updated 11/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

Talk about art imitating life. A few weeks ago 25-year-old actress Lori Singer portrayed a calculating 17-year-old high-fashion model in the NBC movie Born Beautiful. Each Thursday evening on the network's series Fame she plays Julie Miller, an aspiring cellist at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts. Off-screen, the 5'9" green-eyed brunette actually is an accomplished cellist. She also actually attended the High School for the Performing Arts, though she dropped out after five months in 1974 to focus on music at the Juilliard School. And while there she helped support herself by—what else?—modeling.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Singer is one of four children of the late Jacques Singer, a conductor of orchestras in Texas, Vancouver and Oregon, and his pianist wife, Leslie. Lori took up the cello at 9 ("It's the instrument that sounds most like the human voice") and made her solo debut at 13 with her father and the Oregon Symphony.

As a student cellist, Singer says she "used to play hooky to practice. I didn't even take baths." The same singlemindedness helped her land a model agency contract when her family moved to New York in 1973. Despite the glamour of modeling in Europe and concert engagements in Latin America, Singer settled down when she landed her Fame role in 1980. Though her weekly salary is in the low four figures, she lives modestly in L.A.'s Westwood village in an apartment she shares only with her prized cello, a 200-year-old beauty made by Benjamin Banks. She also keeps a place in Manhattan, where she has a boyfriend who is a lawyer.

Lori was first cast as a dancer in Fame, but her character of Julie was changed to include her talents as a cellist. Further changes might come. Apparently not satisfied with simply being a triple threat, Singer is pursuing a fourth career, as a vocalist. On the recently released RCA album Kids from Fame, she sings a romantic ballad. Why shouldn't performers move from one medium to another? she asks. "The aesthetic experience is the same—only the materials are different."

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