Beverley Huynh on dressing up for a Joy Ride

Beverley Huynh, Joy Ride (Lionsgate)

The film’s costume designer shares personal ties and fulfilled dreams in her clothes for Adele Lim’s raunchy comedy.

No matter how much traveling you do, as essential as “where to go” should be “what to wear.” Although the characters at the heart of Lionsgate’s wild and wily Joy Ride don’t reveal it, all the apparel they’ve packed is curated by one Beverley Huynh.

Adele Lim‘s riotous Asian-led girls-trip comedy chose SXSW to premiere its R-rated antics—cocaine on a train and K-pop disguise are just the surface!—to positive reception. But before that, Canadian–Vietnamese costume designer Huynh worked on productions like Honor Society, The Perfection, Needle in a Timestack, Van Helsing, and Arrow. After spending years abroad honing her skills in Europe—with the UK a particular highlight—and Asia, Huynh now resides in Vancouver.

Beverley Huyn (Joy Land)
Joy Land costume designer Beverly Huynh.

The Spool was lucky enough to dive deeper into Joy Land‘s costumes with Huynh prior to its wide release on July 7th. Together, we unfurl the many things we can learn about her as a person through the clothing worn by four friends—by-the-book Audrey (Ashley Park), loose-cannon Lolo (Sherry Cola), cover-ready Kat (Stephanie Hsu) and good-vibes-only Deadeye (Sabrina Wu)—who are on one Asiatrip (think Eurotrip) for the books.

The Spool edited this interview for length and clarity.

Hi, Beverley, chị khoẻ không? [How are you?] Seeing your “Costume Designer” credit on the big screen for Joy Ride made me feel happy like whenever I would see Ha Nguyen’s name.

BEVERLEY HUYNH: Chị khoẻ, khoẻ lắm! [I’m good, very good!] Ha Nguyen was a big inspiration for me, too, so it’s really nice that you recognize that. [Writer’s note: the late Nguyen, also of Vietnamese descent, worked on films like Heaven & Earth, 1995’s Mortal Kombat, Swordfish and Super 8.]

Now, Joy Ride: We have four characters, four personalities, and four styles—but they function like a single unit. How do you develop the connection between them, a sense of togetherness, through your designs?

HUYNH: Adele, [and co-writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao] wrote something that I resonated with so much. And each of the four characters literally represented a part that I, myself, experienced as a Canadian-born Asian … I created these characters by inserting a little piece of myself into every single one of them, at every stage of my life that would have represented that. 

Lolo, I dressed her exactly the way that I wish I had the confidence to dress when I was in my artist’s phase. Audrey is like my professional self. Kat is how I wanted to dress if I envisioned myself as a “Beyoncé-like sexbomb,” or somebody who was just super-confident and confident in sexuality. Deadeye, I dressed her exactly how I dressed when I was in high school … My forte, I guess you can say, comes from the fact that when I look at a color palette, I see what belongs together. And unless it is asked for, it never looks like one thing is off—it always looks like it’s in the same picture. That’s how I approach my characters: Even though their items are individual, and their pieces are individual, the cohesion and everything is through color and texture.

Which characters, or parts of you, were the easiest to dress? And hardest, as well?

HUYNH: I think Deadeye was the hardest, mainly because Sabrina was, at the time, going through their personal journey of self-discovery. And I was with them during that discovery. Originally, the boards for them were very out there … When we dressed them and did a camera test, they ended up looking too cool! The cool Saigon, or Hong Kong, or Korean kind of fashion styles—just a little bit quirky, those you wouldn’t see in the Western world, and are perfectly normal there—looked way too cool on Serena … The feedback we got was if we could just make Deadeye a little bit more awkward versus cool, and having to find that fine balance was a bit of a challenge.

Beverley Huyn (Joy Land)
Stephanie Hsu as Kat, Sabrina Wu as Deadeye, Ashley Park as Audrey, and Sherry Cola as Lolo in Joy Ride. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel


HUYNH: With Kat, I had this grandiose idea of what a Shanghainese or Hong Kongese film starlet would look like. But then when it came time to have Stephanie in the room and how we ended up dressing her, a lot of brilliant ideas related to her character came to play. A lot of ideas then shifted—she became a lot more colorful, and we played a lot of silhouettes with her. Being able to get more into what Stephanie had in mind for Kat was a big shift from our original ideas. If I had to break it into two-and-two, I would say Deadeye and Kat… not “the most challenging,” but they were original ideas that evolved into something else. Audrey and Lolo were pretty much like what my original ideas came to be.

I’m going to go a bit granular here—we have to talk about the costumes for the wuxia drama set and for the “K-pop” group Brownie Tuesday.

HUYNH: Getting to do a wuxia drama is any costume designer’s dream, let’s be honest. The backdrop that Michael Wong found for the scene, and where we shot it with this beautiful greenery, and just placing stuff in that teal, pop of orange… that was probably the most fun I’ve had with the color wheel in a while! Next to [Desmond Chiam’s Clarence], you can see Stephanie’s Kat is a little like this delusional caricature of herself that I just absolutely loved playing off of. I would say it was just a direct reflection of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and all these old kung-fu movies that my parents would let me watch.

And I was introduced to J-pop and K-pop by my Italian mentor [Gerry Centanni] back in 2010. I didn’t know that this form of music was available, and he introduced me to Girls’ Generation. And I fell in love! Just the sheer fashion, the production value that came with K-pop and J-pop culture? I was like, “One day, I don’t know how, I don’t know where, I don’t know who I have to talk to, but I’m gonna do a K-pop video.” This was just a dream that I had, like, 10 years ago, and luckily enough it came to be with Adele’s project. I was like, “Oh my God, this is my opportunity to just have fun with it and, to quote Adele, ‘Go balls-to-the-wall, do whatever the hell you want.'” That’s exactly what I did!


Beverley Huyn (Joy Land)
Sabrina Wu as Deadeye, Ashley Park as Audrey, Stephanie Hsu as Kat and Sherry Cola as Lolo in Joy Ride. Photo Credit: Ed Araquel

HUYNH: Centanni also introduced me to Eurovision. You’re talking about like an Alberta girl, which is the Texas of Canada, who was not privy to any of this stuff until I moved to Vancouver. He was the one who introduced me to this wild amount of influence that I would take with me for the rest of my life.

I also took a lot of influence from graffiti, which you can see in the patterns. They’re reflective, like the continuous pattern you see across the ensemble they’re wearing. The color combinations as well—all reflected in unison, but also in keeping with their personalities.

One last thing I’ll say is that the audience at my preview screening of the film was very appreciative of you giving the men not that much to wear.

HUYNH: That was Adele’s direction. I’m gonna have to give her props for that one. We were just like, “Let’s show how hot our Asian boys can be, too!”

Joy Ride rolls into theaters July 7th.

Joy Ride Trailer:

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