St. Paul's Suni Lee soared into the spotlight as the first Hmong American to become an Olympic gold medalist. Now the gymnast's image will soar above the streets on the West Side of St. Paul.
Lee's grandparents, Choua and Cheu Lee, commissioned St. Paul artist Mwene Kajunju "MK," to paint a mostly black-and-white mural of Lee kissing one of her medals, which is bright gold.
The mural, painted on a building owned by the Lees at the intersection of S. Robert Street and Sidney Street E. features a quote from Suni Lee: "I made the country number one. I did it for my family and to inspire all the little kids in my community." That quote is also featured in a song called "Suni Lee" by local rapper Lil Crush.
The Lees wanted to honor their granddaughter's successes while celebrating local artists, said Choua Lee.
"We want to honor Suni Lee for her accomplishments, but at the same time, this mural represents the achievement and success of the Hmong community here in the Twin Cities," she said.
Watching her granddaughter's Olympic success has been incredibly uplifting for the entire family, Choua Lee said. Suni Lee is now away at college and juggling a spot on TV's "Dancing with the Stars." Her grandmother said she has tuned in the past two Mondays to watch the gold medalist ballroom dance on prime time.
"In my lifetime, I knew that we would eventually get there, but I certainly never expected that Suni was going to make it this far," Choua Lee said of Hmong American representation. "But she did, and she has always been a very energetic, very hardworking child and, of course, young woman."
The mural will be featured in a music video for the "Suni Lee" song, an anthem bursting with hometown pride.
Zoë Jackson • 612-673-7112