Hong Kong-born singer CoCo Lee, whose decades-long career in Asia led to global renown, has died by suicide, her siblings said Wednesday. She was 48 years old.
The star had been suffering from depression in recent years, “but her condition deteriorated drastically over the last few months,” her two elder sisters Carol and Nancy Lee wrote in a statement on Instagram.
Lee attempted suicide at home on Sunday and was rushed to hospital, where doctors attempted to revive her from a coma. She died three days later on Wednesday, her sisters wrote.
“Although, CoCo sought professional help and did her best to fight depression, sadly that demon inside of her took the better of her,” the statement reads.
Her sisters note that this year marked the 30th anniversary of Lee’s singing career, which brought her huge success across China and Taiwan, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Her death prompted an outpouring of grief in both and wall-to-wall news coverage in Taiwan.
Lee’s most notable performances include voicing Fa Mulan in the Mandarin-language version of the Disney classic Mulan, about the legendary Chinese folk heroine. She also sang the Mandarin version of the movie’s theme song, Reflection.
Lee sang the romantic ballad A Love Before Time in the martial arts adventure movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which propelled her to global fame. She famously performed the Oscar-nominated song at the 2001 Academy Awards show in a telecast viewed by tens of millions.
In their statement, Lee’s sisters wrote that she “won countless international acclaims with top selling songs and has left audience with an astounding impression of her excellent live performances.”
“CoCo is also known to have worked tirelessly to open up a new world for Chinese singers in the international music scene, and she went all out to shine for the Chinese. We are proud of her!” they wrote.
Born Ferren Lee in Hong Kong, the star later moved to the U.S. with her family, where she attended middle and high school in San Francisco. On a visit back to Hong Kong after high school, Lee won first runner-up in a singing contest, which went on to kick-start her music career.
In 1996, Lee signed with Sony Music Entertainment and her debut album, Coco Lee, became the best-selling album of that year in Asia.
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Though Lee initially started off as a Mandopop singer, she later branched out to release albums in Cantonese and English, with millions of albums sold. Her English song Do You Want My Love charted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Breakouts chart in December 1999.
In 2011, Lee married Bruce Rockowitz, a Canadian businessman who is the former CEO of Hong Kong supply chain company Li & Fung. While she had two stepdaughters from her marriage with Rockowitz, Lee didn’t have children of her own.
In Lee’s most recent Instagram post, dated Dec. 31, 2022, she shared several pictures of herself, including tattoos of the words “love” and “faith” as well as a picture of what appears to be a drainage bag taped to her body.
“Love & Faith — my two favorite words that I carry strongly in my heart which I desperately needed to get through this incredibly difficult year,” she wrote in the caption. “Life seemed unbearable at times but I adapted the attitude of a ‘female warrior’ to face them head on fearlessly.”
In the wake of her death, numerous fans and friends have flocked to the comments of her final post to pay their respects.
Mandopop singer-songwriter Wang Leehom described her as the “biggest star” whom everyone wanted to work with.
“In the music industry, Coco Lee broke down international barriers, before any other Chinese singer did,” he wrote. “Let’s always remember her, as a brave pioneer, and an important musical legend.”
Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai posted a message on Facebook that read “R.I.P., your bright smile will always be remembered.”
— With files from The Associated Press
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.
Learn more about preventing suicide with these warning signs and tips on how to help.
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