We Are Upstate NY with Dancers, Yogis and TV Hosts, The Chin Twins
Known as “The ChinTwins,” Cristen and Kimberly Chin are young, savvy, highly enterprising business women who have built a flourishing brand on their life’s passions: the arts, yoga, cooking, nurturing tradition and fostering community. Empowering, insightful, and giving, they epitomize the modern woman of today.
These identical twins, of Chinese, Irish and Norwegian descent, are no strangers to the spotlight; they joyfully shine in all they do. Right out of college, they began successful careers as fashion models walking the runway for the biggest names in fashion…Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo, Gaultier, Armani, Valentino and Gucci. They are also accomplished dancers and famed yogis–both certified RYT 200 Yoga instructors. Not surprisingly, they recently launched a TV show on The Design Network, aptly titled: “The ChinTwins.”
Inside+Out is excited to share our exclusive interview with Cristen and Kimberly Chin, as they share insights on the fine art of living healthy and well.
Where are you originally from, and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
We grew up in Fairhope, Alabama, and went to the University of Miami, where we were scouted by a model agency and sent to Europe. We traveled extensively, living in Milan, Paris, and London, where Crissy met her future husband, Nigel Barker. All three of us decided to move to NYC in 1996, we got an apartment in the Printing House building in Greenwich Village, and Nigel settled in Tribeca. It was actually Nigel’s roommate and renowned artist, Ford Crull, who first invited us to Woodstock, where he has a home. We fell in love with the sleepy little town and made frequent weekend trips there over the coming years. In 2014, Crissy and Nigel bought a home in Bearsville, outside Woodstock, NY. They started spending a lot more time there until they eventually made a permanent move with children and animals in tow.
Describe your background and creative journey.
Our father is 3rd generation Chinese, and our grandfather was the first Chinese baby born in the State of Alabama. Our mother is of Norwegian and English descent, so we stood out quite a bit, especially being identical twins–but we took it in our stride. At UM, we were scouted by the model agency Michele Pommier, which led to a contract with agencies in Milan and Paris. Coming from a relatively small town, living and working in Europe was a breath of fresh air. We were lucky enough to work with many of the best photographers, designers and publications in the world, like Italian Vogue, and walk the runways during Paris fashion week. By the mid-1990s, we moved to NYC to continue modeling. Crissy also worked as a make-up artist doing campaigns for Nicole Miller and going on tour with celebrities like Hugh Jackman. We both got married, and we were mainly running our growing families for the next ten years. Kimmy lived in Alabama and Crissy in the West Village in NYC. One thing we never stopped doing was yoga and dance.
“That evening we opened our first public account together called @chintwins, and within an hour, we had 10K followers.”
One day in Alabama, when Crissy was visiting with her family, we were practicing yoga on the pier outside our house. Nigel started taking photos of us as he always did, but this time he shared them on his Instagram, and they went viral! That evening we opened our first public account together called @chintwins, and within an hour, we had 10K followers. It became the perfect outlet for us to showcase our love of yoga, dance, and family, combined with years of being in front of a camera as models.
You’ve spent much of your life in front of the camera. Tell us about your work.
When we first started @chintwins it was strictly a yoga account and as our followers grew it turned into a business too. Big brands like Alo Yoga and Athleta partnered with us and before we knew it fashion brands like Hanro, La Perla, Pamella Roland and Cynthia Rowley were also collaborating with us doing yoga-inspired dance moves in fashion all shot by Nigel. Of course, Kimmy lives in Alabama so every few months we plan a get-together and shoot like crazy for a week often ending up with hundreds of pictures and videos that we share over the next few months. Like everything, our account evolved (especially during the pandemic when travel was not possible) and we started doing more cooking and home-related content which people loved. This resulted in our first TV show together on The Design Network called The ChinTwins!
What is one question you’re constantly asked?
People often ask about our diets and exercise routines. We are both very active and practice yoga regularly as well as leading busy lives with 5 children between the two of us. We are both pescatarians but don’t have strict diets in any way but have always had fast metabolisms. Kimmy teaches ballet in Mobile every week, which is the core of our dance background as we both danced for years as children.
What would you like to share about being identical twins? Any advantages? Disadvantages?
Well, there are two of us so we are never alone! We both feel blessed to have each other and have always been best friends as well as sisters. Being identical can be confusing to those around us, our nickname at home is “sister” as our own relatives sometimes find it hard to remember who is who. When Nigel photographs us in identical outfits is often hard to remember who is who when we start in one yoga pose and then morph into another! We have been known to play tricks too, when we were at school on occasion we would pretend to be each other and do the same tests twice so we could split the homework up… just don’t tell our kids!
We’re very excited about your TV show having recently watched, The Chin Twins: Connect to your Roots. We LOVE that you showcased Harana in Woodstock NY, one of our favorite local shops. And we have to say, your family’s Chinese dumpling recipe is fab! How did the idea for the show come about and how long did it take to get on air? Will your show always be filmed locally?
The concept for the first season of The Chintwins developed very organically. Our love of home and the fun we have in the kitchen with our families inspired us to share more of our home lives with our audience. Feeding our families, organizing our homes, and self-care beauty tips rounded out a great formula. We love to support our local community and Woodstock is a treasure trove of creative and talented businesses. There is still so much to share about Woodstock, we want our show to keep evolving and explore other areas of the country as well, I’m sure we’ll return to this area again!
Is this your first foray into television?
It is our first show together, we have done many TV commercials and music videos as models and Crissy had a make-up show on LifeTime Network called Next Stop New You, and she also made several appearances on America’s Next Top Model as a Covergirl Make Up Artist Spokesperson.
What type of marketing and PR do you do?
Outside of our own social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter–it’s all very organic. Nigel is very supportive on his social channels and luckily, after so many years working in the fashion and entertainment space, many people in the PR world are our friends. The yoga feel-good vibe is always in vogue so it’s not hard for the press to find inspiration in the subject matter.
You have nearly100K followers on Instagram – well done! Tell us about how you leverage social media and what you get from it.
Social media is a great tool to stay connected with our audience. Our aim is to create a positive and supportive space that can hopefully inspire our followers. Sharing our account has actually helped us stay connected as sisters, it turned into a conversation about what’s going on in our lives.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
We are excited to be planning season 2 of The Chintwins!
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live and work here?
It’s a very small community, especially in Woodstock but it is also very close to NYC so you get a lot of weekenders and visitors that make the area feel like a vacation destination, too. We particularly love the art community here. There are many great artists, photographers and folks from the fashion industry who have made the Hudson Valley their home as well. We commute into the city about once a week for meetings and events, but now we are hosting meetings at home, in Bearsville, with folks coming up from NYC instead.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Our most frequented shops are Sunfrost and Sunflower as there is nothing better than fresh, local, and organic fruit and vegetables.
What is missing in Woodstock that you wish we had?
Ha! A nail salon would be awesome!
What impact does your work have on your community?
Lots of local businesses have partnered with us to help make Season 1 of The ChinTwins, where we seek to highlight artisanal businesses and local entrepreneurs. It’s a win-win for everyone. It’s super fun for our favorite local shops and businesses to get national exposure and their beautiful stores are the perfect backdrop for our show.
What would be your next big dream project?
We would love to publish a book of our photographs with Nigel Barker, with thousands of photos to choose from and years of time in front of his lens it will wonderful to see it curated and all in print in one place.
I see that in your future! Who or what inspires you personally?
We are both inspired by each other and by our children, we learn something new every day from them.
Seeing our peers spreading positivity and using their platforms for change inspires us. We are actively involved with The Make A Wish organization as well as Global Citizen and are always looking for ways to partner with great charities that are shifting the needle for society.
If you had to do it all over again, which career would you choose?
Kimmy’s dream job would be working in a fine art museum in Paris and Crissy would like to be an astronaut!
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know.
Crissy loves blue and Kimmy loves pink, Crissy likes simple foods and Kimmy likes spicy food. Basically, we have very different tastes and styles but are identical in every other way!
What would be your dream local Staycation?
Camping at Opus 40
What is your current state of mind?
Busy and constantly reminding myself to surrender and slow down
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All Photos shot by and courtesy of Nigel Barker