Bling Empire’s Executive Producer Embraces Couture and Avoids Trends

Christine Chiu understands storytelling. As the producer of Netflix’s Bling Empire, Chiu helped bring the first reality series featuring an Asian-American ensemble cast to the streaming giant’s platform. The show, which enters its second season this weekend, was a hit and its glimpse at the opulent lifestyles of Los Angeles’ uber-rich proved addictive. The drama was juicy, but Chiu’s interest in narrative began long before she hit the small screen. “Anything I can do to help tell a story gets me excited,” she shared at New York’s Casa Cipriani. “Even before we’d begun Bling, I was working on multiple television projects in various stages of development, and that was so rewarding. Regardless of the form a story takes—art, music, cinema, or fashion—the process appeals to me.” 

Whether she was producing the show or working with non-profits like Spike Lee’s Ghetto Film School, which works to help next-gen filmmakers in underserved communities receive education and support, Chiu focused on bringing other people’s stories to life. Her step into the spotlight as a member of the Bling cast was unexpected. “I was looking at the project as a whole,” Chiu explains. “Most of the cast had already been assembled, so I wasn’t considering being in front of the camera.” Initially comfortable playing a background role, Chiu’s opinion shifted after considering the importance of representation. “I never saw people who looked like me on television when I was growing up, and I felt we could contribute to changing the landscape,” she says. “I thought about my son’s generation, what he’ll feel when he watches TV and can see people who resemble himself being celebrated for their beauty, quirks, and intelligence. Once I considered that, I knew I had to be a part of it.” 

Chiu’s step into reality television was the latest evolution in a career that centers on entrepreneurship—she and her husband Dr. Gabriel Chiu, co-founded Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery and the Regenerative Medicine Aesthetic Institute—and philanthropy. While her active social calendar tends to get all the attention, Chiu’s day-to-day life is far removed from what makes the society pages. “My husband and I had to divide and conquer,” she explains. “When we met we were working at the same medical corporation, where I was a VP of sales and marketing. When we began our business, I knew that putting on the ‘ladies who lunch’ hat was a promotional tool. Part of my job became forming those essential connections that can only occur when meeting people face to face.” 

That skillset is a key part of what makes Chiu so watchable on the series, but filming season two came with challenges she couldn’t have anticipated. “Between seasons one and two, I lost my mother very suddenly, which was incredibly difficult,” she says. “I’d always viewed myself as a go-getter, and I’d committed to this project, so I didn’t want to back out. I tried to put on a brave face for my family and to fulfill my commitments, but I was in a vulnerable place. [Still,] I’ve learned so many valuable lessons. My proudest moment, and perhaps the silver lining in all this, was that I’ve finally become comfortable standing up for myself, which [I consider] a form of self-care. In traditional Asian households, you’re often taught to hold your feelings inside, especially when people mistreat you. Finding the strength to advocate for yourself and your needs, be they professional or emotional, is empowering.” 

Chiu’s onscreen journey has become less about drama and more about realism this time around. “We want to make a great show; we’re doing this for our people,” she says. “That has brought a sense of pride and allowed us to understand the responsibilities that come with this platform, so we’re all out there trying to do our part.” The perspective shift is apparent in Chiu’s current fashion choices. “I’m the mother of a toddler, and he’s constantly running around, so my schedule is more about dropping him off at preschool, and arranging playdates than attending society brunches,” she says. “This season, you get a much more well-rounded wardrobe; I’m in my jeans and T-shirts much more often. My jeans are Chanel, though, so the glamour isn’t going anywhere.” 

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