 21, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Inspired and blessed by this.

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