“Bling Empire’s” Christine Chiu Talks Mother’s Day, Parenting, and Activism
You may know Christine Chiu as the glamazon matriarch of Netflix’s Bling Empire, but her star power really comes into play offscreen. Chiu’s balanced her impressive career as a philanthropist, businesswoman, and couture collector with being a full-time mother—a dream she worked towards for fourteen years. Now, she’s embracing her most treasured role (motherhood!) with a fresh perspective as a result of the pandemic. We gave Chiu a call to chat all things parenting, AAPI activism, and the importance of revitalizing traditions—plus L.A.’s competitive Mommy and Me scene!
What are some of your favorite Mother’s Day memories?
My favorite Mother’s Day was the one after the pandemic. In May of last year, it was the brunt of the lockdown, and we were very much isolated—and it was such a blessing in disguise, because Dr. Chiu didn’t really have a choice but to put together a little Mother’s Day party for me with Baby G. And they did it as such a surprise! They set it as a beautiful afternoon high tea, and I’m shocked that they were able to pull it off, because he usually sits back and lets me do most of the party planning. But somehow, the two of them managed to put together the cutest, most beautiful tea party with sandwiches and treats. Some of them didn’t turn out according to their pictures, but it was nonetheless so special.
What are your plans for Mother’s Day this year?
Something I love about my friends is that we gift each other—whether it’s things or an encouraging shout-out or moment. There ain’t no better ‘hood than mom-hood! I think moms should support each other more, for sure. But this year, I don’t know. I’m sure Dr Chiu has something up his sleeve—he usually does. He knows I prefer experiences over tangible items any day, all the time. So hopefully, he’ll come up with an experience.
What does motherhood mean to you?
It comes with so much responsibility, but it is also such a privilege. I remember I used to cry because I wanted a baby so badly and I wanted to be a mom so badly, but I couldn’t. I remember it was really hard for me to see moms with their kids, and it took a couple of years for me to not break down every time I saw a mom with a kid. It is such a privilege for me, because I couldn’t have a child for so long, so I cherish every second of it. I’ve had a lot of time to observe and reflect on what kind of mom I would want to be, edit what kinds of things I would like to pass on. I think that my favorite moment as a mom is being able to educate in a fun way, because growing up, education was kind of a chore. It’s very black and white; I had to read ‘x’ amount of books all the time, and I had tutors, and it was very strict and unpleasurable. Something I love doing with Baby G is bringing back the playfulness and the joy in education and encouraging him to learn through all sorts of things, whether it’s through traveling or hands-on engaging. Whenever the housekeeper is cleaning, he wants to clean with the housekeeper—he loves washing dishes and putting things away. So, I guess one of the greatest things is making your child work, and him thinking it’s play! [Laughs]
What are your top recommendations for Mother’s Day gifts?
The first one is for the mom who feels guilty about spending money on herself or getting something for herself, but she really wants it. That category would be a gift certificate to a wellness center or a medical spa. There’s this weird stigma with feeling guilty about investing in yourself, which I feel is so sad and should be corrected. I think going back to investing in yourself makes you a better mom and a better person, a happier person. Whether it’s a gift certificate to a wellness center with sound baths, or some cool yoga meditation center places in L.A., or even plastic surgery—maybe she’s getting a medical facial, and she can look and feel happier. The second is something that I always do when I’m blanking on gifts. I’ve learned to go on charity auction sites—for instance, there’s Charity Buzz, and they usually have experiences. Websites will have experiences that are priceless, whether it’s lunch with a celebrity or inspirational person, or a walking tour to a TV set or a movie. Just random things you wouldn’t be able to buy. The best part is that the money goes to charity—so you get something super unique and one of a kind for your mom or your wife, but you are also contributing to a great cause. The third is a vacation of any sort. I think moms deserve a getaway, but the trick here is you basically have to plan the trip out, because moms usually do the planning. When you go on a vacation, moms are usually making the hotel reservations and the dining reservations, moms are coordinating the transportation, moms are coordinating the activities. So, it could be somewhere local and a staycation, as long as you’re planning it out. I love to rent a classic car and drive up and down the coast of California, in Napa, or a day trip to Catalina—as long as the mom is not doing any planning, it’s going to be a great gift for her just to be able to show up and not think and just enjoy.
You’ve been using your platform to support more AAPI organizations in light of rising hate crimes. What has the response been like so far?
I think the response is great. I think that it’s about time—it’s been a long time coming. As a mom, I feel even more compelled to create a different reality for Baby G and his generation than that which I experienced myself growing up. Even in a relatively affluent community, I receive and face a lot of racism, whether its explicit remarks or gesturing, or condemnation. Or it’s very subtle, like backhanded comments. But growing up, my parents always reinforced to me just to ignore it and pushed me to study harder, work harder, and become more successful. That was my way to show that, ‘You can’t make fun of me, one day I’ll be your boss!’ But I don’t necessarily agree with that anymore, because I think the prolonged ‘turning the other way’ and suppression and ignoring of prejudice and racism has led to our lack of progress today. Maybe we’d be in a different place today if decades ago, when I was a child, we stood up and we spoke up. So, I feel really compelled and very much empowered as a mom—I feel like it’s my duty and responsibility to use my global platform to raise awareness and to educate, and, on a personal note, to educate Baby G. I know he’s still very young, but even at his very young age he’s already experienced racism. We were walking at the farmer’s market, and two Caucasian men started yelling at Baby G. And of course he can’t understand any of it, but if he were to start experiencing this more and more and I kept telling him to ignore it, I would be doing him and his generation a huge disservice. So, it really needs to stop now. The fact that it’s happening in this day and age, in Beverly Hills, in L.A., a very culturally diverse environment, and parents are still not speaking up? I think it’s a travesty for a generation of our children and beyond, and for ourselves too. So, the time is now, and I’m really grateful to have a platform in this crucial time to be able to make a difference.
You’ve also been very outspoken on valuing heritage and cultural pride. What does that mean to you?
I’m at a place where I get to evaluate some of the traditions I’d love to pass on, and others I’d love to tweak or modernize for Baby G. There are some great cultural values I’d love to pass on, like respect for elders, caring for elders, having a hard work ethic. My parents were very philanthropic when I was growing up, so they instilled in me the importance of not only working hard, but also giving back to your community and those you care about. Extending beyond just your family unit, but to your community and environment. But there are somethings that I would like to modernize and tweak and not pass on—things like earning love and earning acceptance. Unfortunately, that was something that I had to go through when I was growing up, where you felt like you were never good enough and you had to work your way to earn the love from your parents. I would love with Baby G to use positive reinforcement. I definitely need to let him know that love and acceptance is given—you do not need to work for it, he doesn’t need to earn it. I will love him and accept him no matter what.
What’s it been like for you and Baby G since Bling Empire premiered last year? Does he get recognized by the paparazzi?
Yes! Surprisingly, I never get recognized. I think it’s because people expect me to be in couture all the time, and jewelry, and have an entourage around me serving champagne and caviar or something. But I’m actually in sweats, with my hair in a bun, usually in Uggs. I think my car gets recognized more than I do! But Baby G gets recognized all the time. The other day we were doing a photo shoot for a press outlet, and cars were driving by, and they were shouting, “We love you, Baby G!” And it was just so random! Of course, Dr. Chiu and I are standing there like, ‘Hello? What about us? Hello!’ But no one cares about us—it’s all about Baby G. Other than that, I think it’s life as usual. I am really appreciative of the show and the platform it’s given during this very important time for Asian Americans.
What are some lessons you hope Baby G learns from you?
Well, some lessons that were passed to me as I was entering motherhood is that no mom’s experience is the same. So, the less you expect and the less you depend on milestones, or the less you measure yourself against anyone else, the better you’ll be. I found that to be extremely true—because at the beginning, Baby G had severe speech delay, and we thought he would be mute. We were very concerned, and I spent months driving all over town, seeing experts, we just did everything to figure out why he wasn’t speaking at a rate that kids his age should be speaking. And now, he won’t stop talking! Even when he’s by himself, he’s having intellectual conversations with his stuffed animals. It’s really so true—I could have spent all of that time in peace, and enjoying life with him, and instead I was so preoccupied with expectations out there in the world. That was super valuable to me. The best lesson I’ve learned so far as a mom, and I would like to pass on, is that we don’t need to be heroes, and that the happiest moms are the best moms. I think a lot of time, moms try to juggle it all, doing everything, pleasing everyone all the time, and the person that loses out is herself. I feel like mental health is so underrated as a mom, but it’s the most important thing. Especially very early on with very young kids, they’re not necessarily going to remember you making the perfect meals, doing everything and pleasing everyone, but they will remember how much you smile, how much you laugh. Your energy will overflow to them. So I would advise moms—and this is something I’ve had to think about a lot during the pandemic—the importance of taking time for yourself and knowing your limits.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve received, and what advice do you have for new mothers?
For new mothers, it’s to take time for yourself. I’ve experienced the pressures of signing up for the right Mommy and Me class and having the right formula for your child. First of all, the Mommy and Me situation in L.A. is so much pressure. There’s a massive waitlist, so you have to sign up the second your pregnancy test says “Positive.” It’s so competitive! That feeds into the preschool, the preschool feeds into the elementary school, the elementary school feeds into the grade school, the grade school, high school, high school, college. Then there’s pressures and judgment on, ‘What formula are you feeding your kid?’ The hyper-perfectionist side of me was like, ‘I have to get the rarest formula from this little town in the remote part of Switzerland,’ and have this ridiculously luxurious milk. I was so obsessed with getting the right formula. And guess what—Baby G didn’t even like it! He loves the formula from CVS, and he seems just fine. We were interviewing chefs for Bay G, because I was so concerned that I was going to miss out or be a bad mom if didn’t give him the right percentage of potassium and fatty acids. There was this whole formula for breakfast if he needs to get these nutrients, and we interviewed very reputable chefs and had them design menus to fit those nutritional requirements. And as it turns out, Baby G’s eating chicken tenders now, pizza, sushi. In the big scheme of things, all you need is a happy, healthy kid—and happy, healthy mom—and you’re really just good to go.
You have a lot going on with Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, philanthropy, and Bling Empire! What’s the key to successful parenting with such a busy career? I think prioritization and reprioritization. I think you have to take time to sit back and reevaluate periodically, and edit, because I think it’s so easy just to dive in and get caught up in it all and stress yourself out. For me, despite what it may look like, I love, love, love nature. I really enjoy just being out in nature by myself—whether it’s by the ocean, on a hike, or just walking around the neighborhood. I just need to get away and think, and during that time I think I’m reinvesting in peace of mind. That is my luxury. It’s kind of a form of mediation, and during that time I get to reevaluate and recouple my priorities.
Finally, we have to ask—can we expect to see more of Baby G in season 2 of Bling Empire?
I feel like there’s more interest in Baby G across the board than me and Dr Chiu combined! I’m pretty sure he was asked back to season 2, and he’s saying, ‘Can I bring my mom and dad along for the ride?’