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 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, where 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 (ended in 1913). 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: 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. I recently became the World Peace Ambassador of the World Peace and Diplomacy Organization, then I also became the ambassador of a Culture and Diversity Event at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, the Chinese ambassador for diversity and cultural arts. And I’m contributing as the ambassador for the US Women’s Council for Humanitarian Culture. So with all this work, naturally now I’m becoming an honorary Rotary member. The president, Jasmine, told everyone what 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. I also hope I can devote myself to using more time and opportunities to 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 very honored and 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; our acting as one world, with a cultural diversity that can be shared with and embraced by all nations, is my one focus. As you know, mankind has the mind, which is what made war. If you work on the mind, at the spiritual level, then there will be less war and terrorism, and less manipulation, and things like the 9/11 tragedy will not happen. That’s why I’m working with the UN and supporting the UN record on the creative economy and cultural diplomacy. What the creative economy means is that, on the spiritual and cultural levels, we believe that if you are a creative artist, you can create beautiful things and make the world a lot more beautiful. This will make people understand one another much more, and once this happens, there will be far fewer barriers, much less misunderstanding and much less fighting. That promotes the economy, that’s a Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations. 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, performing, and then later on I worked with several organizations, as well as 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 right, and the UN will 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, 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. That’s what they do, music is 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 didn’t feel happy doing that, and I believe that people should always do things that make them happy. 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. We went to see a Broadway show in Beijing, Chicago, and we watched that show together. She is a good friend of mine. We used to go to karaoke, which is very popular in China. When we performed, my girlfriends would go crazy for my voice, after they heard my voice, they would say Ohh. So after Chicago, my girlfriend told me, “Long, I’ve got to tell you one thing before you go to the United States”. She said, “After seeing this show, Chicago, you are just one of them, you are absolutely one of them.” She said, “I know you, because I know you from old times, and if I don’t see you on stage singing and performing like them before I die, I’m not gonna close my eyes, because I’m hoping.” That moved my heart. I thought, Wow, my friend really thinks this, 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 about a year traveling to eight cities, to live in each one for a little while and see which I liked best. Then, around 2007, I made my decision and said, Okay, I have to pursue my dream, and go to music school to train my voice. I’m not gonna give it up. I did research and spent a year-and-a-half in junior school training with the professors for the auditions. So that’s it, before I went over there I did a lot of preparation, almost two years, it was a big challenge for me. But I did it, it’s just that simple, I said If she wants me to be on stage like that, then I should start with a professional music school, so 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. 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! I thought, I’m gonna go over there, see the red carpet and the stars, but I never thought I myself was going to be a star over there. It was so exciting! They picked me up, a Hollywood production company, they wanted a Chinese singer because they were promoting a diversity and inclusion event. I believe I met with the theme. I did cross-cultural pieces. I revised some famous songs, like “La Vie en Rose”, “Shanghai Night”, and a French opera piece, Roméo et Juliette, but I did them in a cross-cultural way. I didn’t want to do it in the same classic way it has been done before, so I mixed different styles, cultures, and languages. 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. 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 Inclusivity 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 many different languages. But that’s standard training for all the voice classes at university. You have to be able to carry at least good dictions of different languages. I wore three different costumes. The first one, for Roméo et Juliette, I created an image of white, so my promotion video in the background was all white, everything was related to that white princess dress. That’s the image that I created, the “Eastern Dragon Princess”. This image won first prize at the Italian Royal Carnival fashion presentation in 2016. I also performed in this one at the World Fashion Parade. It has wings because I’m trying to give a message to the 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 spirituality between the East and the West. This dragon princess is pure, she’s classic, she’s elegant, and she is also hoping for peace, because the wings mean peace and prosperity. That was the first one I wore, and the second one, when I sang “Shanghai Night”, was a blue dress, like 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 to make 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 things, 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 a lot of her designs when I perform, and when I give presentations like this, like a speech, or go to a nightclub or cocktail party. The third look was for “La Vie en Rose”, I was in 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! 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 want to do that, because now I have a team in Shanghai that would like to do branding for me and 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. I have too many things going on right now — I am a writer, I am a singer — so when I’m young I will focus on performing arts, and then later on, my plan is to do all my branding, the commercial lines. 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 as well, I would easily help them reach the Chinese market.
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, some other Chinese too. I also like a Thai woman, Thunyatorn Cheng Ng. She’s very talented, so I work 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 hair but a Western body, so I can work with both sides, I can wear Western and Eastern.
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 the world.
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, should really be aware of the Eastern impact. They can make a hit if they can do some cross-cultural things very well. You may see a lot of big brands, like Louis Vuitton and H&M, starting to sell in all countries, and 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 to be big in the next ten, twenty years. So whoever catches this tide will be on the top of the world, whoever does it first is gonna be a pioneer, that’s what I think too. They should consider it, they will make themselves outstanding if they do some Eastern part, but the key is how to achieve the harmony, how to make it organic. 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, which I wrote based on the Chinese fairy tale, 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. This is also the story of the Moon Festival. A lot of people know about the Moon Festival, but they don’t know the story behind it. They also know how to eat moon cakes, but they say “Hey, where do the moon cakes come from?” The Chinese moon goddess is the like the one in Greek culture, Seléne; the story is similar, but it’s different. Moon Goddess is about her life story with her husband, the hero Yi. There were supposed to be ten suns before, and the hero shoots nine suns and now there is only one left, so in the Chinese mythology it’s a new miracle, and it’s a new door for Western people to learn about Chinese culture. For any culture, when you bring the culture to an international level, you should 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. That is why I wrote mythology. I have written five mythology books already, that I want to release one by one. I am working with several people — music professionals, Broadway and theater producers, movie producers – to fund Moon Goddess, and it will be a joint venture between China and the United States. Hopefully this musical movie is going to be out very soon. Maybe we should make it animation. I’m still working with my professional team to make a decision, we’re doing research and making decisions on 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 the Eastern, Asia-Pacific cultures are 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 most populous 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 with the UN too. We help and support all of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. We are helping, doing anything we can, to support the global goals. I mainly work on cultural diplomacy, world peace, culture and the arts, and the creative economy, but then we have different partners. My family, my cousins, are working on education, cultural exchange, and 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.
Princess Long Long at the World Fashion Parade.
BS: You are descended from the Yanqi kingdom. What is the legacy of Yanqi today?
PLL: Yes, I am a direct descendant of Yanqi. It was the first country from the East on the Silk Road, but it was conquered twice, during the Tang Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty. The ruler of the country was the Dragon Family, “Long” in Chinese. Yanqi, it’s very interesting, they are people who are very, very famous in culture and the 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 with yanqi, because we created it. We created blush a long time ago, because all the women in that country liked to make themselves very beautiful. They made blush, and then in turn it became a commodity, going over into China and down the Silk Road to other places, and the Chinese didn’t know what it was, so they called 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 brought the dragon image to India. You know my name Long means dragon, so we created the dragon image. 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 Xinjiang Yanqi Economic Zone. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s beside the lake, Bosten Lake. We call it a developing zone. But they still kept the name Yanqi.
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. 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 what I’ve found is that some people, especially artists, are not very good at talking to people. They’re never good at showing their skills, and they feel shy, they’re very sensitive, the most sensitive people. 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. They help you to understand, before you perform, to train you. I don’t know if you know about Alexander Technique, 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. You have to practice that all the time, so you don’t get stage fright. That’s the key. Also, as an artist, you need to go outside your immediate network to develop your opportunities, and then you have to know how to run your business. A lot of artists tend to avoid all these things. They hate to do business.
BS: Yeah, they think creativity and business are two opposite things.
PLL: No, unfortunately, if you really want to become successful, you need to do everything. Especially the business parts, you have to know how to build agreements, even though you have agents, because most agents try to 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. 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 that, you have to be strong, to learn how to protect yourself. You know what I mean? Our society cannot be completely successful the way it is 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, New York City