Is the Young Family Based on an Actual Real Estate Business Family in Singapore?

The romantic comedy film ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ dives into the opulent world of über-rich families occupying Singapore’s elite class. Rachel Chu, an economics professor at New York University, is amazed at the wealth possessed by her boyfriend, Nick Young, who is the heir to a real estate family in Singapore. With dashing villas, stately mansions, and numerous parties dripping in excess, the Youngs are well-equipped with influence among the higher echelons of Singaporean society. Their over-the-top celebrations highlight their status as a powerful and significant presence in the country. Although the film’s narrative may make them seem heightened and dramatized, the reality behind the Young family is worth digging into!

The Inspiration Behind the Young Family

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name. Several elements within the story are rooted in Kevin’s life and past experiences. The Singaporean drew inspiration from his ancestral household of the Kwans for the Young family. Even though it is not a one-to-one recreation, the experiences of living the privileged life of a wealthy clan member are considerably familiar to him. As a young child, he had all kinds of comforts presented to him regularly. The luxury of chauffeurs was common when he was growing up, and while he was no stranger to the opulent lifestyle, his friend had security guards, and another one had an indoor swim-up bar in his apartment.

The Kwans were established in Singapore in 946. As a result of their long existence, they spread their roots by mingling with other influential families. Like the Shangs, the T’siens, and the Youngs in the film, the Kwans were formed by intermarriage between three families – the Kwans, the Ohs, and the Hus. This growing nature of the whole family made for a dynasty-like family tree of interconnected branches sloping from one to the other. Being part of such a massive family helped Kevin to write the novel. After the author moved to Texas, he reflected on his childhood and realized how unique an experience it was, which paved the way for the birth of the Youngs.

In a Town & Country Magazine feature, Kevin described the dynamics of living in an aristocratic family. Everyone spoke in a posh English accent from childhood, and although they were Chinese, there was a Western influence driving the household. Most of the aunts in the family talked in regal accents. “I was Singaporean, but my identity was wrapped up in the culture I was experiencing every day. I didn’t know a word of Mandarin, and my parents didn’t either. I grew up with a posh English accent, and all my aunts sounded as if they came out of a Merchant Ivory movie,” he wrote.

Even marriage was a matter of carefully matching the right members so that the wealth and status remained in a tightly-knit circle. “My grandmother, Egan Oh, was an independent girl who didn’t see the need to get married,” Kevin added. “At the ripe old age of 26, her father forced her to marry, matchmaking her to the brother of his neighbor. The groom, Dr. Arthur Kwan, was a dashing young medical graduate from Hong Kong and scion of the Kwan clan,” the author wrote in the same feature. It was an elite family bound by tradition and social norms that everyone had to conform to. The Young family’s dynamics also reflect this adherence to an English accent and a rigidly bound marriage circle.

Kevin Kwan//Image Credit: TODAY with Hoda & Jenna/YouTube

However, despite numerous elements informing him of the path Kevin wanted to traverse with his characters and plot, there were no specific real-life counterparts to members of Nick’s family. The writer did not base any character on people he knew within his family.  He told Vanity Fair, “I want to emphasize: this book is fiction. There is no character that is based on anyone who’s really in my family. But I think they’ll get a laugh… Every family is a crazy family. At the heart of it, this book is a family drama. It’s about relationships and the complexity of relationships.” Thus, the Youngs exist only in the fictional realms in Kevin’s novel and Jon M. Chu’s movie.

While writing the story, Kevin altered the exploits he witnessed within his family to integrate them into his novel to ensure that the readers would find the same believable. The accounts of many parties and weddings were toned down from what happened. Some of those experiences were far too unbelievable. The elements of wealth and excess were modified to fit the tone of the romantic aspect of the story. “They say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, but there’s such a thing as believability when you’re writing a novel,” the writer said in the same Vanity Fair interview. Therefore, the Youngs can be described as a dramatized recreation of Kevin’s family and its members.

Read more: Crazy Rich Asians: Is the Movie Based on a True Story?