Bling Empire’s Christine Chiu On Fashion, Family, and THAT Louis Vuitton Necklace!
By now, you’ve heard of Bling Empire—which means you’ve undoubtedly heard of Christine Chiu. The haute couture-loving socialite, philanthropist, producer, and mother of Baby G has quickly risen to the top of our radars since the Netflix show premiered. Of course, with reality TV, what you see isn’t always what you get—and Chiu is here to set the record straight, dishing out honesty like the caviar served up at Anna Shay’s house parties. The Daily caught up with her to find out about life when the cameras aren’t rolling.
We already feel like we know you from watching Bling Empire, but tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from?
I was born in Taiwan and moved to the States at a very young age, learning English through Spanish. Bling was a fun and important project to participate in for the purpose of furthering Asian voices, faces, and stories in mainstream media. However, it only shows one layer of who I am. The flashiness, glitz and glamour are only a small fraction of [my life.] I am firstly and most importantly a mom, wife and a businesswoman. The show is about ‘bling,’ so many of my scenes were focused on a rather ostentatious display of materialistic wealth. Yes, I have a passion for fashion and love to collect couture pieces as art… and yes, I view high jewelry similarly with a fascination in the craftmanship and ingenuity behind each unique piece. But that is not my everyday life!
What’s quarantine been like for you, with the lockdown and everything that’s happened this past year? How are you and your family doing?
2020 was a difficult year for the world—and it was no different for our family. The business, Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc., closed for a couple of months and it was actually such a blessing in disguise to be able to spend every moment together as a family at home—without work distractions and without pressing deadlines—and to watch Baby G’s little personality form and to witness each of his “firsts.” Unfortunately, I lost my mother just a couple of months ago. Her passing has really impressed upon me the importance and delicacy of time. Time is a gift: something you cannot buy but can receive with gratitude and gift to others. I am so grateful to have been born into affluence, however my mother was determined to keep me grounded and has taught me the importance of giving back from a very young age. As a child, I would volunteer in soup kitchens, hospitals, convalescent homes, and in both young adulthood and college, I was involved in a variety of philanthropic committees and programs. Giving back is a big part of who I am, and I hope to be able to teach and show Baby G how life is not a matter of how much you have, but how much you give.
You seem really social and outgoing on the show. How has the social scene changed for you during the pandemic? Have you been on Zoom a lot?
As an only child growing up, I’d often have to keep myself entertained or find ways to have fun. I suppose that is why I am constantly getting friends together and throwing parties. I’ve managed to throw a few fun events while following strict COVID lockdown guidelines in Los Angeles—one being my Christine’s Naughty or Nice Holiday Bake-off Birthday party via Zoom which was so fun! During COVID, I spent almost all of my socializing on Zoom—whether it’s a table read with acclaimed producers/directors and the aspiring filmmakers of the Ghetto Film School (an organization for which we have a scholars fund), or co-hosting the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Gala, or Christmas with the in-laws!
How did you get involved with Bling Empire?
It was never my intention to be a star of the show. My interest lied, first and foremost, in being a producer on the project. In fact, I was very hesitant to be on camera. I have known Jeff Jenkins, the creator and executive producer of Bling Empire, for over a decade as we had previously worked on other unscripted projects together while he was co-president of Bunim-Murray Productions. Jeff was insistent in showing that there was no other candidate who could and or was willing to share such personal struggles on an international platform, or crazy enough to display this level of wealth so obnoxiously for entertainment value. Knowing that only a thread of who I am would be highlighted (at least in the first season), I took the risk in efforts to push forward a greater objective to infuse cultural (specifically Asian) diversity in mainstream media. There was a growing interest in and movement for diversity on both the big and small screens, and I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to be a part of this movement. I had the unique opportunity to come on as a producer this first season—and the opportunity to participate in storytelling both in front and behind the camera was intriguing and exciting. When this project was being developed, it was poised to be the first ever all-Asian ensemble cast in American television. That was groundbreaking and the existence of and hunger for that opportunity was already a win. The original focus was not on the wealth, but on the cultural pressures, morals, values, and expectations that confront successful Asian Americans of varying ages in Los Angeles. The added bonus of this project is that not only is it one of the first all-Asian casts for reality television, but we are from different Asian countries and backgrounds: Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, and Vietnamese and all with different ethnic, cultural influences and idiosyncrasies.
How do you balance being a mother and wife with being a philanthropist and TV star?
Being a mom is the most exciting and important title I could have ever wished for. This and making Dr. Chiu happy are my top priorities. Giving back is in my blood—it is an intrinsic part of who I am and I feel so humbled and grateful to be able to do so in my own little ways, whether it be mentoring kids in after school programs, or helping to provide better access and equal opportunities to early childhood education for underprivileged communities. There are many, many philanthropic leaders in Los Angeles. I am constantly inspired by their generosity and creativity in ways of giving back. Bling Empire is a project to promote cultural diversity, and it has been an incredible and fun adventure.
You have a really strong relationship and tight-knit family! What’s the secret to making relationships work?
We are just like everyone else…just learning and adjusting along the way. I don’t have a secret sauce, but I do trust in God and trust that it will all work out in the end. To quote John Lennon, ‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, it’s not the end.’
What’s the response been like from your family and friends since the first season came out?
The initial responses from friends and family were those of shock and horror. ‘This is not you! That character is not an accurate portrayal of who you are in life!’ That essentially sums up the majority of comments and feedback from those who know me and have watched the show. I’ve spent quite some time (and am continuing to do so) explaining to loved ones that with a docu-series of an 11-member ensemble cast, it is difficult to showcase a full, multi-faceted depiction of who I am. It was advantageous for the show to highlight one aspect of Christine: to focus on the materialism, wealth, and ostentatiousness of my life because after all, ‘crazy rich’ is a backdrop of Bling. The show does a great job at mixing the petty rivalry and light-hearted drama with deep and heart-felt personal struggles. One thread, one layer of Christine was highlighted in season one, and hopefully, with subsequent seasons, viewers will get to see a fuller picture of who I am: mom hood, businesswoman, philanthropy. To production’s credit, we did shoot many scenes with home life, charities, and businesses I am involved in, however, those did not make the final edit.
What’s your day-to-day like when the cameras aren’t rolling?
My first and last moments of each day are with Baby G and Dr. Chiu. I love that their faces and voices are what keeps me grounded in love and gratitude. Dr. Chiu wakes Baby G up in the morning and brings him to our bed. We then watch about 15-30 mins of ‘Hot Wheels Labs’ on YouTube (using Hot Wheels to teach kids science – it’s brilliant!). Pre-Bling Empire premiere and pre-COVID, my day would consist of stopping by the office to check in on business and patient affairs, bringing Dr. Chiu lunch to the operating room, hopping on some calls with non-profits and arts organizations, ‘fossil’ and ‘dinosaur’ hunting with Baby G at La Brea Tar Pits, visiting museums with Baby G, having a cocktail with friends to catch up, Postmating in dinner and movies! On really good days, I would fit in both an Emsculpt session as well as some cardio…
You’re one of the most sharply-dressed cast members on the show—though we don’t need to tell you that! Where does your interest in fashion come from?
Growing up, I wasn’t given dolls or Barbies to play with. I only had books, so as an adult, I suppose I am living out my little girl dress up fantasies! On a serious note, however, I am very interested and involved in the arts–and as such, I approach fashion with the same fascination, respect and appreciation as I do with other more traditional mediums of art. I love to peer into the minds of these creative geniuses we call designers, and understand how they see the world, what inspires them and how their vision manifests on fabric and clothing. I study fashion history and its relationship with culture, people, and even politics.
Who are some of your style icons?
Initially names like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Princess Diana come to mind with their remarkable and timeless elegance and just the right dash of fun. However, style now to me means more about what a person stands for as opposed to the specifics of what he/she wears. Fashion houses/brands to me are not about the ‘label’ or implied value of the item, but I approach them based on what they are contributing to society, humanity, and to progress. Many brands and fashion houses stepped up during the pandemic, immediately lending their resources to producing PPE and sanitizers, donating to emergency services, hospitals, and frontline workers, and maintaining employment for their workers when the company’s own profitability was at risk. There were companies that re-evaluated and made significant changes to further cultural diversity and income equality in their workspace, responded timely to systemic racism and took actionable steps to prevent it in the future. Then there are brands and companies that have been practicing sustainability, ethical sourcing, and contributed to clean air and environmental improvements: these are the real icons of today.
Where are your favorite places to shop (aside from Vegas, of course)?
I love discovering new talent and supporting emerging designers. I love supporting female designers and am enthusiastically shopping Black and Asian designers. We need diversity on all fronts and I am hoping that if there is a season two, I would be able to showcase the brilliant designs of minority designers and or emerging talent.
Speaking of shopping, we’re dying to know: what was your first designer investment piece? And do you still have it?
Two pairs of Chanel Haute Couture boots. Chanel Haute Couture works with the very talented Massaro, a bespoke shoemaker from 1894, to produce one-of-a-kind shoes and boots. Laces and molds were made for my feet, whereby each arch, curvature, bump, and groove was perfectly measured and calculated. Every centimeter of my legs was also precisely taken into account, including all of my asymmetries. One of the pairs was a dark navy blue knee-high lace open toe platform boot, and the other was a gold leather boot. The experience to make the boots as well as the delicate and fine materials used made the investment absolutely worthwhile!
We can’t talk about designer pieces without mentioning that diamond and pink sapphire Louis Vuitton necklace! What’s the story behind that piece and how you chose it?
Louis Vuitton leads the pack when it comes to client experiences. We were so lucky to have been hosted by its then-president Anthony Ledru and chairman Michael Burke on a magnificent trip to St. Tropez to enjoy the South of France while previewing their latest high jewelry collection. The pieces are so breathtakingly beautiful that often times, all the pieces within a collection are sold within minutes! This was the case on our trip, and the LV high jewelry specialist was kind enough to go back into the vault to see if there was something else hidden that was not shown or sold. Enter THE diamond and pink sapphire necklace! It was love at first sight, and the rest is Bling history!
Your and Anna’s “frenemy” relationship was one of the show’s biggest storylines. How are you two doing now?
Anna and I met on a trip to Fashion Week and our social interactions have always centered around fashion and jewelry, as that was our common interest and point of reference. What seems as ‘pettiness’ or ‘dissing’ between Anna and I is in reality, really just normal fashion conversation, so we had a chuckle or two about how dramatic it all seems to have played out on camera. I think it was funny to watch the cat and mouse game between Anna and I on the show, but in real life, she and I are both moms and have much more pressing priorities than to bicker about table seating and yoga strippers!
How would you say your life’s changed from being on Bling Empire?
Discussing a very personal struggle such as infertility on a global streaming platform was certainly not the easiest thing to do, although I am incredibly humbled and encouraged by the immeasurable amount of positive feedback from viewers who have expressed in response to that. Every day, I am receiving emails and direct messages from viewers who are comforted by knowing that they are not alone in the struggle, encouraged by our story, or even feeling a bit more empowered to open up dialogue on an otherwise stigmatized topic. In discussing our challenges and journey to have a family, I found it surprisingly a relief and very much therapeutic. I am personally growing from this experience and learning that vulnerability is not a weakness and is okay.