Tag Archives: Tiger Mom

Grace Lin: A Great Author/Illustrator Asian American Role Model Who Just Gets Better All The Time


Grace Lin Award winning author illustrator Geisel Award Newbery Honor recipient JadeLuckClub best Asian American authors writersChildren’s illustrator and author Grace Lin luckily was seemingly raised by enlightened first generation Taiwanese-American parents rather than that sad story of Tiger Mom.

At least, that is what I think after reading her Pacy series, now with its latest installment as it’s a semi-autobiographical series.

At a young age, Grace (and Pacy) knew that she wanted to write and illustrate children’s books (The Year of the Dog). She went on to polish her social skills after her best friend — the only other Asian American girl in her class — moved away. She spent the year making new friends (The Year of the Rat).

In Dumplings Days, her latest book in this series, Pacy and her family spend their summer visiting the relatives in Taiwan. Another factoid emerges: Grace was a good student in general but math was not her best subject. AND …  her parents didn’t totally flip out. Is this fact or fiction? I suspect her parents, in fact, did not flip out.

In real life, perhaps Grace wasn’t the top student in math. And so what if she’s not the top student in math at school?! She’s a shining example that this is not the end of the world! Instead, she focused on her true passion, writing and illustrating children’s books that have a pulse on Asian American culture.

The result of her efforts? Many prestigious awards. She won the Newbury Honor forWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon.  (read it, it’s fabulous. I have never met anyone who didn’t rave about  it!) She also won the Geisel Award for her wonderful easy reader Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. (My son and I love this book so much! It always makes us laugh!)

Still, she went to arguably the best art school in the country after high school, Rhode Island School of Design. In her early career, she illustrated picture books more than writing books and worked closely with the real life version of Melanie who landed a job in publishing.

There are many reasons why I think she’s a great role model for Asian Americans, but her prestigious awards aside, I think it’s because of her personality. I hear repeatedly — we both live near Boston — what a nice person she is.

An author’s personality permeates all her books and Grace Lin is clearly a person who brings people together as the glue that helps builds a community. You can see this in her books from The Ugly Vegetables to Where The Mountain Meets the Moon.

The accolades are coming in now after decades of her hard work at her dual craft. But I have a feeling that her family was there behind her supporting her throughout this journey. Her parents have done a commendable job in letting her develop her passions, dreams, and her own identity. May we all do the same for our children!

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Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success

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“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”

I’ve been thinking about failure since reading this excellent post on Embrace Failure on my favorite children’s literature blog, From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. As an entrepreneur, I embrace failure. It is the surest and quickest path to success. Why? It’s life’s best teacher. You never forget a failure. You learn from it, deeply and profoundly as in:  it keeps you up late a night, pondering, questioning, wondering. It provides options in the form of a nicely forking road. Do you get back in the saddle and try again, all the wiser? Or do you veer left, shimmy right, or duck down below? Failure makes you creative. If you are going to ram your head against the wall, the next time you will choose a nicely padded one.

“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.”

Not everyone agrees of course. Most pointedly, failure is not an option in Tiger Parenting. “The Chinese parenting approach is weakest when it comes to failure; it just doesn’t tolerate that possibility. The Chinese model turns on achieving success. That’s how the virtuous circle of confidence, hard work, and more success is generated.” Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Suffice it to say that I don’t buy the Tiger Parenting Model and I don’t buy the idea of failure not being an option. If you eliminate options that can lead to failure, you have very few options left. Worse, your few choices become the path of least resistance.

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

Don’t believe me? Look at Amy Chua’s career. “I went to law school, mainly because I didn’t want to go to medical school.” “After graduating [from law school], I went to a Wall Street law firm because it was the path of least resistance.” “…I decided to write an epic novel. Unfortunately, I had no talent for writing…What’s more, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Jung Chang all best me to it….At first, I was bitter and resentful, but then I got over it.” In fact, by (sort of) admitting her failings, her book became an international best seller. But in the form of her book, this is the most risk she’s taken in her life.

“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

I think what is daunting about failure is the publicity around it. Knowing that people will know that you’ve failed. That they’ll whisper behind your back about what an epic failure you are. Even laugh. But here’s the trick. If you own your failure, nothing anyone can say will bother you. That’s the secret. It’s simple really.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

Of course, you will own the knowledge that comes from failure. This knowledge is hard fought and very valuable. Use each failure to build, brick by brick, your success in whatever form that may be. Because success is never one big idea, or one very talented person, or someone who is “lucky, at the right time and right place.” No. Emphatically no!  It’s like most things: lots of little things added up together such that the sum is greater than the parts. Only the brave can try this. Are you that courageous?

“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”

Know a family with kids? Give them a FamZoo gift subscription and help the parents teach their kids good money habits.


The HumbleBrag Olympics: Amy Chua, Tiger Mom Wins Gold Medal

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Subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.

Uggggh just ate about fifteen piece of chocolate gotta learn to control myself when flying first class or they’ll cancel my modelling contract LOL :p #humblebrag

I read about the HumbleBrag for the first time on Shuflies and not only did it ring true, but it’s just so funny: “Humblebrags can be any length. Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ was one very long humblebrag. The memoir’s subtitle should have a few words appended: “This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old… but my kids still turned out better than yours anyway.”

So I just wanted to cull out the Top 10 HumbleBrags in The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

p.s. The dirty little secret of why Amy Chua’s daughter Sophia got into Harvard and Yale: Legacy at Harvard for both parents, non-Asian at both schools because she’s half Caucasian, and special consideration at Yale for both parents being on the faculty. I wonder if she will tell us how much she donated to Harvard…

10.  “…when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. At hour at most. For a Chinese Mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.”

9. “I don’t believe in astrology — and I think people who do have serious problems … I was born in the Year of the Tiger. I don’t want to boast or anything, but Tiger people are noble, fearless, powerful, authoritative, and magnetic. They are also supposed to be lucky. Beethoven and Sun Yat-Sen were both Tigers.”

8. “Classical music was the opposite of decline, the opposite of laziness, vulgarity, and spoiledness. It was a way for my children to achieve something I hadn’t. But it was also a tie-in to the high cultural tradition of my ancient ancestors.”

7. “Thank goodness I’m a lucky person, because all my life I’ve made important decisions for the wrong reasons … I did not get asked back to meet the full Yale Law faculty which meant I’d flunked the lunch. In other words, I’d been rejected by Jed’s colleagues. This was not ideal — and it made socializing a little tricky.”

6. “That’s when I decided to write an epic novel. Unfortunately, I had no talent for novel writing.. What’s more, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Jung Chang all beat me to it with their books… At first, I was bitter and resentful, but then I got over it and came up with a new idea.”

5. “I love being able to count on Sophia. She has wells of inner strength. Even more than me, she can take anything: exclusion, excoriation, humiliation, loneliness.”

4. ” As he [Professor Wei-Yi Yang] helped Sophia bring the piece to life, adding layer upon layer of nuance, all I could think was, This man is a genius. I am a barbarian. Prokofiev is a genius. I am a cretin… Going to lessons with Wei-Yi became my favorite thing; I looked forward to it all week. At every session I would religiously take notes, the scales falling from my eyes. Occasionally, I felt out of my league.”

3. “One of my students, named Ronan, found some practice notes I’d left for Lulu…Lying around were dozens of instruction sheets, some typed, some handwritten, that I’d forgotten to hide. “I can’t believe it. These are so — weird.” “I don’t they were weird. But you can judge for yourself…By the way, in the second one, the “m,” means “measure” – so yes, I’m giving measure-by-measure instructions.”

2. “A tiny part of me regrets that I didn’t marry another Chinese person and worries that I am letting down four thousand years of civilization.”

1. “Had I perhaps just chosen the wrong activity for Lulu? Tennis is very respectable — it wasn’t like bowling. Michael Chang has played tennis… She recently made the high school varsity team, the only middle school kid to do so… I secretly plant ideas in her tennis coach’s head, texting her with questions and practice strategies, then deleting the text messages so Lulu won’t see them. Sometimes, when Lulu’s least expecting it — at breakfast or when I’m saying goodnight — I’ll suddenly yell out, ‘More rotation on the swing volley!’ or ‘Don’t move your right foot with your kick serve!’ And Lulu will plug her ears, and we’ll fight, but I’ll have gotten my message out, and I know she knows I’m right.”

Ok, some of the quotes are straight brags. What is your favorite humblebrag?


Why You Shouldn’t Identify as Asian When Applying to College UPDATED

MItchell Chang UCLA professor JadeLuckClub Why you shouldn't identify race when applying to college if Asian

 In October 2006, Inside Higher Ed reported that at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, admissions officers and high school counselors readily admitted that bias against Asian Americans continues to be a real problem — so much so that some even recommended that Asian Americans should not identify their race in their applications.

I am posting a series of articles as I discover them, though they are not all new, regarding the politics of Asian Americans applying to elite private colleges. It seems to me that this is very similar to what happened to Jews 60 years ago where “ceilings” were placed. These days, Jews make up approximately 30% of Ivy League students, though religious affiliation isn’t tracked or reported in terms of college admits. Think about that! The Jewish population in America is believed to be 1.7% according to Wikipedia.

This puts a new spin on whether or not Asians should have a ceiling; that we are “over-represented” in terms of number of Asians in the U.S. versus at the Ivy League. It’s just that you can’t readily identify who is Jewish either by looking at them, or even by examining their surnames, particularly for Interfaith families.

Professor Chang, at UCLA, has an interesting article that comments on the negative impact of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom book has on perpetuating the stereotype of Asian Americans as over achieving because of overbearing parents. He has an interesting quote which I have bolded at the top of this post that Admissions Officers and High School Counselors readily admit to an Anti-Asian bias to the point that some, like me, recommend against identifying race in their college applications.

The more I read about this, the more I realize that nothing will happen if there isn’t pressure for change. Hence, I am posting and encourage readers to make up their own minds. Is this racism? What do you think?

If you want to read all the posts on Don’t ID as Asian When Applying to College, click here.

p.s. For parents who think that Amy Chua’s book can be used as a parenting manual to get their kids into Harvard and Yale like her oldest, Sophia, realize this: her daughter is a double legacy as Harvard as both her parents went there. Her mother went to Harvard for both undergraduate and law school. Her father for law school. Sophia also doesn’t have to put herself into the most competitive group when applying to college. Since her father is Jewish, she can check either the “Mixed Race” OR the “Caucasian” box which (if you read all the articles on the bias against Asian Americans at elite private colleges) alone greatly  improves her chances for admittance. Add in bonus points for being a legacy which often makes the difference between acceptance and rejection.

As for Yale, children of employees at private colleges get special consideration that may increase their odds even more than a legacy. Sometimes the college has a set policy. For example, Boston College, Tufts College and University of Southern California are not only are more lenient on applicants who are children of employees, but any employee that has worked at the college for five years also gets a free ride for their child. At Boston College which is in the town I live in, this is so enticing on both accounts that parents will give up their own businesses to time a job at Boston College. Why not?! This makes great financial sense if you have many children. Grad school is also included! This can be up to $1 million dollars in savings for four children!

At other schools, the advantage for children of employees may be more tacit. When the pool of applicants for say Harvard is universally strong, there isn’t much difference between someone who gets accepted or rejected. Being a legacy can be the tiebreaker. Or knowing someone in the Admissions department which is easier to pull off if you work at that university.

My point is that Amy Chua has widely publicized where her daughter was admitted, not where she was rejected. Admission into Brown University or Stanford, for example, for Sophia would be a better indicator that Tiger Mom parenting is a sure thing into the Ivy League simply because she doesn’t have a “home field” advantage there.


1/27/11 UCLA TodayTiger mom adds to stereotype that burdens Asian American students
Mitchell J. Chang is a professor of education and Asian American studies.
His op-ed appeared originally in the Sacramento Bee’s Jan. 26, 2011 edition.

The Wall Street Journal published an essay this month by Yale University law professor Amy Chua titled, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” bringing national attention to the methods by which Asian American parents raise high-achieving children. Within a week, the essay received more than 6,500 comments on the newspaper’s website, catapulting her previously unnoticed book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” up the New York Times‘ list of best-sellers. Chua’s essay is considered controversial largely because it stresses a rigid parenting style based on tough love — the “Tiger Mother” — that goes against what she considers more typical “Western” styles that emphasize self-esteem and self-discovery. Parenting strategies aside, what has been overlooked is how this essay unintentionally undermines Asian American college applicants by perpetuating an erroneous stereotype.

High-achieving Asian Americans have been struggling against an “Asian tax” in college as well as graduate school admissions for over three decades.

In the late ’80s, the federal government investigated charges that Asian American college applicants faced a higher admissions bar than other groups. They concluded in 1990 that Harvard admitted Asian American applicants at a lower rate than white students despite the fact that Asian American applicants had slightly stronger test scores and grades.

The federal government also inspected other elite universities, including some UC campuses where Asian American enrollment dropped despite increased numbers of highly qualified applicants. Federal investigators found that admissions staff at these elite universities had stereotyped Asian American applicants in characterizing them as quiet, shy and not “well rounded.”

In October 2006, Inside Higher Ed reported that at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, admissions officers and high school counselors readily admitted that bias against Asian Americans continues to be a real problem — so much so that some even recommended that Asian Americans should not identify their race in their applications. Admissions officers reportedly complained on a regular basis that they didn’t “want another boring Asian.”

Meeting participants also reacted to a November 2005 Wall Street Journal article, which reported that white families were leaving top public schools as districts became “too Asian,” apparently referring to a shift in the emphasis of after-school programs away from a sports focus and toward an academic one.

Now comes Chua’s characterization of the “Tiger Mother,” adding to what it means to be “too Asian.” This image contributes to an already problematic stereotype by suggesting not only that most Asian  Americans are high-achieving, but also that their achievements are due to overbearing parents.

Her characterization can further tax Asian American college applicants by reducing the chances that they will be viewed as self-starters, risk-takers and independent thinkers — attributes that are often favored by admissions officers but rarely associated with Asian American applicants. If the “Tiger Mother” image leaves a lasting impression and is applied broadly beyond Chua’s own experiences, this characterization can advance a one-dimensional view of Asian Americans that minimizes their achievements and overlooks their diversity.

With any luck, those involved with admissions in higher education fully recognize the shortcomings of Chua’s essay and understand that the story of high achievement for Asian Americans is as varied as the number of college applicants. If they don’t and the “Asian tax” rises instead, we will hopefully be reading about the determination of Asian American parents to eliminate discriminatory admissions practices, rather than essays about an obsession with raising hyper-achieving kids. Ideally, the public will be just as concerned about the former as they have been with the latter.


Ultimate Cage Fight: Panda Dad Alan Paul Faces off Against Tiger Mom Amy Chua

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It’s sheer narcissism to believe that your child’s every success and failure is a reflection of your worth. Get over yourself.

Panda Dad

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What is the alternate to the Tiger Mom? Panda Dad offers his perspective. Amen to Panda Dad; you are preaching to the choir!!

“During our first weeks in Beijing, we attended a talent show at our children’s British school and watched Chinese students ascend the stage and play Chopin etudes and Beethoven symphonies, while their Western counterparts ambled up and proudly played the ABCs under their flapping arms. It was enough to make anyone pause and ponder the way we are raising our kids.

But time in China also taught me that while some here view a Chinese education as the gold standard, many there are questioning the system, noting that it stifles creativity and innovation, two things the nation sorely needs. Further, having seen it in action, I have a strong aversion to hard-driving “Tiger” parenting, certain that is not a superior method if your goals are my goals: to raise independent, competent, confident adults.

Living in a Beijing housing compound, I watched Western and African kids running through the streets in roving packs of fun-seekers while their Chinese friends looked dolefully out the window in the midst of long hours spent practicing violin, piano or character-writing. When they were done, they unwound by picking up video game consoles. It looked like a sad, lonesome way to grow up and nothing I would ever prescribe to my children. And of course it’s not the only style of Chinese parenting.  I saw plenty of kids smashing these same stereotypes.

It also seems insane to cast an eye around the upper-middle-class American milieu Ms. Chua is discussing and conclude that the problem is that our child-rearing is too laid back.  The shallowness of this concept will be obvious to anyone who has ever stalked a suburban soccer sideline or listened to New York parents prep their 18-month-old for nursery school interviews. God help us all if Ms. Chua’s books convinces these same people that they simply have not been trying hard enough.”

Alan Paul is the author of “Big in China, My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing” (Harper). It is based on his award-winning WSJ.com column The Expat Life. Read an excerpt, here.

Smart Parenting, Smarter Children, the parenting book Alan Paul recommends.

p.s. He gets a strong reaction to his perspective and rebuts here.

p.p.s. Here’s my post on Tiger Mom.

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Tiger Mom Amy Chua: Is She in a Race to Nowhere? (or I.Q. without Emotional Intelligence = Tweaky)

Amy Chua Tiger Mom parenting failure emotional intelligence IQ I.Q. JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom http://JadeLuckClub.com Celebrating Asian American Creativity Education MattersI had posted on my parenting blog, PragmaticMom: Education Matters, about A Race to Nowhere and on my reaction to Amy Chua/TigerMom/Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, when I realized that these two hot buttons are actually very similar. Amy Chua’s extreme parenting style, a.k.a. Tiger Mom, is a result of her own lack of emotional intelligence and self actualization; deficiencies that are products of a parenting style that stresses obedience, perfection and hard work without being able to make choices, learn from mistakes, or figure out who you are vis á vis relationships with friends. But what is perplexing and disturbing to me is that she would want to replicate this parenting style for her own children. I mean, really, is there not an iota of rebellion in her?! That is strange, right?!

When I discussed Tiger Mom parenting with my mom friends including Capability:Mom, we all were shocked that Amy Chua would NOT realize she’d get a strong and negative reaction to her book (i.e. death threats). It seems as if she didn’t get any feedback from her mom friends to soften the harsh edges of her messages. That is also strange to me and would indicate that maybe she doesn’t have a Mom Friend network to bounce her ideas off of. Her inability to communicate the nuances of her message (i.e. I am NOT a psycho mom) is very telling about her own emotional intelligence. There is book smart and people smart. She’s just book smart.

In the excerpt below, I was also surprised to find that, in fact, a law career does not fill her heart with joy and that she seems to have gone on this career path for reasons that do not include passion, interest and self-fulfillment. And yet, she would dictate to her own children the pursuits they were to devote their childhood to, at least until one of her children had the backbone to rebel against her. The gene for rebellion appears to be recessive in her family DNA.

I guess my takeaway is to encourage self actualization. Yes, it’s true that Asian parents all want their children to be “resumé” impressive, but the path to career fulfillment is through self actualization, a process that requires trial and error, with emphasis on the error. But it is well worth it.

They say, after all, “if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.” Amy Chua has been unhappily slogging since she was born. And that is a Race to Nowhere.


From New York Magazine

“If something seems unfair at school, just prove yourself by working twice as hard and being twice as good.”

In the book, Chua portrays her distaste for corporate law, which she practiced before going into academe. “My entire three years at the firm, I always felt like I was playacting, ridiculous in my suit,” she writes. This malaise extended even earlier, to her time as a student. “I didn’t care about the rights of criminals the way others did, and I froze whenever a professor called on me. I also wasn’t naturally skeptical and questioning; I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it.”

At the AASA gathering at Yale, Chua made the connection between her upbringing and her adult dissatisfaction. “My parents didn’t sit around talking about politics and philosophy at the dinner table,” she told the students. Even after she had escaped from corporate law and made it onto a law faculty, “I was kind of lost. I just didn’t feel the passion.” Eventually, she made a name for herself as the author of popular books about foreign policy and became an award-winning teacher. But it’s plain that she was no better prepared for legal scholarship than she had been for corporate law. “It took me a long, long time,” she said. “And I went through lots and lots of rejection.” She recalled her extended search for an academic post, in which she was “just not able to do a good interview, just not able to present myself well.”

In other words, Battle Hymn provides all the material needed to refute the very cultural polemic for which it was made to stand. Chua’s Chinese education had gotten her through an elite schooling, but it left her unprepared for the real world. She does not hide any of this. She had set out, she explained, to write a memoir that was “defiantly self-incriminating”—and the result was a messy jumble of conflicting impulses, part provocation, part self-critique. Western readers rode roughshod over this paradox and made of Chua a kind of Asian minstrel figure. But more than anything else, Battle Hymn is a very American project—one no traditional Chinese person would think to undertake. “Even if you hate the book,” Chua pointed out, “the one thing it is not is meek.”

“The loudest duck gets shot” is a Chinese proverb. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a Japanese one. Its Western correlative: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Chua had told her story and been hammered down. Yet here she was, fresh from her hammering, completely unbowed.

There is something salutary in that proud defiance. And though the debate she sparked about Asian-American life has been of questionable value, we will need more people with the same kind of defiance, willing to push themselves into the spotlight and to make some noise, to beat people up, to seduce women, to make mistakes, to become entrepreneurs, to stop doggedly pursuing official paper emblems attesting to their worthiness, to stop thinking those scraps of paper will secure anyone’s happiness, and to dare to be interesting.

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Vera Wang: Raised by a Tiger Mom but Doing It Her Way…

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Vera Wang was interviewed in Harper’s Bazaar recently and she revealed her Asian American childhood as never before. I had read about her in the past and knew that her mom hung out with Yves Saint Laurant and that she was a champion figure skater. I sorta knew that her father was a manufacturing mogul. And that An Wang, MIT entrepreneur of Wang Computers, is also a relative. But I didn’t realize that her mother was one of the original Tiger Moms.

One day I’d love to interview her for this blog (one can dream!) but for now, I have pulled some interesting quotes from the article about her childhood and how she became a designer. In a sense, is she not the definition of Asian creative success including being raised by a Tiger Mom? Still she managed to find her own way while not losing sight of who she is: down-to-earth, hardworking, disciplined and above all, a creative genius. I think she’s a great role model. How about you?

‘She is no stranger to impressive surroundings. She grew up the privileged daughter of a Chinese-born business tycoon and an elegant, worldly mother who regularly shopped the couture shows in Paris. “My mother was extremely controlled, sort of flawless. And I always tend to be a bit more hippie,” she says. “She was a Tiger Mother. … But she really tried to encourage me to be who I was.” Wang tries to be more hands-off with her own daughters, Josephine, 17, and Cecilia, 20. “I don’t live through my kids. But I do know what will happen in life, and I just want them well prepared.” Neither shows signs of wanting to follow in their mother’s footsteps, which is fine with her. “I’m sure they remember me as always exhausted.”

Wang has been rising at dawn and working around the clock since age eight, when she famously took up figure skating. While at college at Sarah Lawrence, her parents thought she would be a champion skater. “I was trying to manage school and training for the Olympics and ended up not doing well at either. That was a big lesson in my life,” she sighs. “My mother expected both.”

After graduating, Wang dedicated herself entirely to working her way up the fashion food chain. “It’s a calling. Like being a musician. I mean, the hours of practice, the loneliness, the dedication. It was a very obsessive job for me,” she explains. “My father didn’t get it,” she continues, remembering a time she had to turn down dinner with him even though he had flown into Paris just to see her while she was shooting with Arthur Elgort. “I’m in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, and I had a military jacket on with pins, tape, and clamps. I looked like a terrorist or something, and my father said, ‘Can’t you just comb your hair and put a dress on and come to dinner with me?’ I said no. And he said, ‘I don’t know why you want to do this,’ and I said, ‘I do.'”

In fact, it was her own wedding that launched her bridal brand. In 1989, Wang was working as a design director at Ralph Lauren. Frustrated with racks of the requisite meringues and sugary confections at shops everywhere, she wanted a modern antidote. So she hired a dressmaker to achieve her own design–a simple gown of white sequins. The next year, with funding from her father, she launched her eponymous label to fill the niche for brides seeking similarly chic looks. “I saw it as a foundation for a business I could make a difference in and as something that could lead to other businesses,” she says.

Wang never got a “vote of approval or a ‘hurrah for you’ or any of that” from her beloved father, who died in 2006 on the morning of her Spring 2007 show. It might be why she never allows herself to rest on her laurels. “If I were to say at any point that I feel really con?dent or really in control, that would be a mistake. Because I don’t,” she says. “I always see where I didn’t do things the right way. I only see the heavy lifting. That’s a bit of my wisdom, if you want to call it that. … I think what it really is, is that I have an artistic soul. And I didn’t know how to live without indulging that.”‘