Lee Singletary: Creating New Worlds

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I recently had the chance to meet a charming and handsome young fellow at an IBA networking event, and we struck up a fun conversation. He was chock full of ideas and resources and enthusiasm for a few projects I was working on, which helps explain why he was honored with a GEM (Going the Extra Mile) award and given a 40 under 40 recognition. He was working on several interesting projects himself, so I shared a table at Dirty Franks and got to know a little more about Lee Singletary and some of the innovative programs he’s working on in his many roles at Comcast here in Philadelphia. 

Since you’re in the TV business, tell me your favorite 3 shows as a kid?

The Nickelodeon show “Doug,” was my go to show when I was a kid, followed by “Lizzie McGuire,” followed by “Queer as Folk” when I was a teenager. I wasn’t supposed to watch something like that but I would sneak and find a way. Now, because I’m fascinated with people who create things, I love “Shark Tank.”

Give me the 411 on the family. 

Sure! I come from a family of five, I’m the oldest of two brothers. I was born in East Orange, NJ then we moved around quite a bit, from Ho-Ho-Kus to Princeton and then to Bluebell which we moved to when I was a freshman in high school. I still live there now. 

I didn’t know you were from East Orange! I’m originally from Passaic and my extended family still lives in that area. Out of the brothers, who was the biggest troublemaker?

That definitely goes to my brother Brandon, he was the biggest troublemaker, still is! We’re two years apart and although we have a great relationship, we are polar opposites. I’m tall, he’s short, I like chocolate, he likes vanilla; this list goes on, but now that we’re both older we have more similarities. 

What was your role?

If you asked my parents, they would say I was the one putting my siblings up to things. But if you ask me, the picture I remember is that I was the one preventing them from getting in trouble. We used to live on property that had acres of woods which was a boy’s dream, literally swinging from vines and jumping in the creek, so there was a ton of trouble to be had. Touching things you probably shouldn’t, stumbling into hunters in the woods and trying not to get shot, bringing in things you probably shouldn’t; and in my opinion, I kept everyone safe.

What’s the best thing you caught or found in the woods?

Okay, I have never tried to catch anything in the woods. That’s a fact. I am scared of all things that creep and crawl. But a lot happened in the area. There was a plane that had crashed and my brother and I found the rusted old seat and brought it home. We’d find horse shoes, snake skins, old animal skulls, and we set up a little museum in our play fort to display all of our finds! 

I’m guessing your brother brought in the skulls?

100% right. 

How would your parents describe you as a child?

I think soft spoken but inquisitive. I always wanted to learn new things. We moved quite frequently, and as a means of breaking out of my shell I started doing theater. In 5th grade I was in Annie and I was in a show almost every year through college. 

What did you major in at college?

I went to school for business with a journalism minor. After college I put acting, business and journalism together to become a television producer at CBS Philly. I started as a news assistant, manning the news desk and following up on leads. My father is a private investigator, so growing up hearing his stories made the work seem familiar. Soon after, I heard about a producing job that had opened up. I was just a newbie but I marched my ass into the news director’s office (between the 6:00 and 10:00 pm news), and explained why I was the perfect fit. And I got the job! 

What was the biggest story that you worked on?

Hurricane Sandy, it was monumental. I lived in Chinatown, not far from the station but they put me up at a hotel so I wouldn’t get clobbered by blowing debris getting to work. Everyone in the newsroom was assigned to different tasks, and people’s roles were getting switched around. Somehow I got assigned to write the sports block! I know nothing about sports, so I went to our sportscaster, Beasley Reese, and handed him my notes in my little chicken scratch and he kindly rewrote it. I was there for about 3 1/2 years but after a while the news can take a toll on you. You’re reporting on devastation and tragedy, great moments too of course, but I didn’t like having to report the doom and gloom. I thought holistically about where I wanted my career to go and I realized that a lot of what drives programming was advertising and that’s where I wanted to be. Comcast gave me the opportunity to do that and I joined what was then called Comcast Spotlight (now Effectv), the ad sales division of Comcast. I’ve been with them since.

What are some of the fun things you’ve been able to accomplish there?

I wear a few different hats at Comcast, my long job title is Senior Manager of Brand and Industry Relations at Comcast Advertising. I’m also the editor of Xfinity’s Comcast RISE destination as well as the co-leader of the Comcast Headquarters [email protected] Employee Resource Group, which is the ERG for LGBTQ+ Comcast employees and allies. 

That was a lot of the alphabet. Tell me about the ERG.

We have 9 ERGs that span different intersectional identities, [email protected] is the one for LGBTQ identifying individuals and allies. It really enhances employee engagement, and works to create a home where people feel comfortable bringing their authentic self to work each day. It also provides leadership skills, volunteer opportunities, networking, etc. In 2016, NBC Universal launched its international ERG’s and it’s really been exciting, especially during this crazy period we’ve been in to connect with people all over the world. 

There was one project you mentioned when we met that sounded super cool. 

Yes, our Virtual Pride World. When the pandemic first started to become a thing, we had no idea what an impact it would have on Pride. We had a whole bunch of events we were scheduled to sponsor, brunches and a lot of in person things. It happened so fast, we barely had time to pivot and come up with something new. We started doing several low lift events, virtual networking opportunities, career and resume building workshops, but this year since we’ve all been living with this for a year we tried to up it a little and do bigger things. I conceptualized the idea of a virtual pride experience. Along with two co-workers, we worked on the idea and it became a global platform for LGBTQ+ employees to go to that was really fun. It’s almost like a Sims game where you can visit this virtual world and there are Pride floats and parades, you can watch videos, play games, get resources and it’s international and available all year long at any time for employees. There was even a travel agency, so you could go there and register for a real LGBTQ+ picnic in Hyde Park in London! 

What a great thing, and I’ll bet it could be a lifesaver for people who live in areas or even countries where they might not have much access to LGBTQ+ resources. 

Yes, I didn’t realize the effect that it would have, but when the comments started coming in there were several from people letting us know what an impact it made for them. It’s been a career highlight for me. 

I’d love to know a little more about the Comcast RISE program that you work with, one of your other hats. 

Of course! Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment. It’s a program for small businesses owned by people of color and it helps provide marketing resources, technology make-overs, capital resources, etc. It’s part of our commitment to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability throughout the US. I personally have responsibility to curate, and I created the Comcast RISE destination on Xfinity X1 which allows you to just say, “Comcast Rise” into your voice remote and it brings up information and resources, and stories from the recipients of the program. According to the NGLCC, there are 1.4 million LGBTQ run companies in the U.S. and the pandemic has disproportionately affected minority business owners, so I’m super passionate about this program which is designed to help. I hope that small businesses owned by folk from underrepresented groups will check it out. We launched this during the pandemic, but we’re still putting investment behind this every single day. It’s been a really rewarding experience.

Nice. So back to you personally, what do you enjoy when you’re not creating virtual worlds?

Apart from watching TV? I love building websites, it may seem like work, but I’ve been building websites since I was 16 and I love it. I love getting involved with friends and family and nonprofits who need a little help. 

Any pets?

I used to foster a lot of cats and dogs, but sadly my husband is highly allergic, so when we moved in together I had to give that up. I do have a dog named Truman, and he’s been a great parent to him despite the allergies. He just takes Zyrtec every morning and tries to deal with it. 

Tell me more about the hubby.

He just passed a pretty significant milestone. He’s the owner and director of Berks Ballet Theatre Conservatory of Dance and they just entered their 10th season. It’s a pre-professional school in Reading. We’ve been together for 6 years and got married 2 years ago. Thank goodness, we had it scheduled before we were in pandemic territory! I’m a planner and it took me two years to plan the wedding of my dreams. I should say of our dreams…

[Laughing] I heard that Freudian slip there! 

No! No! He’s an absolutely wonderful, awesome, person. I wanted a French Chateau style outdoor wedding and he wanted a NY rooftop style event and we compromised by finding this really cool historic building in Lancaster called The Excelsior that had been renovated in a way that we both really loved. Of course our family was like, “Why are we going to Amish country?”

If there were a sitcom about you, and Black-ish and Mixed-ish are already taken, which would you be?

I was going to say both of those! Ok, I’ve always been curious about people, I love to know what makes people tick, so how about Inquisitive-ish!

Curious-ish! That’s hard to say! 

Yeah, that would be a hard sell from a brand perspective!

Your best G-rated curse word. Mine is probably Dagnabbit.

I went to Catholic school so mine would probably be “Oh my Gawd” with a ‘w’ so that I’m not using the Lord’s name in vain!

Last time you threw a snowball. 

Last February! Me and my brother, my best friend and our S.O.’s rented a house in Lancaster for Valentine’s Day. We called it Quarantine’s Day and we had a big snowball fight. 

When did you come out?

In my 20’s, I think all my friend’s knew except for me. I think I did know, but you know how you create a lot of drama and fictitious challenges in your mind, when in actuality those people who love you and are in your corner don’t care? That was me. Even growing up in the theater, I was still reserved, and years of Catholic School didn’t help. So I’m a little of a late bloomer, but… here she is!

Love it! Any nicknames?

Well my real name is Leon, and I’m a third. My husband calls me Cookie Lee because I love to eat and to bake cookies. That probably should have been in the “what else do you like to do” answer.

Favorite line or quote from a movie?

I don’t really consider myself a movie buff, though I do love watching them. The problem is that I always fall asleep. [Laughing] Put me in a dark, cool space and I’m out. 

[Gesturing] Get out right now sir! You have spoken blasphemy! [Laughing] You would drive me crazy, I’m hard core. I keep a squirt gun so that if someone falls asleep when we’re watching a film, I can get them! I don’t want to have to explain what you missed when you rouse!

I don’t know what it is, I can’t help it. But to answer your question, a favorite scene from a film, the first thing that comes to mind is the, “I’m king of the world” from “Titanic.” My parents would send me upstairs when the racier scenes came on. I also remember a doc about it where they took a sub to see the original wreckage and it was fascinating. I was also obsessed with the song “My Heart Will Go On.” It was the first piece of sheet music that I ever played on the piano. It’s what got me into becoming more musical. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I also play piano. Celine Dion was my inspiration. Come to think of it, that was probably one of the early signs that I was gay!