Divine Lee: The Hardworking Heiress

The real estate executive tells Cosmo about the life she's built for herself, how she manages to balance her time, and what she'd like to do for the Filipino people.

Divine Lee has a commanding presence. A tall woman made even taller by the sky high stiletto heels she loves to wear, you look up at her and you think, "Wow." Toss in the fact that she's a real estate executive and society darling who has just begun to dip her fingers in other industries (like retail and clubs), and she can be downright intimidating, probably without even intending to be so. She just seems to have it all.

Divine is a go-getter who will never let herself be boxed into the heiress stereotype. She had to work harder than everyone else to prove herself, slowly working her way from the bottom up, but it paid off. Everyone respects Divine Lee.

But beyond what you see on the surface, Divine is a gregarious and very funny woman with an affinity for her fabulous homosexual friends (take a look at her Twitter and see what we mean), a strong sense of fun, an incomparable work ethic, and of course, a heart of gold. It's not surprising at all that she's been so very blessed.


You're a model, an executive, a businesswoman, and a socialite; how do you manage to do all of these things?


Well, I'm rarely home, for one, and I'm not yet married, so I don't have kids to attend to. So far, I'm managing it pretty well. I work for GA [Globe Asiatique] in the morning; I check the sites. Then I do all my other meetings in the afternoon, then after that, at night, it's free time. So I can go to events or have dinner with my friends. But other than that, like when I have pictorials, I try to do it in the morning. I skip the site for that day then I move the visit to a Sunday or a Saturday.


What keeps you going?

I like what I do, I guess. It's the best thing. I don't count the hours. I really enjoy everything, from retail, to the club we have with Tim [Yap], even real estate. For me, real estate is like a clothing brand. You see something from paper, you see it being produced, and next thing you know, you see someone wearing it; in real estate's case, living there. It's fun.


Where did you get your business savvy?

I started working when I was really young, a teenager. I was so shy to ask for money. I liked a lot of things. I liked new clothes, I liked new bags, and I was so shy to ask for money from my dad because I knew he worked so hard. So I decided to make a little money on the side so that I could buy the things that I want. It just started from there.


You're really close to your father [Delfin Lee of Globe Asiatique]. What are the most important lessons you've learned from him?

Well, number one is, we're all here for a reason. And I think the reason, for me and what I do, is I'm here to improve the lives of people--whether it be in housing or in other things, like from our clubs to our retail. For Luca [her clothing brand], all our sewers now are the Ondoy victims. So at least I'm giving them livelihood, I'm giving them something so they can feed their family. It's nice to have a reason behind all the businesses that you do.


When Ondoy hit Manila, you were one of the most active and high-profile people mobilizing relief efforts online. What other causes do you support, and what causes would you like to support?

Right now, from Ondoy, I realized that I can't do the relief missions everyday because my Dad needs me in the office. So I started a livelihood program so they can earn their own money and provide for their family. After that, I would see kids with our sewers [for Luca], waiting there, not doing anything. So I'm trying to get into education. I don't know exactly how yet, but since we have schools, I have some scholars that are going to our schools. But I still want to make it bigger. I want to do it in different locations, not just where we have sites. That's my main focus now, education.


What kind of Philippines would you like to build?

Number one, because I'm in housing—I don't know if this is too technical—but we have a three million deficit in housing, and when we ask the government [why], it's always about the people who are illegal, squatters—they don't have proper housing. But what I want to focus on are those people who are actually working but cannot afford a home yet. So, my dream is, by area, maybe I can provide good housing in line with what we do. My dad can build houses, then on the side, we can provide a certain percentage for people who can't afford housing.


What makes you fun and what makes you fearless?

Fun? Well, I'm so active. I'm out of the house by 6 or 7 [in the morning] depending on the weather, and I get home really, really late after events or dinners with friends. But one thing with me is, I always have this positivity. I don't take myself too seriously. I laugh at myself. I'm always the first one to take criticism and laugh at it. I guess that's what makes me fun to be with.

As for fearless, I'm not afraid to try new things. I believe that I'll never know if I don't try.


What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?

Helping people. It may sound so cliche, but with all the stores or clubs or houses that we build, I still feel the most happiness when I see that the kids are now in school, that my scholars are doing well in school, or when I see the manangs, even if they're earning so little, bring food to my table as a thank you because their kid is graduating. It's nice.

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