Lorenzo Lee titled his YouTube channel, “Make Your Life Unique.”
Art mimics his life.
As a Puerto Rican-born, Nebraska-raised, 19-year-old fashion model and national teen bodybuilding champion, the Doral resident is breaking down barriers between the two very distinct fields.
“It’s a message I want to get across to other people to just be unique,” Lee said. “I consider myself unique because I’m doing modeling and bodybuilding, a weird mix that isn’t seen. When I talk to my modeling agency, they say, ‘You have to choose one or the other’ because they conflict. If I’m bodybuilding, they say ‘You have to choose one.’ “
Understanding Lee requires digging deeper, as he does when he merges the mainstream physical aesthetics of modeling with the more extreme look required for bodybuilding.
Most bodybuilders crib their posing music by sampling their favorite songs. Lee, a drummer, gets original beats laid down over which he recites motivational poems that he writes. He’s a criminal justice major whose current project is advocating for Santuario Canitas, a massive sanctuary for dogs and cats in Guayama, Puerto Rico.
And, most recently, under the training of Sergio Pacheco at Hialeah’s Physique World Gym, he won the teen lightweight title at the National Physique Committee Southern States, one of the nation’s most respected regional contests. The following week, he won the lightweight class at the NPC Teen Nationals in Pittsburgh.
Though the Teen Nationals title was bigger, Lee said, “The Southern States was the one I was most excited about. Meeting [six-time Mr. Olympia] Lee Haney and so many bodybuilders I looked up to …”
As for modeling, “He has a unique look,” said his manager, Alex Rodriguez, a former model himiself. “I’ve spoken to people in the industry, he’s what you’d consider the Kate Moss of male models, a look you just don’t see. Skin color, very defined jawline. You can’t tell what he is — are you Hispanic, Native American, Asian or Italian? The person who sees him gets to choose what he is — whatever you want to think of him, he is.”
In fact, one of Lee’s grandparents is Italian from Corsica. While he uses his legal name, Lorenzo Martir, for competitions, he uses the last name “Lee” for everything else. Why? Because wherever he’s lived — Puerto Rico, Nebraska, South Florida — people noticed his similarity to the late Chinese-American martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
Lee’s mother, Julianne Collazo, moved the family from Puerto Rico to Omaha, Nebraska, after another mother who had lived there told her about how wonderful it was for raising a family. Five years later, Lee did what you do in Nebraska at 14 — went out for freshman football. In a state of beefy, meat eaters, Lee’s 5-7, 140-pound build needed more size.
“I was always a very scrawny, skinny kid, fast metabolism, so it was hard for me to put on weight,” Lee said. “I used to eat like crazy, but couldn’t put on weight. I started seeing some big kids at the gym there. My father used to lift weights a while back. One day, he took me to the gym and gave me a nice simple routine for every body part. I started trying it out. I was tired of being the small kid.”
A 24-hour gym opened in the neighborhood a year later. With the encouragement of two parents into fitness — “my mom’s always been into the gym. She’s had four kids, but she always stays fit” — and a gym membership, Lee got bitten by the iron bug.
After graduating from Elkhorn South High School, Lee went back to Puerto Rico to start college. Though he continued to train like a bodybuilder, he hadn’t competed. Of modeling, he knew nothing. But Rodriguez, training for a local bodybuilding show, noticed this kid who would still be at the gym when Rodriguez left early in the day and returned later.
Rodriguez befriended Lee, who recalls Rodriguez eventually saying, “ ‘Hey, Dude, I really think you should try modeling.’ He really opened my mind to it.”
Within two weeks of opening an account on ModelMayhem.com with shots taken by a smartphone, Lee got a call from MR Magazine, a menswear business magazine that was coming to shoot in Puerto Rico. The neophyte model wound up on the cover.
“I was 100 percent sure that was going to happen,” Rodriguez said. “He had such a unique look. Especially, the fact he has a young person’s face, but really tight body. He puts a very strong effort into everything he does.”
What Lee wants to do right now is grow into a model on the page, perhaps on the screen, and be a role model on the bodybuilding stage.
“I want to become the teen, youth face of the NPC and the sport because right now, I think we’re lacking that,” Lee said.