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Coco Lee’s legacy - Positivity, Mindfulness & Mental Health

Written by: Ko Teik Yen 


Despite challenges, Coco achieved international success and became a role model for many. Tragically, her passing sparked discussions on mental health and the importance of acceptance and compassion. While positive thinking empowered her pursuit, mindfulness could have offered inner peace and self-acceptance. Let's honour her legacy while raising awareness for mental well-being."

Full Press Statement

The passing of Coco Lee is a tragic event that deeply impacted her fans and the entertainment industry. Coco Lee was a highly talented and influential artist who achieved success both in Asia and the West. Her achievements, including chart-topping singles and being the first Asian to perform at the Academy Awards, made her an inspiring role model for many.

Despite her accomplishments, Coco Lee faced personal challenges, such as being born with an abnormality in her left leg and undergoing multiple surgeries throughout her life. In March 2023, she revealed to her fans that she had to undergo surgery on her pelvis and thigh after an old leg injury resurfaced during a dance rehearsal. She expressed her concerns that her fans may not accept her imperfections. 

Tragically, on 2 July 2023, Coco Lee attempted suicide and was subsequently admitted to the hospital. Three days later, on 5 July 2023, she passed away at the age of 48. This heartbreaking news sparked shock and grief among her followers and the wider community, who flooded her last Instagram post with messages of condolences and support.

Her untimely death also sparked discussions about mental health and depression, as many people were surprised, as she has always been cheerful, bubbly and always with a positive public outlook, which may have hidden her internal struggles. It became a reminder that even those who seem strong and successful may be battling personal demons.

Coco Lee's impact as an Asian American artist cannot be overstated, as she broke boundaries and served as a role model for young Asian women worldwide. Her legacy as a talented singer, dancer, and actress will continue to inspire generations to come.

Interpretation from mental health perspective 

From the perspective of positive thinking, Coco Lee's journey could have been seen as a triumph over adversity and a testament to the power of optimism and determination. Despite facing physical challenges with her leg, she pursued her passion for music and dance, achieving international recognition at the highest level and becoming an influential figure in the entertainment industry. Her positive attitude and cheerful demeanor likely inspired many people and showcased the strength of the human spirit in the face of difficulties.

Positive thinking encourages individuals to focus on the good aspects of life, maintain an optimistic outlook, and believe in their ability to overcome challenges. In Coco Lee's case, her positive mindset might have helped her push through tough times, bounce back from setbacks, and continue pursuing her dreams despite physical limitations.

However, from a perspective influenced by Mindfulness based psychology, the challenges could have been seen as a reflection of the impermanence and unpredictability of life. Mindfulness emphasises that life is inherently unpredictable and fragile; and that attachment to perfection and achievements can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. Coco Lee's struggles with her leg and her emotional turmoil could be seen as manifestations of the inherent unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) in life.

In mindfulness philosophy, the pursuit of fame, success, and worldly achievements is considered a form of attachment, which can lead to suffering when those achievements are impermanent or  unfulfilling. Coco Lee's reliance on her public image as a cheerful and positive celebrity might have contributed to an internal struggle to maintain that facade, hiding her true emotions and struggles, especially in those moments of vulnerability. 

We have seen such cases before. The beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams was known for his infectious humor and positive demeanor. However, he struggled with depression and substance abuse for many years. Despite projecting positivity in public, his internal battles eventually led to his tragic suicide in 2014. His life serves as a poignant example of how even those who seem to exude positivity can suffer deeply.

In this context, mindfulness teachings advocate for cultivating equanimity and non-attachment to outcomes, acknowledging that life is filled with both joy and suffering. While positive thinking can provide motivation and purpose, mindfulness philosophy suggests that a deeper sense of inner peace and contentment can be found by embracing life as it is, without being overly attached to past or future outcomes.

A different outcome, from the perspective of mindfulness psychology, might have involved Coco Lee finding a more profound sense of inner peace and self-acceptance, despite her imperfections and vulnerability, irrespective of external achievements or challenges. By cultivating mindfulness and self-compassion, she might have experienced greater contentment and a more balanced perspective on life, transcending the ups and downs of the entertainment industry and public expectations.

It's important to note that positive thinking and mindfulness psychology are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Both can offer valuable insights and tools for navigating life's complexities. Positive thinking can provide motivation and purpose, while mindfulness teachings can offer a deeper understanding of the nature of existence and a path toward inner peace as well as acceptance of one’s imperfections and vulnerability. Ultimately, how an individual navigates their journey through life depends on a myriad of factors, including their personal beliefs, experiences, and coping mechanisms. 


The above article is presented solely for informational and educational purposes and does not constitute professional psychological advice or therapy. As a mental health therapist, I did not have any direct involvement with Coco Lee, nor did I have access to her personal information or experiences. The perspectives shared in the article are derived from general knowledge of positive thinking and mindfulness psychology and should not be construed as specific assessments or diagnoses of Coco Lee's mental health or life experiences.

The above article is intended to be respectful and sensitive in its approach to discussing the challenges and circumstances of Coco Lee's life, without diminishing her significant accomplishments and positive impact on millions of individuals, especially Asian women, who were inspired by her life and legacy.

It is essential to acknowledge and honour the profound contributions and achievements of Coco Lee throughout her lifetime. Her accomplishments as a musician, actress, dancer, and singer, as well as being the first Chinese American to perform at the Academy Awards, represent a remarkable legacy that has left a lasting impression on countless individuals around the world.

Moreover, Coco Lee's ability to overcome physical obstacles and pursue her dreams serves as a powerful inspiration for many young people, demonstrating the importance of hardwork, determination, and following one's passion.

The discussion surrounding her predicament is not meant to overshadow her accomplishments or undermine her legacy but rather to shed light on the complexities of life and mental health challenges that can impact even the most successful and accomplished individuals. Mental health issues are a significant concern that can affect anyone, regardless of their external achievements or public image.

Furthermore, this article is not intended to cause any additional pain or distress to Coco Lee's family members or loved ones. The intent is solely to explore different psychological perspectives and concepts, in the context of her public life and achievements. It is essential to approach discussions about mental health and personal struggles with sensitivity and compassion, acknowledging that every individual's journey is unique and complex.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health challenges, please seek support from qualified mental health professionals or appropriate helplines and support organizations. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are resources available to provide assistance and support during difficult times.


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Grant, A. M., & Schwartz, B. (2011). "Too Much of a Good Thing: The Challenge and Opportunity of the Inverted U." Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 61-76.

This research explores the concept of the "inverted U" in positive psychology, suggesting that too much positivity can have diminishing returns and potential drawbacks. It emphasizes the importance of finding a balance in positive thinking.

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Natalia E. Morone et al. (2008). Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: A randomized controlled pilot study. Pain, 2008.

Filip Raes et al.(2009). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduces overgeneral autobiographical memory in formerly depressed patients. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2009.

Susan W. H. Beckwé et al (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of chronic pain conditions: Evidence to date. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 2011.


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