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After Actor Lee Thompson Young Died at 29 in 2013, His Family Opened up about His Life

Monica Otayza
Sep 14, 2021
03:49 A.M.
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When his career was at its peak, actor Lee Thompson Young gave in to the darkness within by ending his life. A year after his death, his family spoke out on the life he lived and his battles.

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Lee Thompson Young was a Hollywood actor who rose to fame after starring in the 1998 Disney show “The Famous Jett Jackson.” He was on the show for three years before moving on to star in TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles" as Detective Barry Frost.

Some of his notable works also include "Friday Night Lights," "Akeelah and the Bee," "Scrubs," and "Smallville." The actor was found dead after police were sent to his home after failing to show up for filming.

Lee Thompson Young at Diddy's Official VMA after party in Miami, Florida.| Source: Getty Images.

Lee Thompson Young at Diddy's Official VMA after party in Miami, Florida.| Source: Getty Images.

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HOW HE'S REMEMBERED

In a statement released by his manager, Jonathan Baruch, confirming the suicide, he described the deceased as a bright young actor and a kind soul. As accurate as this description was, it was not until his family spoke about his life, a year after he passed, that fans got to know the man behind the face they saw on television.

Young's mother, Velma Love, remembered him better than anyone. Describing her son as an avid performer, she said the late actor would seek out an audience and perform poetry, stories, and give speeches from a young age. The bereaved mother added that as he got older, he turned his passion into a career.

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Lee Thompson Young at the Ocean Drive Magazine lounge in Miami Beach, Florida. | Source: Getty Images.

Lee Thompson Young at the Ocean Drive Magazine lounge in Miami Beach, Florida. | Source: Getty Images.

MOVING TO NEW YORK CITY

Remembering her late son with fondness, she said Young asked her to get business cards for him, and when she asked what it should read, he recited his crafts to her. Seeing his determination, she got him the cards, and he handed them out everywhere he went.

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At age 12, the late Disney star told his mother they should move to New York, and she complied. In the big city, doors opened for him, and there were no dark clouds until he got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in his late teens.

 Lee Thompson Young at The Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, California.| Source: Getty Images.

Lee Thompson Young at The Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, California.| Source: Getty Images.

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STRUGGLES WITH MENTAL HEALTH

With the diagnosis came mood swings, which Love said he managed with medications and therapy until the day he died. Together with her family, the grieving mother said they’ve tried to make sense of his death, but the only thing they have is unanswered questions.

Love said the late star tried to overcome his mental illness but acknowledged that sometimes, you don't know about a person's inner life. She added that although his life ended tragically, he achieved a lot in his short time.

Lee Thompson Young at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.| Photo: Getty Images.

Lee Thompson Young at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.| Photo: Getty Images.

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HIS SISTER AND NIECES

In 2014, the Lee Thompson Young Foundation was formed. His sister, Tamu Lewis, was the co-founder alongside Love. Lewis is a proud mom to two girls and a doting wife to her husband. Speaking out about her brother's death and how he inspired the foundation, she said:

"He was able to [accomplish a lot] with a mental illness and, yes, it ended tragically but, through that we're inspired."

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She often shares photos of her family on Instagram. She describes herself as a Parent Success coach, a mental Health Advocate, an HR leader, and a Certified Life Coach on top of being the co-founder of the foundation and a mother.

While Young is no longer alive, those who were privileged to be around him remember him as a bright light. Now, the Lee Thompson Young Foundation raises awareness about Bipolar Disorder and keeps his memory alive.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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