Cover Chiu wears a Carolina Herrera dress and Vex gloves.

Beneath the glitz and glamour of her Bling Empire persona, Christine Chiu just wants to use her 15 minutes of fame to make a difference

Say what you want about Christine Chiu, but there is no denying that the Bling Empire star is photogenic. Whether on screen in the hit reality show or in posts on her personal Instagram account, which keeps her more than 850,000 followers updated on her jet‑setting, couture‑filled lifestyle, it is clear that Chiu knows her angles.

But the seemingly always put together 39‑year‑old has a confession to make: “My agents and some publicists have told me to stop thanking the paparazzi every time they take my photograph because when I move my mouth and face so much, they’re likely to catch a bad picture,” she tells Tatler over video call from Los Angeles. “But I can’t break out of this habit, so I fall into the trap of having that weird ‘one eye open and one eye closed’ shot.”

Not that the star lets this overly affect her; the Taipei‑born entrepreneur, philanthropist and executive producer of said Netflix series, which depicts the lives and relationships of a group of ultra‑wealthy Asian Americans in Los Angeles, professes to be down to earth. “I guess I just don’t spend time thinking about recognition or fame,” she says. “Rather, I’m focused on what we can accomplish next. My eye is on the prize of utilising this platform and doing greater things.”

Read more: Bling Empire Season 2: What are the Cast Members Up to Since Filming Wrapped?

Buckle up, because the spotlight is set to shine even brighter on Chiu now that everyone has seen the explosive second season of Bling Empire, with even more squabbles, first world problems and, of course, eye‑catching bijoux. The chatty Chiu acknowledges that her on‑screen persona does come across “a little spicier” than she is in real life, especially in the first season. But this was deliberate—at least initially. A feud between herself and heiress Anna Shay has been a central story thread since the start and has kept viewers wanting more.

“I thought it was fun to have this ping‑pong rivalry over necklaces and seating plans. When we were filming season one, we would laugh about how silly this Dynasty‑style rivalry was playing out,” she says, referring to the 1980s prime‑time soap chronicling outrageously wealthy American families.

The frivolous skirmishes on Bling Empire serve as a Trojan Horse, allowing more important issues to be brought into the show, says Chiu, a tireless advocate for Asian representation in the media. “Growing up, I didn’t see many folks who look like myself on television or the big screen. So to be a part of that pop culture conversation and this widening of inclusivity and diversity is humbling,” she shares. “Without the breadth and depth of Asian American programming, it’s easy for Asian Americans, or Asians, to be lumped into one monolithic culture. Not that [the Bling Empire cast is] out to educate the world on Asian diversity and backgrounds, but to even shed some light on cultural nuances and traditions is gratifying.

“Many of the show’s fans, who initially came for the drama, stay on for its conversations about other hard‑hitting topics such as the challenges of parenthood. “Through this global platform, we get to tell stories that are otherwise kept quiet and to destigmatise topics such as infertility and surrogacy,” says Chiu.

Keeping It Real

In some of the second season’s more serious moments, Chiu was shown exploring surrogacy options for her second child with husband Gabriel Chiu, a renowned plastic surgeon with whom she founded Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery. Their first child, Gabriel Christian Chiu III, better known as Baby G, was conceived after much difficulty and has been in many ways her north star; for instance, her championing of diversity and representation is motivated by her love for him.

“Baby G gets to grow up in a completely different world where a Marvel superhero is Asian, where comedians are Asian, where the popular kids are Asian and the discussions in pop culture involve Asians,” she says. “He gets to watch their faces and hear their voices, and be proud, inspired by and aspire to be like them.”

That said, Baby G’s parents have been careful about the amount of exposure he gets on the show. “With our eyes wide open, we want to find a balance in this project that we committed to doing while still protecting him. He has a sociable personality and does enjoy filming and watching himself on TV. While he doesn’t grasp the global reach of it all, he enjoys the time he gets to spend with us,” Chiu says.

However, she adds: “We limited screen time for him this season; as soon as we see that there is negative impact stemming from his involvement, we will remove him entirely. So far, we’re just kind of treading lightly and testing the waters as we go.”

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She can certainly make a case for drawing boundaries. After all, several relationships in season two soured in startling ways, including hers with Shay. Chiu says she was surprised by this turn of events, as she believed Shay had been hamming it up for the camera, as she had. “I don’t know what happened,” Chiu admits, “but my thoughts are that, perhaps, the lines of reality TV and reality kind of blurred for her, and she developed a real distaste for me. It’s not like we were best friends and betrayed each other—there was no context.”

This apparent rivalry has also led to Chiu gaining a reputation as the show’s “mean girl”. She says: “It’s frustrating, and it does sting to have people you don’t have any issues with so quickly throw you under the bus. It’s unfortunate, but it is what I signed up for, so I have to grow thicker skin. My mum used to tell me, ‘Don’t listen to criticism from people from whom you would not seek advice.’ I learned from this situation that we don’t have to be friends with everyone. These people are my co‑workers and everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”

Not that Bling Empire’s viewers know how this will play out. The year‑long filming process generated so much material that season three is already in the bag and rumoured to be released soon. Chiu assures us there is some sort of conclusion. “The truth does come out at the very end,” she says, “so I hope that at least viewers will stick around to find out the truth.”

Giving Back

In the meantime, Chiu is focused on her philanthropic work with multiple organisations across sectors, including the arts, children, underserved communities, and health. The Chius, who have a foundation to manage their philanthropy, have long been involved in a range of charitable causes, such as the Unicef Chinese Children’s Initiative, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, the Ghetto Film School and, most recently, the Health & Wellbeing Centre by The Prince’s Foundation, a charity founded by the UK’s Prince Charles. They underwrite 100 per cent of medical services for the local community at the centre, which is located in Dumfries House in Scotland.

In season one of Bling Empire, the doting mother not only threw Baby G a lavish party at the Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica, but also donated US$1 million on behalf of her son for a dedicated museum wing, which will provide children in underserved communities with free admission.

There is something specific about giving back she wants to highlight: “I’d love to take this opportunity to discuss the debate about whether philanthropy should be done quietly or loudly,” she says. “People argue for both sides, but my first thought is that you should not judge someone who wants to give. Let the person give in his or her own way because the result is that someone or something benefits, so leave that person alone.”

For the record, Chiu and her husband donate both privately and publicly. She takes inspiration from other successful Hollywood philanthropists to use her platform to raise awareness for important causes in order to bring about a multiplier effect. “Our former neighbours Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher stood up to raise awareness and funds for those affected by the war in Ukraine,” she shares. “They committed to donating a large sum of money publicly and I applaud that because they leveraged their platform, reached exponentially more people and, of course, raised exponentially more funds.” (Chiu also hints that the power couple will be making a cameo on the show.)

Read more: This ‘Bling Empire’ Star Is Worth US$800 Million—Here’s How Much the Cast Members Are Worth

Despite all her privileges and the growing attention she is receiving, Chiu is determined to continue working at developing the business she and her husband built from scratch. “Both my husband and I are workaholics,” she lets on. “Dr Chiu loves getting into the operating room and the gratification of changing someone’s life. For me, work provides opportunities to learn, meet new people, overcome challenges and explore new technologies.” Ever driven, she is currently looking into how virtual and augmented reality can be harnessed for plastic surgery to give even better results. “We’re grateful that we get to bring smiles to people’s faces through our work,” she says.

And at the end of the day, the business is also one of the keystones on which the couple has built their relationship, which is why Chiu holds it close to her heart. “Our relationship is stronger because we have more opportunities to discover ourselves and work out our dynamics with each other,” she says. “It is also important that Baby G knows we work; I don’t want him to think money grows on trees. I want him to work because it is only through this that he’ll learn life lessons and build skills that are essential to thriving in life.”

  • PhotographyAustin Hargrave
  • StylingChristopher Kim
  • HairSolé Waddell / Crosby Carter Management
  • Make-UpKéla Wong / Crosby Carter Management using Charlotte Tilbury
  • ProducerLauren Nukes at Atelier Management
  • Photographer's AssistantAlyson Aliano and Saman Assefi
  • Stylist's AssistantChime Dolker
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