PaperCity Magazine

April 2019- Dallas

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Page 97 of 99

96 SHE'S LINDA KAO THE BOMB B Y B I L LY F O N G I met with this month's around Chinese New Year. It is the year of the pig, and those born under this astrological sign are believed to be artistic, refi ned, intuitive, intelligent, and well mannered. All these terms easily describe Linda Kao. Our fi rst rendezvous was over a delicious meal at Royal China Restaurant — the dining institution her parents started after immigrating from China in the early 1970s. Her father was a career diplomat and traveled extensively before relocating to Texas. At the time, Dallas was a wasteland when it came to international cuisine, and her father recognized a niche. Four-plus decades later, Royal China is a culinary mainstay and remains in family hands. Linda and I cherish our Chinese heritage, especially the cultural importance of food as the foundation for almost all occasions — Chinese New Year included. Dish after delicious dish came to our table, and Linda graciously served me. "More, more," she urged as she spooned soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, and Kung Pao chicken onto my plate. Linda speaks in a hushed tone, a reminder that she is a tonsil cancer survivor. Her soft voice is the result of the repeated radiation treatments that damaged her voice box. Linda received her degree from Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business. During those years, she began modeling on the side — an ideal way to make extra money and feed her love of fashion. During this time, she worked with another one of my past girls, the iconic Jan Strimple. The two have remained friends, and their mutual battles with cancer have brought them together once again. Post-college, Linda continued to model and, in 1988, worked for the live telecast of Miss Universe in Taiwan. That led to 25 more live telecasts for Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA. She then became a consultant for a team specializing in major sporting events, including the Olympic Games, World Cup, and the World Expo. A self-proclaimed shoe addict, Linda's favorites from the '80s were Charles Jourdan and Yves Saint Laurent. She even met Imelda Marcos, perhaps the best-known shoe-aholic of all time. During Linda's days with Miss Universe, a group was invited to Marcos' apartment in the Philippines for dinner. Today, SMU keeps Linda busy once more. The morning after our chat, she was off to Dubai. As assistant dean of global programs for the Cox School of Business, she creates international opportunities for MBA students. Always a globetrotter, Linda has probably circled the world at least a half-dozen times. Linda is married to Joseph Lu, and they have a son and a daughter. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Asian American Citizens' Council's Person of the Year. She has served on the board of the Dallas Museum of Art, World Affairs Council, and the Baylor Healthcare System Foundation. Her current passions include the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Linda and I refl ected on how great it was to fi nally have interesting portrayals of our culture on screen, particularly in the fi lm adaptation of the book Crazy Rich Asians. For two self-professed fashion junkies, we also drooled over the fi lm's incredible costumes — and the gorgeous gowns worn by the cast during the recent award-season. Approximate date of this photo. I would say, the early '80s. The occasion. It looks as if it might be a celebration in front of Dallas City Hall. What were you wearing. It's a custom-made Chinese qipao in silk brocade fabric. And those fabulous earrings are from Neiman Marcus. What price fashion. When I was in Taiwan, all my dresses were custom-made, and I had no clue how much anything was. I remember a day or two after we arrived in Dallas, my dad took us to a department store to get some simple household items. I wandered to the clothing department. With $20 in my pocket, I bought a cute dress that was so different than what I had been used to in China. When I converted those U.S. dollars to Taiwan dollars, it was a whopping 800 Taiwan dollars. I thought it was the most expensive piece of clothing I ever bought. Later, when I was older and on my own, Ralph Lauren had a western-collection trunk show at Neiman's. I was enchanted and thought the vintage-looking concho belts were the most beautiful things. So, I splurged and bought one. It's too painful to remember how much it cost, but I still love it and treasure it. Why this is a picture of you. It shows who I am: a proud and confi dent Chinese American woman who cherishes her heritage but feels totally comfortable in any occasion, whether I am in a qipao, a Carolina Herrera gown, or a pair of jeans. Linda Kao, 1980s

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