“Bling Empire” star Christine Chiu on Netflix hit and the importance of Asian portrayal
By Tara Sobti
June 03, 2021
Christine Chiu, star and producer of the hit Netflix series ‘Bling Empire’, says viewers are tuned in to the glamor and are fond of the hearts. While season two is slated for release later this year, it explains why representation matters
Make no mistake: Christine Chiu leads a life of extravagance. In 2019, she and her husband, plastic surgeon Gabriel Chiu, made headlines when they booked glitzy Beverly Hills shopping destination Two Rodeo for an over-the-top Chinese New Year party. Lychee martinis and champagne rubbed shoulders with Wolfgang Puck’s catering. Dancers, magicians, fortune tellers and martial artists entertained the guests, who brought home I see envelopes from a tree filled with money.
Later that year, when the Chius’ son Gabriel Christian Chiu III, aka “Baby G”, was one year old, the family threw a party at the Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica, featuring a roller coaster, a large custom-made wheel and arcade. , a ten-course meal and a claw crane machine filled with Gucci goodies. Both events were filmed during Empire bling, the reality TV series that aired on Netflix in January, which documents the savage antics of a group of wealthy Asians and Asian-Americans living in Los Angeles. The indulgent lifestyles and small battles on display made the series a smash hit and a much-needed source of escape during the pandemic.
Chiu’s affinity for haute couture is well documented on the show, and she is a regular at International Fashion Weeks, flying to Paris by private plane twice a year for shopping sprees and reportedly spending sums in six digits for pieces by Dior, Chanel and Dolce. & Gabbana. “Fashion is the most exciting storyteller. Haute couture is an art and I try to acquire at least one piece from every show I attend, to collect an element of the history of fashion, ”she says from Los Angeles. Her favorite fashion week memories include a bread pudding at Louis Vuitton’s current home in Asnières, France, a dinner on the stage at La Scala in Milan, and her own private baby shower hosted by Armani.
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Crazy rich is an apt title to give Chiu. But misunderstood madman would be too. The 38-year-old Taipei-born socialite and philanthropist was quickly called the series villain by the press and fans for her antics and sarcastic remarks, especially those towards her teammate Anna Shay (“You’re not my competition, never be my competitor, ”she says in front of the camera). However, she tries to rule out criticism. “It always hurts to hear people talk negatively about you,” she says. “It took me a while to stop reading reviews online and [not] I have the impression of wanting to defend myself against each of them or to shout from the rooftops: “You are wrong! To enemies. I had to make my peace with the fact that people will have opinions about me that I cannot control.
While she appears sociable and charismatic as she navigates the many social occasions depicted on the show, Chiu says that she is naturally quite introverted and that her intentions are not as superficial as described. “My passion for fashion can be misinterpreted as superficial or materialistic. My philanthropic efforts can also be misinterpreted as upward mobility, ”she says. She works with many organizations, including the Costume Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Chinese Children’s Initiative of Unicef, and the Step-Up Women’s Network. Even Baby G’s decadent birthday involved a donation of US $ 1 million to the museum to fund free admission for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
My passion for fashion can be misinterpreted as superficial or materialistic. My philanthropic efforts can also be misinterpreted as upward mobility
– Christine Chiu
“Giving back is in my blood; it’s an intrinsic part of who I am and I’m grateful that I can do it, ”says Chiu, who studied international business at Pepperdine University in California before starting a career in beauty and public relations, and co-founder of Beverly Hills Plastic. Surgery with her husband.
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When Bling empire Executive producer Jeff Jenkins offered to cast the couple on a landmark reality show, Chiu couldn’t refuse. “The desire for this diversity on the small screen was already a victory for me,” she says.
In the United States, the timing of the series’ release mattered. A report released this year by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found that crimes targeting Asians in 2020 increased 150% from the previous year in America’s largest cities, Los Angeles with the second highest number of incidents after New York. Racist rhetoric about the origin of the coronavirus is believed to have caused an increase in abuse, including verbal harassment, avoidance, spitting and physical assault, a trend Chiu describes as “saddening, appalling and exasperating.” .
Being able to normalize Asian voices and faces on big and small screens without being cheesy or using racial stereotypes is progress
– Christine Chiu
While unrelated to this threat, the Chius are also serious about their own security, enlisting former Israeli Secret Service, Navy and Secret Service agents to help train them in defense. tactical. “We train both inside the house and also on an offsite training ground with a duplicate version of our house, so that we are comfortable and quick in navigating the guns. and dealing with potential intruders, ”she says.
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For all its sumptuous and sensational intrigues, Empire bling has been hailed as a sort of cultural Trojan horse for the subtle way it weaves Asian traditions and beliefs in every episode, from the postpartum pig’s foot soup consumed by denim heiress Cherie Chan to Buddhist rites joined by Singaporean real estate entrepreneur Kane Lim. Traditional Chinese medicine, family expectations, and superstitions are all topics covered in the show, “helping to start new conversations about what Asians can look like or do on television, and the types of stories they are saying.” they can relate ”, wrote Rolling stone.
Chiu hopes the show’s cultural diversity, with cast from Singapore, mainland China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines, will have a positive influence in Hollywood and beyond. “My husband and I knew we had to do everything we could to propel [diversity] forward, ”she said. “Asians are and always have been under-represented in the American media. We are often stereotypically portrayed as delivery men, dragon ladies, kung fu performers, or concubines. Being able to normalize Asian voices and faces on big and small screens without being silly or using racial stereotypes is progress, ”she says.
With the success of recent films like Crazy Rich Asians, Parasite, The Farewell, Minari and Raya and the last dragon, Chiu draws strength from seeing her culture and stories reflected on the big screen and hopes Empire bling will be equally encouraging to anyone whose heritage or culture has been under-represented in Western media. “I want to contribute to a movement to create a more diverse future for Baby G’s generation, so that when he and his friends watch TV or movies, they see heroes and heroines of colors, backgrounds and different trips, ”she says.
See also: Oscars 2021: 7 Asians who made history
She also hopes the show will encourage empathy and dialogue among those who may be grappling with life’s ups and downs. The show touched on the real issues faced by every member of the cast, including adoption, infertility, emotional abuse, and marital expectations, without succumbing to “table flipping, wig tearing, and spitting. accusations against the family or children of castmates “which have traditionally been the recipe for success on a reality TV show,” Chiu said. “The drama is mean, but harmless and above the belt. It’s important to recognize that real struggles and wealth are not mutually exclusive, ”she says.
Since filming the first season, Chiu has experienced a shift in her priorities and outlook brought on by both the pandemic and her mother’s death. These events “have reinforced the importance of family and spending time with those you love,” she says. “Life is so short and precious, and every minute could be the last. I have a strong sense of responsibility to have a more positive impact on people and this world. What I take away from the show is that the truest and most precious form of wealth is family and health. “
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