Perhaps you’ve seen her rocking a pants suit and dancing the night away to a ROYA DJ set after a 14 hour work day on a Friday night. From the moment you meet Amanda Tan, you want her energy… to dance with, to work with, to borrow her clothes…Amanda is a quintessential Chicago artist, and it’s not just because of her creativity, her eye for aesthetics, or her hustle as a production designer and costume/wardrobe artist. It’s because she’s a testament to the story we never get tired of hearing; the one where- at the risk of sounding cheesy- Chicago uplifts one into their true artistry and potential.
Amanda moved here from Malaysia in 2016 to study screenwriting and cinematography. As she dove into projects with Chicago musicians, actors, and directors, she met creatives she now considers family and found her groove where her love of lists, her folders and drives filled with years of eye-pleasing inspiration she coined “digital hoarding”, and all her other Virgo perfectionisms made her a powerhouse on set. She wandered away from her initial film interests, letting her fascination and aptitude for dressing, decorating, and accessorizing people, rooms, and sets lead the way. Given the instruction to “find a cheap headboard,” Amanda won’t just “find a cheap headboard.” She’ll find… the *PERFECT* cheap headboard, from the most obscure vintage furniture shop in a neighborhood WAY off her route, finessing a nonexistent cash and carry policy from the cashier. Does she have a car to transport this massive *perfect cheap headboard* you ask? Of course not! But she’ll finesse the uber driver too. You know why? Because the headboard is PERFECT. Amanda fights for art, she fights for your story to be told, sang, rapped, acted. She fights to find the perfect treasures amongst seas of garbage (or maybe the perfect garbage amongst seas of luxury, depending on the type of project, wink wink). Amanda is the gatekeeper of all of the little things that we may not immediately notice as consumers. She sprinkles her sickening fairy dust, with her caring touch and her intense attention to detail, and she makes the otherwise ordinary shine.
Inspiration-wise, Amanda always gravitated towards old school 90’s, early 2000s Hong Kong films, John Hughs films, and Rocky Horror Picture Show. On a more personal level, she’s looked up to Marina Abrovomic, Yayoi Kusama, and William Chang. Her inspirations dip into literally every industry, every facet of art, all over the world and the ideas she brings to set and to wardrobe are just as forward thinking and unique as the many decades, cultures, and styles that have driven her and interested her since her youth. You’re not going to get a single accessory that feels ordinary or without thought and plan with Amanda.
With plenty of short films and music videos under her belt, Amanda’s career took an exciting turn recently. “I see Empire not as the biggest, but definitely as one of the defining accomplishments in my career. It opened me up to another world/department that I could see myself working in.” Amanda describes working in the costume department of Empire like the classic “kid in a candy store” metaphor. Though she’ll always appreciate doing her own shopping and the sweet, sweet satisfaction of finding the perfect earrings or jacket from her own closet for someone on set to wear, there’s so much fulfillment in not having to pick from your own closet anymore, even though, some of us would be lucky, I’ve been eyeballing her green fur jacket for years.
To paint Amanda as a girl who moved to Chicago and “found herself” would be underrating a talent and a soulfulness I have not only witnessed, but have been inspired and moved by. Working with her is like having your story be told in another language that only she could offer, and I STAN Amanda Tan.