At the Crazy Rich Asians premiere in Hollywood last week, the cast of the hotly-anticipated movie showed up to razzle and dazzle on the green carpet. Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina were prominently featured in news stories and fashion galleries, but amidst the hoo-hah, a lesser-known Constance has managed to make her presence felt. Singaporean actress Constance Lau, 27, who plays the gossipy Celine Lim, aka “Radio One Asia” in the film, flew her own way to LA, paid for her own accommodation, put on a dress from a Singaporean label, did her own hair, and looked like a crazy rich million bucks at the premiere. She was the only Singaporean in Vanityfair.com’s “The Must-See Looks from the Crazy Rich Asians Premiere” list (no, Fiona Xie was not in it). Her intricate frock from Time Taken To Make A Dress, an inspired chinois number with a deconstructed modern twist, was a winner which stood out from the usual sparkly Western-style gowns. We spoke to Constance just before she boarded her flight home from LA, and asked her how she pulled off the look with a little help from her friends.
8 DAYS: Congrats on a successful premiere and for looking fantastic on the Crazy Rich Asians green carpet!
CONSTANCE LAU: Thanks! It still feels so surreal. I’m still pinching myself.
Was it your intention to wear a dress by a Singapore designer, and with oriental styling?
Yes, I was going up there to represent Singapore, so I wanted to bring Singapore pride and flavour to Hollywood. I don’t think there’s been any Singapore flavour in Hollywood in recent years, not since Chin Han, but he’s totally left [Singapore]! (Laughs) So I wanted to do a Chinese cheongsam look, but make it modern at the same time. This outfit from Time Taken To Make A Dress was sourced for me by Tinoq [Russell Goh, a local make-up artist and stylist]. It was created for a show the fashion label was doing, and a model wore it on the runway. She was 1.8m and I am 1.68m, so they had to tweak it for me, and they did it in two days. I’m so grateful for the support from Singapore designers. I’m a nobody! It’s like some random person coming to you and saying, “Can I borrow your stuff?” (Laughs)
You’re not a nobody! You’re in a big film! We saw on your Instagram that you put together your very interesting hairstyle yourself.
It was with the help of Tinoq and Dylan [Chan, Singapore hairstylist]. They helped me pick the outfit, and they put together the entire look for me. They taught me how to do my hair at their house in Singapore, and I was able to style my own hair for the premiere.
It’s kinda crazy that you did your own hair for a big premiere.
Yes! (Laughs) We did the imaging at Tinoq and Dylan’s house and they taught me step-by-step how to do the hair, and I took videos and on the day of the premiere, I mimicked every single step in my toilet in the hotel room.
It was very tedious and my first time styling my own hair [for a big event]! My friends were like, “Are you sure you wanna take the risk?” I was like, “Why not? The most if I cannot do it, I tie a bun lor!”
How about your make-up look and your fashion accessories? The entire look was very oriental yet modern.
For the make-up, we also did a trial at Tinoq’s place. They told me what I should do, taught me how to do it, and on that day, I got a make-up sponsor, Chantecaille, whose make-up artist [Julie Ofcharsky, who was “inspired by Old Hollywood” and put together “a clean wing liner and a perfect red lip”] helped me to replicate the look that Tinoq designed for me. My earrings are white jade with diamonds from La Putri, a Singapore jeweler who’s been around for 45 years. The bag is from a friend who lent it to me when I couldn’t find the right bag in time — everything was so last minute. It’s an acrylic clutch and I bought some mesh from Chinatown to cover up so people couldn’t see what I was gonna put in it. Yeah, DIY right! (Laughs) The shoes are Charles & Keith, but you can’t really see them.
So you got by with a little help from your friends. Why were things so last minute?
I only got my premiere tickets a week before I was to fly up. I had actually booked another drama series, a Mandarin Toggle drama, but when they confirmed that they couldn’t let me off for this period just before I was going to sign the contract, I gave that up to attend the CRA premiere.
Did you pay for your own flight to LA?
Yes. I flew myself, I paid for my hotel, and everything was at my own expense. Warner Bros gave me the premiere ticket and red carpet access. I mean, no one was obligated to pay for anything, right? I didn’t get any sponsors, so I had to pay myself. A few other Singaporeans [like Janice Koh] were sponsored by Singapore Tourism board, but I was not one of them. It was a lot of money, but to me, this is an investment. I’m not taking it as an expenditure at all.
However much you paid, the exposure you’ve gotten is probably priceless.
There’s some criticism about how the main cast didn’t choose to represent Asian or Asian-American designers on the red carpet. What do you think?
I’m sure there is a reason for their choices. They had to work out something they were comfortable with. Some things may not have been possible under the circumstances. It’s hard to please everyone. Even if they did wear Asian-American designers, people might be like, “Why didn’t you use International designers?” (Laughs) But I chose Singaporean designers ’cos I’m really proud to be Singaporean. How many times do you get Singaporeans going up to Hollywood?
What was your background before Crazy Rich Asians?
I’ve done a number of commercials, such as the Singtel World Cup ad. And a music video for MICapella. I also acted in a Ch 5 telemovie called Love is Love – Sunrise, in 2015. I graduated from theatre school in NAFA.
Tell us about your experience at the premiere — was it amazing?
To be there and be seen with all these amazing talents and to meet them — it was surreal. I met Ming-Na Wen — she’s the voice of Mulan! These are people I never thought I’d ever meet. I’ve had this Hollywood dream since I was a kid, but I never dared to tell anyone, ’cos they’d think I’m crazy! It was also crazy to go through so many interviews at one go. The entire red carpet was filled with so many media, and I did so many interviews that I told my publicist, “I think I need water!” It was so hot that day.
Guess you heard about letters on the board melting off in the heat.
Yeah, I heard about the board — it’s very, very unfortunate. I had photos with the board before that part of the “G” slid off. It was really so hot that the sticker just fell out, or maybe someone leaned against it and rubbed it off.
Tell us about your role in CRA.
My character’s name is Celine. Yeah, so when I got your message and you said you were Celine, I was a bit shocked, like, it’s my character and the movie all over again! (Laughs) It’s not a big role and I don’t have that much screen time, but it’s quite prominent. She is the one everyone loves to hate. Her nickname is “Radio One Asia”.
So it’s a b***** and loudmouth role. You don’t seem like that at all. How did you get into the role — there’s a shot of you in the trailer with a mean side-eye.
I watched a lot of Mean Girls and movies like that! (Laughs) I’d look into the mirror and practise, and video myself to see how it would look. With the side-eye, if you look too far off, you see a lot of the white of the eye, and it looks really bad.
Reception to the movie seems pretty positive in the US. How do you think it will go down with audiences at home?
Yes, the reactions have been very positive. It’s got a 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes! When I first saw it, I was blown away. Singaporeans would definitely feel very pleased with how Singapore has been showcased. It’s a very beautiful visual representation of our country as a cosmopolitan melting pot. If you were looking at it from the view of how Singapore is represented, you would be very happy. Story-wise, this is a love story set in Singapore, where love wins. I’m sure you would be happy with that as well. Of course, there will be positive and negative reactions, but I think the film represents us really positively.
Crazy Rich Asians opens in Singapore on Aug 22.