The Shaolin Show

From becoming a successful event producer and globe-trotter to starring in her very own TV show, Shaolin Low has proved that it’s her world, and we’re just living in it. Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

From becoming a successful event producer and globe-trotter to starring in her very own TV show, Shaolin Low has proved that it’s her world, and we’re just living in it.

With sawdust sprinkled in her hair like fairy dust, Shaolin Low could explain what scaffolding was before she could spell it. Her childhood playground was a construction site.

This early introduction to the building world was thanks to her father, Albert, who owns New Cycle Corp., a company he inherited from his father.

Low remembers a specific Saturday morning during her childhood, when a Windward O‘ahu shopping center representative called her dad for urgent assistance with a flooding situation. Wielding push brooms that were taller than their small frames, Low and her brothers corralled the water to a designated area.

“It’s funny because I didn’t love it. I didn’t like being on job sites,” Low says. “It was something we just did because we were with my dad.

“I spent a whole summer with him because I didn’t want to go to the YMCA summer program,” she adds while laughing. “I would go around with him to job sites and I would shop at Ross with my best friend and buy matching outfits when he was in meetings.”

These endearing traits of Low’s — a bit of goofiness, honesty and charm — has prompted numerous people to tell her she needs to have her own TV show.

“I don’t know why! I’m so normal and boring, I don’t get it,” she says.

Contrary to her own belief, production company Nomadica Films and Magnolia Network — a cable network company owned by Warner Bros. Discovery and renowned remodeling couple Chip and Joanna Gaines — are among the many who recognize Low’s undeniable star quality.

On Dec. 23, 2023, just a day after celebrating her 36th birthday, the once casual compliments materialized into reality when Low’s very own show, Home in Hawai‘i, made its debut.

What makes it even more special? Home in Hawai‘i is all about interior design and home renovations, a path Low never envisioned for herself. In a full circle moment, her dad lends his expertise and oversees major remodeling projects on the show.

“My dad’s in his 70s, so to be able to do this with him and have these moments and be learning from him and being a part of his world as a contractor is so special and magical to me,” says Low.

From becoming a successful event producer and globe-trotter to starring in her very own TV show, Shaolin Low has proved that it’s her world, and we’re just living in it. Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

Home in Hawai‘i, available for streaming on Discovery+ and Max, chronicles Low’s journey from beginning to end as an interior designer. Alongside her father, her husband, Leaf Castillo, whom she considers a jack of all trades, plays a significant role in the production, and appearances from her twins, Shaia and Theia, prove that it really is a family business.

In the pilot episode, Low remodels her friends’ Koko Crater home while they’re away for eight weeks. It was a tight turnaround, but thanks to her connections, strong work ethic and positive attitude, she — spoiler alert — got the job done.

From the very first episode, it’s evident why Low has been destined for stardom. She exudes warmth, is a natural conversationalist and maintains a lighthearted approach while taking her job seriously. An example of this is when her father discovers unexpected issues with the ceiling beams.

Shaolin Low, a third generation interior design-construction professional, shows o~ her talent on Magnolia Network’s Home in Hawai‘i. PHOTO COURTESY KAILA EDWARDS

She turns to him with sincerity and humor, suggesting, “Should we go eat ice cream and cry about it?”

Besides her one-liners, the show’s highlight is the spotlight it shines on local businesses and organizations. For instance, Low collaborates with woodworker Davin Jaime to craft a custom, cost-effective coffee table. He connected her with The Albizia Project, a nonprofit that repurposes the invasive albizia tree while supporting indigenous plant restoration.

“For me, I’m like, ‘Who can we showcase and how can we support other local businesses in Hawai‘i and bring more awareness to what we’re doing here?’ I think that’s more interesting. Obviously, I’m designing all day, every day — the before and afters are just my normal life — but being able to actually go in and meet people is really exciting to me.”

As of print, Home in Hawai‘i is awaiting a greenlight from Magnolia Network for a full season.

“If we get a full season, I think it’s going to be very similar to the pilot in that it’ll still follow me on a project with my clients.

“I think what’s nice about Magnolia Network is that they really honor and want to follow my life and whatever is true for me. They just let me do my thing. So, the best part of getting all this positive feedback is because it’s really authentic to who we really are and what our lives are really doing.” hat does Low’s authentic life look like? In addition to running her design firm, Studio Shaolin, she also owns WOVEN by Shaolin, a Kailua-based store that sells everything from furniture to birthday cards.

“Originally it was going to be just a furniture store, but I realized how much I loved buying home decor and gifts and how much I’m always looking for a cute, thoughtful gift for someone,” she says. “It kind of became that for me and slowly but surely it became its own being and I love it so much.”

Low has also been busy recording her latest endeavor, Begin with Shaolin, a podcast slated to launch Jan. 31. The bi-weekly segment, available on all podcast platforms, essentially serves as Low’s talk show.

“I don’t want to limit myself to a specific storyline,” she says. “I love getting to know people, hearing their journey, what makes them happy, what they’re doing with their life, what’s getting them through this human experience, what their tools are and just getting to know people on different levels.”

For those wondering how Low went from sweeping water at her dad’s construction sites to being on the small screen, it starts after she graduated from Sacred Hearts Academy. Initially leaving without any intention to return, Low attended schools in London and Florida and earned a degree in public relations. She lived in big cities (San Francisco and New York City), where she discovered a passion for event production and became successful fast — a trend in her life. Before she knew it, she was freelancing for Oprah, Instagram, Samsung and New York Fashion Week.

“I think interior design is so similar to event producing because you are basically creating an experience for a family or business — you’re understanding what they need and getting them what they need,” she says.

“I think the only difference is that with interior design, it’s permanent; people are living in those spaces versus event producing is only for that moment.”

Between gigs, Low traveled — a lot — and successfully achieved her goal of visiting 30 countries before reaching the age of 30. Her favorite destinations were Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka and Patagonia.

“I didn’t realize at the time it was heavily influencing what I’m doing now as a designer. I would go to different cultures and immerse myself and ask all the questions and figure out their religion and why and what that means and why their homes were built this way and what their materials are made out of. It was just my own curiosity.”

Hawai‘i Kai native Shaolin Low has a lot to smile about — a new show and podcast, her twin girls and a pair of successful businesses. PHOTO COURTESY SUAREZ CREATIVE HOUSE

There came a point when she realized that she wanted to be with her parents in their golden years and contemplated settling down.

“But also like, when you travel the world, you can appreciate more of what you have at home,” she says. “I remember being in Thailand and thinking Hawai‘i’s sunsets are better than this — and all the food we have here, the culture, the aloha — all those things we don’t realize are so special until you leave, at least for me.”

When she returned home in 2015, the lack of events here compared to NYC prompted a career change. She landed in home staging, which evolved to interior design in 2020. By August 2021, she hired her first employee, and a couple years later, was approached by a production company to star in a TV show. The rest, you already know.

“I feel like I’ve lived many lives,” Low says, smiling. “I’m honestly just here for the experience. I don’t think I could’ve predicted where my life is at now and where it’s going. I’m just as surprised as everyone else.”