The T.Tandon NY AW17 Fashion Week event at 230 FIFTH Rooftop Bar in the Flatiron District was packed with stylish people. Among them, one woman stood out. She was wearing a beautiful floor-length fuchsia gown and a pale pink beaded blazer, and her hair and makeup was impeccable: back-length curls and a thin cat eye. More than that, she radiated confidence, an attitude of embracing the attention she knew she attracted, rather than demurely acting as if it wasn’t happening. I complimented her on her outfit, and she told me that the dress was of her own design.
Tina Tandon, Princess Long Long, and models.
But Xia Long Long – internationally known as Princess Long Long – is much more than a fashion designer. She is an opera singer first and foremost. Born and raised in China, she moved to the United States and trained as a soprano at The Juilliard School in 2007, a year in which 2,138 students applied and only 162 were accepted. She has channeled her otherworldly voice and years of training into countless performance endeavors around the world: China Central Television (CCTV)’s Avenue of Stars competition, winning the North American finals; the International Music Forum in Bo’ao, China; the China Army; the UNESCO World Fashion Parade in the Garment District; Couture Fashion Week in Times Square; New Jersey Fashion Week; and the 70th Cannes Film Festival last May. She has worked with Freedom Williams (C+C Music Factory), songwriter Howard McCrory (see Michael Jackson and Chaka Khan), soca artist KMC, reggaetón artist Valentino, and spoken word performer Andrew Anderson. Her stage presence translates naturally into acting. Her repertoire includes independent films The Right to Live, Good Friday, Be Frank, and What Women Want Chronicles, and the Off-Broadway cabaret comedy Whatever Happened to Beverly Daniels?, and she is slated to star in the TV show Whatta Guys Really Want. Her creativity also extends to writing, particularly mythology. She wrote a fairy tale, Bird, Bees, and the Fruit Fly, co-developed Blue Cat, which went on to become the most popular cartoon in China, and is working on an epic melodrama, Moon Goddess.
Princess Long Long describes her sense of style as “like a fairy” – floral, beaded, ethereal, embellished, often pink, with grand flourishes and minute details, each look designed by her and tailored for her. She has even designed and produced a Broadway-themed fashion show in Times Square! She works extensively with Thai designer Thunyatorn Cheng Ng, who has a boutique in Elmhurst, and Kyrgyz costume designer Natasha Berezhnaya, who is based in Westchester County.
Princess Long Long and friends at the South Street Seaport.
She invited me to some events at the United Nations headquarters in Tudor, as the Ambassador for Humanitarian Affairs in Culture and Arts by the National Council of Women of the US Director of Culture and Arts at Partners for UN Affairs. She subsequently invited me to her induction as an honorary member of the Rotary Club of New York. This was when I really started to learn more about her. She wore a black velvet dress and a belt of golden dragons, to represent her lineage from the Long, or dragon, family of the Silk Road kingdom of Yanqi (200 BCE to 800 CE). We started talking and she told me all about her background, her accomplishments, and what she is currently working on.
Princess Long Long accepting her Rotary Club honorary membership certificate at the Union League Club in Murray Hill.
Blissful Style: How did you become an honorary member of the Rotary Club?
Princess Long Long: Because, first of all, I work very closely with the United Nations, I have been participating in different kinds of events for world peace for a long time, and I recently became the World Peace Ambassador for the World Peace and Diplomacy Organization, so I’m also the ambassador for the 70th Cannes Film Festival, the Chinese ambassador for diversity and cultural arts. And I’m also the ambassador for the US Council, Women’s Council for Humanitarian Culture. So with all this, now I’m becoming an honorary Rotary member. The president, Jasmine, she told everyone what it was that I have been contributing, that I have been working so hard and contributing for world peace, that’s why they wanted to give me the honorary membership. So I also hope I can devote myself to using more time and more opportunities, so I can help people from all over the world. As you know, the Rotary Club has 3500 clubs all over the world and 1.2 million members. So I’m so honored and very happy to be becoming an honorary member today, and I really feel that I have a lot of things to do, to fulfill. All I want to do right now is to be focused on cultivating peaceful and friendly relations, one world, with cultural diversity and shared with all nations, is my one focus. As you know, man has the mind, which made war, and if you work on the mind, the spiritual level, then there will be less war and less terrorism and less manipulation, so there will be nothing like the 9/11 tragedy happening. That’s why I’m working with the UN and supporting the UN record on the creative economy and also on cultural diplomacy. What the creative economy means is that, on the spiritual level and cultural level, we believe that if you are a creative artist, you can create beautiful stuff and make the world a lot more beautiful, and people will understand people much more, and once you understand each other much more, there will be much fewer barriers, much less misunderstanding and much less fighting. Yeah, so that promotes the economy, that’s the social sustainable development of the United Nations, so, it’s a global goal.
BS: How long have you been involved with the United Nations?
PLL: It’s been, off and on, almost three years. I started as an artist, you know, performing, and then later on I also worked with several organizations, and I also worked with some creative press from all over the world. To develop art here today, I’m so happy, [it shows that] the UN definitely knows what you’re doing. Once you do something, really do it, and the UN might support you.
Princess Long Long at her Broadway-themed fashion show.
BS: How did you decide to go to Juilliard and pursue a career in music?
PLL: Oh, you know, you either have it or you don’t have it, so I knew that I had it, for as long as I can remember. So it’s been a long-time dream of mine to become a singer. However, my parents didn’t agree, they just didn’t want me to be a singer, but, actually my father was an opera singer and my mother was a music teacher, so that’s what they do, music as their livelihood, but they didn’t want me to be in that, so they sent me to Europe to get a business education, but I was not feeling happy, because I believe that people always have to do something to make themselves happy. So, before I came to the United States, I had this girlfriend of mine, she told me one thing and it really made me make this decision. So I remember we went to see a Broadway show in Beijing, Chicago, it’s very famous, and we watched that show together, and she is also a good friend of mine, because we used to go to karaoke which is very popular in China, so we performed, and my girlfriends would go crazy for my voice, after they heard my voice, they would say Ohh, and then my girlfriend told me, “Long, I’ve got to tell you one thing before you go to the United States”. I asked her “What?” She said, “After seeing this show, Chicago, you are just one of them,” she says, “You are absolutely one of them, I know you, because I know you from old times,” she said, “If I don’t see you on stage singing and performing like them, if I die, I’m not gonna close my eyes,” she said, “Because I’m hoping”. That moved my heart. So I thought Wow, I have a certain friend, and she’s a girl who has been with me for ten years, that means she knows me better than I know myself. She said, “When you go to the United States, you have to pursue your dream”. So I made a decision, in 2006 I came to the United States, I spent like a year traveling to eight cities, to live in each city for a little while and see which city is the best. So then, around 2007, I made my decision and said Okay, I have to pursue my dream, and go to music school to train myself, my voice. I’m not gonna give it up. So I did research, I also had like a year-and-a-half of training, with the professors, in junior school, for preparation, for the audition stuff. So that’s it, before I went over there I did lots of preparation, almost two years of preparation, so it was a big challenge for me. So I did, it’s just simple, I made my dream like that, I said If she wants me to be on the stage like that, I should start with training school, a professional music school, so then I’ll go.
An advertisement for Princess Long Long’s performance at the Cannes Film Festival.
BS: Tell me about your experience at the Cannes Film Festival. What was it like? What did you sing and what did you wear?
PLL: Oh, the Cannes Film Festival, that was a very interesting thing. Again, I had dreamed about the Cannes Film Festival since I was very little, so I never believed that the first time I went to Cannes I would be performing over there. I thought, I’m gonna go over there, see the red carpet and see the stars, but I never thought I myself was gonna be a star over there. So it was so exciting. So they picked me up, a Hollywood production company, they wanted a Chinese singer because they were promoting a diversity event, a diversity and inclusion event. I believe I met with the theme. So I was a singer picked up, so I did cross-cultural pieces, I revised some famous songs like “La Vie en Rose”, and also there’s another one, “Shanghai Night”, and there was another one, a French opera piece, Roméo et Juliette. But, so I did the songs in a cross-cultural way, I didn’t want to do the same classic way it has been done before, so I mixed different styles and mixed different cultures, and mixed different languages. Because I believe that as artists we are facing a global citizen, and we have to produce something that the global citizen really wants. They’re not gonna be satisfied with one culture or one language anymore, it has to be cross-cultural and cross-language. So that’s what I thought, so I created those pieces for the Cannes Film Festival, and it was good, it was an honor to be the Chinese Cultural Inclusive Ambassador, the diversity ambassador for the festival.
Some other people who went to the 70th Cannes Film Festival. No big deal…
BS: What languages do you sing in?
PLL: You mean at Cannes?
BS: Just in general.
PLL: Oh, I can sing in eight different languages. But that’s standard training for all the classes at university. You have to be able to carry at least five, maybe seven, eight, some people say ten, different languages, so that’s not a big thing. I wore three different costumes. The first one, for Roméo et Juliette, I created an image of white, all white, so my promotion video in the background was all white, everything was related to that white princess dress. So that’s the image that I created, “Eastern Dragon Princess”. This image won first prize for the Italian Royal Carnival fashion presentation, in 2016. And I also performed in this one at the World Fashion Parade. It has wings because I’m trying to give a message to this world, that the Eastern Dragon Princess on the Silk Road is the one link from East to West, and I’m fulfilling my ancient mission to bridge the cultural arts and the spiritual level from the East to the West. And this dragon princess, she’s pure, she’s classic, she’s elegant, and she is also hoping for peace, because the wings mean peace and prosperity. So that was the first one I wore, and the second one, when I sang “Shanghai Night”, I wore a blue dress, like a mermaid, I had also dreamed about being a mermaid. That’s why I liked your style the first time I met you, it’s like a fairy tale. When I was a little child I wanted to be a mermaid so badly. So I presented that with a Chinese robe. The wings and the robe were made by Natasha Berezhnaya, and she’s very good. We work together a lot for making these costumes. I would say she is the most talented and the best theater designer, and also dressmaker, that I know. I’m very picky about stuff, but we work beautifully. I always give her lots of ideas, and she has some ideas too, and then we make beautiful clothes, and she’s very talented. I wear lots of stuff of hers when I perform, and when I give presentations like this, like a speech, or going to a nightclub or cocktail party, we work together. So, the third one was the “La Vie en Rose”, I was all pure rose. Did you see that one? With the roses all over my head?
BS: Yeah! It’s so pretty!
PLL: That was one I designed. I thought, This song is rose, so let’s make a dramatic rose look, so I placed rose hairpieces all over my head, and added a pink fan. I can wear all pink because, like you, that is already how I dress. I also wore that one to perform at Couture Fashion Week.
BS: Oh yeah, I saw that, that’s what I saw. Would you ever consider creating apparel for purchase?
PLL: Yes, I’m doing that, because now I have a team in Shanghai that would like to do branding for me, they also want to fund my projects. You know, Shanghai is a financial center, I have so many fans over there, and they want to do something for me, but, at this moment, I don’t think…I’m just a talented designer, but I’m not really a professional designer. It’s just, I have too many things going on, I am a writer, I am a singer, so when I’m young, I will be focused more on performing arts, and then later on, my plan later on is to do all my branding, you know, the commercial lines and stuff. I’ve already got enough fans who want to do it together, some professional people, especially in China. I would love to work with many Western designers and people, I would easily help them reach the China market. I just want to work together with them on my ideas, they need to do the rest of the stuff, you know what I mean? I’m not a professional tailor or seamstress, I don’t know how to make that kind of stuff. I’d like to work with other people so we can, you know, make the branding-related, commercial products.
A Natasha Berezhnaya fashion show.
Natasha herself on the runway.
BS: Other than Natasha Berezhnaya, who are your favorite designers that you want to work with?
PLL: I have a couple of other people, I have some other Chinese too. I also like another Thai lady and her name is Thunyatorn Cheng Ng. She’s very talented, the Thai woman, so I work together with her too. Natasha has a little bit more of a Western style, while Thunyatorn Cheng is very Eastern. So I go with both sides, because I kind of look in between. I have the Asian skin and hairstyle, but I have a Western body, so I can work with both sides, there is the Western I that I can wear, and the Eastern that I can wear too.
Thunyatorn Cheng Ng runway looks.
BS: Yeah, now that we have the option to wear both of them, as a more global world, everyone should start wearing things from all over.
BS: Oh I was just saying that as a global world, yeah, we have all those options.
PLL: Yeah that’s another thing, I was gonna tell you, because you are more like a fashion magazine, I think that the designers nowadays, in the Western countries, they should really be aware of the Eastern impact. They could make a hit, if they can do some cross-cultural things very well. You may see, there are a lot of like big brands, companies like LV, H&M, they are now starting to sell in all countries, in China, they are trying to add little things as an Eastern touch, but it’s gotta be more. This is just the beginning. The Eastern impact is going be big in the next ten, twenty years. So, whoever is gonna catch this tide will be on the top of the world, whoever is gonna do it first is gonna be a pioneer, that’s what I think too. They should consider it, they will make themselves very outstanding if they do some Eastern part, but the key is how to make the harmony, how to make it very organically. You cannot be too Eastern or too Western, you have to do the right combination, mix them together and make it beautiful.
BS: What is Moon Goddess about? When can people see the Broadway show and the film?
PLL: Oh, Moon Goddess? Moon Goddess is about the first love story in the Chinese mythology, the moon goddess’s name is Chang’e. Chang’e is the most beautiful woman in Chinese history, and Chang’e is also the moon goddess. This is also the story of the Moon Festival. A lot of people know about the Moon Festival, but they don’t know what the story is, and they also know how to eat moon cakes, but people say “Hey, where do the moon cakes come from?” The Chinese moon goddess is the like the one in Greek culture, they have a moon goddess too. The story is similar, but it’s different. Moon Goddess is about her life story with the hero Yi. There were supposed to be ten suns before, and the hero shoots nine suns and now there’s only one sun left, so in the Chinese mythology it’s a new miracle, and it’s a new door for the Western people to know and learn about Chinese culture. If you see, for any culture, when you bring the culture to an international level, you always start with mythology: the Greek, the Middle Eastern, the Indian, all the people. If you need to open the door, you have to open the door to the rest of the world with mythology. So that is why I wrote mythology. I wrote five mythology books already, that I want to release one by one. So, now I’m working on Moon Goddess. I have several people — professional, musical, Broadway producers, theater producers, movie producers – I’m associating with them, and they’re trying to fund Moon Goddess, and it will be a joint venture from them, from China and the United States. And hopefully this musical movie is going to be out very soon. Maybe we should make it animation. I’m still working together with my professional team to make a decision, we’re doing research and making decisions on stuff like the different steps: animation, then the musical movie, and then the Broadway show. But this is a new thing. China has the longest history, five thousand years, and they created a mass of information for the Eastern cultures. So most of Eastern, Asia-Pacific culture is based on the Chinese culture. So can you imagine if you guys never even knew about China? There’s a lot of information, a lot of potential.
Princess Long Long at Cannes.
BS: And, even now, Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group in the world, so yeah, we should know. Tell me about your foundation. What does it do, and how can people find out more?
PLL: My family fund organization is working together with the UN too. We majorly help and support all the sustainable development goals, which are seventeen goals for the United Nations. We are helping, doing anything we can, to help them and support the global goals. I mainly work on cultural diplomacy, world peace, culture and the arts, the creative economy, but then we have different partners. My family, my cousins, they are working on education, cultural exchange, exchange students, and we’re working on some technology projects too. My other partner is handling that.
Princess Long Long at New Jersey Fashion Week.
BS: How has getting an MBA at Maastricht University helped you later on?
PLL: That was when I was young. My father told me to do that, and at the time I was like, No, I don’t want to do it, but now I look back and it was the best thing. It helps with everything, knowing how to manage my business and my brand.
Princess Long Long at the Crown Prince of Italy’s masquerade ball.
BS: You are descended from the Yanqi kingdom. What is the legacy of Yanqi today?
PLL: Yeah, I am a direct descendant of Yanqi, it is a little country on the Silk Road, but it was conquered two times, one time was in the Tang Dynasty and another time was in the Qing Dynasty. So, I’m part of a direct line from the country, the Dragon Family, my family, are direct descendants from the Yanqi country. Yanqi, it’s very interesting, they are people who are very, very famous in culture and arts, very spiritual people. You know, Yanqi is the same pronunciation as the red, what do you call that, the red powder you put on your cheeks?
BS: Oh, blush?
PLL: Blush! Yes, blush in Chinese is called yanqi, so the Yanqi country name is taking over by yanqi, because we created it. We created blush a long time ago, because all the women in that country, they liked to make themselves very beautiful, and they made blush. They made blush, and then in turn it became a commodity, going over into China, down the Silk Road, other places, and the Chinese didn’t know what it was, so they called it yanqi. In Chinese they call it yanqi, the same pronunciation as the country. These people are also very good in entertainment, they sing, they dance, they are composers, they are very spiritual. We are also the ones who transferred Buddhism from India to China, and we also brought the dragon image to India. You know my name means dragon, Long means Dragon, so we created the dragon image, and then we brought it. I’m not sure when we created the image, but we are the ones who brought the dragon image to North India. As for the Yanqi legacy of today, Yanqi became part of Xinjiang Province. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s beside the lake, it’s called Bosten Lake. There’s nothing really going on over there. We call it a zone, a developing zone. But they still keep the name Yanqi. As you know they have several names, the Western people called it different names.
BS: Yeah, like Karasahr…
PLL: Yeah. So we were also the ones, you know, the whole country is Buddhist, right? So we were the ones, I just said, who transferred the Buddhist religion from India to China, so we were all Buddhists. But later on, that changed. Part of the people were from different religions, like Islam, so, but my family is Buddhist.
BS: What advice would you give to people aspiring to a career in a creative profession?
Wow, that’s hard to say. I cannot say I’m at a level to give advice, I mean, lots of people do better than me, but I think for my career, I would like to address one thing: communication skills. It is very important for you, in becoming successful, to have great communication skills. So I trained myself in that way and, you see there are a lot of people who are talented, and I’m sure, of course I’m not the most talented. I might be talented, yes, but some people, what I’ve found, especially for the artists, I found they’re not very good at talking with people, they’re never good at showing their skills, and they feel shy, they’re very sensitive, the most sensitive people. From what I see, the reason why they’re sensitive is because they’re talented, and they, they are….Artists tend to be more sensitive than other people, because they know what is going on, and they always want to be the best, and what if sometimes they’re not the best? It does make them very shy, it makes them feel very bad. So you need to keep a goal, you need to treat yourself like…It’s a psychology thing, at The Juilliard School I took a peak performance class. The women’s class, they help you to understand, before you perform, to train you. I don’t know if you know about Alexander technology, but basically, before you go to perform, they train you how to think that other people all — it’s all psychology — that they’re all there supporting you, and they all worship you, and they have no problems at all with you, and think you’re the best. So you have to practice that all the time, so you don’t get stage fright. So that’s the key. Also, as an artist, you need to go outside to develop your opportunities, and then you have to know how to run your business. As I told you, you need to, a lot of artists, they tend to avoid all these things. They hate to be a business.
BS: Yeah, they think it’s two opposite things. You know, creativity and business.
PLL: No, unfortunately if you want to, if you really want to become successful, you know, you need to do everything. Especially the business parts, you have to know how to build agreements, even though you have agents, but most agents sometimes take advantage of you. So you need to know how to protect yourself. The biggest problem for artists is that they don’t know how to protect themselves. And then that’s the next thing I’m going to do, is to create a foundation with my auntie together. I want to have a foundation to protect the artists. Because I see all the sadness, I feel bad that they get taken advantage of. I myself have been taken advantage of by people too, so I can’t imagine how many artists get taken advantage of, it’s a sad thing. It’s very sad, however, this is a reality, because most of the people we hear about, and I’m not saying there aren’t good people, but most only care about money. Some of these people are sincere, they take the artist into consideration, but still, 80 percent of people don’t, so you need to know, you have to be strong, to learn how to protect yourself. You know what I mean? Our society cannot be completely successful, because the artist is not at the top. The ideal society is one where you have beautiful people cultivating the beautiful parts, and they are closest to the gods, they cannot be brutalized. They are not supposed to be brutalized.
Princess Long Long performing at the Kaufman Music Center.