About five minutes into our conversation, it hits me: Christine Chiu definitely knows more about skincare than I do. As an editor at a beauty publication, this should be a tough pill to swallow. But Christine is not your typical reality TV star. The businesswoman, philanthropist, mother, and haute couture collector has been in the beauty world for over a decade—she runs a top medispa with her surgeon husband, Dr. Gabriel Chiu—and comes with unmistakable star quality, confidence, and encyclopedic knowledge of treatments, procedures, and skin solutions.
Let’s not forget, this is the woman who turned down the Housewives machine and ended up joining Bling Empire—an infinitely more interesting—but then-unknown reality franchise. She chose to support a TV concept that reflects the casts' Asian American experience. It's a series with real impact. In short, a show that represents her community.
Bling Empire, in the star's own words, sparked “important conversations about infertility, adoption, acceptance, identity, family, friendship and more.” And Chiu was a huge part of the show's radical transparency and visible authenticity. She was candid about everything from Botox (she's done it) to fertility struggles (she's lived it). As early as the first episode, it was clear these were very real, human moments.
When I logged onto Zoom, Christine greeted me in full glam—she's currently filming season two of the breakaway Netflix hit—and we immediately got into it. Read on for her take on beauty icons, the need for more transparency around aging, and, yes, Baby G's skincare routine.
Hi Christine, where are you?
"I'm just right out of glam now. Heading into filming a scene, so I'm so sorry that I look like this."
I mean, we're Byrdie. We're beauty. We live for it.
"Oh, amazing. Thank you. Yeah, I hope I don't scare you off. I swear I don't sleep like this."
How has your 2021 been so far? We're a couple of months in—are you feeling optimistic? What's your vibe?
"I am in a very awkward stage because I have lost basically all of my social skills. I'm having a rough time transitioning back to normal life. I have almost zero time management skills left. I don't know what to do when I see people—I don't know if I'm hugging or kissing or elbowing people. And I didn't realize how fast time has passed. I'm used to taking my time to really enjoy something. And now it's like, 'just get it done.' So I'm struggling."
As a mom, how are you balancing it all? As we all sort of struggle to find a new routine. What's working for you, and what's not?
"Well, I'm going to tell you something that's actually really sad. Baby G started saying things like, 'Mama doesn't love me because mama doesn't spend time with me.' And 'Mama doesn't have time for me.' That rhetoric is happening. This is the last couple of days, and it's because we're filming.
"I'm in hours of glam. And then, I do interviews, and I run Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, and I invest in a lot of startups. I am involved in nonprofits, and all of a sudden, everyone woke up, and everyone's ready to get back into it. There was no gradual transition.
"It's all coming at me really quickly. From Baby G's perspective, I'm not balancing it that well. So I really need to take time to find that balance and recalibrate. We were lucky in a way because we did have that slowdown and the shutdown to plant the veggie garden. And to get fish—that was our activity of the week was to go pick out a fish and find plants for the fish and name the fish. And all of that seems like a bygone era, unfortunately. So I am finding that balance.
"But, it was a very intentional choice for us to be working parents and for Baby G to see working parents. So on the flip side, Baby G understands the concept of work, and he understands that money comes from work, and I'm trying to teach him in every way possible—that money doesn't just appear, and you have to work for it. You work hard for it, but you enjoy your work along the way. I'm finding that balance between showing him a hard work ethic and being a good mom and spending quality and quantity of time with him."
I loved how honest and upfront you are about procedures and treatments on the show. So I wanted to ask: is there a "tweakment" or something that you swear by to this day? The one thing that changed your skin?
"A tweakment—I love that phrasing. I hate to sound cliché, but I think a little along the way goes a long way. Yeah, I do a little Botox here. I do a little filler there. I'm sometimes a guinea pig for my husband when he's trying to decide on new technology. I'm a really good guinea pig because I have zero pain tolerance.
"He loves using me as a tester because I'm supercritical. I don't like gimmicky stuff. So, it really has to work and work fast. And not be painful. And then, only then, we'll consider buying it... being honest with people and with your customers is so important."
Next, I want to ask you about beauty in general. Is there something that you splurge on but you feel like is essential.
"I swear by Pilates. It helps keep the body mean and lean. And there's some kind of positive energy that comes along with it. And taking time for yourself."
Do you have a morning routine or ritual? And what does it look like?
"My favorite morning routine is with Baby G. My husband brings him into our bed in the morning, and for about 30 minutes, we watch something educational on YouTube. Currently, it's deep-sea creatures and National Geographic stuff. Just learning about something together, whether it's space or the ocean, or anywhere around the planet.
"My parents are pretty traditional Asian parents in that they were not generous with their affection and affirmation. Even with adults, it's really important to start your day with positivity and affirmation. So I spend that time telling Baby G that he is so loved, that he has nothing to prove to anyone, that he is healthy and happy. Just all sorts of positive words I put in his mind early in the morning so that he has a better day."
That positive affirmation will be in his head for the rest of his life, which is so powerful. Next, I want to ask: Who are your beauty icons? Past and present?
"I do feel like it's really important to be transparent [as a beauty icon] about what is helping you—aging... what's in your arsenal. I mean, you don't owe it to anyone. But I also don't think you should mislead people into thinking that aging [like a celebrity] is just a normal occurrence. My husband and I—because we work in the beauty industry and because he comes from a scientific medical background—we know that the body does not function that way. The face doesn't really age that way—no matter how great of genes you have.
"It takes a lot, not only over-the-counter products—there are ingestible, topical, and definitely surgical and nonsurgical treatments and technologies. And I think it's unfair—whether it's the older generation of beauty icons or the current ones—to mislead and send out a message that they were born this way or that it's just glam. So I advocate for more transparency."
I mean, you fully lived that on the show. It was one of my favorite things that you shared about yourself and how honest you were.
"My husband has treated a lot of beauty icons. They are part of his clientele roster. It was a running joke in the past with us when we would be out socially at galas or red carpet events, that someone would see my husband and would get scared that he's somehow going to expose them—which he would never do. But, then, at the same time, they're also telling people that they've never had plastic surgery or never even had a needle touch their face. And I think that's a little misleading."
Are there any beauty tips that you took away from being in full glam for the show? What is the beauty look that makes you feel the most like you?
"The proper serums and moisturizer—and spending your money on quality skincare products. Just investing in proven (not just beautiful packaging) but scientifically backed skincare products.
"No makeup—just sunblock and running around in sweats. That's when I'm most comfortable. When I can have a good skin, no-makeup day, that's when I feel most powerful and empowered."
I love that. Speaking of skincare, I need some tips. What are your hero products?
"Everyone needs to remember that whatever you're putting on your face, do it on your neck and the back of your hands. I love the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum ($166). It's been around for a while.
"And for more mature skin. I think SkinMedica has a great TNS Essential Serum ($239). Your skin also better have a good sunblock that is tinted and adapts to your skin tone. I love using that and doubling it as a foundation.
"Also, mask whenever possible. I do masks everywhere: face masks, under-eye masks, stick your hands in gloves, and mask while you're getting a face glam. You might as well. Knee masks—throw a mask over your knees, so they don't look dry and cracked. And then also do that to your heels. Every free moment; mask when you're sitting around. Sometimes, when I was running errands pre-COVID—this is so embarrassing—I literally would mask in the car."
Mask whenever possible. I do masks everywhere: face masks, under-eye masks, stick your hands in gloves, and mask while you're getting a face glam. You might as well.
Like Cher. Cher does that.
"It's just whenever you have a free moment or whenever you can double up."
I love that. Have you gotten Baby G into skincare?
"He is not as fancy when it comes to skincare. But we do lather him up in lotion. I don't know if that's normal for kids. But he has a nice lotion for his whole body. He has a designated face wash, and then he has—if he's a little fancy—daytime and nighttime skin topical. So cute. I love that I started him early.
"I think we also tone his face when we're bathing him. Oh my god. Yeah, we splash water, and then we tone it—there's a baby toner."
Is there a beauty or style trend or look that you were really excited to try after a year of sweatpants and buns?
"I'm not ready to dive into gowns. I need some kind of transition. And so I'm really owning that transitional space, which is being comfortably glamorous, glamorously comfortable, and finding brands and designers that support that stage right now in my life. I want to linger a little bit longer in soft fabrics and loose fabrics."
We touched on this a little bit, but do you have a self-care practice?
"There is a product that I swear by, and my husband swears by it too, which is pretty impressive because he's a total product skeptic. But it saved me from stretch marks during pregnancy. I was on bed rest for a lot of my pregnancy, unfortunately. And so I had to soothe myself and make myself honor my body—there's like an emotional component to it.
"Since then, I've used Mutha Body Butter ($95) every day. It's pricey, but the ingredients are so authentic and rich—and expensive smelling and feeling. And I would sit during bedrest and just lather my entire body. I felt taken care of. And of course, I would lather that all over my belly and on my butt, too.
"By the way, on the show, just a spoiler: we did some fancy facials on the show. I love that you brought that up because people are so concerned with these cheeks that they forget the other cheeks. You want those to look good, too. They need to be supple and hydrated, and happy-looking. So anyway, I put that butter all over my body, and now that I'm not pregnant anymore, it's become more of a psychological and emotional feel-good practice."
Finally, I wanted to ask about AAPI representation. You've been vocal, speaking out against racism and everything that's happened this year. What did you learn from that? And what do you feel is the work that still needs to be done?
"There is so much work still needing to be done. But, we've come such a long way. I grew up in a relatively non-Asian community, and looking back and reflecting, I did encounter a lot of racism, but they weren't considered microaggressions then, which is a new term that I'm learning through this process. The accumulation of all of those microaggressions takes a toll on you, and it does have, unfortunately, a negative imprint.
What I found and what I'm adapting for Baby G: I don't want him just to take it. I don't want him to absorb and internally figure it out. I want him to speak up against things that are not right.
"And my parents, back then (and this is a very traditional point of view) thought, 'you just take it, and then you work harder.' Their perspective of fighting racism was just to be more successful and to do better in life; to rise.
"What I found and what I'm adapting for Baby G: I don't want him just to take it. I don't want him to absorb and internally figure it out. I want him to speak up against things that are not right. Not just to defend himself, but to help educate. Because sometimes it starts so young.
"It's the constant 'letting it go' that is prolonging this racism. I feel very much compelled to teach Baby G what is acceptable, what is not, and to stand up for himself... and for diversity in general. And to not only to stand up for it but to really celebrate it. I'm working on, hopefully, a children's book series that will celebrate cultural diversity in really cute ways. Because I think if we can catch kids early on and open their eyes and create appreciation and celebration of differences in each other, then we're off to a much better world."