Melissa Li

Julie Soto


“I write stuff. And eat hotpot,” is the subhed of Melissa Li’s website, followed by a photo of Li in a palm tree-printed shirt reclining on a hot pink inflatable sofa surrounded by a keyboard, an open book and wads of crumpled paper. Maybe not what you’d expect from an awardwinning composer, lyricist, performer, and writer, but the image is vibrant, colorful, and very queer—which is exactly how Li is. “I came out when I was 11 and started writing songs when I was 13, so at the time, that was the main outlet I used to express myself and explore all the questions I had about my identity,” Li says. “Ever since then, almost all of my stories have been told through a queer feminist lens. I’d say if it weren’t for my queerness, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.” And she does a lot: the Montrealbased multi-hy phenate’s musicals have received support from renowned theaters, and she’s received several awards, including the ASCAP Harold Adamson Lyric Award and the Jonathan Larson Award. Her solo and collaborative music is available on Spotify, including The Beginning (released as Melissa Li & The Barely Theirs) and Drive Away Home (as Good Asian Drivers). Currently, Li is also developing film and TV projects. The best part of her many endeavors, Li says, lies in the audience. “I mainly write works—with my writing partner Kit Yan, who is trans—that center the trans/nonbinary community,” says Li. “[S]eeing folks from that community come up to us after a show and say that they feel seen through our work—that’s the most rewarding part of what I do.”

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