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Marie Li

A: Who is Marie? Tell me a little about yourself.

M: I am a people person, easygoing but aggressive. I like to enjoy and have fun but I also work hard.

A: Where does the hard work ethic come from?

M: It’s got to be from my parents. My parents came to the US over 60 years ago from China. Most Chinese immigrants worked in the garment factory, so my parents worked in a factory and eventually owned one on East Broadway. I was born in NYC and raised in Chinatown, in the Lower East Side until we moved to Queens when I was 13 years old. I’m the youngest of three with two older brothers who were like my parents too and they watched over me. I met my first boyfriend at 14-15 years old and when my brother found out he beat him up. The three of us were treated the same way and we went to all boys and all girl Catholic schools. We weren’t allowed to have or hang out with friends so I hung out at the garment factory and I learned skills cutting thread, I learned how to use the sewing machine, put on buttons, earning 5 cents for each garment. I was making garments at 13 years old.

In high school, I wanted to branch out of the factory, so I was a waitress on Catherine St., at a donut shop where I made a lot of tips. In the1980’s I made $500 a week minimum and saved it to go to college, even though my parents didn’t really want me to. I used my earned money to go to a two-year college at New York City Tech in downtown Brooklyn and studied art and advertising. I was creative and good in drawing.

I was allowed to live on Monroe St. in downtown Chinatown with my grandmother, my dad’s mom, so it would be more convenient for me go to work on Catherine St. early morning at 5 AM and go to school in Brooklyn instead of traveling from Elmhurst, Queens. My grandmother lived alone, was in her 80’s at the time and was hard of hearing, so I snuck out of the apartment at night while in college. I met Vincent who was my hairdresser. I got trims every month at a salon on Doyer Street where he worked. On New Years Eve I threw a party at my parents house in Queens and my friend invited Vincent to come. He asked me out to the movies and we saw Footloose. We spent the day walking and talking and ever since January 1, 1985 we saw each other everyday. I was 18-19 years old. In February, Vincent asked me to get married but it wasn’t until April 10 that we got married at City Hall. It’s been 36 years now. I didn’t tell my parents what I did at the time until I graduated from college in June. They met Vincent one time and I introduced him as a friend. They thought of him as just a shampoo boy, no DR next to his name. My mom was the mouth of the family and whatever she says, goes. My dad was the quiet one. My parents never approved of Vincent even till today, even after having two kids.

Vincent and I lived in Brooklyn but moved in at my mom’s place when I had my daughter. There was no privacy so we eventually moved out and bought a co-op in Forest Hills. Three years later I had a difficult birth with my son who was born premature. Vincent and I were both working 7 days a week so my mom helped raise them and also when Vincent’s family moved in with us, they helped too. My in laws stayed with us for 15 years. We were 6 people living in a one bedroom apartment.

I worked in the cosmetic industry and started out behind the counter selling cosmetics, and then I got promoted to coordinator, and to account executive training employees how to run the business. I had all the East coast accounts, all the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s accounts. I traveled a lot in a car.

A: What message do you want impart to others?

M: Asians should be proud. Vincent and I both come from poor backgrounds, but we worked hard for our life, we built it. Nothing was given to us. We’re always willing to help. It comes full circle, the more you give the more you get. The more good you give out, the more good you receive back.

A: What are some of your goals, dreams or hobbies?

M: We reached our goals, both of our kids are successful, we have a beautiful home, I am happy and content. I don’t need millions of dollars. We are rich in our life from having good friends, and family, eating good food-it doesn't have to be a dollar bill. A few years ago I learned how to trade stock and currencies, so for the past 5 years, I’ve been day trading. I love analyzing charts and things, I loved being an executive and teaching others how to run a business better. I’m more of a risk taker but I weigh out my pros and cons. I have more of a positive attitude. I’m determined that I’m going to make it work.

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