Eva Chen Talks Pregnancy, Parenting and Why She Wrote Her Latest Book
Eva Chen has been telling stories through fashion for years, previously as the editor in chief of Lucky Magazine and currently as the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram. She’s sharing her most personal story yet in her new book, I am Golden. The New York Times best-selling author reflects on her experience as a first-generation Chinese American with the hope of helping children celebrate their unique selves. We chatted with the author about I am Golden and her collaboration with Janie and Jack, the lessons she hopes to teach her three children and the best and worst parts of being pregnant.
Lauren Kay: You’ve had an illustrious career in fashion and, in the last several years, authoring children’s books—what was it like to collaborate creatively on kids fashion with Janie and Jack again?
Eva Chen: It was a dream! Third time was truly the charm with Janie and Jack—by now, I can just say “lotus, poof” and they’ll instantly be able to channel my inarticulate, drifty ideas into reality. I love this collection and hope kids love it too. It’s a beautiful mix of vintage inspiration, classic shapes and so many little nods to Chinese culture. I love the T-shirt that illustrator Sophie Diao created an illustration for—Tao loves it!
LK: Your new collection with Janie and Jack is inspired by your new book—can you share a little about I Am Golden?
EC: One of my motivations for writing this book was that I didn’t find many books where I saw my experience reflected. I Am Golden reflects who I was as a child and the reassurance I needed then. Because a book like this didn’t exist, I really cobbled together experiences from various girls in books for me—Ramona, Matilda, Hermione, Claudia, Francie (points if you know all the references!)—to create the ultimate icon of girl power for me. In writing this book, I wanted to create something that will celebrate children and help them feel the joy of being uniquely themselves. I wish I had a book like this growing up!
EC: This book came together super quickly from a tiny seed of an idea. It came about during a time of incredible conflict for the AAPI community––COVID, the Atlanta shootings––and I wanted to write a book to celebrate the experience of being Chinese American, the strength of the immigrant story and the joy to be found in being yourself. In terms of the specific idea, I really mined from my personal experience and how I felt growing up as a first-generation Chinese American. I think the book reflects that, and it’s by far my most personal book to date.
LK: You recently welcomed a new baby into the family (hi River!). How has this chapter of your life differed from baby one and two?
EC: Baby three has been a real eye-opener! We went from being 1:1 with kiddos to being outnumbered. I get the most overwhelmed when all three kids are asking for Mama, but right now it’s okay. River is (for now, until the next regression) sleeping through the night, so I feel like it’s manageable. And he’s at the most delicious age!
LK: As a parent, how do you hope to inspire your children (to be creative, to take risks, to be proud of their heritage)?
EC: Yes to all of the above! Tom and I are trying to encourage Ren and Tao (and eventually River) to follow their passions and interests and not feel like they “have” to do something or be something they’re not. I grew up thinking I had to be a doctor, and, well, that clearly didn’t happen. And I’m fine! So I hope our kids are lucky enough to be able to follow their dreams as I was able to.
LK: What lessons and traditions from your respective upbringings have you and Tom brought to your nuclear family?
EC: Of the many, many things I love about being Chinese American, the closeness of family and the family structure is something that is really important to me. The idea that family always comes first and should be prioritized is something that I carry on with my children. I also feel like the celebration and joy of eating together is something that I really love and that I want to instill in my kids as well. And spending time with their Poapoa and Babading (my dad’s nickname from the kids) is of utmost importance to me—I remember spending time with my own grandmother, kneading bao with her… that sense of creating family memories is on my mind, always.
LK: Best and worst parts of being pregnant?
EC: Best: That special bond with baby; you feel like you have a little secret link to the baby. It’s magical!
Worst: Well, I had gestational diabetes and low amniotic fluid for my last pregnancy and was considered “advanced maternal age,” so I was getting nearly weekly checkups and scans and spent Mother’s Day alone at the hospital!
LK: Best and worst parts of parenting?
EC: Best: SO many highs. Seeing the world through my kids’ eyes brings me ridiculous amounts of joy. The simplest things—River loves the word “pigeon” for some reason and his gummy laugh whenever we say it. It’s truly the small things.
Worst: The amount of times I’ve stepped on LEGOs. My poor feet! And the sheer amount of repetition.
LK: Between your job at Instagram and your busy home life, how have you carved out ‘me time” or “unicorn space” for yourself to pursue your book writing goals?
EC: The unicorn you’re mentioning is the tiniest, most infinitesimal unicorn ever. One of my New Year’s resolutions was actually to spend more time on my own self-care. That resolution was quickly shot down by COVID! I wrote all my books between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., when it’s super quiet in the house… I wish I were an early bird, like my husband Tom, who wakes up at 5 a.m.… In terms of “me time,” a ritual I have is that I read every single night before bed. Sometimes it’s just a page or two, but it grounds me and resets my brain after hours of Zoom.
LK: The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, especially parents. (And I know your whole family was just hit hard with COVID—sending well wishes!). How have you been coping? Any tips for survival?
EC: When people ask how I’m doing, I usually respond “surviving but not thriving, per se.” We’re doing the best we can. When I get too stressed or frazzled, I try to think bigger than COVID’s impact on our family. I truly feel for teachers, medical professionals, essential workers—everyone who must be at peak, peak burnout.
LK: You’re a wealth of knowledge, from sustainable fashion swaps to beauty treatments and home renovation… What brings you the most joy?
EC: I don’t know if I’d describe myself as a wealth of knowledge, but I do love to obsessively research every purchase (down to pencil sharpeners for the kids!) and love sharing my finds with my followers. It brings me joy when someone tells me they tried something I recommended!