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Monday, June 1, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Mina-Jacqueline Au, Lifestyle Expert

With the evolution of luxury and the tumultuous economic standings, Mina-Jacqueline Au has lent her creative and unique vision on setting a tone on living a life worth enjoying. She is a lifestyle expert, luxury & style maven, television personality and owner & founder of an enterprise of successful businesses.

Mina-Jacqueline is the youngest daughter of Kai T. Au, Asia's Father of Fitness whom founded the first chain of fitness centers and Olympic training facilities in Asia. As a child, Mina-Jacqueline has been socially cultured by the numerous events and entrepreneurial outings often hosted by her late father. Having spent many summers traveling abroad in different parts of Europe, Mina-Jacqueline also developed a deep affinity for, and love of, European culture, as well as a command of four languages, all attributes which would place her in the center of a rapidly-evolving international luxury market. She is also the founder and CEO of a luxury lifestyle retail, Bon-Luxe and a marketing firm, Luxe House. Bon-Luxe was founded on Valentine's Day of 2007 and is about Mina-Jacqueline's vision of defining luxury with no pretense. It has an impressive list of clientele, with celebrities and the elites including actor Patrick Dempsey, supermodel Maggie Rizer and New York City socialite Olivia Palmero. Bon-Luxe, though still in its second year of business, has wildly flourished and has been featured in People, Elle, Elegant Bride, Bridal Guide, New York Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, New York Times and more.

Mina-Jacqueline honed her business acumen when she worked as the buying director at Cornelia Fifth Avenue and as project manager at Marie-Chantal LLC where she assisted HRH Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece. Beginning Summer of 2008, 070 Luxury Magazine, a glossy magazine that distributes to the very affluent clientele on North Jersey's Gold Coast along with placements on private jets and local private schools, invited Mina-Jacqueline to head their editorial team as Editor-in-Chief in order to direct the magazine through her vision of a luxurious lifestyle.

Mina-Jacqueline has been described as a Luxury Lifestyle Connoisseur, Fashion & Style Expert and Lifestyle Expert by the media in both the United States and overseas. Her advice and trend forecasts are regularly featured in recognizable national media such as NBC iVillage, Spendora, Elite Travelers, People Style Watch, SheFinds, InStyle, Better Morning Show, CW11 Morning News, AM New York, Fashionable Life Radio, Chic TV, Cornelia House Publication, 070 Luxury Magazine, Sing Tao Daily, Bridal Guide and many more. Mina-Jacqueline's sometimes-glamorous lifestyle has also been an interest by both media in the US and overseas. National television film crews as well as international newspaper reporters have documented Mina-Jacqueline's day-to-day life where her activities and outings were recorded in reality-style and broadcasted as an inspiration to viewers.

Outside of her work, Mina-Jacqueline serves as board member on several creative committees of charitable organizations, including New York Landmarks Conservancy, City-Meals-On-Wheels, American Diabetes Associations and The American Red Cross. In summer of 2007, Mina-Jacqueline founded Daddy's Smile Funds, a charitable organization that donates to several designated community outreach and medical research charities. Later that year, she also founded an annual fund-raising event, Luxe Cause, which benefits Daddy's Smile along with animal welfare organizations. In her free time, Mina-Jacqueline loves traveling to exotic locales where there are sun and beach. She enjoys yoga, jet-skiing, cooking and spending time with her husband and puppy. Mina-Jacqueline resides in homes in New York, Hong Kong and in North Jersey as the main residence, with her husband, Herman and their Yorkshire Terrier, Charlie Hopper.

Whom You Know is pleased to present her as our Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Mina-Jacqueline Au for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What was it like growing up in a fitness environment designed by your father, Kai T. Au?

Mina-Jacqueline Au: I remember my father's clients were all celebrities and friends of his, some of which were royalties from Britain. Everything about them was very lavish - to entertain them, my dad would have yacht parties and lots of fancy-themed balls. It was so much fun for me, it was all about dressing up and getting ready with my mom and sisters. My dad had a restaurant at the jockey club booked for a party once and in came these body builders (we always had body builders around us as that was part of the fitness lifestyle), this one man played with me and even took me to see horses get ready for the track. Years later, I found out that man was Sylvester Stallone. Oddly, my dad kept this business life very separate from our family life. He never expected my sisters and I to be anywhere like the women we see him interact with - he never even forced us to do a lot of sports, as a matter of fact, he used to let me have french fries for lunch, it drove my mom mad, but he was just a dad to us when he wasn't making business deals and promoting fitness as a lifestyle.

How do you define luxury without pretense?
Anyone can easily spend $2000-3000 on a handbag stamped a major designer's name. Don't get me wrong, I still love Jimmy Choo and Chanel ... but the truth is luxury has lost its luster over the last decade. A lot of the expensive bags out there are just bags mass produced by machines and sold at a premium because it has a certain label on it. To me, that's luxury with pretense. Luxury without pretense is when one purchases items for the meaning of the items - it could be a story of where the artisan comes from, the material its made from, or something that resembles you ... something you can keep and cherish. That's real luxury. Real luxury is also items that make your life more meaningful and inspirational - even if it's just a $50 candle that brings back childhood memories. I have this candle that smells just like the flowers my mom would buy for the home when I was little. I have no idea what kind of flower that is, nor have I seen it around anymore but the candle smells just like it. At night when I'm just relaxing at home with my husband and my dog, lighting that candle just completes my evening.

How do you feel the luxury market will weather the current economic conditions?
It's sad but the luxury market is suffering as in a lot of other markets. The truth is people are spending less. My friends are all being cautious as am I. But that's not to say no one is buying. I'm still receiving orders on my website, women from Europe buying clutches and paying an enormous amount for overseas shipping. When I walk into Barney's shoe department, I still have to push and shove ... I think the market is not doing well but it'll be just fine. There will always be people spending and those people will keep the market going until everyone can spend again.

What luxury products are your favorite and why?
I absolutely love shoes. I have shoes that are only a couple hundred dollars, so to some, not a luxury product but to me my shoes are everything. They are works of art. If there is a fire in my house, I'd tell my husband to bring my puppy out, but I'd stay with my shoes until the fireman comes. I also enjoy Kopi Luwak coffee. It's coffee that is handpicked from South Eastern Asia. They go for $280 a pound but are truly divine, if you are a coffee drinker, you'd know why it's worth every penny. And of course, I cannot not mention the Hermes Birkin bag. Need I say more ...?

What do you think are the key components of a successful lifestyle?
Living an inspirational life is the key components to a successful lifestyle - an inspirational lifestyle means creativity, motivation and happiness. That's why it's so important to surround yourself with things and people that are inspiring ... the possibilities can be endless ...

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
Walking through Central Park with my husband when we go on dates on the weekend; sitting at Tracy Stern Tea Salon having high tea with good friends; shopping with my puppy Charlie anywhere (NYC is such a dog-friendly city); discovering mind-blowingly authentic Chinese food in Chinatown.

What is your favorite shop?
Saks Fifth Avenue right at opening on a Monday or Tuesday morning before it turns into a madhouse. Rafe, his handbags are so chic and inexpensive. Rebecca Taylor, I get in trouble when I walk in her shop. I basically get my entire wardrobe from her.

What is your favorite drink?
Spicy Hot Chocolate Chai Latte at Tracy Stern Tea Bar on the UES

What is your favorite restaurant?
Artisanal Bistro, Orsay and BLT Steak

What is your favorite NYC book?
"Schooled" and different biographies of fabulous women of NYC like Doris Duke, Jacqueline Onassis, Barbara Hutton ... they are very inspiring

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Culinary Day on Foot - my husband and I've only done it once, but we'd like to do it more. We'd take the Best Of issue of NY Magazine and mark down all the places we want to go, from best donuts to best bar to best chips ... and we'd start one side of town and make it over to the next and then down ... it's a lot of fun!!! And I usually can find some fabulous little known shops during these trips, so there will always be shopping in between. :-)

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
I think a lot of restaurants are overrated in NY, most of which are infested with tourists now a days and there are a ton of restaurants that are underrated, you just have to know where to go. .

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
The media sometimes refer to me as a socialite, but I'd like to think of myself as a business person. I'm a go-getter and I never let an opportunity pass by and sometime I end up with too much on my plate but I enjoy it. My social calender is almost zero except for when I am out supporting friends or charities that are dear to my heart. My perfect social calender is date night with my husband and my puppy at home.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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